The late James J. Principi was honored by his family on Sunday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day, with the dedication of a “Seat of Honor” in a Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum theater on board the USS Intrepid in New York City.
The family has sponsoried one of the 243 seats in the Allison and Howard Lutnick Theater to celebrate Mr. Principi’s service during World War II.
A lifelong Ridgefielder, Cpl. James J. Principi was an original crew member of the USS Intrepid. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943 while still attending Ridgefield High School.
After basic training in Parris Island, S.C., he was ordered to report to Newport News, Va., in July 1943 to serve on the CV-11 USS Intrepid. Mr. Principi was aboard the ship the day she was commissioned, Aug. 16, 1943. He was assigned to the gunnery department and also served the military police on board throughout the duration of the war.
On seeing the warship for the first time, Mr. Principi reportedly said, “That thing will never float — it’s too big.”
Until the U.S.S. Intrepid assignment, the only boats he had ever seen in person were the rowboats he played in on Ridgefield’s Lake Mamanasco.
With a crew of more than 3,000, the USS Intrepid carried more men than lived in the entire town of Ridgefield at the time.
Mr. Principi died on Nov. 22, 2006. His wife, Ann, still lives in Ridgefield. His children live in Connecticut, Boston, Virginia, and Milwaukee.
USS Intrepid won fame in the Pacific in World War II as the “Fighting I.” The aircraft carrier survived numerous kamikaze and bomb hits, and was instrumental in successful operations against the Japanese.
Her operations took her throughout the far Pacific to Truk, Kwajelein, the Marshall Islands, the Phillipines, Okinawa, Iwo Jima, and more. Intrepid participated most notably in the Battles for Leyte Gulf in October 1944, generally considered to be the largest naval battle in history.
Her combat record included the sinking of two Japanese battleships and numerous other vessels as well as the destruction of more than 600 enemy aircraft.
The bronze Seat of Honor plaque reads: “Corporal James J. Principi, U.S.S. Intrepid 1943-45. Your devotion and duty to country and family has inspired us all. We love you. Ann, Jim, Mick, Terry, Tom, Paul, Steven, Mark and John.”
The seat is in what is now a state-of-the art movie theater, originally the forward aircraft elevator — used to transport aircraft between the ship’s hangar deck and the flight deck. Today, visitors to the museum start their Intrepid visit in the theater, where they are introduced to the story of the ship through video presentations.
Names inscribed on the theater seats will be seen by hundreds of thousands of museum visitors and by innumerable special guests who attend speaker series and other high-profile events in the theater.
“To visitors and future generations, these seat inscriptions will serve as a continual reminder of the importance of duty, sacrifice and of the hero’s individual service,” his family said.