A bottle of champagne shattered on the bow of the awesome new warship, USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65), breaking the silence of an anxious crowd at Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Newport News, Va. It was Saturday morning, Sept. 24, 1960, when Mrs. William B. Franke, wife of former Secretary of the Navy, christened the eighth USS ENTERPRISE, bringing to life the longest, tallest and mightiest warship to ever sail the seas.
At the commissioning of ENTERPRISE, the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, Secretary of the Navy John B. Connally, Jr., called it a worthy successor to the highly decorated seventh USS ENTERPRISE of World War II. "The Fighting Gray Lady, as it was called, served in such well-known battles as the raid on Tokyo and the Battle of Midway." Secretary Connally went on to say, "The new ENTERPRISE will reign a long, long time as queen of the seas."
ENTERPRISE made its maiden voyage under the command of Capt. Vincent P. DePoix, Jan. 12, 1962, conducting a three-month shakedown cruise.
In August, ENTERPRISE joined the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. Soon after its return to Norfolk, Va., in October, ENTERPRISE was dispatched to its first international crisis.
ENTERPRISE and other ships in the Second Fleet set up a "strict quarantine of all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba." The blockade was put in place on Oct. 24, and the first Soviet ship was stopped the next day. On Oct. 28, Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles and dismantle the missile bases in Cuba.
ENTERPRISE made its second and third deployments to the Mediterranean in 1963 and 1964. During the latter deployment, on May 13, the world's first nuclear-powered task force was formed when USS LONG BEACH and USS BAINBRIDGE joined ENTERPRISE. On July 31, the three ships were designated Task Force One and sent on "Operation Sea Orbit," a historic 30,565-mile voyage around the world, accomplished without a single refueling or replenishment.
In October, ENTERPRISE returned to Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company for its first refueling and overhaul.
The Big E transferred to the Pacific's Seventh Fleet in November 1965 and became the first nuclear-powered ship to engage in combat when it launched bomb-laden aircraft in a projection of power against the Viet Cong on Dec. 2, 1965. Its hot decks launched 125 sorties on the first day, unleashing 167 tons of bombs and rockets on the enemy's supply lines. The next day it set a record of 165 strike sorties in a single day.
In all, ENTERPRISE made six combat deployments to Southeast Asia from 1965 to 1972. Between combat tours, ENTERPRISE returned to Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in 1970 for an overhaul and second refueling.
Following the 1973 cease-fire in Vietnam, ENTERPRISE proceeded to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Wash., where "Big E" was altered and refitted to support the Navy's newest fighter aircraft -- the F-14A "Tomcat".
When ENTERPRISE made its seventh Western Pacific (WESTPAC) deployment in September 1974, it became the first carrier to deploy with the new F-14 Tomcat fighter plane. During the deployment, in February 1975, ENTERPRISE was called on to help in the evacuation of Saigon. During Operation Frequent Wind, "Big E" aircraft flew 95 sorties.
The ship made its eighth and ninth WESTPACs in July 1976 and April 1978, respectively. It sailed to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in January 1979 for a 30-month comprehensive overhaul.
ENTERPRISE made its 10th, 11th, and 12th WESTPACs in 1982, 1984 and 1986, respectively. In April of the 1986 deployment, ENTERPRISE became the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to transit the Suez Canal. It then entered the Mediterranean for the first time in 22 years.
In April 1988, ENTERPRISE, on its 13th deployment, was assigned to escort reflagged Kuwaiti oil tankers in the Persian Gulf while stationed in the North Arabian Sea. In a measured response, ENTERPRISE and Carrier Air Wing 11 struck a decisive blow to the Iranian navy in the most intensely fought naval battle since the Korean campaign.
ENTERPRISE began its 14th overseas deployment in September 1989. In early December, ENTERPRISE participated in "Operation Classic Resolve," President Bush's response to Philippine President Corazon Aquino's request for air support during the rebel coup attempt. ENTERPRISE remained on station conducting flight operations in the waters outside Manila Bay.
In March 1990, ENTERPRISE completed its highly successful around-the-world deployment by arriving in Norfolk, Va. ENTERPRISE had successfully and safely steamed more than 43,000 miles from its long-time homeport of Alameda, CA In October, ENTERPRISE moved to Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company for refueling and the Navy's largest complex overhaul ever attempted.
Work began in earnest in January 1991. While specially trained shipyard workers refueled the ship's eight nuclear reactors, crewmen and more shipyard workers began overhauling the carrier's 3,500 compartments. ENTERPRISE completed its overhaul, the most extensive in U.S. Naval history, on Sept. 27, 1994. Sea trials began, during which ENTERPRISE performed an extended full power run as fast as when it was new, remaining the fastest combatant in the world. The ship then returned to its homeport in Norfolk, Va.
In mid-January 1995, "Big E" returned to Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company for a five month Selected Restricted Availability. The yard period involved upgrades to all of the combat and communications systems, intelligence suites, command and control capabilities, ventilation systems, berthing and dining areas, and underway replenishment equipment. "Big E" departed Newport News in July and returned to Norfolk Naval Base, from which the ship has conducted operations to the Carribean Sea and participated in the highly successful Joint Task Force '96 Exercise with a British task group. ENTERPRISE completed its 15th overseas deployment in December 1996, with operations conducted throughout the Mediterranean Sea, Arabian Gulf, and Red Sea. During this deployment Enterprise made the fastest transist ever conducted from off of Bosnia to the Persian Gulf in support of strikes against Iraq. This transit took less than 6 days and resulted in peace being restored to the region. "Big E" returned to its homeport of Norfolk on December 20th, 1996, to a joyous holiday reunion with family and friends.
In January 1997 Big "E" returned to Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company for a six month Selected Restricted Availability. The focus of the yard period was habitability upgrades and various combat systems.
On August 11-20 the "Big E" put to sea for Flight Deck Certification. During this period ENTERPRISE launched and recovered aircraft ensuring that our "main battery" was sound as it looked. Having returned from the Virginia Capes operating area the USS ENTERPRISE is fit for duty.
The USS ENTERPRISE has completed Joint Forces Exercises and Composite Unit Exircises during the Summer and Fall of 1998 in preperation for Mediterranean Sea / Arabian Gulf Deployment 98/99.
In December 1998, during the Mediterranean Sea / Arabian Gulf Deployment, USS ENTERPRISE supported Operation Desert Fox. 1998/99 the carrier returned to the Mediterranean. Relieved by the THEODORE ROOSEVELT Battle Group, ENTERPRISE returned to the Perian Gulf in late March 1999. In June 1999, she finished her deployment arriving in Norfolk, Va.
An extended overhaul for the ENTERPRISE is scheduled to begin at Newport News Shipbuilding in 1999 and continue through mid-year 2000.
Following another succesful deployment from April to November 2001 during which the carrier's Air Wing conducted combat missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, ENTERPRISE entered an Extended Drydock Selected Restricted Availability on January 7, 2002, at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, VA.
Back at sea in 2003, the ENTERPRISE conducted a COMPTUEX in the Virginia Capes and Jacksonville operating areas in September in preparation for the first deployment of a US Navy aircraft carrier since major hostilities had ended in Iraq in April. The ENTERPRISE left the east coast on October 2, and arrived in the Persian Gulf on October 23.
Returning to Norfolk on February 29, 2004, the ENTERPRISE remained on the east coast and on September 3, entered the Northrop Grumman Newport News for a scheduled Extended Selected Restricted Availability. The ESRA lasted till October 2005. USS ENTERPRISE again deployed to the Mediterranean and Arabian Sea from May-November 2006 and from July-December 2007.
Following an extended shipyard period that began in April 2008 and ended in April 2010, ENTERPRISE embarked on its 21st deployment in January 2011, during which the carrier supported operations Enduring Freedom, New Dawn and multiple anti-piracy missions. During its six-month tour of duty, Big ‘E’ made port visits to Lisbon, Portugal, Marmaris, Turkey, the Kingdom of Bahrain and Mallorca, Spain. Big 'E' became the fourth aircraft carrier in naval history to record 400,000 arrested landings on May 24, 2011. The milestone landing was made by an F/A-18F Super Hornet piloted by Lt. Matthew L. Enos and Weapon System Officer Lt. Cmdr. Jonathan Welsh from the Red Rippers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 11. ENTERPRISE returned home to Norfolk on July 15, 2011.
On November 25, 2011, Big ‘E’ celebrated its 50th birthday, making the carrier the oldest active duty ship in the U.S. Naval fleet.
On March 11, 2012, the mighty ENTERPRISE left Norfolk on her final deployment heading to the familiar waters of the Mediterranean and Arabian Sea. She returned home for the last time after almost eight months on November 4, 2012.