A Final Homecoming for “Big E”

| November 4, 2012 | 26 Comments

The USS Enterprise is expected to return to Norfolk, VA, today – from her final deployment.  She will be decommissioned on 1 December 2012.

The USS Enterprise was commissioned in November 1961.  At the time of her decommissioning, she will have served the US Navy for in excess of 51 years.  No other carrier has served the Navy as long.

The USS Enterprise was the US Navy’s first nuclear-powered carrier, and is still today the longest warship in the world.  She has seen duty in virtually every major US naval operation or conflict from the Cuban Missile Crisis to today’s hostilities in Afghanistan.

Every ship eventually reaches end of life.  But this one has indeed been special.

Sadly, because of her design it will likely not be possible to convert the USS Enterprise into a museum after decommissioning.  Her design included eight nuclear reactors.   The extensive disassembly of the ship necessary to allow  removal of her eight reactors and associated equipment will likely make conversion to a museum afterwards impractical.

In the end, though, the final disposition of her steel hull is not what really matters.  What does matter is the service – and the history – the USS Enterprise gave this nation and the Navy.  So long as there is a US Navy, that history will be remembered and treasured.

Welcome home one last time, grand lady.

Category: Historical, Navy

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  1. Devtun says:

    The eighth incarnation of the “Enterprise” name since Continental Navy.
    Incredible safety record…no nuclear related accidents – ever. Navy unique for fact the 4 star billet Director Naval Nuclear Propulsion/ Deputy Administrator Naval Reactors is a 8 yr term. ADM Hyman Rickover held same job for 34 yrs! (1948-1982).

  2. Cobalt-Blue says:

    Thank you for sharing this. The fact that there is not another Enterprise’s keel being laid is simply sad.

  3. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    Is there anyone who doesn’t know someone who served on her? For me, it was an uncle and a brother in law.

  4. howard says:

    Did a WestPac/Vietnam tour on this great ship in 1968

  5. AW1 Tim says:

    Thing that makes me angry about this is that she still has life in her, and the US Navy had planned on her service for at least another 10-12 years. She is be decommissioned by order of the DoD as a result of Obama’s defense cuts, and not because she isn’t useful and needed.

    The removal from the active roster of Enterprise will reduce the available carrier force to just 11 hulls. That’s not enough, considering the tasking that’s being asked of them.

    Deployments have increased by several months, maintenance has been delayed, and at some point it will catch up to us and bite us big time.

    This is a sucktacular move, and one that is being made purely for political purposes. I hope that Romney can turn it around and keep her available until a new carrier can take her place.

  6. Ex-PH2 says:

    Big mistake. Big, huge mistake. First the Lex, now this. Big frakking mistake.

  7. OWB says:

    @ #3, AC: Probably so! Was wondering how a friend felt about this. When I knew him, he was in the Navy Reserve, but was thrilled to spend a 2-week “cruise” aboard the Enterprise, having spent some time with her during VietNam. The stories he told!

  8. NHSparky says:

    Tim–probably not. The money has already been budgeted, and frankly, the A1W reactor plants are far too old/obsolete, and the machinery simply isn’t set up or practical to convert her secondary plants either. Neutron flux embrittles the reactor vessel, and after 50-60 years you start to see the metal starting to do some “funny” things, by which I mean brittle fracture possibilities, etc.

    But yes, it was incredibly shortsighted of both the Bush and Obama administrations to not have the next “Big E” in the pipeline before decomissioning this one.

  9. Hondo says:

    Uh, NHSparky – her replacement is already in the pipeline. It’s just not named “Enterprise”.

    The USS Gerald R. Ford, CVN-78, was announced as her replacement some time ago. The USS Gerald R. Ford is scheduled to be commissioned in 2015.

    The USS Enterprise was originally scheduled for decommissioning in either 2014 or 2015, depending on (a) reactor life and (b) commissioning of the USS Gerald R. Ford. The USS Enterprise’s decommissioning was moved up to this year by the FY2010 NDAA.

    In short: the gap isn’t Bush’s doing. The gap between the Big E’s decommissioning and her replacement’s commissioning was purely the current Administration’s doing.

    CVN-80, the third of the Ford-class, is currently planned but no name has been assigned as of yet. There is thought that that ship will continue the tradition and will be the next USS Enterprise.

  10. Ex-PH2 says:

    Well then, Hondo, as with loyal Star Trek trekkers, it’s high time Navy people got out the popular vote to name the CVN-80 the NEW Big E.

    You guys have fun. I’m going to go fix breakfast and watch the news on the radio.

  11. NHSparky says:

    Hondo…got it…but I thought the name had been picked by the Secnav under Bush. My mistake.

  12. CBSenior says:

    Did a tour on her before I cross rated to the Red Headed step children of the Navy. Always thougth is was cool to be able to park 4.4 acres of America next to any dirt bag and wave the big go fuck yourself flag. The Navy needs another Enterprise.

  13. Common Sense says:

    My son’s girlfriend’s grandfather has been invited to the decommissioning. He was at her commissioning, very cool.

    Who could forget her role in Star Trek? Every time I read about the Enterprise, I hear Chekhov’s voice in my head saying “nuclear wessel”. That movie was hilarious!

  14. Just an Old Dog says:

    We really named a carrier after Ford, the only unelected president in our History?

  15. Jorge says:

    Rode her twice (both as a CCSC op), once in 1987 for a month long work-up up near Adak and once after she came back from the Gulf (another month long trip) the next year. Great boat… going home, they opened up the throttles… we practically flew across the Pac. Good times…

  16. CC Senor says:

    @14 Why not. He was Navy and a Representative before becoming President. Stennis wasn’t elected President either.

  17. Hondo says:

    Just an Old Dog: Ford is hardly alone in that status. Tyler (1841-1845), Andrew Johnson (1865-1869), and Arthur (1881-1885) were never elected President in their own right, either. In fact, only three of the seven VPs who took over on the death or resignation of a President later were elected President (Theodore Roosevelt, Truman, and LBJ). The other four (Tyler, Andrew Johnson, Arthur, and Ford) never were.

    NHSparky: I don’t know exactly who made the decision to name CVN-78 the USS Gerald R. Ford, but it did happen during the Bush administration (2007). However, this will hardly be the first time the US Navy has been without a USS Enterprise. Between Feb 1947 and Nov 1961, there was no ship by that name in the active fleet. If CVN-80 ends up named “Enterprise”, the period this time will be about the same.

  18. Casey says:

    I say rename the Ford to Enterprise. Enough of naming capital ships after politicians.

  19. UpNorth says:

    I wonder if the CVN-80 will be named the USS Barack Obama?
    And, Casey, I don’t know if they rename ships, once the decision has been made.

  20. NavyDavy says:

    Why not make it into a disaster response ship. Instead of sending active duty ships to assist the NE after Sandy or after a tsunami or Haiti or Katrina or… Send the Big E. Not a new or my idea.
    http://www.sendtheenterprise.org/
    What a waste of an American resource to scrap it.

  21. Devtun says:

    @19 UpNorth

    Apparently not all relatively recent Presidents rate an aircraft carrier:

    LBJ – Zumwalt class destroyer
    Carter- Seawolf class submarine

    It is a bit surprising that Jerry Ford, who was only President for 2 yrs and change (mostly overlooked by many) gets rated a super-carrier. Got me thinking…George H.W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld all were power players in the Ford administration…Mmmm makes you wonder.

  22. ChopIT says:

    @21 Devtun

    Carter was one of the first nuclear submariners, serving in the Navy after WWII…
    Johnson, while a congressman, joined the Navy during WWII, but did not serve aboard ship.
    Ford served with distinction aboard a carrier during WWII, saving the ship so that the crew did not have to abandon ship.

    Not so surprising when we know the rest of the story.

  23. Devtun says:

    @22 ChopIT

    Just curious, what exactly is the criteria? Eisenhower, Truman, and Reagan for example weren’t former Navy/never served on a carrier, sub, destroyer etc, and get a carrier named after them…so what gives? At least LBJ, Nixon, and Carter WERE former Navy, but these guys don’t get a carrier? I don’t understand…Is it a tarnished legacy or circumstances which they left office?

  24. Dave says:

    @22 ChopIt – beg to disagree, Carter always said he was a “nookyouler” submariner. (Kinda hard to find someone credible who can’t pronounce his own former profession… “yesterday I could not pronpounce nooklee-ar, today I are one”)

  25. NHSparky says:

    Carter “claimed” to be a nuke, and while he was qualified as an Engineer for NR, he never served on a nuke boat, having resigned his commission before Nautilus was launched.

  26. ChopIT says:

    @23 Devtun – wikipedia has a good article on the nebulous naming convention. Certainly Reagan did much for the military to warrant a carrier, as did Eisenhower. Truman… punt?

    @24 @25 – I agree… I was putting down a very “chopped” version of his pedigree. His actions in clearing up a nuclear incident while being a sub officer still place him as one of the first “trained for nuclear” submariners.

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