MELISSA BLOCK, host:
In New York City, which is no stranger to startling sights, there was a truly startling sight this morning. The historic aircraft carrier the Intrepid was towed down the Hudson River after being moored for a quarter century at a Manhattan pier. The trip was supposed to take place last month. But the ship got stuck in the mud, a few feet from shore.
NPR's Robert Smith reports on how the gray lady was freed.
ROBERT SMITH: Veterans who had once served on the Intrepid started reporting for duty before the sun was up. Ray Stone was a radar man during World War II when Kamikaze planes would dive into ship.
Mr. RAY STONE (Former Radarman, USS Intrepid): First the five inch guns go boom-bada-boom. Then the 40 go bam, bam, bam. Then when the 20(ph) start ta, ta, ta, ta, you know that you going to hit them with a beer can. They're so close.
SMITH: The Intrepid has always been a survivor, which shrugged off bombs and torpedoes in the Pacific War. For the last 24 years, it braved tourists and school groups as an air and space museum. But the gray, rusting hulk finally met its match last month in the muddy Hudson River.
Mr. STONE: You can't fight Mother Nature, you know.
SMITH: The Intrepid was scheduled to be towed to a shipyard in New Jersey for a facelift, but it only made it a few feet before its giant propellers drilled into the mucky bottom of the river. For a month it's been stranded there, frustrating former crew members like Joe Lachower(ph).
Mr. JOE LACHOWER (Former Crew, USS Intrepid): Every place you go people ask you what's the matter? How come you can't get it out of the mud?
SMITH: Luckily the Navy came back to rescue its old ship, dredging out 40,000 cubic yards of mud from around the bottom. And this morning at high tide, the tugboats came back to try again.
(Soundbite of tugboat horn)
SMITH: Hundreds of veterans and military buffs watched from shore as five tugs pushed and pulled and prodded the ship.
Unidentified Man #1: Oh yeah, she's going, baby. Come on, baby. Come on.
SMITH: And then the Intrepid glides out into the Hudson River like it was her maiden voyage.
Unidentified Man #2: Whoo.
SMITH: The ship will return to this pier and reopen as a museum in 2008 with new coat of gray paint and those pesky propellers removed for good.
Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.
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