"Big E's" First Mission Was To Track And Measure Flight Of
USS Enterprise (CVN 65) is scheduled to celebrate its 49th
birthday in its homeport of Norfolk, Va. Nov. 25. Big E's 49th
birthday will take place as the crew celebrates Thanksgiving.
U.S. Navy Photo
Enterprise is the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft
carrier, and with the exception of USS Constitution, is the oldest
commissioned warship in the Navy. CVN-65 is the eighth U.S. ship
bearing the name Enterprise and was commissioned Nov. 25, 1961.
During the commissioning, then Secretary of the Navy John B.
Connally Jr. called the ship a worthy successor to the seventh
Enterprise (CV 6), which was the most decorated ship in World War
II. In his remarks, Connally said Enterprise will reign for a long,
long time as "queen of the seas."
USS Enterprise Flight Operations U.S. Navy
Former Aviation Boatswain's Mate Airman Jack Kepics was there
that historic day and remembers it vividly. "There was a chilly
breeze that blew through the hangar bay as about 3,000 of us stood
in ranks shivering in our dress blues," said Kepics. "Despite the
dreary weather, the atmosphere was very festive, and a sense of
pride beamed from every Sailor and officer as we stood and listened
to the commissioning speeches."
"Big E", as the crew affectionately named her, is the largest
aircraft carrier to ever be built. One of a kind, Enterprise
stretches 1,123 feet and weighs 73,858 tons. Enterprise is the only
ship to ever house eight nuclear reactors. "This is significant
because we are still operating as efficiently as we did 49 years
ago," said USS Enterprise Command Master Chief (AW/SW) Keith Oxley.
"Roughly 250,000 Sailors have served aboard Enterprise in her
49-year tenure, and we are carrying on that legacy."
John Glenn Aboard 'Friendship 7'
The ship's first mission was to track and measure the flight of
Mercury 'Friendship 7'. Big E's efforts culminated May 5, 1961 when
Cmdr. Alan B. Shepard, Jr., became the first American to break the
barrier of the Earth's atmosphere and ascend 116.5 miles in the
Mercury capsule. Big E has played a role in almost every major
conflict since her commissioning. From the Cuban Missile Crisis,
through multiple tours off Yankee Station in the Vietnam conflict,
cold war tensions, and culminating with it's rapid response on
9/11, Enterprise has been there to answer the nation's call time
"I've been in the Navy for 25 years, and I cannot recall a ship
that has been as active for this period of time," said Oxley. "I
came to Enterprise for the sole reason of helping this fine ship to
the very end of its life and also to be part of its history and
heritage." Throughout Enterprise's naval career, it has earned many
accolades and distinguished itself honorably time and time again.
Enterprise has played a vital role in establishing sea power for
the U.S. in the past and, with its upcoming deployment, will
continue to do so into the future.
U.S. Navy Photo
This sentiment reaffirms the tradition and level of excellence
that Enterprise Sailors have shown throughout the vessel's history.
The legend will continue to grow as it looks forward to its 50th
birthday next year. Enterprise Carrier Strike Group consists of
Enterprise, the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55), the
guided-missile destroyers USS Bulkeley (DDG 84), USS Barry (DDG 52)
and USS Mason (DDG 87), USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8), Carrier Air Wing 1
and Destroyer Squadron 2.
The strike group is currently in port undergoing preparations
for an upcoming deployment. [ANN Salutes Mass Communication
Specialist Seaman Jared M. King for this story...]
Addendum: ANN Reader Steve McDonald takes
exception to the Navy writer's statement that, "with the
exception of USS Constitution, is the oldest commissioned warship
in the Navy." Steve notes that the USS Maine (and perhaps the
USS Utah at Peal Harbor) is still carried as commissioned. That
lowers Enterprise on this list. As an additional factoid, the USS
Maine is the longest ship in the Navy with its mainmast at
Arlington Cemetery and its foremast at the Naval Academy in