USS Enterprise (CVN-65)

Enterprise during her christening ceremony, 24 September, 1960. Photo in the collection of the US Navy History & Heritage Command.

Ship Class
Ship Type
Laid Down

USS Enterprise (CVN-65) was a one-off nuclear powered aircraft carrier built by the United States. Laid down in 1958, the Big E was commissioned on 25 November, 1961. Enterprise was, and still is, the longest naval vessel ever to be in service, at 1,123 feet overall length. After her commissioning, Enterprise served as the flagship for Fleet Admiral Nimitz until his death in 1966, even though he was nominally retired. Enterprise deployed for the Cuban Missile Crisis in October, 1962, and followed this up with trials for a new catapult system in December. From 31 July to 3 October, 1964, Enterprise participated in Operation Sea Orbit the sailing of the world's first all-nuclear powered task force around the globe. In November, 1965, Big E transferred to the Pacific, in preparation for Vietnam deployments, and on 2 December, she became the first nuclear powered ship to participate in combat. Enterprise responded to the seizure of the USS Pueblo in January, 1968, remaining on station until the diplomats has defused the situation. On the Morning of 14 January, 1969, one of the F-4 Phantoms aboard Enterprise accidentally discharged a rocket, starting a fire and setting off several other explosions that destroyed 15 aircraft and killed 27 sailors. Enterprise put into Pearl Harbor for repairs, and was diverted in April back to the Sea of Japan after the North Koreans shot down a recon aircraft in international waters. Enterprise underwent overhaul and upgrade in 1969-70, increasing the fuel supply in her reactors to ten years. In December, 1971, Enterprise was dispatched to the Indian Ocean during the Bangladeshi Liberation War, as a show of force against the Indian Navy blockade. Unfortunately, the opportunity for the first carrier battle in 27 years was missed when the US returned Enterprise to Vietnam operations. In 1973, the Big E was upgraded to handle the new F-14 Tomcat, and embarked her first squadron in September, 1974. Enterprise provided disaster relief for Mauritius in February, 1975, before returning to Vietnam in April for what would become Operation Frequent Wind. She held on station off East Africa after several Americans were taken hostage by Uganda in February, 1977, and began a 36 month overhaul in January, 1979. Enterprise ran hard aground in April, 1983 on a sandbar off San Francisco, while a Mr. George Takei was aboard. Her groundings continued on 2 November, 1985, when she struck Bishop Rock off San Diego, ripping a 60 foot hole in her hull, and damaging one propeller. However, the damage was shrugged off until after Enterprise completed her current exercises. On 28 April, 1986, in a moment of "How Did It Take This Long?", Enterprise became the first carrier to transit the Suez Canal. In her first visit to the Mediterranean since Sea Orbit, Enterprise participated in the bombing of Libya, and followed this up with escorting Kuwaiti tankers in the Persian Gulf and Operation Praying Mantis, strikes on Iranian oil platforms and ships in the Gulf, in February, 1988. She provided air support for the Philippine government during the 1989 coup attempt, but she missed out on Desert Storm when she went in for refit in October, 1990, not emerging until 1994. In June, 1996, Enterprise began her 15th deployment, enforcing no-fly zones over Bosnia and Iraq, the last deployment for the Grumman A-6 Intruder. On 8 November, 1998, Enterprise suffered her second flight deck fire, when an EA-6B crashed into an S-3 Viking on landing, killing the four EA-6B crew. A month later, Enterprise spearheaded attacks on Iraqi military targets during Operation Desert Fox. After participating in a joint exercise with the Royal Navy in the North Sea in June, 2001, Enterprise operated off the Persian Gulf. She was on her way home on 11 September, and returned to station without orders, joining in on the air strikes on Afghanistan in October. Enterprise spent 2002 in drydock, and deployed for support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in September, 2003, with the last deployment of the F-14, making the Big E the first and last carrier to fly the fighter. After another one-year drydocking in 2005, Enterprise ran across another sandbar near Norfolk, which shut down all her reactors. She was towed back to port. Enterprise underwent a planned 18-month overhaul beginning April, 2008, but the drastic increases in time and money required prompted her to be retired early. Enterprise conducted her final patrol in 2012, making Naples, Italy, her final foreign port call. It had also been her first. Enterprise returned to Norfolk on 4 November, 2012, and was ceremonially deactivated on 1 December. Since then, she has been stripped of equipment, and defueling her reactors was completed in December, 2016, in preparation for decommissioning, the first nuclear carrier to do so. Despite efforts to acquire Enterprise as a museum ship, she will be scrapped, slated to be completed by 2025.