September 25th, 1961
Commissioning of USS Enterprise (CVN-65)
Fifty years ago USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was commissioned. The biggest ship in the world at the time, Enterprise was certainly unique. However, as an article in the May 1961 issue of Proceedings noted, the name of such a unique ship was hardly new. Instead, Enterprise inherited in its name a rich Naval history with origins in the Revolutionary War and notable achievements in various Naval battles. The article, compiled from Navy Department releases, relates the unique & varied history of a name shared by eight different ships:
The first Enterprise was a 70-ton sloop which originally belonged to the British and cruised on Lake Champlain to supply their posts in Canada. After the capture of Fort Ticonderoga by the Americans on 10 May 1775, she became the object of desire in the mind of Benedict Arnold, who realized he would not have control of Lake Champlain until her capture.
He learned she was stationed at a small British garrison at St. John’s on the Richelieu in Canada and set out from Skenesborough (Whitehall, New York) in the Commandeered sloop Liberty for that place on 14 May 1775. He surprised and captured the British garrison on 18 May, took possession of the sloop, and sailed her south to Crown Point. She was named Enterprise by Arnold and fitted out with 12 long 4-pounder carriage guns and ten swivels. As part of Arnold’s fleet, she fought against the British at the battle of Valcour Island, then withdrew to Ticonderoga to help obstruct the British advance for a year until their opportunity was lost. While escorting a convoy of bateaux from Ticonderoga to Skenesborough on 7 July 1777, she was overtaken by a superior British force and was beached and burned to prevent her falling into the hands of the enemy.
The second Enterprise was an 8-gun schooner of 25 tons, with a crew of 60 men. Granted a letter of marque commission from the state of Maryland, she made a remarkably successful cruise (June-December 1776) under the command of Captain James Campbell. Enterprise was purchased by the Committee of Secret Correspondence of the Continental Congress on 20 December 1776. Under the command of Captain Campbell, Enterprise served chiefly in convoying transports in Chesapeake Bay. She was also active in reconnoitering the enemy’s ships and preventing their tenders and barges from getting supplies from the shores of Maryland and Virginia. It is not known how her career ended.
The third Enterprise was a 12-gun schooner built by Henry Spencer at Baltimore, Maryland, at a cost of $16,240. She had a length of 84 feet, 7 inches; extreme beam of 22 feet, 6 inches; tonnage of 135; depth of hold of 10 feet; and a complement of 70 officers and men. She was originally armed with 12 long 6 pounders and placed under the command of Lieutenant John Shaw.
Enterprise left the Delaware Capes astern on 17 December 1799 and rode out a violent gale as she set course for the Guadaloupe Station with 15 merchantmen under her protection to join a squadron under the command of Commodore Thomas Truxtun in the famed frigate Constellation. While attached to this squadron during the Quasi War with France, Enterprise recaptured 11 American merchantmen and also took seven French privateers. During the war against Tripoli, Enterprise was in action in the Mediterranean. Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, Jr., the intrepid officer who boarded and burned the captured frigate Philadelphia, was her commanding officer for a time. Rebuilt as a 16-gun brig in the War of 1812, she took, among other prizes, the British 14-gun brig Boxer. Enterprise finished her service in the Gulf of Mexico, where she patrolled against pirates, smugglers, and slavers, including the notorious Jean Lafitte. She ran ashore and was lost on Little Curaçao in the West Indies on 9 July 1823.
The fourth Enterprise was a schooner built by the New York Navy Yard, where she was launched on 26 October 1831. Her length between perpendiculars was 88 feet; moulded beam 23 feet, 5 inches; depth of hold, 10 feet; and tonnage 197. She was armed with ten 24 and 9-pounder guns. The schooner was commissioned on 15 December 1831. Lieutenant Commander Samuel W. Downing assumed command. Her original complement was nine officers and 63 men. Enterprise joined the Brazil Squadron, then made a cruise around the world in 1835-36. After further service in South America, she was sold out of the Navy in 1845.
The fifth Enterprise was a steam corvette rigged as a bark. Built of live oak in the Navy Yard at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, she was launched on 13 June 1874 and commissioned on 16 March 1877. This Enterprise was 185 feet long between perpendiculars, had a beam of 35 feet and a depth of hold of 16 feet 2 inches, and displaced 1,375 tons. Her speed was 11.4 knots, and she carried 20 officers and 164 men. She was armed with an 11-inch smooth bore, four 9-inch broadside guns, a 60-pounder pivot gun, and a short Gatling gun. Enterprise showed the flag in many ports around the world and conducted hydrographic surveys including one of the Amazon River. She was a training ship at the U. S. Naval Academy in 1891-92 and was then loaned to the state of Massachusetts for 17 years to train students of the Public Marine School at Boston. Enterprise was sold out of service on 1 October 1909.
The sixth Enterprise was a 66-foot motor patrol craft purchased by the Navy on 6 December 1916. She was placed in service in the Second Naval District on 25 September 1917 and performed harbor tug duties at Newport, Rhode Island. She shifted to New Bedford, Massachusetts, on 11 December 1917 for operations inside the breakwaters and was transferred to the Bureau of Fisheries on 2 August 1919.
The seventh Enterprise (CV-6) was built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock C’ompany of Newport News, Virginia. Her keel was laid on 16 July 1934 and she was launched on 3 October 1936, under the sponsorship of Mrs. Claude A. Swanson, wife of the Secretary of the Navy. She went into commission at Newport News, Virginia, on 12 May 1938. Her over-all length was 827 feet, 4 inches and she had a maximum breadth at the flight deck of 114 feet. Her full load displacement was 25,500 tons, her draft was 28 feet, 7 inches, and her trial speed was 33.6 knots. When first commissioned, she was manned by 82 officers and 1,447 men, exclusive of her four-squadron Air Group. Enterprise was returning to Pearl Harbor from delivering Marine Corps fighters to Wake Island when the Japanese attacked. She launched planes in an unsuccessful attempt to locate the Japanese carrier force. Enterprise was flagship for Vice Admiral Halsey and later for Rear Admiral Spruance. She accompanied Hornet on the Doolittle raid against Tokyo. She carried Admiral Spruance into the Battle of Midway. With Rear Admiral T. C. Kinkaid aboard, she supported the landings at Guadalcanal and Tulagi and took part in the battle of Santa Cruz. In both actions she received considerable damage but kept operating. Enterprise was the first carrier to receive the Presidential Unit Citation. Her air strikes helped amphibious forces occupy islands in both the Marshall and Gilbert Groups. She pioneered night air operations, her torpedo bombers making the first night radar bombing strike by U. S. carrier planes when they attacked Truk on 17 February 1944. Her planes were in on the “Marianas Turkey Shoot” in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. She was in action against all three Japanese forces in the Battle for Leyte Gulf. She maintained supporting aircraft over Iwo Jima continuously for 174 hours to set a record. Off Okinawa she was struck by kamikaze planes. In addition to her Presidential Unit Citation and a Navy Unit Commendation, Enterprise received 20 battle stars. She was decommissioned on 17 February 1947 and was stricken from the Navy list on 2 October 1956. She was scrapped in 1958.
The eighth Enterprise (CVAN-65) is the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Her keel was laid on 4 February 1958 at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Newport News, Virginia. She was launched on 24 September 1960. The biggest ship in the world, she is 1,100 feet in over-all length and her extreme breadth at the flight deck is 252 feet. Enterprise displaces 85,000 tons. Her eight reactors provide energy for a designed shaft horsepower of 250,000, which will drive her well in excess of 30 knots. Her complement is 400 officers and 4,200 enlisted men. That means 13,800 meals will have to be cooked and served every day. It took 3,000 railroad cars worth of materials to build Enterprise, including 230 miles of pipe, 60,000 tons of structural steel, 625 miles of electrical cable, and more than a million electronic tubes, transistors, and diodes. This gigantic vessel is to be commissioned on 25 November 1961.