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)

    I`m proud to have served aboard her, 1963 to1965 including OPERATION SEA ORBIT of which I have great memories. A proud ship with a proud legacy. Many good men flew off her deck,never to return, also the men who perished or where injured,fighting the great fire,,I SALUTE YOU ALL. ----C.J.P.

    March 17, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  2. Norman R. Niemet

    It's Hard to believe its been Fifty Years:
    In December 1, 2012, the USS Enterprise CVN-65 is to be decommissioned in Norfolk, Virginia, and then towed to Washington, and sold for scrap. It seems like only yesterday, I can remember running around in the hanger-bay getting an A3-J, Vigilante ready for flight. I remember the days and nights of 1961, 1962 and 1963. The cold nights in the North Atlantic and the warm days in Cuba, and especially the nine months Mediterranean cruise. Sally and I took advantage of the cruise and were married in Rome, April 11, l963. She too will always remember the "Big-E".
    It's hard to believe that the Enterprise will not be made into a Museum, but I guess it's understandable. Also in the US Navy Armada, there will be...No USS Enterprise?

    March 17, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bill

    While serving on the USCG Boutwell I remember playing plane guard for the Enterprise. To those that have never seen her at sea and cutting 25 knots I can only say what an awesome sight.

    March 21, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  4. Chris

    I, for one, am still upset over the slow demise of the first super carrier, Forrestal. Its heart breaking to see any naval vessel in a state of neglect and disrepair. Enterprise, like Forrestal, represents the chronological excellence of naval engineering. While its not practical to save the Enterprise for museum purposes, maybe the signature island can be extracted and given a place of prominence. Fair winds and following seas, Big E....

    March 22, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. theresa fallen


    March 30, 2012 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  6. soft rock

    Woah this weblog is wonderful i like studying your posts. Keep up the great work! You realize, lots of individuals are searching around for this info, you could aid them greatly.

    March 31, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Phil Spectre

    Lots of LSD experiments aboard her. Don't let the CIA know I said that, though.

    April 3, 2012 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  8. Don

    Served on the Big-E, was my last duty station and cruise 1979. Lots of good memories.
    I am in WA and will get to see her again, next to the Kitty Hawk that I also served on.
    It's time for me to retire also


    April 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Troy

    I served on her during the late 80's on a word cruse. I just saw here in April this rear with my son and nephew. awsome ship. I am proud to have been part of her legacy.

    May 9, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jim Kruse

    V-4 Div. 73-76. You'll always be the baddest. Olongapo, grande island, Baggio, Manilla, Singapore, Hong Kong, Hobart Australia, Mobassa Africa. Alameda and the world. Long live your memory.

    May 22, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mike Del Duca III

    I served on the Enterprise originally as a kind of a joke. My father was Star Track junky I was in MS(Mess Management Specialist) A School there was one Billit left for the Enterprise I picked it and thought it was funny.
    I later call my Dad and told him I think he thought it was cool. It was't till later did I under stand the rich history of it (served 94-97)

    July 5, 2012 at 6:59 am | Report abuse |
  12. Irv

    I sailed on the Big 'E' from 66' thru 67 in Vietnam. The Weather Office was in a very small storeroom and not adequate for any type of operations. The Iranians have a thing for the Big 'E', hope she can ward off all the challenges that are ahead for her on this dangerous voyage into the turbulent middle east with many thousands of our sailors on board, face to face with the enemy day after day, month after many months.

    July 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      Thats right, operation "Praying Mantis" April 18, 1987.

      July 12, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Gil Gonzales

    Served on her, Medical Dept. It was a great experience , proud to have been a small part of her history

    July 11, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. michael j fisher

    like allways the carrier gets all the glory but without the so called smallboys who get no glory but do there jobs day in and day out. i was on the entercourse sept 82-84 but i will take my first and last love u.s.s. berkeley-ddg-15 anyday

    July 11, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. michael j fisher

    tincan boatswains mates rule the oceans

    July 11, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
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