Name: USS Enterprise (CV-6)
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding
Laid down: 16 July 1934
Launched: 3 October 1936
Commissioned: 12 May 1938
Decommissioned: 17 February 1947
Silver-service-star-3d.png Campaign Star
Bronze-service-star-3d.png 20 Battle Stars
NavyPres.gif Presidential Unit Citation
Navy Unit Commendation ribbon.svg Navy Unit Commendation
American Defense Service ribbon.svg American Defense Service Medal ("Fleet" clasp)
American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (20 stars)
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War II Victory Medal
Presidential Unit Citation (Philippines).svg Philippine Presidential Unit Citation
Phliber rib.png Philippine Liberation Medal (1 star)
British Admiralty Pennant
General characteristics:Class & type: Yorktown-class aircraft carrier
19,800 tons standard
25,500 tons full load
From October 1943:
21,000 tons standard
32,060 tons full load
770 ft (230 m) waterline
824 ft 9 in (251.38 m) overall
From July 1942:827 ft 5 in overall length
83 ft 3 in (25.37 m)
109 ft 6 in (33.38 m) overall
From October 1942:114 ft 5 in overall width
From October 1943:
95 ft 5 in waterline
Draft: 25 ft 11.5 in (7.912 m)
9 × Babcock & Wilcox boilers
4 × Parsons geared turbines
4 × propellers
Speed: 32.5 knots (37.4 mph; 60.2 km/h)Range: 12,500 nautical miles (23,150 km; 14,380 mi) at 15 knots (17 mph; 28 km/h)
Complement: 2,217 officers and men (1941)
processing systems: CXAM-1 RADAR
8 × single 5 in/38 cal guns
4 × quad 1.1 in/75 cal guns
24 × .50 caliber machine guns
From April 1942:
8 × 5 in/38 cal
4 × quad 1.1 in/75 cal
30 × 20 mm Oerlikon cannons
From mid-June 1942 to mid-Sept 1942:
8 × 5"/38 cal
5 × quad 1.1"/75 cal
32 × 20 mm Oerlikons
From Mid-Sept. 1942:
8 × 5 in/38 cal
4 × quad 40 mm Bofors guns
1 × quad 1.1 in/75 cal
44 × 20 mm Oerlikons(46 from 11/42)
From October 1943:
8 × 5 in/38 cal
40 × 40 mm Bofors (8×2, 6×4)
50 × 20 mm Oerlikon
From September 1945:
8 × 5 in/38 cal
54 × 40 mm Bofors (5×2, 11×4)
32 × 20 mm Oerlikons (16×2)
Armor:2.5–4 in belt
60 lb protective decks
4 in bulkheads
4 in side and 2 in top round conning tower
4 in side over steering gear
Aircraft carried: 90 aircraft
3 × elevators
2 × flight deck hydraulic catapults
1 × hangar deck hydraulic catapults
USS Enterprise (CV-6), was the seventh U.S. Navy vessel to bear the name. Colloquially referred to as the "Big E", she was the sixth aircraft carrier of the United States Navy. A Yorktown class carrier, she was launched in 1936 and was one of only three American carriers commissioned prior to World War II, to survive the war (the others being Saratoga and Ranger). She participated in more major actions of the war against Japan than did any other US ship. These actions included the Battle of Midway, the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, various other air-sea engagements during the Guadalcanal campaign, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf. On three separate occasions during the Pacific War, the Japanese announced that she had been sunk in battle, earning her the name "The Grey Ghost". Enterprise earned 20 battle stars, the most for any U.S. warship in World War II.
The second carrier of the Yorktown-class, Enterprise was launched on 3 October 1936 at Newport News Shipbuilding, sponsored by Lulie Swanson, wife of Secretary of the Navy Claude A. Swanson, and commissioned on 12 May 1938. 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 1939, when she was ordered to duty in the Pacific.
Enterprise was one of fourteen ships to receive the early RCA CXAM-1 Radar. Based first at San Diego (where she was used in the filming of Dive Bomber, starring Errol Flynn and Fred MacMurray) and then at Pearl Harbor after President Roosevelt ordered the Fleet to be "forward based," the carrier and her aircraft squadrons trained intensively and transported aircraft among the island bases of the Pacific. Enterprise left Pearl Harbor on 28 November 1941. Enterprise was completing one such mission, returning to Hawaii after delivering Marine Fighter Squadron 211 (VMF-211) to Wake Island on 7 December 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
On 28 May, Enterprise sortied as Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance's flagship with orders "to hold Midway and inflict maximum damage on the enemy by strong attrition tactics". With Enterprise in CTF 16 were Hornet, six cruisers, and 10 destroyers. On 30 May, Task Force 17 (TF17), with Rear Admiral Frank J. Fletcher in Yorktown, left Pearl with two cruisers and six destroyers as CTF-17; as senior officer present, Rear Admiral Fletcher became "Officer in Tactical Command." The usual commander of the Enterprise task force, Vice Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey, was kept in hospital at Pearl with a stress-related skin condition.
Each side launched air attacks during the day in a decisive battle. Though the forces were in contact until 7 June, by the end of the day on 4 June the outcome had been decided. The Battle of Midway began on the morning of 4 June 1942, when four Japanese carriers, unaware of the presence of U.S. naval forces, launched attacks on Midway Island. Just three hours after the first bomb fell on Midway, planes from the U.S. carriers attacked. Enterprise launched a failed attack using torpedo bombers, then soon after Enterprise dive bombers attacked and sank the Japanese carriers Kaga and Akagi. Later in the afternoon, a mixed squadron of Enterprise and Yorktown bombers destroyed Hiryu (aircraft from Yorktown also sank Sōryū). Yorktown and Hammann were the only American ships sunk, but TF 16 and TF 17 lost a total of 113 planes, 61 of them in combat, during the battle. Japanese losses were much larger: four carriers, one cruiser, and 272 carrier aircraft. Despite losses to her aircraft squadrons, Enterprise came through undamaged and returned to Pearl Harbor on 13 June 1942.After a month of rest and overhaul, Enterprise sailed on 15 July 1942 for the South Pacific, where she joined TF 61 to support the amphibious landings in the Solomon Islands on 8 August. For the next two weeks, the carrier and her planes guarded seaborne communication lines southwest of the Solomons. On 24 August, a strong Japanese force was discovered some 200 miles (300 km) north of Guadalcanal, and TF 61 sent planes to the attack. This was the first time that the Grim Reapers of VF-10 deployed from Enterprise under commanding officer James H. Flatley, who became known as "Reaper Leader." In the ensuing Battle of the Eastern Solomons, the light carrier Ryūjō was sunk, and the Japanese troops intended for Guadalcanal were forced back. Enterprise suffered most heavily of the American ships; three direct hits and four near misses killed 77, wounded 91, and inflicted serious damage on the carrier. Quick, hard work by damage control parties patched her up so that she was able to return to Hawaii under her own power.
Repaired at Pearl Harbor from 10 September-16 October 1942, Enterprise departed once more for the South Pacific, where with Hornet she formed TF 61. On 26 October, Enterprise scout planes located a Japanese carrier force and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands was under way. Enterprise aircraft struck carriers and cruisers during the struggle, while the "Big E" herself underwent intensive attack. Hit twice by bombs, Enterprise lost 44 men and had 75 wounded. Despite serious damage, she continued in action and took on board a large number of planes and crewmen from Hornet when that carrier was sunk. Though the American losses of a carrier and a destroyer were more severe than the Japanese loss of one light cruiser, the battle gained time to reinforce Guadalcanal against the next enemy onslaught, and nearby Henderson Field was therefore secure from the Japanese bombardment. The loss of the Hornet meant Enterprise was now the only functioning (albeit damaged) US carrier in the Pacific Theater.On the flight deck, the crew posted a sign: "Enterprise vs Japan."
A Japanese bomb explodes on the flight deck of Enterprise on 24 August 1942, during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, causing minor damage.
Enterprise reached Nouméa, New Caledonia on 30 October for repairs, but a new Japanese thrust at the Solomons demanded her presence and she sailed on 11 November, with repair crews from Vestal still working on board. Part of the repair crew comprised a 75-man Seabee detachment from Company B of the 3rd Construction Battalion because adequate regular repair forces were lacking. Underway with orders to engage the enemy, the Seabees continued their repair work even during the forthcoming battle. Ship repairs fell under the round-the-clock supervision of her damage control officer Lieutenant Commander Herschel Albert Smith, USN (USNA- Class 1922, Michigan)."She made the open sea with her decks still shaking and echoing to air hammers, with welders' arcs still sparking, with a big bulge in her right side forward, without water tight integrity and one oil tank still leaking, and with her forward elevator still jammed as it had been since the bomb at Santa Cruz broke in half.".
The commanding officer of Enterprise, Captain Osborne Bennett "Ozzie B" "Oby" Hardison, USN (USNA- Class 1916, North Carolina) notified the Navy Department that "The emergency repairs accomplished by this skillful, well-trained, and enthusiastically energetic force have placed this vessel in condition for further action against the enemy".This remarkable job later won the praise of Vice Admiral William Halsey, Jr., USN, Commander South Pacific Area and the South Pacific Force, who sent a dispatch to the OIC of the Seabee detachment stating: "Your commander wishes to express to you and the men of the Construction Battalion serving under you his appreciation for the services rendered by you in effecting emergency repairs during action against the enemy. The repairs were completed by these men with speed and efficiency. I hereby commend them for their willingness, zeal, and capability."
On 13 November, aviators from Enterprise helped to sink the Hiei, the first Japanese battleship lost during the war. When the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal ended on 15 November 1942, Enterprise had shared in sinking sixteen ships and damaging eight more. The carrier returned to Nouméa on 16 November to complete her repairs.
Sailing again on 4 December, Enterprise trained out of Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, until 28 January 1943, when she departed for the Solomons area. On 30 January, her fighters flew combat air patrol for a cruiser–destroyer group during the Battle of Rennell Island. Despite the destruction of most of the attacking Japanese bombers by Enterprise planes, the heavy cruiser USS Chicago was sunk by aerial torpedoes.
Detached after the battle, the carrier arrived at Espiritu Santo on 1 February, 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 27 May 1943, Admiral Chester Nimitz presented the ship with the first Presidential Unit citation awarded to an aircraft carrier.
In the summer of 1943, with the new Essex-class and Independence-class carriers joining the American Pacific Fleet, Enterprise was temporarily relieved of duty, and on July 20, she entered Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for a much-needed overhaul. Over the course of several months, Enterprise received an extensive refit, which included, among other upgrades, new anti-aircraft weapons and an anti-torpedo blister that significantly improved her underwater protection.
Back in waters by mid-November, Enterprise joined in providing close air support to the 27th Infantry Division landing on Makin Atoll, from 19–21 November 1943. On the night of 26 November, "Big E" introduced carrier-based night fighters to the Pacific when a three-plane team from the ship broke up a large group of land-based bombers attacking TG 50.2. Two of the three planes returned to the "Big E", with LCDR Edward "Butch" O'Hare the only casualty. After a heavy strike by aircraft of TF 50 against Kwajalein on 4 December, Enterprise returned to Pearl Harbor five days later.
The carrier's next operation was with the Fast Carrier Task Force in softening up the Marshall Islands and supporting the landings on Kwajalein, from 29 January-3 February 1944. Then, Enterprise sailed, still with TF 58, to strike the Japanese naval base at Truk Lagoon in the Caroline Islands, on 17 February. Again Enterprise made aviation history, when she launched the first night radar bombing attack from a U.S. carrier. The twelve torpedo bombers in this strike achieved excellent results, accounting for nearly one-third of the 200,000 tons of shipping destroyed by aircraft.
Detached from TF 58 with escorts, Enterprise launched raids on Jaluit Atoll on 20 February, then steamed to Majuro and Espiritu Santo. Sailing on 15 March in TG 36.1, she provided air cover and close support for the landings on Emirau Island (19–25 March). The carrier rejoined TF 58 on 26 March, and for the next 12 days, joined in a series of strikes against the islands of Yap, Ulithi, Woleai, and Palau. After a week's rest and replenishment at Majuro, Enterprise sailed on 14 April to support landings in the Hollandia (currently known as Jayapura) area of New Guinea, and then hit Truk again from 29–30 April.
On 6 June 1944, she and her companions of TG 58.3 sortied from Majuro to join the rest of TF 58 in attacking the Marianas Islands. Striking Saipan, Rota, and Guam from 11–14 June, Enterprise pilots gave direct support to the landings on Saipan on 15 June, and covered the troops ashore for the next two days.
Aware of a major Japanese attempt to break up the invasion of Saipan, Admiral Spruance, now Commander 5th Fleet, positioned TF 58 to meet the threat.
The Battle of the Philippine Sea
On 19 June 1944, Enterprise was one of four carriers of Task Group 58.3 under the command of Rear Admiral John W. Reeves' during the largest carrier aircraft battle in history: the Battle of the Philippine Sea. For over eight hours, airmen of the United States and Imperial Japanese navies fought in the skies over TF 58 and the Marianas. Over the course of two days, a total of six American ships were damaged, and 130 planes and a total of 76 pilots and aircrew were lost. In sharp contrast, American carrier aircraft, with a major assist from U.S. submarines, sank three Japanese carriers (Hiyō, Shōkaku, and Taihō), and destroyed 426 carrier aircraft, losses from which Japanese naval aviation would never recover.
Enterprise participated both in the defense of the fleet and in the subsequent early-evening strike against the Japanese task forces. During the chaotic after-dark recovery of the air strike, a fighter and a bomber came aboard simultaneously, but fortunately did not cause an accident. A planned midnight strike against the Japanese fleet by night-flying Enterprise pilots was cancelled because of the recovery and rescue operations required after the dusk attack.
After the battle, Enterprise and her Task Group continued to provide air support for the invasion of Saipan through 5 July. She then sailed for Pearl Harbor and a month of rest and overhaul. Back in action on 24 August, the carrier sailed with TF 38 in that force's aerial assault on the Volcano and Bonin Islands from 31 August – 2 September, and Yap, Ulithi, and the Palaus from 6–8 September.
The Battle of Leyte Gulf
After operating west of the Palau Islands, the Enterprise joined other units of TF 38 on 7 October and set course to the north. From 10–20 October, her aviators flew 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 20 October, Enterprise headed for Ulithi to replenish, but the approach of the Japanese fleet on 23 October called her back to action.
In the Battle of Leyte Gulf (23–26 October), 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 at the island of Yap. She returned to Pearl Harbor on 6 December 1944.
The ship's forward elevator was blown approximately 400 feet (120 m) into the air from the force of the explosion six decks below.
Sailing on 24 December for the Philippines, Enterprise carried an air group specially trained in night carrier operations; as the only carrier capable of night operations, she left Oahu with her hull code changed from CV to CV(N). She joined TG 38.5 and swept the waters north of Luzon and of the South China Sea during January 1945, striking shore targets and shipping from Formosa to Indo-China including an attack on Macau. After a brief visit to Ulithi, Enterprise joined TG 58.5 on 10 February 1945, and provided day and night combat air patrol for TF 58 as it struck Tokyo on 16–17 February. She then supported the Marines in the Battle of Iwo Jima from 19 February – 9 March, when she sailed for Ulithi. During one part of that period, Enterprise kept aircraft aloft continuously over Iwo Jima for 174 hours.
Departing Ulithi on 15 March, the carrier continued her night work in raids against Kyūshū, Honshū, and shipping in the Inland Sea of Japan. Damaged lightly by an enemy bomb on 18 March, Enterprise entered Ulithi six days later for repairs. Back in action on 5 April, she supported the Okinawa operation until she was damaged on 11 April—this time by a kamikaze—and was forced back to Ulithi. Off Okinawa once more on 6 May, Enterprise flew patrols around the clock as kamikaze attacks increased. On 14 May 1945, she suffered her last wound of World War II when a kamikaze Zero, piloted by Lt. J.G. Shunsuke Tomiyasu, destroyed her forward elevator, killing 14 and wounding 34. The carrier sailed for repairs at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, arriving on 7 June and where she was still moored on V-J Day, 15 August 1945.
Operation Magic Carpet
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 on 17 October 1945. Two weeks later, she proceeded to Boston for installation of additional berthing facilities, then began a series of Operation Magic Carpet voyages to Europe, bringing more than 10,000 veterans home in her final service to her country. During the Enterprise’s last Magic Carpet voyage, the ship was caught in a severe gale in the Atlantic. The crew came close to abandoning ship and the carrier was forced to return to New York.
On one trip to Europe, she was boarded by the British First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir Albert Alexander, who presented Enterprise with a British Admiralty Pennant that was hoisted when a majority of the Admiralty Board members were present. The pennant was given to the Big E as a token of respect from an ally. Thus, Enterprise is the only ship outside the Royal Navy to receive the honor in the more than 400 years since its creation.
The end of the "Big E"
USS Enterprise (CV-6) awaiting disposal at the New York Naval Shipyard on 22 June 1958
With the commissioning of over two dozen larger and more advanced aircraft carriers by end of 1945, Enterprise was deemed surplus for the post-war needs of America's navy. She entered the New York Naval Shipyard on 18 January 1946 for deactivation, and was decommissioned on 17 February 1947. In 1946, she had been scheduled to be handed over to the state of New York as a permanent memorial, but this plan was suspended in 1949. Subsequent attempts were made at preserving the ship as a museum or memorial, but fund-raising efforts failed to raise enough money to buy the vessel from the Navy, and the "Big E" was sold on 1 July 1958 to the Lipsett Corporation of New York City for scrapping at Kearny, New Jersey. A promise was made to save the distinctive tripod mast for inclusion in the Naval Academy's new football stadium, but was never fulfilled; instead, a memorial plaque was installed at the base of what is still called "Enterprise Tower." Scrapping was complete as of May 1960. In 1984, a permanent "Enterprise Exhibit" was dedicated at the Naval Aviation Museum, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida to house artifacts, photos and other items of historical interest.
Stern Plate of the USS Enterprise located in River Vale, New Jersey.
Surviving Enterprise artifacts include the ship's bell, which resides at the U.S. Naval Academy, where it is traditionally rung only after midshipmen victories over West Point; and the sixteen-foot, one-ton nameplate from the ship's stern, which sits near a Little League park in River Vale, New Jersey. Her commissioning plaque and one of her anchors are on display at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.
Enterprise in 1939 Hellcat crashing on Enterprise's deck
Enterprise while sailing Fighters on Enterprise's deck