Navy's legendary carrier USS Enterprise on final voyage
The USS Enterprise leaves Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia on its final deployment Sunday.
March 12th, 2012
11:09 AM ET

Navy's legendary carrier USS Enterprise on final voyage

The legendary aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, America's oldest active-duty warship, was steaming in the Atlantic on Monday on the last deployment of its 50-year career.

The carrier and its crew of 3,100 left Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia on Sunday in the ship's 22nd deployment. The ship's air wing and other naval staff aboard add another 1,500 personnel.

It will be deployed in the Navy's Sixth Fleet and Fifth Fleet areas of operations, which cover Europe, Africa and the Middle East, including current hot spots Iran and Syria.

"Enterprise is as ready and capable as she has ever been throughout her 50 years," the ship's commanding officer, Capt. William C. Hamilton, said in a statement. "The ship and crew's performance during work-ups demonstrates that the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier has never been more relevant."

Nicknamed the "Big E," the Enterprise, CVN-65, is the eighth U.S. Navy vessel and second aircraft carrier to carry that name.

The first carrier Enterprise was built in 1937 and was one of only three carriers built before World War II to survive the conflict. That Enterprise was decommissioned in 1947 as the most decorated warship in U.S. naval history.

The current Enterprise, at 1,123 feet the longest ship in the U.S. Navy, saw its first action 11 months after its commissioning, when it was to dispatched to enforce a blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. It participated in strikes on North Vietnam in the 1960s and '70s. In 2001, Enterprise was one of the first ships to respond to the September 11 terrorist attacks, as its warplanes dropped 800,000 pounds of bombs on Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, the Navy said.

The ship was the star of the U.S. Navy for many of its 50 years, and that included a role in "Top Gun," the 1986 Tom Cruise movie about naval aviators.

"The crew is very mindful that we are following the legacy of the more than 200,000 sailors who have come before us during the last 50 years," Hamilton said in a statement. "It's the sailors of this great warship, and the sailors that have served aboard Big E over the past half-century that have established the legacy she enjoys."

The 95,000-ton ship is to be deactivated in Norfolk on December 1 and decommissioned once all reusable items are removed, Ensign Brynn Olson, the ship's deputy public affairs officer, said Monday.

The ship will then be towed to Washington state for scrapping, Olson said.

What the Enterprise will not become is a museum, she said, because removing its eight nuclear reactors will involve so much destruction that the ship could not be repaired to museum quality.

"It would just be too expensive to put her back together," Olson said.

Whether there will be a ninth USS Enterprise remains to be seen.

There are several active online petitions to get hull number CVN-80, the third in the Navy's new Gerald Ford class of carriers, named the Enterprise. That ship is planned to be commissioned in 2021.

"There is no U.S. Navy without a USS Enterprise," one petitioner wrote on

Said another, "Every Navy needs a flagship, and the U.S.S. Enterprise should be ours! There must and will always be a ship named Enterprise."

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Filed under: Military • U.S. Navy
soundoff (249 Responses)
  1. Jeff

    Next headline for the enterprise will be 'The USS Enterprise sunk in strait of Hormuz' Which will give the US a reason to attack Iran. Just a guess, but let's wait and see.

    March 12, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Michae l J.

      Oh, go back to picking your nose.

      March 12, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • tony

      8 nuclear reactors sunk in the straits of Hormuz will be a very effective oil flow stopper and Exxon Mobil getting $50.00 a gallon with a Trillion in tax free profits monthly.

      March 12, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terry

      Jeff, You are a Very disrepectful person to have a comment like that. My Son is on the USS Enterprise, and at home here all of the family's that have loved ones serving all pray for a safe homecoming. And You go and say a disheartening comment like that, just makes me sad. Get a Life and SUPPORT the Military and THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
      Have a Safe Voyage Brandon, and Hurry Home. We Love You! Love Dad.

      March 12, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Random bystander

      Sorry, but its nearly impossible to sink that kind of ship. More like "rockets scratch paint off USS Enterprise off Iranian coast". With the limited naval resources employed by the Iranians, they'd have a better chance of hitting the moon with a hand grenade than sinking a US carrier. Besides, who wants 8 nuclear reactors in their backyard turning their fish green?

      March 12, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zorro

      A false flag operation is entirely likely to drag us into yet another war!

      March 12, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • tony


      We all feel your concern. But lots of sons went to Iraq, and for exactly that reason, and were sent by the biggest supporters of the US military ever.

      March 12, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |

      My very thoughts, that she may be a target.

      March 12, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zorro

      Target by whom? Remember the gulf of Tonkin or USS liberty incidents. Oh boy!

      March 12, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Furby076

      Oh, trust me, we don't need many reasons to go ballistic on Iran – just the President to say "go"

      March 12, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Furby076

      To boldly go where no man has gone before.
      1st Nuclear war ship

      March 12, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terry

      @Tony.. I agree with you, and I thank each and everyone of them, and there families. Just not a good post and comment. Just looking at the comment itself.. Not a very supportive or Positive one. Just saying

      @Jim.. AGREED! and TY

      March 12, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard J.


      <To boldly go where no man has gone before.
      1<st Nuclear war ship

      Not true Furby. The USS Nautilus was the worlds first nuclear warship putting to sea in 1955. The Soviets put their first one to sea in 1958.

      March 12, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dixon

      @Terry, God Bless your son and your family. The majority of this country support and pray for you, your family and most of all your son. He is a true hero and most of us know the sacrifice your family is enduring. Thank you.

      March 13, 2012 at 4:00 am | Report abuse |
  2. Pavel Checkhov

    It is the world's first nuclear wessel.

    March 12, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Bobs your uncle


      March 12, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      I knew it would only be moments before Chekov was quoted ROFL

      March 12, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pointy-Ears

      Indeed. Fascinating.

      March 12, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • nukear

      It was the third nuclear ship in the US navy. It followed the submarine Nautilus, and then CGN-9 Long Beach the last real US cruiser (decommed in the early 90s) and then the USS Enterprise. All three of these did an around the world tour in 1963 to demonstrate the power of a nuclear navy during the height of the cold war. It is amazing the Enterprise is still executing this mission.

      March 12, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joel

      Sorry, the first US nuclear-powered vessel was the USS Nautilus, commissioned 5 years before the Enterprise.

      March 12, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michae l J.

      Joe, you're a moron.

      March 12, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dude

      The submarine, USS Nautilus, was the world's first nuclear vessel in 1955. The Soviet icebreaker, Lenin, became the first nuclear powered surface ship in 1959.

      March 12, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thomas Howard


      March 12, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sofa King

      Who is Joe and what makes him a moron?

      March 12, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boater

      🙂 Made my day!

      March 12, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • @ Sofa King

      He's a plumber. 😉

      March 12, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |

    Will the next one be the Enterprise B? Get William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy for the launching!

    March 12, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Big E Fan

      It'll be installed Tuesday.

      Best of luck and thank you Big E!

      March 12, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mikey

    I think the first nuclear vessel was a freighter. I think the first nuclear surface warship was the cruiser Long Beach. The first nuclear submarine was the Nautilus, and the first nuclear aircraft carrier was the Enterprise. I think.

    March 12, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joel

      Don't know about the freighter. Commission dates:

      USS Nautilus - 1955
      USS Enterprise - 1960
      USS Long Beach - 1961

      March 12, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. AMERICA 1st

    Its sad to see the Enterprise go, but as with anything manmade, it doesnt last forever. ANCHORS AWEIGH to the gallant crew of the USS Enterprise!

    March 12, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Furby076

      Natural things also don't last forever. Flowers wilt, animals die. In fact, it is man-made dams that is keeping Niagra falls from erroding as quickly as it would naturally.

      March 12, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. T

    Another Enterprise will come along, it's just a matter of when....

    March 12, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Duane

    I have seen this ship, totally amazing. Wish I could have had a chance to board and walk the decks.......sad to see her go.

    March 12, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Furby076

      She will be decom'd and most likely become a ship for tourists to walk on.

      March 12, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Article stated the USS Enterprise would be taken to Washington and scrapped.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mark T.

    A tremendous part of our history and a sci-fi fantasy of a better future, what is wrong with that? There should always be an Enterprise, regardless of where or how it travels.

    March 12, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |

    It's one thing to see the pictures. I can't imagine what it's like to see those ships up close and personal. Floating cities!
    I will say that I'm glad I'm on the side of the people with ships like that. I would hate to be in its gunsights.

    March 12, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Byrd

    Sailing off into oblivion...the best thing that can be done with an aircraft carrier.

    March 12, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  11. YoMamma

    I proposed to have hull number CVN-80 named "USS Obama"...greatest American president ever!

    March 12, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Martoon

      U.S. Navy ships are generally named after dead presidents, so what exactly are you proposing?

      March 12, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Martoon – The USS George HW Bush is in active service as is her namesake. But you're right, they are using former presidents. The USS Obama is only a matter of time.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jake


      March 12, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Admiral Kirk

    Captain Picard said it best: "Let's make sure history never forgets the name, Enterprise!"

    March 12, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Futon Torpedo

    Thank you for your long service Enterprise!

    March 12, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Vito_1502

    I can't even beigin to contemplate how there is little thought (among the PTBs that is) being given to preserving the USS Enterprise as a museum ship – solely because it would cost too much to reassemble after removing the reactors? How much money was sunk into the sands of Iraq never to be recovered or provide any sort of comfort or ROI for the lives sacrificed and forever altered of our SSAMs?

    The Enterprise is a symbol of our history – not just another piece in our "disposable lifestyle mindsets". FIND A WAY TO KEEP AND PRESERVE IT.

    March 12, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard J.

      Relax Vito. There have bee ships named Enterprise for centuries and there will be more.

      March 12, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Navy 064

    The NS Savannah was a nuclear powered cargo ship that was launched on July 21, 1959.

    March 12, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • bfpierce

      Considering the article states the "first nuclear powered aircraft carrier" I'm not really sure what your point is.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
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