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. Bob

    I think she'd make an outstanding coral reef. If they put her in the right location and get her to settle right, maybe her superstructure could be left visible at low tide, a visual memorial of sorts. Lots of sailors are also divers, they could stop in to say hello from time to time. Better, in my opinion, that to dismantle her and leave nothing but pictures.

    March 12, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • jimijoni`

      Bob I think the nuclear reactors she carried prevent her from being used as an artificial reef.

      March 12, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mike

    what do you expect, an icon in the navy is sent out of service. With the current Chinese build up of their military, we need to refurbish the Enterprise. We need to stop our major businesses from buy Chinese products and keep our money here and build factories here, any governmental official who allow this flow of technology, capital and factories to go to China are traitors to the United States

    March 12, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      What does that really have to do with getting rid of a 50 year old ship that requires a LOT of maintenance costs?

      March 12, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • common sense

      Lol.good one jon

      March 12, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • High Hopes


      Thank God the Enterprise wasn't made in
      China, it wouldn't have lasted 50 days.

      Boycott China!

      March 12, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. TheNewGreatWhiteFleet

    WHAT A INCREDIBLE WASTE! Given the undiminished capabililities of this great ship, and the urgent need for the US to begin to inspire more than just fear or disdain in the world, we should demilitarize the USS Enterprise, paint her hull white and the Stars and Stripes on each side of her massive square bridge, staff her with volunteer/retired naval and medical personnel, and repurpose her as the flagship of a New Great White Fleet dedicated to disaster relief and humanitarian missions around the world. Recent global disasters have vividly demonstrated the need for such a capability. Most have been along shorelines or within easy helicopter operating range from a carrier deck. Given her high sustainable speed,unlimited range and endurance at sea, massive carrying capacity for supplies, and hugh deck for continuous heli operations, the Enterprise would be ideal for this vital role...and an active highly visible symbol for the good that American power and technology can bring to the world. Our previous USS Enterprise was arguably the most important and famous US naval ship surviving WWII, having participated in nearly all the major naval battles from beginning to end, but she was thoughtlessly cut up for scrap shortly after that war. DON'T LET THIS STILL VERY CAPABABLE ENTERPRISE BE THOUGHTLESSLY CUT UP FOR SCRAP TOO! PUT HER TO AN IMPORTANT NEW USE FOR THE GOOD OF THE USA AND THE WHOLE WORLD!

    March 12, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • High Hopes

      Great Idea!

      But, from my observation, most people
      shut down when you speak about atrocities
      being committed against mankind. They
      don't identify with a global prism of humanity.
      There's too much hate with an array of petty

      Love, it's so much easier;

      March 12, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • mipolitic

      sounds perfect. who will pay the bills? now if this was a un world ship for the task that you mention great , but go ask for the money and they will put you in a padded room.

      but i do still agree with you. the paint job would be blue with a dove holding an olive branch along with target on the side of it . she would be sunk in the first week.

      March 12, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Big E

    Big E was part of Operation Sea Orbit back in the mid 60's when 3 nuclear powered ships, the Uss Long Beach, Uss Bainbridge and Uss Enterprise sailed together around the world without having to refuel.

    March 12, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Byrd

      Message: We can kill you without having to stop for gas. How efficient.

      March 12, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Byrd

    Imagine if you can, Scottie, being in a bigger world of sh!t than one in which people lament the passing of a weapon of mass destruction.

    Lock onto these coordinates – beam us all up – drop a warning beacon – and get us the h... out of here now. These people are friggin' nuts.

    March 12, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Cindy

    I met my husband on the quartetdeck of the Enterprise in July of 1977. Our first date was on the dependents cruise a few weeks later. I am sad to hear of her demise.

    March 12, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • MOSUX

      Cindy, my wife (then girlfriend) was with me on that very same Dependents Day cruise you mention in 1977. That night, when we got back in, I proposed and she accepted. We were married in January, 1978 and are still together 34 years later!

      July 13, 2012 at 12:26 am | Report abuse |
  7. Cindy


    March 12, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gunny

      For a minute there I thought there were 4 guys with striped shirts singing on a carrier.

      March 12, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Paul Azpeitia

    One of my own countrymen is too clueless to realize that weapons are necessary to protect the United States from its enemies, in the past, presently, and in the future. Sad. It's also sad to see the Enterprise CVN 65 going to the scrap heap. Let's hope there's some sense in the world and CVN 80 is named in her and her predecessors' honor.

    March 12, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |

    Middle east..the final frontier. This is the final voyage of the USS ENTERPRISE it's mission .. to seek out new wars and destroy old boldly go where other countries fear to go..

    Sad to see you go big E.
    But can't wait to see the new one
    And there will be one the Enterprise is an icon and can not be allowed to just fade away.

    March 12, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. GDI

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

    Make it so!

    March 12, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Martin Timothy

    Scuttlebutt has it the ship is to be the target of a false flag attack, which will be the impetus for WW3, saving billions in decommissioning costs, a la the rationale behind the false flag attack, that destroyed the World Trade Center on 911..

    Which became the impetus for hostility against all and sundry, in the current War on Terror .. the aluminum cladding on the towers had deteriorated, and was beginning to fall off due to exposure to the weather, is why planes have to be stored indoors.

    Else be coated with a protective resin .. the internal fireproofing was an asbestos compound, which had to be removed prior to lawful demolition, the quote for the scaffolding alone, required to remove both the asbestos and the corroded aluminum, was 5 billion dollar$!

    March 12, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ronvan

    Thenewgreatwhitefleet: Love the idea, as long as you could get qualified personnel to man her. 50 years is an amazing statistic. I wonder what it would cost to "bring her up to speed" as opposed to building a new one? And from the historical point the "BIG E" has been around for alot longer than 50 years, and would be sad not to have her or another at sea continuing that history.

    March 12, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Facepalm28

    "Think they'll build another one?"
    "Still plenty of letters left in the alphabet."

    I do hope one of the new class of carriers will continue this proud name, and I think it will happen. I do think it's one of the greatest tragedies in the history of the U.S. Navy that the previous Enterprise (CV-6) wasn't preserved, considering that was the ship that built the legend of the Enterprise name. I often think about the USS Intrepid in New York, or the USS Midway in San Diego, and wonder why it couldn't have been the Enterprise instead. Not such a big deal that this Enterprise is nearing its end, though. CV-6 was our original Enterprise (NCC-1701); the current CVN-65 is more of just an Enterprise-B. She's been a good, solid ship, but never approached the legend of her predecessor.

    March 12, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Minnesota Shivers

    I am the proud mother of a retired Navy seaman who served on the USS Enterprise for 4 years in the '80s. He was aboard when it went through the Suez, the first nuclear powered ship to do so. I am sorry to see this one retired but once we get rid of our military's most distructive enemy, President Obama, another will be built.

    March 12, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Tammy

    My dad was on the madien voyage of the Enterprise. We still have the book that was made that year. I'm hoping to go to the decomissioning.

    March 12, 2012 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
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