U.S. Military History: USS Enterprise

Ross Dunfee

Enterprise means “readiness to engage in daring or difficult action,” and such was the lot for the crews of the eight colonial and U.S. ships named Enterprise. All Enterprises were participants in conflict, armed and ready for action. The U.S. ships named Enterprise are as follows:

* Enterprise (1775-1777), a 70-ton, 22-gun, 50-crew British Navy sloop named Liberty was captured on May 18, 1775, by Benedict Arnold and renamed Enterprise. It was later burned to prevent recapture.

* Enterprise (1776-1777), a Continental Navy 25-ton, 8-gun, 60-crew schooner, formerly a privateer, used in Chesapeake Bay for convoy and patrol.

* USS Enterprise (1799-1823), a 135-ton, 12-gun, 70-crew schooner that fired the first shots in the First Barbary War.

* USS Enterprise (1831-1844), a 197-ton, 10-gun, 63-crew schooner, stationed primarily in South America to patrol and protect commerce.

* USS Enterprise (1874-1909), a 615-ton, 7-gun, 184-crew steam-powered sloop-of-war used for surveying, patrolling, and training.

* USS Enterprise SP-790 (1917–1919), a 66-foot 2-gun, 8-crew motor patrol boat used in World War I as a non-commissioned craft.

* USS Enterprise CV-6 (1938–1947), a 32,000-ton, 96-aircraft, 2,900-crew aircraft carrier that served in World War II.

* USS Enterprise CVN-65 (1961–2017), a 93,000-ton, 90-aircraft, 4,600-crew nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

* USS Enterprise CVN-80 (2028-20??), a 100,000-ton, 90-aircraft, 4,660-crew nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, now under construction and scheduled to enter service by 2028.

CV-6 is enormously famous for its battle conflicts during WWII. Known as “The Big E,” the Enterprise aircraft carrier engaged with the Japanese at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, by having 18 dive bombers in the battle. Seven aircraft were shot down, eight aviators were killed and two wounded. As the Pacific Theatre heated up, USS Enterprise participated in the Battle of Midway, the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, and various other air-sea engagements during the Guadalcanal Campaign, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

USS Enterprise CV-6 earned 20 battle stars and was the most decorated ship of WWII. Her planes and guns downed 911 enemy planes; her bombers sank 71 ships, and damaged or destroyed 192 more. Her presence inspired both pride and fear: pride in her still today unmatched combat record, and fear in the knowledge that Enterprise and hard fighting were never far apart.

With pride, the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, CVN-65 accepted the name Enterprise and the nickname “Big E.” In Vietnam, Enterprise carried on the battle record of its predecessors but was also later engaged in East Asia conflicts. This Enterprise is particularly dear to this veteran, having served three tours to Vietnam as part of the ship’s company. This veteran was also onboard during that fateful conflagration of Jan. 14, 1969, when 28 sailors surrendered their lives to fire and explosions. A YouTube video explains the terror of that day (USS Enterprise CVAN65 “Trial by Fire” video, 14Jan1969). Behind the smiling faces of many veterans are the scars of war; some physical and observable, some emotional and hidden.

SOT-AZ (Support Our Troops—Arizona) is thankful for all our veterans, and we are proud to honor them by placing U.S. flags along the principal roadways in Robson Ranch eleven/twelve times each year. Visit www.sotaz.org to learn more about Support Our Troops—Arizona.