465. Join the Navy, See the World

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Level: Hangar Deck

Read directions to Case 16B, “On Liberty and At Play”


Join the Navy, See the World! Learn how Intrepid and Growler crew members spent their time at ports of call around the world.

Video: Join the Navy, See the World

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Collection Connection

A white albatross, a bird with a long narrow beak and webbed feet, standing in front of green foliage.
Gooney Bird

Intrepid took its crew to ports far and wide. The crew of the submarine Growler mostly had to settle for Adak, Alaska, and Midway Atoll, both remote naval bases. Midway is home to thousands of albatross, large seabirds also known as gooney birds. With little to do on base, Growler crew spent hours watching the birds nesting, dancing, flying and fighting. A few crew members even pulled elaborate pranks involving gooney birds, like sneaking them on board the submarine! 

Collection of the Intrepid Museum. Gift of Al Odette.  P2016.71.193

Learn More: Port of Call, South Africa

Many young recruits join the Navy for a chance to travel the world. For Black service members in the 1950s and 1960s, visits to ports of call were also a chance to escape racial segregation. Segregation was common outside Navy bases in the American South, including USS Intrepid’s home port of Norfolk, Virginia. 

Abroad, Black sailors could often move and explore more freely, enjoying the same restaurants and attractions as their white shipmates. However, not all ports of call were equally welcoming. 

In 1955, USS Midway made headlines when it agreed to segregated shore leave conditions in Cape Town, South Africa. South Africa practiced its own form of segregation called apartheid. Black and Asian U.S. Navy sailors were restricted to bars, beaches and other areas designated for people of color. Segregated visits continued for a decade.

By 1965, attitudes and policies regarding race had shifted in the United States. Some Navy ships avoided visits to Cape Town harbor. 

Returning home from Vietnam in 1967, Intrepid’s captain hoped to give his weary crew a Christmas present: liberty in Cape Town. However, local officials again insisted on segregated shore leave. Refusing to treat Black and Asian sailors as second-class crew members, Intrepid bypassed Cape Town. No other U.S. Navy ship would call for decades.

U.S. Navy ships have long visited New York City, including Intrepid. In May 1958, Intrepid docked at West 48th Street, just two blocks from the ship’s current pier. The crew welcomed about 16,000 people onboard to tour the ship, and 230 members of the crew marched in the Armed Forces Day parade. 

Today, naval vessels continue to visit New York. Fleet Week NYC is an annual celebration of the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps. Active military ships dock in New York City, including at the Intrepid Museum’s Pier 86 and other nearby piers. Since 1987, the Museum has served as a hub for New Yorkers during Fleet Week, offering free public events that honor and celebrate the U.S. Armed Forces.

New York has welcomed numerous large U.S. Navy vessels of different types, but not the current generation of aircraft carriers. In 1983, the City Council established New York City as a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. The Navy does not bring nuclear armed or powered ships into New York Harbor.


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