The epic legacy of the USS Enterprise
When you hear the name Enterprise, your first thought may be of the star-hopping space vesicle from the show Star Trek. As it turns out, however, there have been plenty of epic, real-life ships named Enterprise that have made a name for themselves right here under the stratosphere. For whatever reason, the Navy really digs the name and has sort of developed a thing for making sure there’s always an Enterprise in play somewhere. As you’ll see, many of the ships lucky enough to bear the name have actually been quite enterprising in their own right. Though there are too many to discuss them all, here we’ll check out some of the most famous, non-space exploring Enterprises of all time.
The grandfather of all Enterprises (1775)
One of the first ships to start the whole Enterprise trend started out as a British Navy ship named George back in 1775. Though George mostly minded its own business and spent its days delivering supplies across Lake Champlain, deep down it knew it was meant for something more. In May of 1775, it was captured by Benedict Arnold, who apparently saw George‘s true potential. After outfitting the ship with guns, Arnold changed its name to the Enterprise and turned it into the true beast it was born to be. It went on to fight against the British when they attempted to invade New York and ultimately helped America maintain control of Lake Champlain throughout various battles. It met it’s fate in 1777 when it was burned rather than risk capture at the hands of the enemy.
USS Enterprise [CV-6] (1936)
Cut to the 1930s, when Enterprise number 7 was king of the seas. This bad boy was the first to earn the famous nickname “Big E” and was also called the “Grey Ghost” or “Galloping Ghost.” Spooky as her nicknames may sound, they were actually earned because she was a major force against the Japanese during World War II. Well, the Japanese didn’t like that too much, so they put out not one but three separate claims that they had sunk the Enterprise during the Pacific War. Much to the dismay of the Japanese, however, the Enterprise was not at all interested in fake tabloid gossip and just kept reappearing, earning her the two ghostly nicknames. She went to become the most decorated American warship of World War II, racking up 20 battle stars as she sailed the seas.
USS Enterprise [CVN-65] (1961)
In 1954, Congress authorized the creation of Enterprise number 8, a massive aircraft carrier that definitely lived up to its name. The newest Enterprise‘s claim to fame was that it was the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Powered by eight nuclear reactors, the ship was a huge gamble to construct, as not even two nuclear reactors had ever before been used on the same ship. Though everyone agreed that the ship would be super handy when it came to not having to stop all the time for gas, no one was sure quite how, or even if, it would actually work.
By 1960, however, construction on the enormous ship was complete and it was ready to launch out to sea and into history. In 1961, the USS Enterprise was commissioned and her illustrious career begun. Dubbed the world’s first “supercarrier,” the newest “Big E” measured in at 1,123 feet, earning her the record for the longest naval vessel that had ever been constructed. Capable of housing 4,600 service members, it wasn’t long before the Enterprise was called into action.
Her first international crisis intervention was in 1962 when she joined a few of her fellow naval ships to help create a blockade to Cuba. President JFK had gotten word that the Soviets might be building nuclear missiles on the island and ordered the ships to block any suspicious deliveries that might try to sneak their way through. Long story short, the newest “Big E” got her feet wet by helping avert the Cuban Missle Crisis.
In another of her famous adventures, this Enterprise number 8 also took part in an epic mission called “Operation Sea Orbit”. She and two of her fellows, the USS Bainbridge and USS Long Beach, made history in 1963-1964 by forming the world’s first nuclear-powered task force. Collectively dubbed “Task Force One,” the three ships sailed all the way around the world without having to stop for a single refuel. Throughout her 51 years in operation, the USS Enterprise would go on to serve in a variety of other wars including Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
In 2012, the Enterprise was finally decommissioned, though disassembling her proved a far bigger task than anyone imagined. It turns out that scrapping the ship and storing her reactors elsewhere would cost upwards of a billion dollars. So for the moment, the Enterprise is just chilling in storage, enjoying her retirement.
The Enterprise legacy will continue
The Enterprise name will live on, however, as the newest ship that will bear the name is scheduled to be completed in 2025. The PCU Enterprise (CVN-80) is set to become the Navy’s third Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier and from its initial descriptions, will make its forebearers proud. The new $14 billion dollar aircraft carrier will displace 97,000 tons, run the length of 1,092 feet, and be capable of carrying 6,000 crew members. When Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced plans for the ship in 2012, he remarked, “Rarely has our fleet been without a ship bearing the name.” No kidding, Ray, no kidding.