520. Marine Berthing

On This Page:

  1. Level
  2. Fast Facts
  3. Photos & Videos
  4. Exhibit Description
  5. More Information

Level: Gallery Deck, Via Fo’c’sle (pronounced FOLK-sull; short for the word “forecastle” or “forward castle”)

Floor plan of the gallery deck. A red star marks the center of Marine Berthing in the fo’c’sle.

Read directions to Marine Berthing

Fast Facts

  • A small group of U.S. Marines served on board Intrepid.
  • They operated anti-aircraft guns, guarded nuclear weapons and served the commanding officer, among other jobs.
  • Some of Intrepid’s Marines slept in this compartment.
Color photograph of Marine berthing on board Intrepid. A locker is in the background at the center of the image, with other lockers at left. Bunks stacked three high are on either side of the central locker.
Racks and lockers in Marine Berthing.

Photos & Videos

Color photo of eight Marines wearing dress uniforms standing in a line on the flight deck of USS Intrepid.
Members of Intrepid’s Marine Detachment line up on the flight deck, 1971. (Collection of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Gift of Arthur W. Corbin AT3 HS11 and Sheila J. Corbin. P2018.14.26)
Black and white image of dark-skinned man handing a plate with a piece of cake to a light-skinned man seated in a chair.
Marines served as orderlies to the ship’s commanding officer. (Collection of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Gift of Joan Huffman Kelley. P00.2009.27.03.69)

Exhibit Description

A detachment of around 50–60 Marines served on board Intrepid. That’s Marine, as in U.S. Marine Corps. Marines serving on Navy warships was a practice dating back to the American Revolution. Aboard Intrepid they guarded the brig or prison, and guarded the ship’s nuclear weapons. And they served as anti-aircraft gunners.

Some of Intrepid’s Marines were housed adjacent to their assigned gun tub on the gallery deck. You can visit this space by taking stairs up from the fo’c’sle (pronounced FOLK-sull; short for the word “forecastle” or “forward castle”) or down from the flight deck. This compartment once housed more than a dozen Marines. It’s a pretty small space. Each Marine had a rack, or bunk, with a thin mattress and an army green blanket. The racks are behind glass so you can’t touch them. The racks are suspended by chains and hang in tiers of three or more. There was little room between you and the Marine sleeping above or below you.

Each Marine also had a metal gray locker about two feet square for his belongings. The storage compartments are stacked one on top of the other. Besides being cramped, this space was incredibly noisy because it was directly beneath the catapults on the flight deck.

Outside Marine berthing is a gun tub, where you can find examples of three types of anti-aircraft guns used on board Intrepid. Please note that you will need to step over a 6 inch lip on the bottom of the doorway to exit Marine berthing and reach the gun tubs.

More Information

Large U.S. Navy warships traditionally carried a detachment of U.S. Marines. Marines began serving on board the ships of the U.S. Navy during the American Revolution. Historically, Marines served in landing parties, in boarding parties on enemy vessels and as shipboard security. The U.S. Marine Corps eliminated shipboard Marine detachments in 1998.

Intrepid’s Marine detachment, usually around 50–60 men, had a number of responsibilities. During World War II (1939–1945), Marines served as gunners, manning anti-aircraft guns like the ones outside this compartment. By the Cold War (1947–1991), their primary assignment became guarding Intrepid’s nuclear weapons. Marines also provided internal security, and they guarded the ship’s brig (prison). A small number of Marines served the ship’s commanding officer and executive officer.

Intrepid’s Marines followed their own rules and codes of conduct. Some of their shipboard responsibilities—security and guarding the brig, for example—did not always allow for camaraderie with sailors. However, Marines worked closely with some sailors, including Intrepid’s gunners, and they ate their meals on the third deck with the rest of the crew.

Marines slept in a few compartments on board the ship. This compartment is located next to one of the ship’s gun tubs. While the ship’s air group was its primary defense, anti-aircraft guns provided another line of defense. Sailors as well as Marines operated these guns. By the end World War II, Intrepid had over 150 anti-aircraft guns of three different types for long-, mid- and short-range defense. After the war, Intrepid’s 40mm and 20mm guns were removed, replaced by more powerful 3-inch mounts. By the late 1950s, missiles became the primary threat to carriers, making guns generally ineffective. Most of the ship’s anti-aircraft weaponry was removed in the 1960s, leaving only four 5-inch guns.