A bottle of champagne shattered on the bow of the awesome new warship, USS
Enterprise (CVAN-65), breaking the silence of an anxious crowd at Newport News
Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Newport News, Va. It was Sunday morning, Sept
24,1961, when Mrs. William B. Franke, wife of former Secretary of the Navy,
christened the eigth USS Enterprise, bringing life the longest, tallest, and
mightiest warship to ever sail the seas.
At the commissioning of the Enterprise,
the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, Secretary of the Navy John B.
Connally, Jr., called it a worthy successor to the highly decorated seventh USS
Enterprise of World War II. "The Fighting Gray Lady, as it was called, served in
such well-known battles as the raid on Tokyo and the Battle of Midway."
Secretary Connally went on to say, "The new Enterprise will reign a long, long
time as queen of the seas." Enterprise made its maiden voyage under the command
of Capt. Vincent P. DePoix, Jan. 12, 1962, conducting a three-month shakedown
In August, Enterprise joined the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. Soon
after its return to Norfolk, Va., in October, Enterprise was dispatched to its
first international crisis.
Enterprise and other ships in the Second Fleet set up
a "strict quarantine of all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba."
The blockade was put into place on Oct. 24, and the first Soviet ship was
stopped the next day. On Oct. 28, Khrushchev agreed to remove the missile bases
Enterprise made its second and third deployments to the Mediterranean in
1963 and 1964. During the latter deployment, on May 13, the world's first
nuclear-powered task force was formed when USS Long Beach and USS Bainbridge
joined Enterprise. On Jul 31, the three ships were designated Task Force One and
sent on "Operation Sea Orbit," a historic 30,565-mile voyage around the world,
accomplished without a single refueling or replenishment.
In October, Enterprise
returned to Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company for its first
refueling and overhaul.
The Big E transferred to the Pacific's Seventh Fleet in
November 1965 and became the first nuclear-powered ship to engage in combat when
it launched bomb-laden aircraft in a projection of power against the Viet Cong on
Dec. 2, 1965. Its hot decks launched 125 sorties on the first day, unleashing
167 tons of bombs and rockets on the enemy's supply lines. The next day it set a
record of 165 strike sorties in a single day.
In all, Enterprise made six combat
deployments to Southeast Asia from 1965 to 1972. Between combat tours,
Enterprise returned to Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in 1970 for
an overhaul and second refueling. Following the 1973 cease-fire in Vietnam,
Enterprise proceeded to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Wash., where Big E
was altered and refitted to support the Navy's newest fighter aircraft -- the
When Enterprise made its seventh Western Pacific (WESTPAC)
deployment in September 1974, it became the first carrier to deploy with the new
F-14 Tomcat fighter plane. During the deployment, in February 1975, Enterprise
was called on to help in the evacuation of Saigon. During Operation Frequent
Wind, Big E aircraft flew 95 sorties.
The ship made its eighth and ninth WESTPACs
in July 1976 and April 1978, respectively. It sailed to Puget Sound Naval
Shipyard in January 1979 for a 30-month comprehensive overhaul.
its 10th, 11th, and 12th WESTPACs in 1982,1984, and 1986, respectively.
of the 1986 deployment, Enterprise became the first nuclear-powered aircraft
carrier ro transit the Suez Canal. It then entered the Mediterranean for the
first time in 22 years.
In April 1988, Enterprise, on its 13 deployment, was
assigned to escort duties of reflagged Kuwati oil tankers in the Persian Gulf
while stationed in the North Arabian Sea. In a measured response, Enterprise and
Carrier Air Wing 11 struck a decisive blow to the Iranian navy in the most
intensely fought naval battle since the Korean campaign. Enterprise began its
14th overseas deployment in September 1989. In early December, Enterprise
participated in "Operation Classic Resolve," President Bush's response to
Philippine President Corazon Aquino's request for air support during the rebel
coup attempt. Enterprise remained on station conducting flight operations in the
waters outside Manila bay.
In March 1990, Enterprise completed its highly
successful around-the-world deployment by arriving in Norfolk, Va. Enterprise
had successfully and safely steamed more than 43,000 miles from its long-time
homeport of Alameda, Calif. In October, Enterprise moved to Newport News
Shipbuilding and Drydock Company for the Navy's largest complex overhaul and
refueling ever attempted. Work began in earnest in January 1991. While specially
trained shipyard workers refueled the ship's eight nuclear reactors, crewmen and
more shipyard workers began overhauling the carrier's 3,500 compartments. In
Spetember 1994, Enterprise completed its overhaul, the most extensive in U.S.
Naval history. Crewmen expended 1.5 million ardous man-hours overhauling spaces,
from the vast hangar bay to the propulsion plants to the smallest fan room. The
ship's 14th Commanding Officer, Capt. Richard J. Naughton, said, "It took a
herculean effort by the crew and Newport News Shipbuilding to complete this
overhaul. Big E is once again ready to serve the country throughout the world
well into the 21st century." Enterprise returned to sea Sept. 27, 1994, for sea
trials, during which Enterprise performed an extended full power run as fast as
when it was new. The Big E remains the fastest combatant in the world. The ship
then returned to its homeport in Norfolk, Va.
In mid-January 1995, Big E returned
to Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company for a six moth Selected
Restricted Availability. The yard period involved upgrades to all of the combat
and communcations systems, intelligence suites, command and control capabilites,
ventilation systems, berthing and dining areas, and underway replenishment
equipment. Big E departed Newport News in July and returned to Norfolk Naval
Base. Enterprise is currently training and preparing for a mid-1996 overseas