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. robert.preston

    Obama never spent a single day serving his country in the armed forces. We don't even know his grades at Punahou or Harvard because he won't release his transcripts. All we know is our economy is dead in the water, and his platform for the next election is that his opponent has too much money. HOW CAN ANYBODY IN THEIR RIGHT MIND VOTE FOR OBAMA ???!!!

    July 16, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • E

      so what. the president before him didn't serve a true day either. as a reserve, whose daddy kept him from combat.laughable and sad compared to what the reservist of today who have had to "truly" serve this country. and it was under his terms that we are in the tank. all of you guys need to shut the hell up with you validity of obama this and that. understand that you have had far worse in the white house; a junkie/alcoholic, womanizer, professional liar (all of them) but i am speaking of daddy bush and the incredible divisor of the current state of this country, the actor and "forgetful" double r. this article is about the ENTERPRISE. talk about the vessel or do us all a favor and DO NOT REPLY!!!
      never served on the BIG E, but proud to say that she will be missed.

      July 25, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. AmShank

    What is truly said is that her predecessor CV6 was scrapped. She would have made one hell of a museum.

    July 16, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Greywolfe

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

    The first "U.S.S. Enterprize" was a 12-gun sloop-of-war during the American Revolution. Since then there have been a number of ships carrying this name, up to and including the "Big E", proud veteran of Midway and Leyte Gulf. It would be sad indeed if there was a U.S. Navy without an Enterprise.

    When Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek, it was no accident that his main action locale was the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. This is a name that speaks to anyone who has ever opened a book on US history.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
  4. James

    Made two west pac's in the 80's VAW117. It is a great ship and will be missed.

    July 17, 2012 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony Elumn

      So did I 🙂 I will miss her too, i had a good time with you guys.

      July 18, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. SMC(SW) Bob K US Navy Retired

    Hate to see the old girl go. She was my second ship back in the late 70's

    July 17, 2012 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
  6. MightyMoo

    But... there... has to be... a ship...named.... Enterprise!

    July 17, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Frank

    People of the United States of America, President Obama and the Department of Defense(DOD).
    To say that it will be to expensive to retrofit the Big E is just moronic!What is the United States going to do with it? Turn it into scarp metal,make it a museum piece out of it like the Space Shuttles?Are you all crazy or just stupid.Has anyone stopped to think "What if" the United States God forbid got into a real shooting war with China,Russia or yes even Pakistan and we Lost a Carrier in a Strike, Nuclear or otherwise.It takes years to build a carrier and with President Obama gutting the United States Military Industrial Complex it could take much longer after everyone really wakes up from their dream of World Peace!!
    Keep the U.S.S. Enterprise in service for the sake of American Security!

    July 17, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick Mills

      Right On!

      July 17, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Galane

    Nuclear aircraft carriers are designed for a 50 year service life with one major refit and refueling at 25 years. Why would they have to completely remove the nuclear reactors? Why not just remove the cores as was done 25 years ago?

    The reason the Enterprise has eight reactors is due to getting it designed and built as quickly as possible. They used small reactors based on the ones originally designed for nuclear submarines. All the other US nuclear carriers have two, larger reactors.

    July 18, 2012 at 6:03 am | Report abuse |
  9. i love my country

    if were going to do this we need to cleen out the white house . then we can build an another bigger badder more fearsome u.s.s . enterprise one that our kids will say i want to serve on that

    July 18, 2012 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
  10. Norman R. Niemet

    Late 1961, I was working on the A3Js' Radar Systems in Patuxent River, waiting to get on the Enterprise. The news finally came ... Norfolk, Virginia. That means the Enterprise was there and ready. We left for a three days on a shake-down cruise and the A3Js' did great. The Navy gave us Zeppo lighters that said "Plank-Ower, USS Enterprise, 1961". I didn't smoke and I gave the Lighter to my Dad. This was my first time on the Enterprise. I was on the Enterprise during the Cuban Crisis. I was a Civilian, and had more time on the Enterprise, then the two years spent in the Army..

    July 18, 2012 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  11. Bob Knippel

    I was a frigate sailor back in the day, and spent a lot of time with the Enterprise within sight, and for sure within radar range. Pulling up next to her to refuel really impressed me: the navigation light at the very top of our mast didn't even reach the height of the flight deck. I can't imagine the U.S. Navy without her.

    July 18, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. charles good

    The old lady is fifty plus years old. Her crews have sailed her well. When she was commissioned Dwight Eisenhower was leaving office and John Kennedy was entering. Strange though it may be, the main U.S. bomber fleet is still the B-52, which the newest edition is also now fifty plus years old and will continue to fly and serve for another thirty plus years. Seems to me the old Navy-Airforce debate has been answered. The best bang for the buck has been and will continue to be the large strategic land based bomber.

    August 18, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sgt. Bill Davis

    When cvn 65 Enterprise was in dry dock for rcoh for up to three years or more , our star trek club and conventtion got the captain and crew to come to shore leave in Baltimore to do a show for us, and we agreed to do parts of the ship in star trek memmerabilia. Afterwards we toured the ship before she was sent to sea.Oboma will have one month to name the cvn 80 Enterprise before the other side names her what they want the Barry Goldwater

    September 10, 2012 at 5:46 am | Report abuse |
  14. richard thompson

    Didn"t even cost 500,000,000. cost less than 500 million bet the new one are over a billion.seem a shame to turn her into razar blades.

    October 25, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. richard thompson

    on board 65 and 66

    October 25, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
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