USS Enterprise

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Eight ships of the United States Navy have borne the name USS Enterprise.


The first USS Enterprise, a British supply sloop, was captured in May 1775 at St. Johns, Quebec, Canada, by Colonel Benedict Arnold, named Enterprise, and armed for use on Lake Champlain.

On August 28, 1775, Enterprise and other vessels embarked more than 1,000 troops as part of an expedition against St Johns, Montreal, and Quebec. Though St. Johns and Montreal were captured, and Quebec was besieged, the arrival of strong British reinforcements forced the Americans to withdraw from Canada in the spring of 1776. Enterprise and the other craft sailed to Isle aux Noix in the Richelieu River where they waited while Arnold directed the building of a fleet at Ticonderoga and Skenesborough (Whitehall), and the British-built ships at St Johns.

The battle was finally joined on October 11, 1776 at Valcour Island, near Plattsburg, New York. Arnold chose the site and deployed to await the British advance. Though markedly inferior in firepower, Arnold's fleet fought a valiant and effective action all day long, then slipped through the British line after dark. A running battle took place over the next two days, and resulted in the loss of all but five of the American ships. Enterprise and four others escaped to Crown Point, then sailed on to Ticonderoga. A tactical defeat, Valcour Island was nevertheless a great strategic victory for the Americans.

Arnold and his little fleet so disrupted the British invasion into New York that it was nearly a year before the advance could be renewed. In that interval American troops were recruited and trained, and on October 17, 17771 under General Horatio Gates, defeated the British decisively at Saratoga, New York. This victory was a primary factor in bringing about the alliance with France, and bringing the powerful French navy to the aid of the colonies.

During the British advance prior to the Battle of Saratoga, Enterprise was one of five vessels assigned to duty convoying bateaux in the evacuation of Ticonderoga. The small American force was no match for the British fleet on Lake Champlain, and after two ships had been captured, Enterprise and the other two were run aground on July 7, 1777, and burned to prevent their capture.


The second Enterprise, a schooner, was a successful letter-of-marque before she was purchased on December 20, 1776 for the Continental Navy. Commanded by Captain Joseph Campbell, Enterprise operated principally in Chesapeake Bay. She convoyed transports, carried out reconnaissance, and guarded the shores against foraging raids by the British. Only meager records of her service have been found; they indicate that she was apparently returned to the Maryland Council of Safety before the end of February 1777.


The third Enterprise, a schooner, was built by Henry Spencer at Baltimore, Md., in 1799, and placed under the command of Lieutenant John Shaw.

On December 17, 1799, Enterprise departed the Delaware Capes for the Caribbean to protect United States merchantmen from the depredations of French privateers during the Quasi-War with France. Within the following year, Enterprise captured eight privateers and liberated 11 American vessels from captivity, achievements which assured her inclusion in the 14 ships retained in the Navy after the Quasi-War.

Enterprise next sailed to the Mediterranean, raising Gibraltar on June 26, 1801, where she was to join other U.S. warships in writing a bright and enduring page in American naval history. Enterprise's first action came on August 1, 1801 when, just west of Malta, she defeated the 14-gun Tripolitan corsair Tripoli, after a fierce but one-sided battle. Unscathed, Enterprise sent the battered pirate into port since the schooner's orders prohibited taking prizes.

Her next victories came in 1803 after months of carrying despatches, convoying merchantmen, and patrolling the Mediterranean. On January 17, she captured Paulina, a Tunisian ship under charter to the Bashaw of Tripoli, and on May 22, she ran a 30-ton craft ashore on the coast of Tripoli. For the next month Enterprise and other ships of the squadron cruised inshore, bombarding the coast and sending landing parties to destroy enemy small craft.

On December 23, 1803, after a quiet interval of cruising, Enterprise joined with frigate Constitution to capture the Tripolitan ketch Mastico. Refitted and renamed Intrepid, the ketch was given to Enterprise's commanding officer, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, Jr., for use in a daring expedition to burn frigate Philadelphia, captured by the Tripolitans and anchored in the harbor of Tripoli. Decatur and his volunteer crew carried out their mission perfectly, destroying the frigate and depriving Tripoli of a powerful warship. Enterprise continued to patrol the Barbary Coast until July 1804 when she joined the other ships of the squadron in general attacks on the city of Tripoli over a period of several weeks.

Enterprise passed the winter in Venice where she was practically rebuilt by May 1805. She rejoined her squadron in July and resumed patrol and convoy duty until August of 1807. During that period she fought (August 15, 1806) a brief engagement off Gibraltar with a group of Spanish gunboats who attacked her but were driven off. Enterprise returned to the United States in late 1807, and cruised coastal waters until June 1809. After a brief tour in the Mediterranean, she sailed to New York where she was laid up for nearly a year.

Repaired at the Washington Navy Yard, Enterprise was recommissioned there in April 1811, then sailed for operations out of Savannah, Georgia and [[Charleston, South Carolina She returned to Washington on October 2 and was hauled out of the water for extensive repairs and modifications: when she sailed on May 20, 1812, she had been rerigged as a brig.


At sea when war was declared on Great Britain, she cruised along the east coast during the first year of hostilities. On September 5, 1813, Enterprise sighted and chased HBM Brig Boxer. The brigs opened fire on each other, and in a closely fought, fierce and gallant action which took the lives of both commanding officers, Enterprise captured Boxer and took her into nearby Portland, Maine. Here a common funeral was held for Lieutenant William Burrows, Enterprise, and Captain Samuel Elyth, Boxer, both well-known and highly respected in their services.

After repairing at Portland, Enterprise sailed in company with brig Rattlesnake, for the Caribbean. The two ships took three prizes before being forced to separate by a heavily armed ship on February 25, 1814. Enterprise was compelled to jettison most of her guns in order to outsail her superior antagonist. The brig reached Wilmington, North Carolina, on March 9, 1814, then passed the remainder of the war as a guardship off Charleston, South Carolina.

Enterprise served one more short tour in the Mediterranean (July-November 1815), then cruised the northeastern seaboard until November 1817. Front that time on she sailed the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, suppressing pirates, smugglers, and slaves; in this duty she took 13 prizes. Her long career ended on July 9, 1823, when, without injury to her crew, she stranded and broke up on Little Curacao Island in the West Indies.


The fourth Enterprise, a schooner, was launched by the New York Navy Yard on October 26, 1831, and commissioned December 15, 1831, Lieutenant S. W. Downing in command. Enterprise sailed on January 12, 1832 for South America where she patrolled the Brazil Station guarding United States' interests until April of 1834. Returning to New York at that time, she repaired and refitted until July when she departed again for Brazil.

Ten months later she joined sloop Peacock for a cruise to the Far East by way of Africa, India and the East Indies. Continuing eastward, Enterprise called at Honolulu, Hawaii, in September of 1836, then proceeded to the west coast of Mexico, arriving at Mazatlan October 28, 1836. She cruised the west coast of South America until March of 1839 when she departed Valparaiso, Chile to round the Horn, call at Rio de Janeiro, and sail on to Philadelphia. Here she was inactivated on July 12, 1839.

Enterprise was recommissioned November 29, 1839 and on March 16, 1840, sailed from New York for South America. After four years of protecting U.S. commerce on this station, she turned north for home. On June 20, 1844, Enterprise entered the Boston Navy Yard and four days later was decommissioned for the last time. She was sold October 28, 1844.


The fifth Enterprise, a bark-rigged screw sloop-of war, was launched June 13, 1874 at Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine, by John W. Griffith, a private contractor; and commissioned March 16, 1877, Commander G. C. Remey in command.

Enterprise's first duty after fitting out at Norfolk, Virginia, took her to the mouth of the Mississippi River for surveying operations. Returning to Norfolk in April 1878, she remained there only briefly, sailing May 27, for surveying duty up the Amazon and Madeira Rivers. This completed, she repaired at New York, then (December 1878) joined the U.S. naval forces in European waters, calling at numerous ports in northern Europe and in the Mediterranean. She returned to the Washington Navy Yard on May 9, 1880 and was placed out of commission.

Recommissioned on January 12, 1882, she cruised the east coast until January 1, 1883 when she sailed on an eight-year hydrographic survey that took her completely around the world. Her findings on this cruise added materially to the knowledge of the oceans, their currents, and their bottoms. Enterprise was decommissioned at New York on March 21, 1886.

Placed back in commission on October 4, 1887, Enterprise sailed from Boston in January 1888 for two years in the waters of Europe, the Mediterranean, and the east coast of Africa, where she showed the flag and looked out for United States' interests. She returned to New York in March 1890 and was decommissioned on May 20.

Enterprise was again commissioned July 8, 1890, and for the next year operated principally in the Caribbean. From September 1891 until September 1892, she served as training and practice ship at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland. On October 17, 1892 at Boston, she was lent to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for duty as a maritime school ship. In that capacity she trained cadets for some 17 years. Returned to the Navy on May 4, 1909, Enterprise was sold on October 1, 1909.


The sixth Enterprise, a motorboat, served in a noncommissioned status in the Second Naval District during World War I.


The seventh Enterprise (CV-6) was launched October 3, 1936 by Newport News Shipbuilding; sponsored by Mrs. Claude A. Swanson, wife of the Secretary of the Navy: and commissioned May 12, 1938, Captain N. H. White in command.

Enterprise sailed south on a shakedown cruise which took her to Rio de Janeiro. After her return she operated along the east coast and in the Caribbean until April of 1939 when she was ordered to duty in the Pacific. Based first on San Diego and then on Pearl Harbor, the carrier trained herself and her aircraft squadrons for any eventuality, and carried aircraft among the island bases of the Pacific. Enterprise had just completed one such mission, delivering Marine Corps Fighter Squadron 211 to Wake Island on December 2, 1941, and was en route to Hawaii when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Enterprise scout planes arrived over Pearl Harbor during the attack and, though surprised, immediately went into action in defense of the naval base. The carrier, meanwhile, assembled her remaining aircraft in a fruitless search for the Japanese striking force. Enterprise put into Pearl Harbor for fuel and supplies in December and sailed early the next morning to patrol against possible additional attacks on the Hawaiian Islands. While the group did not encounter any surface ships, Enterprise aircraft scored a kilt by sinking submarine I-170 in 23'45' N., 155'35' W., on December 10, 1941.

During the last two weeks of December 1941, Enterprise and her group steamed to the westward of Hawaii to cover those islands while two other carrier groups made a belated attempt to relieve Wake Island. After a brief rest at Pearl Harbor, the Enterprise group sailed on January 11, to protect convoys reinforcing Samoa. On February 1, the task force dealt a hard blow to Kwajalein, Wotje, and Maloelap in the Marshall Islands, sinking three ships, damaging eight, and destroying numerous airplanes and ground facilities. Enterprise received only minor damage in the Japanese counterattack, as her force retired to Pearl Harbor.

During the next month Enterprise's force swept the central Pacific, blasting enemy installations on Wake and Marcus Islands, then received minor alterations and repairs at Pearl Harbor. On April 8, 1942, she departed to rendezvous with USS Hornet (CV-8) and sail westward to launch 16 Army B-25 bombers in a raid on Tokyo. While Enterprise fighters flew combat air patrol, the B-25s roared into the air on April 18, and raced undetected the 600 miles to their target. The task force, its presence known to the enemy, reversed course and returned to Pearl Harbor on April 25.

Five days later, the "Big E" was speeding toward the South Pacific to reinforce the U.S. carriers operating in the Coral Sea. Distance proved too great to conquer in time, and the Battle of the Coral Sea was history before Enterprise could reach her destination. Ordered back to Hawaii, the carrier entered Pearl Harbor on May 26, and began intensive preparations to meet the expected Japanese thrust at Midway Island.

Two days later she sortied as flagship of Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, CTF-16, with orders "to hold Midway and inflict maximum damage on the enemy by strong attrition tactics." With Enterprise in TF 16 were Hornet, six cruisers, and 10 destroyers. On May 30, TF 17, Rear Admiral Frank J. Fletcher in USS Yorktown (CV-5), with two cruisers, and six destroyers, sailed to support TF 16; as senior officer, Rear Admiral Fletcher became "Officer in Tactical Command."

Battle was joined on the morning of June 4, 1942 when four Japanese carriers, unaware of the presence of U.S. forces, launched attacks on Midway Island. Just three hours after the first bomb fell on Midway, planes from Hornet struck the enemy force, and 30 minutes later Enterprise and Yorktown aircraft streaked in to join in smashing the Japanese carriers.

Each side hurled attacks at the other during the day in one of history's most decisive battles. Though the forces were in contact to June 7, by the end of the 4th the outcome had been decided and the tide of the war in the Pacific had been turned in the United States' favor. Yorktown and USS Hammann (DD 412) were the only United States ships sunk, but TFs 16 and 17 lost a total of 113 planes, 61 of them in combat, during the battle. Japanese losses, far more severe, consisted of four carriers, one cruiser, and 272 carrier aircraft. Enterprise and all other ships of TFs 16 and 17 came through undamaged, returning to Pearl Harbor on June 13, 1942.

After a month of rest and overhaul, Enterprise sailed on July 15, for the South Pacific where she joined TF 61 to support the amphibious landings in the Solomon Islands on August 8. For the next two weeks, the carrier and her planes guarded seaborne communication lines southwest of the Solomons. On August 24, a strong Japanese force was sighted some 200 miles north of Guadalcanal and TF 61 sent planes to the attack. An enemy light carrier was sent to the bottom and the Japanese troops intended for Guadalcanal were forced back.

Enterprise suffered most heavily of the United States ships, three direct hits and four near misses killed 74, wounded 95, and inflicted serious damage on the carrier. But well-trained damage control parties, and quick, hard work patched her up so that she was able to return to Hawaii under her own power.

Repaired at Pearl Harbor from September 10, to October 16, Enterprise departed once more for the South Pacific where with Hornet, she formed TF-61. On October 26, Enterprise scout planes located a Japanese carrier force and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands was underway. Enterprise aircraft struck carriers, battleships, and cruisers during the struggle, while the "Big E" herself underwent intensive attack. Hit twice by bombs, Enterprise lost 44 killed and had 75 wounded.

Despite serious damage, she continued in action and took on board a large number of planes from Hornet when that carrier had to be abandoned. Though the American losses of a carrier and a destroyer were more severe than the Japanese loss of one light cruiser, the battle gained priceless time to reinforce Guadalcanal against the next enemy onslaught.

Enterprise entered Noumea, New Caledonia, on October 30, for repairs, but a new Japanese thrust at the Solomons demanded her presence and she sailed on November 11, repair crews from Vestal (AR-4) still on board, working vigorously. Two days later, "Big E" planes swarmed down on an enemy force and disabled a battleship which was sunk later by other American aircraft, and on November 14, aviators from Enterprise helped to despatch a heavy cruiser. When the naval Battle of Guadalcanal ended on November 15, 1942, Enterprise had shared in sinking 16 ships and damaging eight more. The carrier returned to Noumea on November 16, to complete her repairs.

Sailing again on December 4, Enterprise trained out of Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, until January 28, 1943 when she departed for the Solomons area. On January 30, her fighters flew combat air patrol for a cruiser-destroyer group during the Battle of Rennell Island. Despite the destruction of a large majority of the attacking Japanese bombers by Enterprise planes, USS Chicago (CA-29) was sunk by aerial torpedoes.

Detached after the battle, the carrier arrived at Espiritu Santo on February 1, and for the next three months operated out of that base, covering U.S. surface forces up to the Solomons. Enterprise then steamed to Pearl Harbor where, on May 27, 1943, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz presented the ship with the first Presidential Unit Citation won by an aircraft carrier. On July 20, 1943 she entered Puget Sound Navy Yard, for a much-needed overhaul.

Back in action waters by mid-November, Enterprise joined in providing close air support to the Marines landing on Makin Island, from 19 to November 21. On the night of November 26, 1943, the "Big E" introduced carrier-based night fighter operations in the Pacific when a three-plane team from the ship broke up a large group of land-based bombers attacking TG 50.2. After a heavy strike by aircraft of TF 50 against Kwajalein on December 4, Enterprise returned to Pearl Harbor five days later.

The carrier's next operation was with TF 58 in softening up the Marshall Islands and supporting the landings on Kwajalein, from January 29, to February 3. Then Enterprise sailed, still with TF 58, to strike the Japanese naval base at Truk in the Caroline Islands, on February 17. Again the "Big E" made aviation history when she launched the first night radar bombing attack from any U.S. carrier. The 12 torpedo bombers in this strike achieved excellent results, accounting for nearly one-third of the 200,000 tons of shipping destroyed by the aircraft of the task force.

Detached from TF 58, Enterprise launched raids on Jaluit Atoll on February 20, then steamed to Majuro and Espiritu Santo. Sailing March 15, in TG 36.1, she provided air cover and close support for the landings on Emirau Island (19-March 25,). The carrier rejoined TF 58 on March 26, and for the next 12 days joined in the series of hard-hitting strikes against the Yap, Ulithi, Woleai, and the Palau Islands. After a week's rest and replenishment at Majuro. Enterprise sailed (April 14,) to support landings in the Hollandia area of New Guinea, and then hit Truk again (April 29-30,).

On June 6, 1944, the "Big E" and her companions of TG 58.3 sortied from Majuro to strike with the rest of TF 58, the Mariana Islands. Blasting Saipan, Rota, and Guam between June 11 and June 14, Enterprise pilots gave direct support to the landings on Saipan on June 15, and covered the troops ashore for the next two days.

Aware of a major Japanese attempt to break up the invasion of Saipan, Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, Commander 5th Fleet, positioned TF 58 to meet the thrust.

On June 19, 1944 took place the greatest carrier aircraft battle in history. For over eight hours airmen of the United States and Imperial Japanese navies fought in the skies over TF 58 and the Marianas. By the end of the day, a United States victory was apparent, and at the conclusion of the strikes against the Japanese fleet on June 20, the triumph became complete. Six American ships had been damaged, and 130 planes and a total of 76 pilots and aircrewmen had been lost. But with a major assist from U.S. submarines, eight Japanese carriers were sunk, and 426 ship-based aircraft were destroyed. Japanese naval aviation never recovered from this blow.

The Battle of the Philippine Sea over, Enterprise and her companions continued to support the Saipan campaign through July 5. Enterprise then sailed for Pearl Harbor and a month of rest and overhaul. Back in action waters on August 24, the carrier sailed with TF 38 in that force's aerial assault on the Volcano and Bonin Islands from August 31 to September 2, and Yap, Ulithi, and the Palaus from September 6 to 8.

After operating west of the Palau Islands, the "Big E" joined other units of TF 38 on October 7 and shaped course to the northward. From October 10 to 20, her aviators roared over Okinawa, Formosa, and the Philippines, blasting enemy airfields, shore installations, and shipping in preparation for the assault on Leyte. After supporting the Leyte landings on October 20, Enterprise headed for Ulithi to replenish but the approach of the Japanese fleet on October 23, brought her racing back into action.

In the Battle for Leyte Gulf (October 23-26), Enterprise planes struck all three groups of enemy forces, battering battleships and destroyers before the action ended. The carrier remained on patrol east of Samar and Leyte until the end of October, then retired to Ulithi for supplies. During November, her aircraft struck targets in the Manila area, and the island of Yap. The "Big E" returned to Pearl Harbor on December 6, 1944.

Sailing December 24, for the Philippine area, Enterprise carried on board an air group specially trained in night carrier operations. She joined TG 38.5 and swept the waters north of Luzon and of the China Sea during January of 1945, striking shore targets and shipping from Formosa to Indo-China. After a brief visit to Ulithi, the "Big E" joined TG 58.5 on February 10, 1945, and provided day and night combat air patrol for TF 58 as it struck Tokyo on February 16 and 17. She then supported the Marines on Iwo Jima from the day of the landings, February 10, until March 9 when she sailed for Ulithi.

During one part of that period, Enterprise kept aircraft aloft continuously over Iwo Jima for 174 hours. Departing Ulithi March 15, the carrier continued her night work in raids against Kyushu, Honshu, and shipping in the Inland Sea of Japan. Damaged lightly by an enemy bomb on March 18, Enterprise entered Ulithi six days later for repairs.

Back in action on April 5, she supported the Okinawa operation until again damaged (April 11,), this time by a suicide plane, and forced back to Ulithi. Off Okinawa once more on May 6, Enterprise flew patrols around the clock as the menace of the kamikaze increased. On May 14,1945, the "Big E" suffered her last wound of World War II when a suicide plane destroyed her forward elevator, killing 14 and wounding 34 men. The carrier sailed for repairs at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, arriving June 7, 1945.

Restored to peak condition, Enterprise voyaged to Pearl Harbor returning to the States with some 1,100 servicemen due for discharge, then sailed on to New York, arriving October 17, 1945. Two weeks later she proceeded to Boston for installation of additional berthing facilities, then began a series of "Magic Carpet" voyages to Europe, bringing more than 10,000 veterans home in her final service to her country. Enterprise entered the New York Naval Shipyard on January 18, 1946 for inactivation, and was decommissioned on February 17, 1947. The "Big E" was sold on July 1, 1958.

In addition to her Presidential Unit Citation, Enterprise received the Navy Unit Commendation and 20 battle stars for World War II service.


The eighth Enterprise (CVA(N) 65), the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was launched September 24, 1960 by Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co.; sponsored by Mrs. W. B. Franke, wife of the Secretary of the Navy; and commissioned November 25, 1961, Captain V. P. de Poix, in command.

After commissioning, Enterprise began a lengthy series of tests and training exercises, designed to determine the full capabilities of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Immediately her superlative characteristics and performance became obvious. She began flight operations on January 17, 1962 when an F8U Crusader became the first airplane to land on board her giant flight deck. The same aircraft later became the first plane to be catapulted from Enterprise.

One month later, on February 20, 1962, the nuclear-powered carrier played a role in the space age when Enterprise acted as a tracking and measuring station for the epochal flight of Friendship 7, the "Project Mercury" space capsule in which Lieutenant Colonel John H. Glenn. Jr., USMC, made the United States' first orbital space flight.


See also Space Shuttle Enterprise, Star Trek.