USS Enterprise (CVN 65)
USS Enterprise (CVN 65), formerly CVA(N) 65, is the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and the eighth so-named U.S. naval vessel. She is nicknamed the "Big 'E'," as was her predecessor during World War II CV 6). At 1,123 ft, she is the longest naval vessel in the world. Her 94,781 ton displacement ranks her as the 11th-heaviest carrier, after the 10 carriers of the Nimitz class.
The only ship of her class, Enterprise is the second-oldest vessel in commission in the United States Navy, after the wooden-hulled, three-masted frigate USS Constitution. Upon completion of Enterprise's current cruise, she will be decommissioned, having served for 51 consecutive years, the longest of any U.S. aircraft carrier.
In 1954, Congress authorized the construction of the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the eighth U.S. ship to bear the name Enterprise.
The giant ship was to be powered by eight nuclear reactors, two for each of its four propeller shafts. This was a daring undertaking. for never before had two nuclear reactors ever been harnessed together. As such, when the engineers first started planning the ship’s propulsion system, they were uncertain how it would work, or even if it would work according to their theories.
Materials used by the shipyard included 60,923 tons of steel; 1507 tons of aluminum; 230 miles of pipe and tubing; and 1700 tons of one-quarter-inch welding rods. The materials were supplied from more than 800 companies. Nine hundred shipyard engineers and designers created the ship on paper, and the millions of blueprints they created, laid end-to-end, would stretch 2400 miles, or from Miami to Los Angeles.
Three years and nine months after construction began, Enterprise was ready to present to the world as “The First, The Finest” super carrier.
The newly-christened Enterprise left the shipyard for six days of builder and Navy pre-acceptance trials. Its escort during the trials, destroyer Laffey, sent this message; "Subject: Speed Trails. 1. You win the race. 2. Our wet hats are off to an area thoroughbred." When the Big “E” returned to port, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral George W. Anderson, Jr., stated enthusiastically, "I think we’ve hit the jackpot."
After years of planning and work by thousands the day finally arrived. At the commissioning of Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, Secretary of the Navy John B. Connally Jr. called it a worthy successor to the highly decorated seventh USS Enterprise of World War II. “The fighting Gray Lady, as it was called, served in such well-known battles as the raid on Tokyo and the Battle of Midway.” Secretary Connally went on to say, “The new Enterprise will reign a long, long time as queen of the seas.”
In October 1962, Enterprise was dispatched to its first international crisis. Enterprise and other ships in the Second Fleet set up quarantine of all military equipment under shipment to communist Cuba. The blockade was put in place on October 24, and the first Soviet ship was stopped the next day. On October 28, Soviet leader Krushchev agreed to dismantle nuclear missiles and bases in Cuba, concluding the Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest the U.S. and USSR have ever come to nuclear war.
In the Fall of 2001, Enterprise aborted her transit home from a long deployment after the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington D.C., on Sept. 11, and steamed overnight to the North Arabian Sea. In direct support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Big 'E' once again took its place in history by becoming one of the first units to respond in a crisis with its awesome striking power. Enterprise expended more than 800,000 pounds of ordnance during the operation. The ship returned to home port at Naval Station Norfolk November 10, 2001.
Following several more deployments and an extended shipyard period that began in 2008, Enterprise embarked on its 21st deployment in January 2011, during which the carrier supported operations Enduring Freedom, New Dawn and multiple anti-piracy missions. During its six-month tour of duty, Big ‘E’ made port visits to Lisbon, Portugal, Marmaris, Turkey, the Kingdom of Bahrain and Mallorca, Spain.
Big 'E' became the fourth aircraft carrier in naval history to record 400,000 arrested landings on May 24, 2011. The milestone landing was made by an F/A-18F Super Hornet piloted by Lt. Matthew L. Enos and Weapon System Officer Lt. Cmdr. Jonathan Welsh from the Red Rippers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 11.
As of September 2010, Enterprise's home port is at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia. Her final deployment was on March 11, 2012, which is to be the last before her decommissioning. She is scheduled to be deactivated on Dec. 1, 2012.
The eighth Enterprise (CVA(N)-65) - the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier – was laid down on 4 February 1958 at Newport News, Va., by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co.; launched on 24 September 1960; sponsored by Mrs. William B. Franke, wife of the Secretary of the Navy; and commissioned on 25 November 1961, Captain Vincent P. de Poix in command.
After commissioning, Enterprise began a lengthy series of tests and training exercises, designed to determine her full capabilities. Beginning six days of builder’s and Navy pre-acceptance trials on 29 October 1961, she exceeded expectations, her reactors generating such horsepower that she “literally out-ran her destroyer escort.”
Lieutenant Commander Oscar Folsom, Jr., Fleet Tactical Support Squadron (VRC)-40, became the first to fly from the ship’s flight deck, transporting dignitaries, who had embarked to witness the sea trials, to shore in a Grumman C-1A Trader. Enterprise returned to port with a huge broom tied to her masthead, the traditional symbol of victory at sea, proclaiming a “clean sweep.”
Enterprise went to sea for the first time as a commissioned ship for her shakedown cruise, on 12 January 1962, on that date also being announced as the flagship of Nuclear Task Force (TF) One.During this period she began fleet flight operations, when Commander George C. Talley, Jr., Commander Air Group (CAG), Carrier Air Group (CVG)-1 (Tail Code AB), made an arrested landing and catapult launch in an Ling Temco Vought F-8B Crusader(BuNo 145375) from Fighter Squadron (VF) 62 on 17 January.
After completing carrier qualifications (carquals), Enterprise was privileged to play a role in the space age, putting to sea for ten days as part of the Project Mercury Recovery Force off Bermuda. Three carriers, including The Big E, patrolled the most likely areas for reentry and impact of the capsule, but unforeseen delays postponed that second attempt to send a man into space and the ship returned to Norfolk.
The following weeks proved busy ones. On 5 February Enterprise sailed for the Caribbean and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for her shakedown with elements of CVG-1, including VF-62 (F-8Bs) and VF-102 (F-4Bs), Attack Squadron (VA)-15 (Douglas A-1H Skyraiders), VA-64 and VA-172 (McDonnell Douglas A-4C Skyhawks), Light Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron (VFP)-62 Detachment (Det) 60 (RF-8A Crusaders) and Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW)-12 Det 60 (Grumman E-1B Tracers) embarked.
In addition, en route to the Caribbean she paused at Mayport, Florida, to embark Heavy Attack Squadron (VAH)-7 (North American A-5A Vigilantes). On 15 February the ship logged her 1,000th arrested landing, by Lieutenant John S. Brickner and his radar intercept officer (RIO), in an F-4B from VF-102, a tremendous amount of flying in a relatively short period of time.
At 0947 on 20 February 1962, Mercury-Atlas 6 launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., with astronaut Lieutenant Colonel John H. Glenn, Jr., USMC, pilot. Completing three turns about the earth in four hours 55 minutes, Glenn became the first American to orbit the planet, flying spacecraft Friendship 7 in her 75,679-mile orbit at a maximum speed of 17,544.1 miles per hour. Glenn splashed down in the Atlantic some 166 miles east of Grand Turk Island, Bahamas, about 800 miles southeast of Bermuda. Destroyer Noa (DD-841) recovered him after 21 minutes in the water; a helo subsequently transported him to carrier Randolph (CVS-15) at 1745.
Enterprise stood out of Guantánamo Bay in readiness to deploy as one of the potential tracking and measuring stations for the epochal flight. Underway from anchorage Bravo that morning at 0640, the ship went alongside ammunition ship Mauna Loa (AE-8) for rearming. Enterprise then conducted Carrier qualifications before returning to her anchorage during the first dog watch.
Between 1-6 April Enterprise completed both her shakedown training and her Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI), en route to and off Guantánamo Bay. She received an ORI score of Excellent, 90.3%, from the Fleet Training Group, Guantánamo, one of the highest scores awarded to date to a new carrier. Before departing Cuban waters, Enterprise’s aircraft rounded-off the cruise with an air power demonstration for a congressional delegation.
Upon completion of those requirements, she returned to Norfolk, entering port on the 8th, and conducted combined operations with Forrestal (CVA-59) for a Presidential Cruise from 9–14 April, President John F. Kennedy and his entourage arriving on board on the 14th. The busy day included sea and air power demonstrations for the Chief Executive and many distinguished guests, including most of his cabinet, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), many congressmen and about 30 foreign ambassadors, all hosted by Vice Admiral John M. Taylor, Commander, 2nd Fleet (Com2ndFlt).
Approximately 20 ships participated in the exercise off the Virginia and North Carolina coasts, guests being entertained by a “spectacular display” culminating in a mass fly-by and recovery. Commander Joseph P. Moorer, squadron commanding officer (CO), Lieutenant Commander Joseph S. Elmer, Lieutenant Richard C. Oliver and Lieutenant William F. Heiss, VF-62, had the honor of shaking hands with the President on board Enterprise, at the conclusion of the demonstration.
Enterprise completed her final acceptance trials off the Virginia Capes between 16 and 18 April, and then entered her builders' yard on the 23rd for post-shakedown availability.
Departing the yard on 19 June 1962, the “Big E” joined the 2nd Fleet, immediately beginning fleet operations. The next senior operational commands she reported to during much of the year included: AirLant, 1–8 April, and then again, 15 April–24 June; Commander Carrier Division Four (ComCarDiv-4), 9–14 April, Com2ndFlt and again, 29–30 September, 6th Fleet (Com6thFlt); and Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Flotilla (ComCruDesFlot)-10, 25 June–16 August, Com2ndFlt and again, 17 August–28 September, Com6thFlt.
CVG-6 came on board on 22 June for a short cruise off the Atlantic coast. Because of the great number of squadrons and aircraft assigned to the group, the officers and men of CVG-6 touted it as “the largest Air Group in the Navy.” During this cruise, Enterprise anchored out at President Roads, Boston, Mass., over Independence Day weekend, 2–5 July, her crew taking part in the celebrations ashore, as well as hosting upward of 12,000 visitors.
Leaving Boston, the ship participated with Forrestal (CVA-59) in LantFlex 2-62, a nuclear strike exercise, under the command of Rear Admiral Reynold D. Hogle, (ComCarDiv-4), Commander, TF 24, 6–12 July. Enterpriselaunched eight “pre-planned” strikes and six call strikes while operating off the Virginia capes, against targets ranging from the Tidewater area to central Florida.
Returning to Norfolk on the 12th, Enterprise remained for leave and upkeep until 3 August, when she sailed for the Mediterranean (Med) with CVG-6 –- VA-65 (A-1Hs), VA-66 and VA-76 (A-4Cs), VF-33 (F-8Es) and VF-102 (F-4Bs), VAH-7 (A-5As), VFP-62 Det 65 (RF-8As) and VAW-12 Det 65 (E-1Bs).
Passing the “Rock” of Gibraltar on 16 August, Enterprise entered the 6th Fleet’s Area of Responsibility (AOR), the first nuclear-powered carrier to steam in the Med, her intention to relieve carrier Shangri La (CVA-38).
The ship participated in a number of exercises in the Atlantic and Med. RipTide III, (3–5 August), involved long-range simulated nuclear strikes against targets off the Portuguese and Spanish coasts. Enterprise launched 14 strikes and nine call strikes, all opposed, as well as conducting cross-deck and cross-replenishment operations with other commands, and with the British and French. Lafayette II, 7 September, involved 14 scheduled conventional strikes coordinated with aircraft from Forrestal against multiple targets to the French Low Level Route in southern France, with opposition provided by French air force and naval aircraft. Indian Summer (7–8 September), comprised three long-range, simulated nuclear strikes, with fighter escort by F-4Bs from VF-102, against Spanish targets defended by both USAF and Spanish commands assigned to NATO. FallEx/High Heels II (6–20 September) revolved around the exercise of NATO and national communications and alert procedures. Some 13,000 service members and 24 ships operated with British, Greek and Turkish forces, “to develop coordination,” conducting amphibious landings, with close air support (CAS), anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-air warfare (AAW) tactics.
Fall Trap (23–27 September), involved both providing combat air patrol (CAP) for, and flying 22 aggressor raids against, a NATO amphibious task force moving north in the Aegean Sea. This was followed by CAS of the landings themselves, on 25 September, and additional support missions on the 26th–27th, in both Greek and Turkish Thrace.
In addition, her crew was able to go ashore in Cannes, France (27 August–4 September), when Enterprise anchored out, the ship’s first foreign port-of-call. Visiting by invitation was held on three of the eight days and some 1,200 people took advantage of the opportunity to tour the ship, among whom were celebrities Bing Crosby and his wife, Kathryn Grant, vacationing at their villa on the French Riviera.
Enterprise stood out on 4 September, beginning six days of air operations, following which she sailed for Naples, Italy, arriving at 0800 on the 10th to begin an eight day visit. The ship’s embarked aircraft were able to accomplish further training in the way of impact bombing on various targets, both live and practice bombs and radar scored bombing. Again the ship held visitation by invitation and “over 1,200 Neopolitans saw the ship at first hand.”
On the afternoon of the 14th, Italian President Antonio Segni inspected Enterprise, and that evening Rear Admiral Weeks and the skipper hosted a formal reception on board for approximately 400 NATO officers, Italian dignitaries and their guests.
Turning over her duties on station at Soudha Bay, Crete, to TG 60.8, formed around carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42), on 28 September, she proceeded westward shortly thereafter. Transiting the Strait of Gibraltar on the 3rd, the carrier crossed the Atlantic while assigned to TG 21.8, returning to Norfolk at 1540 on 11 October. The following day Rear Admiral John T. Hayward, ComCarDiv-2, broke his flag in Enterprise.
Between May–October 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev began secretly deploying additional East Bloc forces, estimated as “several thousand” Soviet, Czech, Polish and Chinese, to Cuba, intending to address what he considered the strategic imbalance between the U.S. led-Western Alliance and the Russian-dominated East Bloc. While those deployments took time, once those forces, including SS-4 Sandal medium- and SS-5 Skean intermediate-range ballistic missiles and at least 42 Ilyushin Il-28 Beagle light bombers in Cuba or en route, 20 of which were already in various stages of assembly, became operational they would threaten much of the southern continental U.S. with either conventional, or, more ominously, nuclear bombardment.
However, U.S. intelligence originally learned of the operation through the efforts of naval and air crews, who identified and tracked ships smuggling arms into Cuba, and when photo interpreters discovered missile sites west of Havana, near the towns of San Cristobal and Guanajay. Subsequent reconnaissance flights by Lockheed U-2s, operated by both the CIA and the Air Force, revealed additional sites -- as well as “sophisticated” aircraft revetments and surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites -- on Cuba’s northern coast, near Sagua La Grande and Remedios. On 25 October, a reconnaissance mission by VFP-62 also confirmed the presence of Luna (FROG, or Free Rocket Over Ground) tactical rockets, which, though shorter-ranged, could also be armed with nuclear warheads.
Discovery of the Soviet deception precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy and his advisors considering such a threat to U.S. national security unacceptable. When the Chief Executive told Admiral Anderson that “it looks as though this is up to the Navy,” the CNO purportedly replied: “Mr. President, the Navy will not let you down.” In noting the build-up of East Bloc forces, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet (CinCLantFlt) ordered training to include “the possibility of action against Cuban targets.” These training efforts even included the construction of a simulated V-75 SA-2 Guideline SAM site.
Admiral Anderson sent a personal message to the Fleet Commanders on the 17th, advising them to “be prepared to order as many ships as possible to sea on a 24 hour notice,” provided their main propulsion plants were ready.
Responding to the crisis, Enterprise, with CVG-6 embarked, sortied from Norfolk on 19 October, having loaded provisions and supplies that normally required up to 10 hours to load, in barely two. Placed on alert on 18 October, CVG-6 embarked the following day, containing primarily the same composition it had during its recent Med cruise. The urgency proved such that the carrier got underway with only part of the wing embarked, some aircraft flying on board as she “turned the corner” off Cape Henry.
AirLant announced that the carrier’s rapid departure was to conduct engineering exercises, and to escape possible damage due to Hurricane Ella, then being tracked off the southeastern coast of the U.S. The cover story, however, seemed less than convincing, as evidenced by one reporter’s incredulous question: “Engineering exercises! A week after she gets back from the Med? And Ella turned east at noon today. You really want me to believe that?” Security concerns prompted the cordial response: “Absolutely.”
Destroyers Fiske (DD), Hawkins (DD) and William R. Rush (DD) sailed the next day to rendezvous with the “Big E” as her initial screen.
The following day, TF 135 (Rear Admiral Robert J. Stroh, ComCarDiv-6, relieved by Rear Admiral Hayward on 24 October), was activated, comprising the Enterprise and Independence (CVA-62) task groups, an underway replenishment group of an oiler and an ammunition ship, Fleet Air Wing (FAW)-11, stationed ashore, and Marine Aircraft Group (MAG)-32, comprising Marine Attack Squadrons (VMA)-331 and VMF-333, the group deploying to Guantánamo Bay and Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. Independence (CVG-7) was originally scheduled to be relieved by Enterprise, but the crisis forced her to remain on station. Her screen initially included destroyers Corry (DD), English (DD), Hank (DD) and O’Hare (DD).
Also on the 20th, Admiral Robert L. Dennison, CinCLantFlt, ordered the A-5A Vigilantes of VAH-7 to remain ashore at NAS Sanford, Fla., replacing them with 20 USMC A-4D Skyhawks from VMA-225 from Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, N.C., the Skyhawks being considered more appropriate for CAS due to their lighter characteristics. This was the first time that a Marine squadron operated from a nuclear-powered carrier, and completing the transfer while underway in the midst of a crisis demonstrated the flexibility for combat commanders afforded by the ship. During the height of the crisis, upward of 100 aircraft would be packed on board Enterprise. Contingency planning for possible action against Soviet forces in Cuba took place on board the carrier during her voyage southward, including most of the planning for carrier-borne aerial operations.
Faced with the problem of halting further East Bloc arms shipments into Cuba, on 20 October the President ordered a blockade of the island, directing the Navy to stop and search any ship suspected of smuggling offensive weapons into Cuba. CinCLantFlt issued Operation Order 43-62, commencing naval operations in support of Operation Plan 312. By mid-afternoon on Sunday 21 October, Enterprise was approximately 25 miles southeast of San Salvador, Bahama Islands, making all speed to the south to reach her assigned operating areas near Cuba, her escorting destroyers striving to keep up.
While other U.S. vessels, designated TF 136 (Vice Admiral Alfred G. “Corky” Ward, Com2ndFlt) on the evening of the 21st, established patrol positions in a line out of range of Soviet Il-28s to the east of Cuba, TF 135 prepared to operate in the waters around Jamaica, to the south of Cuba, completing the encirclement of the island.
The Enterprise group was initially directed to steam near 25ºN, 75ºW, while the Independence group sailed near 23º10’N, 72º24’W. Both forces were later reinforced by combined Latin American-U.S. TF 137 (Rear Admiral John A. Tyree, Jr.), which patrolled the eastern Caribbean for communist smugglers, aircraft from Enterprise later providing some air support. On Monday morning, the 22nd, Enterprise rendezvoused with Independence north of the Bahamas.
En route toward Cuba, the task force passed four ships carrying 2,432 dependents evacuated from Guantánamo, including 1,703 on board Upshur (T-AP-198), 351 in Duxbury Bay (AVP-38), 286 in Hyades (AF-28) and 92 in DeSoto County (LST-1171). Five Lockheed C-130F Hercules and a Douglas EC-47 Skytrains flew out an additional 378 evacuees, comprising hospital patients, dependents at Leeward and “certain other noncombatants.”
Events moved toward confrontation. Additional evidence indicating the progress being made by the Soviets in Cuba toward making their strike forces operational, together with further intelligence concerning the transfer of arms via communist ships en route to the island, prompted the JCS to set Defense Condition 3 for all U.S. forces worldwide, at 1900 EDT on 22 October. The order was issued one hour prior to the President’s televised speech, affecting all U.S. forces with the exception of CinCEur (Commander-in-Chief Europe), “which were put in a military precautionary posture.” On board the carrier, the captain and those of the crew with “a need to know” greeted the news with grim determination. The men worked throughout the rest of the 22nd and into the next day, arming and preparing their aircraft for what they anticipated would be operations over Cuba.
Aerial strike planning included both high-level and low-level options, aimed at gaining air supremacy and knocking out communist air defenses (AD), chain of command and infrastructure quickly, so as to be available to support planned U.S. amphibious and airborne landings, as part of CinCLantFlt Operation Plans 314-61 and 316-61, the air strikes themselves under the cognizance of 312-62.
By 22 October 1962, 17 submarine contacts in the western Atlantic and Caribbean had been prosecuted by the USN, not all of them “good” contacts, including at least three Foxtrots identified within the quarantine area, and at 0526 on that date, a Zulu-class boat was photographed in mid-Atlantic refueling alongside of Soviet auxiliary Terek. Should the crisis escalate, Enterprise would certainly be targeted by as many of these Soviet subs as possible, which “demonstrated a willingness” to expose periscopes or antennae when in need of information, but U.S. aerial radars were inadequate for detection and tracking, requiring the development of “high-resolution radars” for ASW aircraft.
CNO alerted the Fleet Commanders to the undersea menace: “I cannot emphasize too strongly how smart we must be to keep our heavy ships, particularly carriers, from being hit by surprise attack by Soviet submarines. Use all available intelligence, deceptive tactics, and evasion during forthcoming days. Good luck.”
President Kennedy’s televised conference that evening demonstrated the seriousness of the situation to the American people, as the President warned about “continued offensive military preparations” by the East Bloc. “It shall be the policy of this Nation,” the Chief Executive declared, “to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.” For diplomatic reasons, Kennedy also announced the blockade of Cuba as a “quarantine,” the term considered less threatening in the already highly charged political climate, principally since a blockade is considered an act of war in international law: “To halt this offensive buildup,” the President told the world, “a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba is being initiated. All ships of any kind bound for Cuba, from whatever nation or port, will, if found to contain cargoes of offensive weapons, be turned back.”
The next day, the Soviets placed their strategic rocket forces on a higher state of alert. On the evening of 23 October, the President announced that the quarantine would begin at 1000 EDT on the 24th. International shipping was advised to avoid the area
The Enterprise and Independence groups, TGs 135.2 and 135.1 respectively, took station south of Cuba to enforce the blockade, operating south of the Windward Passage, between Cuba and the island of Hispaniola and southward, in the vicinity of 18ºN, 74º30”W. A pair of destroyers, which rotated with their reliefs during the crisis, normally escorted Enterprise, though on several occasions the ship was operating with as many as six. Enterprise and Independence began alternating continous advance early warning patrols over the Windward Passage, on 24 October 1962.
A Strategic Air Command B-52 Stratofortress sighted the Soviet tanker Groznyy on 25 October. Playing a game of “chicken” with the Americans, her master attempted to run the blockade, but when the U.S. destroyers cleared their guns, the Russians “blinked,” and following implicit instructions from Moscow, Groznyy came about. Enterprise obtained a radar contact with the characteristics of a submarine during the afternoon of the 27th., and dispatched an A-1H to shadow the intruder. The Skyraider maintained a solid contact over the surfaced sub until relieved by an E-1B. Shortly after the turnover, the Russian submerged at approximately 18º50’N, 75º26’W.
When contact was lost the next day, some nervous moments were spent by the men on board the ships as TF 135 shifted position to south of 18º N, where the waters south and southwest of Jamaica provide “ideal” ASW conditions. Throughout this period, the carriers prepared for possible submarine attack, conducting evasive steering and zigzagging, as well as avoiding merchant shipping whenever possible, the latter capable of radioing their positions to lurking Russian ships or subs.
Planning continued toward a probable invasion of, or at the very minimum, strikes against Cuba, and at 0915 on the 27th, Enterprise recovered an 10 additional A-4Cs from VA-34, increasing her attack capabilities. At this point, TF 135 was “exercising max[imum] mobility because of potential submarine threat north of Jamaica. For present operating in southern sector from [Guantánamo Bay].” At 2220 on the 28th, Rear Admiral Hayward notified CinCLantFlt and CNO that he intended “to operate ENTERPRISE Group (TG 135.2) within 60 miles radius of 18-30N, 76-30W,” reaching a point with four destroyers south-southwest of Jamaica, by midnight.
TG Alpha identified a Soviet sub on the surface as a Foxtrot class, on 28 October, and three days later sub No. 911 was forced to the surface after almost 35 hours of continuous sonar contact, including active “pinging,” by dogged U.S. crews, the frantic Russians reaching the limits of human endurance.
Nonetheless, during the days to come, U.S. and Allied forces succeeded in turning back most of the communist ships. As “political negotiations” began in the UN and bilaterally between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, the quarantine “entered a new phase.” On 28 October, Khrushchev accepted American terms for a cessation of the confrontation.
Two days later, as Enterprise was operating in the vicinity of 18ºN, 80ºW, and Independence near 16ºN, 78ºW, the President agreed to suspend aerial surveillance and active quarantine operations, pending the outcome of UN attempts to secure inspection guarantees and a “show of Soviet good faith.” Over the following days, the Russians finally conceded to Allied demands to withdraw their forces from Cuba.
By Halloween, Enterprise, accompanied by six destroyers, was steaming in a box within 60 miles of 18ºN, 80ºW. Throughout the first half of November, she continued to support quarantine efforts, her aircraft intercepting and trailing, and when appropriate operationally, photographing vessels of interest.
An Eastern Airlines commercial aircraft sighted a Soviet sub submerging 69 miles north of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and another boat, No. 945 was spotted surfacing on the 6th, rendezvousing with tug Pamir three days later. Additional submarine contacts were made on the 6th and the 13th, the tempo producing such a strain on men and machines that it was reported that air readiness could not be maintained at such a pace. Aircraft approaching Enterprise not equipped with identifying transponders increasingly became problematic, CAPs “frequently” launching to intercept unknown aircraft. One such interception involved a lost F-8E on 25 November.
The “first sign of relaxation came on the 14th,” when the JCS removed the global Minimize order (to reduce lower-level communications to priority traffic, due to high volumes overloading networks) issued on 21 October, though the “restriction remained within the 15th Naval District and most of the Western Atlantic.”
Between 4–11 November, Enterprise and her screen steamed round the western tip of Jamaica, operating to the northwest of the island, but transited with four destroyers to just north of the area between Falmouth and St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, during the 14th–15th, before returning to her more westerly operating area. Enterprise and Independence operated in a “geographic rectangle” formed by 18º10’N, 19º30’N, 77ºW and 80ºW, between 16–21 November.
By 15 November 1962, naval aircraft involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis flew 30,000 flight hours in 9,000 sorties, for a total distance of six million miles. Sixty-eight squadrons comprising 19,000 sailors participated in the action, and “each of the carriers had covered a 10,000 mile track.”
The ship orchestrated an unusual at-sea evolution between the 19th–20th, when VA-34 switched places with VA-64 (both equipped with A-4Cs) from Enterprise on to Independence, the Black Lancers then embarking on board Enterprise. The compliments of both squadrons were lifted between the carriers by helicopters, a difficult and dangerous operation.
As the crisis gradually subsided incidents nonetheless continued, but at about 1845 EDT on 20 November, the Atlantic Fleet was directed to discontinue operations, returning commands to “normal tasks.” TG 135.1 was “dissolved” on the 22nd, commands subsequently detaching to return to the U.S., by 20 December.
The capabilities of Enterprise and her embarked aircraft, flying a daily average of 120 sorties, to project power proved crucial to the successful resolution of the crisis. She completely dominated the southern Caribbean, as well as the approaches to Cuba and, in combination with other forces, prevented East Bloc reinforcements from penetrating the blockade, all but neutralizing apparent communist advantages.
However, Enterprise was forced to remain on station monitoring Soviet compliance with the agreement to remove weapons from Cuba, and to support the defense Guantánamo Bay. When the crisis began, the Navy was “very nearly caught with a disproportionate number of aircraft carriers out of service for overhaul, and voyage repairs.”
Carrier Saratoga (CVA-60) lay in overhaul at Norfolk Naval Shipyard=, which exerted a “whole-hearted” effort that enabled Saratoga to sail on 16 November, 15 days ahead of schedule. Following an “expeditious” ammunition loadout and a brief period of refresher training off Mayport, she sailed to relieve Enterprise, arriving on station on 5 December.
The crew of the “Big E,” which spent 49 consecutive days at sea during the crisis, with her screening destroyers rotating for short in-port periods, some of only a single day’s duration, was thus given the chance to spend Christmas with their families. From the 7th–8th, approximately 2,000 officers and men were heloed to “the beach” for leave and liberty, due to rough weather.
Enterprise received notification of her assignment to relieve Lexington (CVS-16) on 15 December, though the crisis abated sufficiently that it was not necessary to return to war stations before the New Year.
During his first weekly summary to Admiral Dennison following the quarantine, Vice Admiral Ward remarked: “Again the United States had turned to seapower to wield the iron fist in a velvet glove and again the Navy and ships of the Atlantic Fleet had shown this confidence was not misplaced.”
The ship again put to sea between 18–21 December, conducting suitability trials off the Virginia capes for Grumman A-6A Intruders and Grumman E-2A Hawkeyes. On the 19th, Lieutenant Commander Lee M. Ramsey flew a Hawkeye off Enterprise in the first shipboard test of nose-tow gear designed to replace the catapult bridle and reduce launching intervals, and was followed a few minutes later by the second nose-tow launch, by an Intruder.
After spending Christmas and New Year’s at Norfolk, Enterprise sailed on 28 January 1963 for air wing refresher training in preparation for her second Med deployment. During this four day period underway, she hosted Senators Barry M. Goldwater, R. Ariz., himself a pilot and major general in the Air Force, and Milward L. Simpson, R., Wyo., together with Governor Albertis S. Harrison, Jr., D., Va. Senator Goldwater donned a Navy pilot’s “G” suit, launching from the ship “with ease.”
On 6 February 1963, Enterprise sailed from Norfolk, with VAW-33 Det 65 (Douglas EA-1F Skyraiders) augmenting CVG-6. The next afternoon, she rendezvoused with guided missile frigate Bainbridge (DLG(N)-25) off the coast of North Carolina, the first such rendezvous at sea between nuclear-powered ships, part of some 21-ships of TF 25 (Rear Admiral Hayward, embarked in E'nterprise) transiting the Atlantic for their deployment to the 6th Fleet. Largely devoted to training exercises in the tactics of formation steaming and inter-ship communications, the transit also provided ample opportunity to demonstrate the advantages of nuclear-propulsion, as the formation was forced more than once to slow or reverse course to enable conventionally-powered ships to refuel while encountering the “rough and unruly Atlantic.” Enterprise and Bainbridge, however, steamed eastward unimpeded.
Near the west coast of Africa south of the Azores, a flight of Soviet Tupolev Tu-95 Bear long-range reconnaissance aircraft “buzzed” TF 25, but alert tracking by Bainbridge’s Combat Information Center (CIC) detected the intrusion at a comfortable range, warning the flagship. However, one of the Bears continued on, overflying the carrier.
Inchopping into the fleet’s AOR as she “swept past” Gibraltar on the 16th, Enterprise conducted additional training before relieving Forrestal on station at Pollensa Bay, Mallorca, Balearic Islands. Due to the lack of facilities at Pollensa for handling a ship as large as Enterprise, whenever visiting she normally anchored southeast of and close to Isla de Formentor, in order to gain some protection from the elements from Promontorio del Formentor.
Following turnover she made her first port call of the deployment, to Cannes, on 25 February–3 March. En route the force encountered heavy seas, Bainbridge recording 35º–40º rolls, though the carrier rode out the swells relatively more comfortably compared to her lighter consorts. During two of her three visiting days at Cannes, Enterprise hosted over 3,000 visitors, including U.S. Ambassador to France Charles E. Bohlen, and the mayor of Cannes, before weighing anchor on 4 March, for exercises with other NATO units.
Between 11–18 March, Enterprise called on Piraeus, the port for Athínai, Greece, where King Paul I Oldenburg and Queen Frederica of Hanover, together with members of the Greek Royal Family, visited the ship, before getting underway for a period of “joint USN task force operations in the Crete area,” known as MedLandEx, an amphibious landing exercise at Timbakion, Crete. Under the overall command of TF 61, she provided CAS and AAW protection for Allied forces, between 19–21 March. Following the exercises she visited Palermo, Sicily, from the 23rd–31st, anchoring out for the crew for liberty boat excursions ashore.
The ship then operated in the eastern Med, 1–7 April, participating in RegEx, a combined nuclear strike, ASW and AD exercise conducted off southern Italy, Greece and Turkey, under the command of TF 60, 2nd–3rd. Following RegEx, Enterprise visited Naples (8–15 April), where she participated in a one day aerial demonstration for ranking members of the NATO Defense College, on the 8th, including simulated attack runs by aircraft from VA-64.
The carrier then operated in the eastern Med, 15–19 April, before heading on to Cannes, where she called from the 21st–29th. Cutting the visit short on the morning of the 28th, “in anticipation of a possible Middle East crisis,” Enterprise sailed from France, participating in Fair Game, Phase Bravo (Alpha was cancelled due to the same “unsettled conditions in the Middle East”), a “NATO-wide” exercise in the area near Corsica and southern France, operating with carriers Saratoga and the French Clemenceau (R.98), also under TF 60, 5–10 May.
Enterprise returned to Cannes, 11–20 May, where Rear Admiral William I. Martin relieved Rear Admiral Hayward as ComCarDiv-2, breaking his flag on board, on 17 May. The ship stood out again for steaming in the eastern Med, including ORI, from the 19th–26th. On 25 May, she passed 100,000 miles of steaming since commissioning.
The carrier then visited Corfu, Greece (27–30 May) after which she steamed to Taranto, Italy (31 May–3 June). Enterprise then took part in “Chick’s Charge,” an exercise conducted with Bainbridge to “investigate sustained high speed tactics for nuclear powered surface ships,” 3–7 June, upon the conclusion of which they visited Ródhos, Greece, 8–11 June.
During MedLandEx III, an amphibious landing exercise at Kavalla, Greece, Enterprise supplied CAS and AAW protection for the landings, 12–15 June. She then crossed the eastern Med and visited Beirut, Lebanon, where the annual Administrative Inspection was also accomplished, 19–24 June.
Underway on the 24th, Enterprise steamed westward, conducting additional training en route, including recording her 20,000th landing, on 26 June, before calling on Genoa, Italy (1–8 July). Following further steaming in the eastern Med (7–12 July), the ship again visited Cannes (14–22 July). On the 23rd, Under Secretary of the Navy Paul B. Fay, Jr. “spent several hours [on] board while the ship demonstrated her capabilities as a mobile striking power.”
Afterward the ship visited Naples, 2–10 August. Enterprise next operated in MedLandEx IV, providing CAS and AAW protection for an amphibious landing exercise, this time off southern Sardinia, 11–14 August. Upon completion of MedLandEx IV, she sailed westward, calling upon Barcelona, Spain, 15–22 August. After a week in Barcelona, Enterprise stood out and rendezvoused with cruiser Long Beach (CG(N)-9) in the western Med, on the 23rd, the first meeting of the two ships.
Enterprise steamed to Pollensa Bay, turning over to Independence on the 24th, and outchopping two days later for home. En route her return, she fell under the command of TF 26, arriving at Pier 12, NOB Norfolk, on 4 September.
At one point during a very dark night, an alert sounded at about 2100, and the men of VFP-62 Det 65 scrambled aloft a “Photo Crusader,” discovering in the process that it was an exercise, their target Saratoga. Preceded by a Vigilante, the photo crew swept over the “enemy” carrier at 0030, photographing her with photo flash bombs. Returning to Enterprise, they secured by 0230, successfully demonstrating their versatility. Many of the men of Fighting Photo during this deployment had also participated in the Cuban Missile Crisis, considered “a very seasoned crew.”
Back at Norfolk on 5 September, Enterprise remained in port for her post-deployment stand-down and upkeep through 1 October. She then alternated periods in port with exercises at sea with the 2nd Fleet. While underway during 28 October–8 November, Enterprise hosted students from the Armed Forces Staff College, National War College and the Naval War College.
Enterprise operated with Forrestal in StrikEx I, a combined strike, ASW and AD exercise conducted in the southeastern U.S., under ComCarDiv-2, 4–6 December. This was followed by steaming off the Virginia capes, where she conducted her Administrative/Material Inspection, 12–13 December, and ORI, 20–23 January 1964. Also on the 20th, she hosted Secretary of the Navy Paul H. Nitze.
On 8 February 1964, Enterprise again set sail from Pier 12, NOB Norfolk, for the 6th Fleet, transiting the Atlantic eastbound under the command of TF 25. Supplementing CVW-6 was VAW-33 Det 65 (EA-1Fs).
Chopping to Com6thFlt on 19 February, she entered the Med on the 22nd, reaching Golfo di Palma, Sardinia, and turning over with Independence. Almost immediately the “Big E” became involved in exercises with Com6thFlt, while assigned to TF 60. During Early Bird, 24–26 February, Enterprise furnished CAP and strike aircraft both to protect and to oppose the transit of a NATO convoy in a major exercise. Early Bird began with a Fleet Conference in Soudha Bay on the 24th, attended by participating ships, including Enterprise, which anchored out in the bay.
On the evening of 25 February, Enterprise assisted the Finnish freighter Verna Paulin, which had signaled for help, telling of a crewman injured in a fall. Enterprise made a high speed run through the night to rendezvous with the ship. A Tracer from VAW-12, Lieutenant Marshal W. Jones, Ensign Matthew M. Cushing, Lieutenant (jg) Charles E. Murray and AMH1 Dow, launched to assist. Murray gave radar vectors to a helo carrying a flight surgeon from the carrier, who was put on board the vessel before sunrise, a dangerous evolution hampered by darkness. All received commendations from Rear Admiral Martin.
Enterprise and her crew stood out from Soudha on the 28th, for a visit to Istanbul, Turkey, 5–11 March, where they also anchored. Following their visit the officers and men of the ship and her embarked air wing participated in RegEx 1-64, 11th–14th, tasked with a combined strike, ASW and AD exercise conducted in Turkey and Italy, concluding this period by contributing to the Cyprus Patrol, taking station as a result of “the unsettled political situation that existed on the island,” 14–21 March.
During this period, Enterprise was joined by Amphibious TF 61, whose sailors and marines had “been at sea for several weeks with no prospects of hitting a liberty port in the near future.” On 17 March, the “Big E” hove to near TF 61, and the men of Enterprise plied her boats back and forth all day to enable liberty parties to “visit the carrier. Hanger decks were set up for athletic events, and all of the ships stores and soda fountains were opened. In addition, an aerial firepower demonstration was staged to “show these men the type of support they could expect if ever the time came that they might need it.”
Enterprise’s embarked pilots had the opportunity to make simulated conventional strikes against ground and naval targets in southern France during Lafayette V, a bilateral exercise with the French, 26–27 March. Upon completing the exercise Enterprise visited Cannes, 28 March–6 April.
Between 1 October 1963 – 31 March 1964, Enterprise steamed 26,073.2 miles, achieving her 28,000th arresting landing on 12 March. Lieutenant “Red” Potts of VAW-12 approaching for a landing on 5 April, the ship’s 30,000th, but was waved-off for short interval and “CAG got the landing instead.”
As April began, Enterprise found herself as flagship for TF 60. She made a grueling replenishment with store ship Rigel (AF-58) on the 6th, the men of the two ships breaking existing 6th Fleet cargo transfer records by passing 194 tons of provisions per hour to the carrier, 600 tons all told.
Enterprise continued to operate near Italy throughout the month, visiting Naples, from 13–20 April, where they put on two air shows, on the 13th and the 20th, as well as hosting students from the NATO Defense College during the former and officers from the Air War College during the latter.
On 24 April Enterprise again received Secretary of the Navy Nitze, on an extended tour observing naval forces in Europe. The “Secretary had hardly been piped off” then Vice Admiral Paul H. Ramsey, AirLant, came on board for two days. Enterprise proceeded on to Genoa, 27 April–4 May. On 5 May Enterprise aircraft furnished CAS for an Italian Army exercise conducted in the Po River valley.
The high pace of operations on the 5th included a near tragedy, avoided by the quick reactions of responders. At 1023, Lieutenant Commander Jerrold B. Chapdelaine, pilot and AE1 Clifton N. Stringer, bombardier/navigator, VAH-7, launched in their A-5A, Bureau (Serial) Number (BuNo.) 148931, for a dual mission as duty tanker and for practice bombing. The weather was calm, moderate sea state, with a fresh breeze. At approximately 1132, Chapdelaine began a high angle loft maneuver using a smokelight as the target. After passing approximately the vertical position, he noted unusual rolling and yawing tendencies and selected maximum afterburner. As the nose passed through the horizon, he attempted to roll upright, but the Vigilante entered uncontrolled flight. Unsuccessful at attempts to recover, the crew ejected after passing an indicated altitude of 2,500 feet, hitting the water about four miles from the carrier. Plane guard destroyer Kenneth D. Bailey (DDR-713) rescued Chapdelaine and a Kaman UH-2A Seasprite, Lieutenant (jg) Christopher R. Thomas, Ensign David C. Shelby, Airman J.S. Mitchell and Airman G.S.Fox, from Helicopter Utility Squadron (HU)-2 Det 65, flying the starboard plane guard position, retrieved Stringer, whose condition prompted Lieutenant (j.g.) Thomas to elect to depart immediately for the ship, so that Airman Mitchell, who had entered the water to assist the injured bombardier/navigator onto the rescue seat, had to be recovered by the destroyer.
Following that exercise, Enterprise put into Cannes for a port visit, 9–13 May. Upon getting underway, it was revealed that “the anchor shank had broken and the major part of the anchor remained unrecoverable on the bottom of the bay.”
Meanwhile, Long Beach and Bainbridge sailed for the Med on 28 April, accompanying carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42). Making their eastbound transit at high speed, the ships trained in ECM tactics, entering the Med in the dead of night on 10 May. The ships steamed to Pollensa Bay, Mallorca, where they held a turnover conference, before departing for their deployment and participation with Enterprise in Operation Sea Orbit.
Enterprise rendezvoused with Long Beach and Bainbridge on 13 May, forming Nuclear TF 1 (Rear Admiral Bernard M. Strean), the world’s first nuclear-powered task force. Also the only NTDS-equipped and nuclear-powered ships in service, they began a unique series of evaluations and tests to determine the efficiency of their systems working together, through 22 July.
The task force participated in Fairgame II, 13–22 May, a strike, ASW and amphibious exercise off southern France and Corsica, Enterprise also attending a fleet conference at Rade de Salins, France, on the 16th.
The ship’s size and nuclear propulsion enabled Enterprise to carry greater quantities of fuel and cargo then hitherto possible, and she continued to break existing records. Halfway through Fairgame II, she rendezvoused with oiler Mississinewa (AO-144) for an underway replenishment on the busy day of 16 May. Mississinewa transferred 437,000-gallons of JP-5 jet fuel per hour to Enterprise, another 6th Fleet record for the two ships. On the 22nd, Enterprise set a pumping record when her aircraft were fueled with 309,612-gallons of JP-5 in 24 hours.
Bainbridge entered Naples on 7 June, to pick up 87 midshipmen for their Summer Cruise. All but 14 were subsequently transferred by helicopter and high line to Enterprise and Long Beach.
While at sea later in June, TF 1 operated with three U.S. attack submarines, including Seawolf (SSN-575), another unique dimension to their experiences. Being matched against an actual nuclear-powered opponent, as opposed to simulations, challenged crews in ASW tactics.
Lieutenant Christopher R. Thomas, HU-2 Det 65, affected the first night autorotation of a helicopter to the flight deck of an attack carrier on the night of 16 July. Thomas was flying an UH-2A when his Seasprite experienced complete engine failure over the deck of Enterprise, Thomas and his crew recovering safely.
Additional ports visited during her cruise included Cannes, 23–28 May, Genoa, 29 May–3 June, Naples, 13–15 June, Palermo, 15–18 June, Taranto, where an admiral’s reception for Italian officials was held, 19–24 June, Barcelona, 3–8 July, Palma, Mallorca, 10–15 July, Naples, 23–27 July and Pollensa Bay, Mallorca, where she turned over to Forrestal on the 29th.
On the evening of 20 July, one of the ship’s company, ABH3 J.M. Davis, was blown overboard from Enterprise. HU-2 crew Ensign Verne P. Giddings, Ensign Dennis C. Rautio, ADJ3 J.V. Tomlin and ADR3 J.A. Lukens, immediately proceeded to the port side of the ship in their Seasprite and hoisted Davis aloft in barely two minutes.
Embarked on board the carrier for Operation Sea Orbit was CVW-6 (VA-64, VA- 66 and VA-76 (A-4Cs), VA-65 (A-1Hs and A-6A Intruders), VF-33 (F-8Es and F-4Bs) and VF-102 (F-4Bs), VAH-7 (A-5As), VFP-62 Det 65 (RF-8As), VAW-12 Det 65 (E-1Bs), HU-2 Det 65 and VRC-40 Det 65 (two C-1As).
Readying his men and their ships for Sea Orbit, Rear Admiral Strean noted: “We will test the ability of these new ships…around the world…This cruise will be of tremendous importance to the Navy.” Planning for the epic cruise included the novel experiment of foregoing underway replenishments, primarily to test the feasibility of the concept of nuclear-powered ships’ survivability and flexibility in the event of a global conflict with the Soviet Union, as basing rights would be reduced by changes in the political climate or enemy attacks, if not entirely unavailable.
However, achieving such an unorthodox goal required massive provisioning prior to departure. Enterprise thus again came alongside of Rigel for provisioning, in the western Med, at 0500 on 30 July.
The route for Sea Orbit would take the ships down the western coastline of African, round the Cape of Good Hope, across the Indian and Pacific Oceans, round the Cape of Good Horn at the tip of South America and up along the Atlantic coastline of the latter continent to home.
“Part of our mission,” Rear Admiral Strean later explained, “is to test the ability of these ships to maintain high speed indefinitely while operating in all kinds of sea and weather environments.” Sustained steaming in the open sea throughout the cruise was usually accomplished at a speed of advance (SOA) of 22 knots, modified as needed for shipping and navigational hazards. However, under “the weather conditions encountered,” this SOA proved “extremely conservative.” During the transit between New Zealand and Cape Horn, TF 1 maintained “with ease” an SOA of 25.56 knots, and there was never a time during the cruise where “a speed of 30 knots could not have been maintained.”
At 1430 on 31 July, Enterprise, Long Beach and Bainbridge began their epic cruise by westerly passage through the Strait of Gibraltar. Chopping to the Atlantic Fleet they became TF 1 (Rear Admiral Strean), before putting into Rabat, Morocco, for their first port visit.
VRC-40’s Traders supported TF 1 throughout the cruise by providing mail, cargo and passenger service, VIP passengers including numerous high-ranking dignitaries from countries visited along the route, as well as sailors requiring emergency leave.
From Rabat the ships sailed southward down the Atlantic coastline of Africa, arriving off Dakar, Senegal, on 3 August, where Enterprise hosted a Senegalese delegation, led by Emile Badiane, Minister of Health, Education and Welfare, Colonel J.A. Diallo, Acting Minister of Defense, and French Contre-Amiral Gabriel M. D’Oince, Commandant, South Atlantic Naval Zone.
The ships next sailed for Freetown, Sierra Leone, arriving off that port “under partly cloudy skies” on the morning of the 4th, then continuing on to a position off Monrovia, Liberia, during the afternoon.
At 0606 on 6 August 1964, “Neptunus Rex and his court arrived on board all ships of Task Force One...” as Enterprise crossed the equator for the first time, at 00º latitude and 00º longitude. Although the ceremonies were interrupted by a CAP launch to intercept “an off airways radar contact,” the pilots were able to return “in time to be initiated into Order of Golden Shellbacks.” Altogether “over 4,300 men were elevated from the rank of Pollywog to that of Shellback.”
On the 10th, by which point the crews had changed to Blues with the lower temperatures, TF 1 rendezvoused off the Cape of Good Hope with South African destroyer Simon van der Stel (D-237) and frigate President Steyn (F-147). Two Avro (Hawker Siddeley) Shackleton M.R. Mk. 3s provided “close” ASW support while the ships exchanged 19 gun salutes.
Rear Admiral Strean visited Simon van der Stel, flagship for Rear Admiral Hugo H. Biermann, Chief of Staff, South African Navy, via her embarked Bristol (Westland) Wasp HAS.Mk 1 helo. Rear Admiral Biermann, Commodore Fougstedt, Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans and Operations, and Sub Lieutenant Hornivall, together with U.S. Commander R. Alford, returned the call. An exchange of honors and an air demonstration began a tradition of friendship and cooperation between the South African Navy and Enterprise. The then headed through the Mozambique Channel along the east coast of Africa into the Indian Ocean (IO).
Arriving off Nairobi, Kenya, on 15 August, a party of 12 Kenyans, led by U.S. Ambassador to Kenya William H. Atwood, Peter M. Koinage, Minister of State for Pan-African Affairs, and James Gichuru, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, flew on board, witnessing an aerial demonstration. Adding to the pass in review portion was the loading of missiles into battery on board Long Beach and Bainbridge as they passed Enterprise, which “seemed to impress the visitors very much.”
Shifting into Whites as they continued onward, the force arrived off the West Pakistani coast on 20 August, a “hot and humid day.” That morning, a UH-2A, BuNo. 149027, Modex #12, Lieutenant Commander James T. Denny, pilot, Lieutenant John D. Chilcoat, co-pilot, AMSCA Charles E. Reynolds and ADR3 Robert A. Schiele, lost power and crashed about one and one half miles from the carrier’s bow, rolling to port. Long Beach, preparing to launch No. 61, her UH-2B, HU-4 Det 43, for a scheduled personnel transfer, supplemented Enterprise’s alert helo, No. 1. All four survivors, uninjured in the mishap, returned to the carrier within minutes, No. 1 picking up Denny, Chilcoat and Reynolds, while No. 61 hoisted Schiele aloft from their rafts. Meanwhile, No. 12 remained inverted, and Bainbridge lowered a motor whaleboat, which took the helo in tow and brought it alongside Enterprise, whose divers passed a wire cable around the rotor hub. The line parted during the attempted recovery by crane, however, and the Seasprite sank in 40 fathoms.
Enterprise and her consorts then rendezvoused with three Pakistani naval vessels under the command of Commodore Salami, for exercises. Afterward, three Pakistani destroyers escorted the force into Karachi, West Pakistan, for the first port visit of the cruise. “Difficult boating conditions” caused by six–eight foot swells from the monsoon season restricted shipping, however, permitting only Bainbridge to enter the port and forcing Enterprise and Long Beach to anchor “several miles out.” After a two day stay in Karachi (20–22 August), TF 1 stood out on the 22nd, launching 33 jets for an aerial demonstration over Karachi and Mauripur airport, before proceeding on a southerly course along the west coast of India. The ships crossed the equator for the third time on the 26th,then making for Fremantle, Australia, but steering “well clear of Indonesia.”
Enterprise launched one F-8E and an F-4B “condition CAP” for a “high flying and fast moving radar contact,” on 25 August. Some 32 miles from the carrier and at an altitude of 44,000 feet, the aircraft intercepted a British Hawker Siddeley Vulcan medium bomber, being vectored prior to recovery to another target that turned out to be a commercial transport, 95 miles from TF 1.
By the following day, the ships were 500 miles southwest of the northern tip of Sumatra, steaming on a southeasterly heading, when they received message traffic concerning a British Royal Navy (RN) force, consisting of carrier Victorious (R-38) and her two escorts.
Two days later, while south of Indonesia, the U.S. ships passed within 160 miles of the British, who were steaming south-southeast, having just transited the Sunda Strait, where they were overflown by Indonesian Tupolev Tu-16KS Badger Bs.
On this date, Enterprise also intercepted an Indonesian Badger, which “turned back.” The two forces began an AD exercise, the men of Enterprise pitting their skills against those of Nos 801 (Hawker Siddeley-Blackburn Buccaneer S.1s), 814 (Westland Wessex HAS.1s), 849A (Fairey Gannet AEW.3s) and 893 (Hawker Siddeley-DeHavilland Sea Vixen FAW.1s) Squadrons.
The last day of August found Enterprise west of Australia. A party of 24 visitors, led by O.T. Mayfield, U.S. Consul General, Frederick C. Chaney, Minister, Royal Australian Navy (RAN), David Brand, Premier, Western Australia, Sir Frederick Samson, Lord Mayor of Fremantle, and Charles J.B. Veryard, Lord Mayor of Perth, landed on board the ship via COD, at 0900.
During the afternoon, a beach flyover by 24 aircraft was made above Perth and Fremantle, and an air firepower demonstration was performed for “a large and highly enthusiastic crowd,” the aircraft arriving “at exactly the minute advertised.”
On 2 September, Enterprise launched a refresher training flight of 14 jets and eight propeller driven aircraft, advance liaison team members departing with this launch to land at Melbourne. This also marked the first time that nuclear-powered ships sailed in the south Pacific.
At 0836 the next day, a party of 24 visitors from the city, led by Rear Admiral T.I. Morrison, Deputy Chief of Naval Staff; Air Vice Marshall C.T. Hannah, Deputy Chief of Air Staff; Henry E. Bolte, Premier, Victoria; John F. Rossiter, Minister of Education, Victoria; Leo Curtis, Lord Mayor, Melbourne; and Captain James D. Mooney, U.S. Naval Attaché.
Meanwhile, Enterprise steamed south of Melbourne, performing an aerial demonstration by 33 jets. Two formation flybys by 24 aircraft were later staged over the Australian War Memorial and over Melbourne. Bainbridge, meanwhile, visited Fremantle, 31 August–2 September, and Long Beach, Melbourne, detaching at 1220 on the 3rd, and getting underway again at 1100 on 5 September.
Enterprise arrived off Sydney on 4 September, staging an aerial demonstration, “one of the best performed during the cruise.” At 0830, 22 dignitaries arrived on board via COD, led by Sir Garfield E.J. Barwick, Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia; J.D. Anthony, Minister for Interior; Rear Admiral A.W.R. McNicholl, Flag Officer Commanding, East Australian Area; Rear Admiral O.H. Becherk, Flag Officer Commanding, Fleet; Peter Howson, Minister for Air; Air Marshall Sir Valston Hancock, Chief of Air Staff; and Lieutenant General Sir John Wilton, Chief of General Staff. The ship pulled into Sydney later in the day to a tumultuous welcome, as an “estimated crowd of 100,000 persons jammed the fleet landing and the cliffs overlooking Sydney Harbor,” and upward of 200 vessels following her in.
Australian frigate Derwent (F.22) temporarily relieved Long Beach and Bainbridge as escort and plane guard for Enterprise. Captain R.C. Swan and his crew received a “Well Done” message by Rear Admiral Strean for their seamanship as the two ships worked together.
Enterprise anchored for a three day visit to the city, during their stay the crew being honored by the visit of Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert G. Menzies and Lady Menzies. And the exchange continued after the visit, as through the efforts of AOMC B.A. Juel, VA-76, a kangaroo was obtained from the Sydney Zoo for the zoo in Norfolk. A total of 9,316 people visited the ship, and her crew reciprocated with 8,203 liberty calls ashore, not a single incident being reported by the Superintendent of Police, the Sydney Herald noting “…this was extraordinary considering the large complement of men.”
Getting underway during the morning watch, at 0526 on the 7th, the carrier proceeded to New Zealand waters, but not before an additional flyover was performed later in the morning. Although weather conditions prevented the mass flyover above Canberra, the nation’s capital, a lone F-4B penetrated the overcast for some members of the government, as there was “much interest in this aircraft in Australia.” The entire flight then proceeded to Sydney, where the men overflew the War Memorial, Nowra Air Training Base, Richmond, and “the famous bridge.”
En route to New Zealand, a large radar contact rapidly approaching the ships suddenly split, eliciting a CAP launch, though upon interception turning out to be a New Zealand Canberra and an Australian Handley Paige transport.
A frontal system accompanied the ships from Australia, descending upon Wellington with gale force winds in the afternoon of the 8th. Nonetheless, some official visits were arranged, and New Zealanders hosted those going ashore. “Here, as in Australia, the hospitality shown to the Task Force was overwhelming.”
A dinner reception ashore for TF 1 officers was attended by high ranking New Zealanders, including Sir Peter Phipps, Chief of Defense Staff and Rear Admiral R.E. Washbourn, Chief of Naval Staff, and their wives. Underway the next morning, the ships rendezvoused northwest of South Island, skirting the front for milder weather.
A party of 32 New Zealand dignitaries arrived on board via COD at 0900 on 9 September, including Keith J. Holyoake, Prime Minister, Air Commander T.F. Gill, Assistant Chief of Air Staff, T.P. Shand, Minister of Labor, A.R. Kinsella, Minister of Education, Dr. D.A. Cameron, Australian High Commissioner and Dean of Diplomatic Corps and H.B. Powell, U.S. Ambassador, New Zealand.
The group witnessed “…what was undoubtedly the most spectacular aerial firepower demonstration of SEA ORBIT,” prompting Prime Minister Holyoake to comment that “…The U.S. is the greatest lover of peace and the greatest hater of war…” In addition, New Zealanders were hosted on board the cruiser and frigate. Upon departure, CVW-6 staged a farewell flyby over Wellington. Long Beach and Bainbridge visited Wellington, 8–9 September.
The voyage east from New Zealand began with eight foot seas and a quartering 25 knot wind, cloudy skies accompanying them “all the way to Cape Horn,” including “non-persistent” light snow. From 9–17 September, the men of TF 1 did not see land while transiting the south Pacific, becoming “Golden Dragons” when they crossed the International Dateline (IDL) on 10 September, experiencing “two Thursdays.”
Six days later, a frontal condition pursuing the ships from New Zealand finally “brushed past” overnight, rocking the vessels with 14 foot swells, Long Beach recording a 41º roll. Enterprise steamed from Wellington, New Zealand, to Cape Horn, 5,223 miles, in just eight days, 12 hours and 24 minutes, a considerable achievement for her crew.
“It was cold and overcast when the Captain announced to all hands that the Cape stood off the port beam,” seven and one half miles away, at 1250 on 17 September. The snow-capped heights of Cape Horn, traditionally the nemesis of mariners, rise ominously 1,400 feet out of the sea, but “presented little challenge” to the carrier as she rounded “the Horn,” preceded by Long Beach and then Bainbridge. Soon after clearing Cape Horn, however, they encountered 18-foot seas and 41-knot winds. Enterprise’s great size and seakeeping qualities, however, served her well, as she recorded a maximum roll of 10º, Long Beach took one at 30º and Bainbridge 27º.
Enterprise’s next underway visit by foreign dignitaries occurred as she steamed off Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Montevideo, Uruguay. At 0830 on 21 September, 31 guests from Buenos Aires, landed on board via COD, led by Brigadier General Manuel C. Soria, Chief Military Staff of the President, Ricardo Illio, General Secretary to the President, Dr. Luis A. Caeiro, Technical Secretary to the President, Palmiro Bogliano, First Vice President, House of Representatives and Edwin M. Martin, U.S. Ambassador, Argentina.
An air firepower demonstration was conducted, “Chilly temperatures and strong winds did not diminish the warm greeting they received” from the officers and men of Enterprise and CVW-6.
During the afternoon watch, beginning at 1553, the ship hosted a party of 23 guests from Montevideo, led by Dr. Washington Beltran and Dr. Carlos M. Penades, National Councilors of Uruguay; Don A. Tejera, Minister of the Interior; and Dr. Hector P. Reyes, President, Senate Committee on Internal Affairs, the dignitaries witnessing the second “sound splitting” aerial demonstration of the day by the ship’s embarked wing.
Experiencing “warm sunshine” on the 23rd, TF 1 reprised it’s performance of the previous day off the entrance to the harbor of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for 28 VIPs from the cities of São Paulo and Santos, headed by Governor Adhemar Pereira de Barros; General Amauri Kruel, Commander, 2nd Army; Laudo Natel, Vice Governor, Sao Paulo; Major General Marcio de S. Melo, Commander, 4th Air Zone; and Dr. Ciro Albquerque, President, Legislative Assembly. The crew donned Whites for the occasion, their first chance to do so since they leaving Pakistan.
Enterprise and her consorts then proceeded into Baía de Guanabara, Rio de Janeiro. In column 1,000 yards apart, the ships passed Sugarloaf Mountain and the statue of Christ the Redeemer, greeted by thousands of Brazilians thronging Copacabana Beach. Enterprise fired a 21 gun salute before dropping anchor, at 1330, answered by a Brazilian Army shore battery, a Forca Aerea Brasileira “flying team circling over the three ships in a series of precision maneuvers” in NA-72s, North American AT-6 Texans.
After entering port, Rear Admiral Strean paid visits to Brazilian officers, including Vice Admiral Zilmar C. de A. Macedo, CinCFlt, Vice Admiral Levy P.A. Reis, CNO, and Vice Admiral Sylvio M. Moutinho, Commander, 1st Naval District, General Tenante B.E. Fleuriss, Chief of Staff, Air Force, and General Decio P. de Escobar, Chief of Staff, Army, together with Rear Admiral Edward E. Colestock, Chief, U.S. Naval Mission.
Rear Admiral Strean met Vice Admiral Macedo on board Brazilian light cruiser Tamandaré (C-12), formerly USS St. Louis (CL-49). All of these men, including Lincoln Gordon, U.S. Ambassador, Brazil, and his wife, were also among the 2,668 visitors to Enterprise during this stay.
Leaving Rio at 0700 on the 25th, an entourage of 54 led by Brazilian Vice President Jose M. Alkimin, Vice Admiral Reis, Vice Admiral Batista, Minister for the Navy, Admiral Waldemar de F. Costa, Secretary General, Navy, General Pery C. Bevilaqua, Chief of Staff, EMFA (JCS), General Palmeiro de Escobar, Chief of Staff, Air Force and Vasco L. da Cunha, Minister of External Relations, arrived on board two hours later for an aerial firepower show, a beach flyover by 37 aircraft being carried out.
Two days later while passing Recife, the task force rendezvoused with Brazilian destroyer Araguaia (D-14), transferring the nine Brazilian officers who had stayed on board as observers to her.
The same performance at Rio was repeated for a delegation of 24 from Recife, landing on board at 0845, its senior members being General Manoel P. de Lima, representing Paulo Guerra, Governor, Pernambuco (State). A group flyover was conducted during the afternoon watch, at 1315, the ships also performing a two hour firepower demonstration.
During this launch, however, Flare 709, an A-5A (BuNo 147863), Lieutenant Commander John C. Tuttle, pilot, and Lieutenant (jg) David R. Sharp, bombardier/navigator, VAH-7, experienced hydraulic system failure about 17 miles from the ship. Both Sharp and Tuttle ejected; a searching E-1B spotted the men in their life rafts, at 1432, vectoring in a UH-2A, Lieutenant G.R. Thomas, pilot, HU-2 Det 65, from Enterprise, that pickedup both men at 1447.
Shortly after leaving Brazil, Enterprise and her consorts crossed the equator for the fourth time in less than two months.
Arriving off San Juan, Puerto Rico, TF 1 performed its last at-sea demonstration of the cruise, but for an American audience led by Solis S. Horwitz, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Administration and Jeffrey C. Kitchen, Assistant Under Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs. The group, including members of the Departments of Defense and State and press representatives, remained on board overnight, being flown back on the 2nd. Following the show, Bainbridge sailed for Charleston, S.C., seen off by the Enterprise band’s rendition of “Carolina in the Morning.”
Sea Orbit ended just after 1500 on Saturday, 3 October 1964, when Enterprise and Long Beach reached Norfolk, and Bainbridge reached Charleston. Secretary Nitze, Admiral David L. McDonald, the Chief of Naval Operations, and Vice Admiral Ramsey, AirLant, came on board Enterprise via helo to inspect the ship and her crew. During welcoming remarks, CNO complemented the crew: “You look magnificent!” Enterprise and her consorts had completed the circumnavigation of the globe “with no external assistance of any type, save God” in 65 days, steaming 30, 216 nautical miles without fueling or provisioning, hosting VIPs from 15 countries, crossing the equator four times and making port visits on three continents. Sea Orbit served to validate the global power projection capabilities afforded by nuclear propulsion coupled with modern communications and aviation systems. Rear Admiral Strean afterward noted that at any time during the cruise, TF 1 “could have been diverted to any other maritime area of the world without logistical considerations and could have been ready for immediate operations upon arrival.” Rear Admiral Strean latter reflected that Sea Orbit demonstrated conclusively “the special global mobility and self-sufficiency of nuclear powered surface ships…”
TF 1 entertained 19,936 visitors while the ships were in port, and 425 underway guests, while its aircraft were viewed by thousands, often in areas where tactical airpower “has seldom, if ever, been seen.” The impact that both the ships and aircraft had upon the people who viewed them facilitated diplomatic relations with many countries visited along the route, and U.S. ambassadors “frequently stated that such visits made their job easier.”
Enterprise underwent pre-overhaul availability (3 October–2 November 1964), receiving her “second successive” Battle Readiness Pennant, as well as repeated “E” awards for her Air, Engineering and Reactor and Weapons Departments, on 9 October. In late October she operated off the Virginia capes, both “to purge her tanks” in preparation for entering drydock, and to afford 1,220 dependents a chance to sail out with her for a brief cruise, viewing an aerial firepower demonstration and an underway refueling.
On 2 November 1964, Enterprise shifted from her anchorage at Hampton Roads up the James River to her builders’ yard for her first refueling and overhaul, having steamed upward of 200,000 miles, equivalent to eight circumnavigations of the globe, and recovering over 42,000 aircraft, in three years of commissioned service. Compartments were built to suit new needs and her fighting ability was increased by “various innovations."
Among these new innovations was the Integrated Operational Intelligence Center (IOIC). Developed by North American Aviation, it was composed of an IOI Center, an Airborne Systems Support Center (ASSC) and a squadron of supersonic RA-5C reconnaissance aircraft. The IOIC received and processed photographic intelligence data, storing it for future use, equipped with computers that rapidly researched and plotted “desired targets and their defenses.” The system was all weather and day/night capable.
The Satellite Navigation System (SatNav), exceeding “the Loran System in precision fixes,” was also installed. Developed by Johns Hopkins University, Md., SatNav utilized data transited from the satellite orbiting the earth five times daily, a revolutionary integration of systems at that time. To provide space for the new system’s receivers, and for greater range on the Loran, the mainmast was raised 10 feet and a second yardarm was added. An oil-fired boiler was installed for electricity and ventilation when the ship was in port for long periods, enabling the reactors to be temporarily shut down.
In addition to renovating existing aviation shops, two new ones were built. A pair of sponsons was added, while the port missile sponson was converted into a 280-man compartment to accommodate wartime manning. All four shafts were removed, two of were replaced. During the overhaul and refueling period, Vice Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, Director, Division of Naval Reactors, Atomic Energy Commission, visited the ship several times, praising the performance of the her crew.
On 17 February 1965, work on the hull was completed, the drydocks were flooded and tugs guided the carrier out of Shipway 11 and over to Pier 8, where she was moored for additional work, focusing upon refueling. The ship was ready for sea again the following spring, an exhausting effort for all involved. Enterprise was notified of her transfer to the Pacific Fleet on 1 June, and effective on 1 October 1965, her homeport was changed to NAS Alameda, Calif.
Initial planning provided for her transit to the west coast around South America in a “leisurely trip,” putting into several ports en route. Upon arrival in the Pacific, Enterprise was scheduled to proceed to Alameda, establishing her “residency for several months.” Eventually, she was to deploy to Vietnam in April.
On 9 June 1965, Enterprise tested her propulsion systems, turning around, stern away from the waterfront area, so that her four powerful screws would not damage the docks. A week later, she began a new experience for her crew when she took a “fast cruise.” Still moored, the ship simulated underway conditions for five days.
Enterprise successfully completed sea trials off the Virginia capes, 22–24 June 1965, under the personal direction of Vice Admiral Rickover. The propulsion trials included steaming at full power and an emergency reversal test, together with aircraft launching and recovery, as well as “check out” of all ship’s systems and equipment.
The effort required getting her again ready for sea was recognized on 25 June, when Commander John A. Smith, Reactor Officer, received the Navy Commendation Medal, citing his “meritorious achievement in the field of naval reactor operations.”
However, normal planning for her shift of home ports was disrupted in late August, word being received that because of the build-up in the U.S. commitment to South Vietnam, the ship would take the faster route around Africa, reporting directly to Commander, 7th Fleet (Com7thFlt) as Carrier Task Unit 77.7.1, under ComCarDiv-3, TG 77.7. Departure was rescheduled for late October, and the crew increased the “intense pace that was not to relax until the ship left the line the following year.” Already under pressure to transfer their families between coasts, the officers and men of the ship commenced “frantic” efforts to relocate literally thousands of dependents.
Meanwhile, the ship was refloated and assigned to Com2ndFlt on 5 July 1965, remaining under that command through 30 September. On 9 July she shifted to Pier 12, NOB Norfolk. A week later, Rear Admiral James O. Cobb relieved Rear Admiral Strean as ComCarDiv-2, on 17 July. Shortly thereafter, Captain James L. Holloway, III, relieved Captain Michaelis as the ship’s third skipper.
Two days later Enterprise cast off mooring lines to begin her Independent Ship Exercise off the Atlantic coast. Captain Holloway put the crew through “an exhaustive series of drills;” included a simulated nuclear attack. Following five days of training, she anchored again in Hampton Roads before getting underway for Carrier qualifications off the Virginia capes, accompanied by destroyers Richard E. Byrd (DDG-23) and Sampson (DDG-10) between 26 September–1 August 1965.
From 9 August–8 September 1965, Enterprise participated in training at Guantánamo Bay, under the direction of Commander, Fleet Training Group, 12 August–3 September 1965, the rest of the period spent in transit. The ship “simulated battle conditions and participated in exercises designed to increase the proficiency of all hands,” overseen by a party headed by Vice Admiral Charles T. Booth, II, AirLant, and Dr. W.P. Raney, Special Assistant for Research to Assistant Secretary of the Navy.
In conjunction with the announcement of the transfer of the Navy’s nuclear surface force to the Pacific Fleet, CVW-9 (Tail Code NG) was assigned to Enterprise, reporting on board on 25 September 1965. The wing’s nearly 1,800 officers and men raised the ship’s complement to almost 5,400, which “now had her powerful broad sword and shield which was to slash at the Viet Cong war effort.”
Comprising the wing were VA-36, VA-76, VA-93 and VA-94 (A-4Cs), VF-92 and VF-96 (F-4Bs), Reconnaissance Attack Squadron (RVAH)-7 (North American RA-5C Vigilantes), VAH-4 Det M (Douglas A-3B Skywarrior tankers, not initially redesignated as KA-3Bs), VAW-11 Det M (E-1Bs) and HC-1 Det M (UH-2As), the latter departing from Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) Ream Field, Imperial Beach, Calif., via airlift to the east coast and combining with pilots and crewmen from HC-2 to form the det, proceeding on with the carrier to the west coast. Some 96 aircraft were assigned to the wing: 24 Phantom IIs, 56 Skyhawks, six Vigilantes, three Skywarriors, four Tracers and three Seasprites. VAs-36 and 76, RVAH-7, VAH-4 Det M and HC-1 Det M, deployed on 26 October 1965.
Three days later Enterprise steamed to the Virginia capes for refresher training, emphasizing night flight operations, accompanied by destroyers Rich (DD-820) and Steinaker (DD-863). On 9 October 1965, she headed south to the Jacksonville, Florida, operations area.
Carrier qualifications for CVW-9 were conducted off the Virginia capes, 11–14 October 1965, the ship returning to Norfolk through the 26th, recording her 45,000th arrested landing on the 11th. On 18 October, Rear Admiral Henry L. Miller, ComCarDiv-3, reported on board, selecting the carrier as his flagship.
Eight days later Enterprise again put to sea, her total embarked complement during this deployment being approximately 350 officers and 4,800 men. Before getting underway that morning, Vice Admiral Booth addressed the crew, “praising them for an illustrious past history, and wishing them well in the future.”
From 30 October–1 November 1965, in cooperation with Bainbridge, Enterprise completed her ORI at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. The ship then proceeded toward the Philippines, crossing the equator on 7 November, Enterprise having “the audacity to transgress the realm of King Neptune with a crew mainly consisting of pollywogs.” By day’s end over 4,000 of them became shellbacks.
However, tragedy struck the ship the next day, when Airman Apprentice Barry E. Peterman was blown overboard from the flight deck by a jet exhaust during night landings. After recovering aircraft, Enterprise “combed the seas” with an extensive all-night SAR, but Peterman was never found.
Enterprise rounded the Cape of Good Hope on the 14th, rendezvousing with Independence in the IO on the 21st, a day out of the Strait of Malacca, the two ships exchanging honors, as well as gear and people. Relieving her on station, Enterprise inchopped to Com7thFlt, falling under the command of TG 77.7 to become the first nuclear-powered ship to serve in that fleet. While transiting the Strait of Malacca, the carrier passed British warships, Japanese freighters, as well as junks and sampans of indeterminate nationality.
Six days later Enterprise moored at Leyte Pier, NAS Cubi Point, her normal berth when visiting Subic Bay, Philippines, where she remained, 27–30 November. This was the first liberty her crew had received in 32 days at sea. During this deployment, the ship received orders directing her to “carry out special operations with the Seventh Fleet in support of U.S. and Allied forces in Vietnam.”
On 30 November, accompanied by old consort Bainbridge, and the destroyers Barry (DD-933) and Samuel B. Roberts (DD-823), Enterprise sailed from Subic Bay to war.
Two carrier operating areas had been created to prosecute the war in Southeast Asia. Initially designated Point Yankee, Yankee Station was established in the Gulf of Tonkin as the primary operations area from which carriers could conduct operations against North Vietnam, though aircraft flying from Yankee Station could also cover much of the rest of the theater.
Evolving as the war continued, Yankee Station consisted of several stations. Moved northward in April 1966, reducing the distance aircraft were required to fly to reach their targets in North Vietnam, it subsequently was returned to its original position in 1968. With the resumption of intensive bombing against the north in 1972, the station was again moved north, designated as North, Mid and South, at 19º, 17º and 16º N, respectively. The latter two stations encompassed 10 charted reefs or shoals limiting operations “if taut station keeping was directed.”
Dixie Station was established primarily to support operations across the south while additional aviation facilities were prepared ashore, and to allow CVWs to “warm up” prior to their operations at Yankee Station, as communist AD was relatively less developed in the south, as opposed to what would become the more intensive and layered AD of the north.
On the “warm grey morning” of 2 December 1965, Enterprise arrived at Dixie Station, the weather consisting of broken clouds up to 8,000 feet, ranging from light air–gentle breeze, visibility seven NM, dropping to one–three NM within intermittent rain showers. Her “bridge and every available spot on deck were covered with newsmen and military observers watching the unprecedented first in the history of war on the seas–the use of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in combat operations… With her entrance into combat, a new era was opened before the world.”
Enterprise marked her combat debut by launching 21 aircraft in a strike against Viet Cong (VC) installations near Bien Hoa, South Vietnam. Commander Sheldon O. Schwartz, pilot, and Lieutenant (jg) George S. Moore, RIO, VF-96, flew their Phantom II as the lead aircraft aloft for the strike. Leading the strike in was Commander Otto E. Krueger, CO, VA-94, becoming the first pilot to enter battle from the ship. CVW-9 flew 125 strike sorties on that date, “unloading 167 tons of bombs and rockets on the enemy,” and 131 sorties on the following day.
Rear Admiral Miller sent a message to CNO regarding the occasion: “I have the distinct honor and pleasure to announce to you that on the Second Day of December 1965 at 0720H, the first nuclear powered task group of your Pacific Fleet and the United States Navy engaged the enemy in South Vietnam.”
During these operations, Captain Holloway noted that for most of the crew “it was the first time that the command ‘Flight Quarters’ was not a drill or a practice for pilots.” Throughout the next six months, as part of Operation Rolling Thunder, aircraft from Enterprise carried out relentless strikes against the enemy, blasting transport and supply areas, bridges and coastal shipping carrying communist supplies.
Enterprise’s first day of the war, however, was not without loss. Silver Kite 206, an F-4B (BuNo 151409), Lieutenant Tracy J. Potter, pilot, and Lieutenant (jg) Donald W. Schmidt, RIO, VF-92, was a section leader of a two-plane section on a CAS mission. Potter and Schmidt were the first to roll in a dive attack on their target, from approximately 30º, while flying at 450 knots indicated air speed (KIAS). Releasing six MK 82 general purpose bombs at about 5,000 feet, they immediately pulled up, but the “wingman reported bomb detonation very close beneath aircraft.” At 1310, with their Phantom II trailing fuel and the fuel tape indicating only 100 lb remaining, the men ejected five miles south of their target, from 5,500 feet, at about 11º39’N, 106º37’E.
Observers noted a Phantom II “flaming out”, making contact with the forward air controller (FAC) via their PRC-49 radio, and soldiers of Army Det B-33, 5th Special Forces (SF) Group, Hon Quan, arrived 35 minutes later, directing an Air Force CSAR helo to the area. Both were recovered from a rubber plantation, approximately five miles southeast of the SF camp, Schmidt having suffered a broken arm with leg and pelvic injuries. Both men were transferred to a C-123 for a flight to Tan Son Nhut AB, where Schmidt was transferred to the 3rd Field Hospital, Saigon, to recover from his injuries. A subsequent strike by squadron Phantom IIs destroyed the downed aircraft.
“Early electrical fuzing, or bombs colliding with each other” were considered likely for the premature detonation, however, the FAC reported some “bomb detonations on target.” Though not reliably determined as the cause, the ship’s pilots were instructed to use minimum 100 millisecond intervals on their bomb releases.
Launching on a Visual Flight Rules (VFR) strike mission, an F-4B, BuNo. 149468, Lieutenant (jg) Robert G. Miller, pilot, and Lieutenant (jg) George F. “Duke” Martin, RIO, VF-96, experienced “fuel exhaustion” while returning to the ship. Demonstrating how dangerous and difficult landing upon a carrier at sea is, Miller and Martin made no less than six VFR approaches. Their first pass was waved-off due to the pitching deck, the second for interval, and the remaining ones resulted in bolters (missing the arresting gear and taking off for another try). Following the second bolter, Miller was directed to rendezvous with a KA-4C in the landing pattern for refueling. The tanker and the Phantom II descended to 1,000 feet, but were unable to “plug-in” after two attempts. Primary Flight then directed the F-4 to again attempt to land, but after the sixth attempt, the Air Boss ordered the crew to climb and eject. Miller and Martin ejected at 1327, while approximately ¾ mile ahead of the ship and from 1,500 feet, Miller noting his remaining fuel state at only 300 lb. Both men “were recovered in minimum time by the airborne Angel.
In addition, an F-4B, (BuNo 151421), Commander Thomas S. Rogers, Jr., pilot, and Lieutenant Gordon R. Mansfield, RIO, VF-92, experienced a “hard landing” on board Enterprise, at 1451. Waved-off on the first pass, Rogers brought them around for the second attempt, but the rolling ship and her pitching deck caused the Phantom II to land slightly high at the ramp. Rogers attempted to cushion the landing, but the port main tire blew. Boltering, Rogers and Mansfield were waved-off two more times before they engaged #3 cross deck pendant on the fifth pass. Both men sustained minor injuries, but inspection of the aircraft disclosed a cracked main wing spar.
On 7 December 1965, Enterprise aircrews commemorated the Japanese attack on the Hawaiian Islands in 1941 by flying 156 strike sorties into North Vietnam, pulverizing enemy installations with a variety of ordnance. On 10 December, Hanson W. Baldwin, Military Correspondent, New York Times, visited the carrier, remaining on board overnight and observing operations the following day, when CVW-9 flew 211 sorties, 165 of them strike, the largest number by Naval Aviation to date during the conflict. “The tons of bombs that have flown off this ship,” Captain Holloway observed later, “would stagger you.”
Three days later, U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., escorted a South Vietnamese entourage, including Chief of State (Chairman of the National Leadership Council) Lieutenant General Nguyen V. Thieu, Premier Air Vice Marshal Nguyen C. Ky, Lieutenant General Chieu and Lieutenant General Co, through Enterprise to view operations. General Thieu utilized the occasion to chalk his own sentiments about the enemy onto a bomb being loaded for a strike.
Hill City, an RA-5C (BuNo 151633), Lieutenant John K. Sutor, pilot, and Lieutenant (jg) George B. Dresser, bombardier/navigator, RVAH-7, commenced a second photo reconnaissance run over a swamp area containing sampans, at 0804 on 15 December 1965. Upon completing the pass Sutor came around toward the south, but about two minutes later noticed a temperature increase around his feet and legs. He was notified by an A-4 attempting to join the flight for an inflight inspection that Hill City was trailing “grey-white” smoke from the Vigilante’s underside, “smoke, heat and fumes” then becoming “apparent” in both cockpits. Checking their instruments the men suddenly lost pitch control. Trying to head seaward, they were unable to maintain altitude by pitch trim, deciding to eject, from around 8,000 feet, while flying 300 KIAS, at 0830. Landing in the water approximately two–three miles southeast of a sampan, near 10º02’N, 104º45’E, they noted with horror that the vessel “took a course to approach crew who were in their rafts.” At that moment A-4s, diverted from strikes against a VC district and battalion headquarters (HQ) and suspected petroleum, oil and lubricants (POL) storage area to Rescue Combat Air Patrol (RESCAP), fortuitously arrived, making a strafing run across the sampan’s bow, which “reversed course and disappeared.” The RA-5C crashed in shallow water, approximately two NM from shore. Both men were recovered by an Army helo, 121st Aviation Company, 13th Aviation Battalion, at 0843, and returned to Soc Trang, Sutor receiving “several 2nd degree burns on forearm,” but Dresser surviving relatively unharmed. Although neither man noted enemy ground fire, one of the Skyhawk pilots claimed receiving ground fire from the area, and there was also a fragmentary earlier report of an Air Force aircraft hit over the same area.
On the 17th Enterprise sailed to Yankee Station, concentrating attacks on “Red supply routes, bridges, and munitions depots” across North Vietnam. “Great care was exercised to insure that all strikes were made only on military installations involved in logistics, and not on centers of civilian population.” Strike planning had to be made before the targets themselves could be hit, adding further problems for planners.
Three days later, entertainer Martha Raye [Margaret Y.T. Reed], visited the ship to conduct a holiday show, transferring by highline the following day to a pair of destroyers to ensure that their crews were also included in her tour.
At various times while on Yankee Station, Enterprise and CVW-9 were joined by detachments from Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ)-1 (Douglas EA-3B Skywarriors), providing “SAM and MiG radar threat warning services for the survivability of Navy strike/RECCE forces,” VAW-13 (EA-1Fs) and Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (HS)-4 (Sikorsky SH-3A Sea Kings), all deployed to NAS Cubi Point, Subic Bay, Philippines.
Flight operations while on Yankee Station normally consisted of 12 hours out of every 24, an exhausting schedule for the men, many of whom also had to stand watches and attend to other duties. Sleep became a precious commodity. Strikes were typically launched in 90 minute cycles, the prior cycle recovering directly after each launch cycle, increasing the danger from accidents, but necessary for operations.
Three days before Christmas of 1965, 110 aircraft from Enterprise, Kitty Hawk (CVA-63) and Ticonderoga (CVA-14) launched “a massive coordinated strike” against the Uong Bi Thermal Power Plant, 15 miles northeast of Haiphong and a source of national pride for the North Vietnamese. The aircrews “virtually” destroyed the plant, temporarily disrupting approximately two-thirds of the power to Hanoi and Haiphong. This was the first industrial target authorized struck by naval aircraft in North Vietnam. The “Big E’s” aircraft approached from the north, while those from Kitty Hawk and Ticonderoga, swept in from the south, the last aircraft leaving the target area around 1600. The initial strike leaders also reported hits on the Hai Duong Bridge, and aircraft from Kitty Hawk hit a pair of nearby SAM sites. The plant was vital to the communists and heavily defended by 37 and 57 mm AAA, the strike group being subjected “to intense light AA and AW fire from commencement of run into a point approximately two miles south of target area,” as well as observing the launch of at least one SAM, which detonated approximately five miles from the target.
Nonetheless, aircrews persevered, knocking out the generator hall, boiler house–which was “visibly ripped away, revealing intense fires raging from within”–and “several important buildings,” including shattering the roof of an administration building. A petroleum storage area was “engulfed in flames,” and a conveyor feeding a coal treatment center was “completely demolished.” A cluster of approximately a dozen storage buildings was hit, “entirely destroying three,” and “finally, the boundary road surrounding the complex was interdicted.”
Two Enterprise Skyhawks , however, were lost during this vicious battle. Sun Glass 502, an A-4C (BuNo 149521), Lieutenant John D. Prudhomme, VA-76, was the first Skyhawk lost. Prudhomme was the “No. 2 man in a 4 plane section” for a low level Snakeye low drag general purpose bomb run. Entering his dive two miles from the target area, he “appeared to lose control shortly after entering” the zone of “intense” flak. Just as his leader was making a jinking left turn, Prudhomme was observed to roll his wings level, nose over and down, crashing “in flames” into a ridge approximately one mile northwest of the target at 1502. Observers saw no parachute. There was no attempt to recover Prudhomme or his Skyhawk, due probably to fierce enemy resistance.
Gale Force 705, an A-4C (BuNo 148305), Lieutenant (jg) Wendell R. Alcorn, VA-36, was the second. Rolling in on the attack, Alcorn was hit over the target area, “outbound following delivery” flying 450 KIAS, at 1509, when he ejected from no more than 200 feet altitude, his wingman nonetheless noting a “good chute” about one half mile south-southwest of the plant area, around 21º02’N, 106º48’E. An immediate CSAR, including an HU-16, supported by a pair of A-1s on RESCAP, was launched. However, no voice calls were heard from Alcorn, but although a possible beeper was reported, it just as quickly went cold. None of the aircraft experienced any success in their searches for Alcorn, partially attributable to the “fact both aircraft downed in heavily populated and well defended area.” Alcorn was initially classified as MIA, but was taken by the enemy, not returning home until 12 February 1973.
The next day the “Big E” endured the loss of another aircraft. Hoboken 414, an A-4C, (BuNo 149562), Lieutenant (jg) William L. Shankel, VA-94, encountered enemy fire from the turn point 14 miles north of the target area, the Hai Duong Bridge(s), all the way in over the bridge(s), and continuing on to the turn point five miles south of the target area, heaviest between 3,000–7,000 feet. At some point during his run, Shankel was hit, undergoing smoke in his cockpit before he ejected, though no aircrews saw him eject or his Skyhawk go down. A “thorough” search of the egress area was made, but there was no indication of Shankel or his beeper. Further CSAR efforts were curtailed, again due to the heavy population and resistance encountered in the area. Shankel was captured by the communists, not returning home until 12 February 1973.
Early in December the VC offered to institute a cease-fire from 1900 Christmas Eve–0700 Christmas Day. Shortly before the holiday began, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), Saigon, responded by issuing a 30 hour cease-fire, to last until midnight on the 25th.
Enterprise observed the “shaky cease-fire”–sporadic fighting continuing across the country–her crew being afforded a brief lull in the carnage before returning to operations the following day. On the 27th, Lieutenant Edward S. Promersberger, VF-92, “nosed” his Phantom II down for the ship’s 50,000th arrested landing.
On 28 December, aircraft from Enterprise and carriers Hancock (CVA-19) and Ticonderoga flew missions in I and II Corps areas against VC supply and rest areas, and against company and battalion-strength troop concentrations.
As many as 80 structures, including seven bunkers, were reported destroyed, and heavy bombing caused the collapse of at least four tunnels, together with numerous fox holes and fire positions. Aircraft from the “Big E” flew 31 of these sorties, including 27 Skyhawks and four Phantom IIs, receiving small arms fire from the area of 14º58’N, 108º53’40”E, but the aircrews “silenced” the enemy on their first bombing run.
At approximately 0150 on the 28th, Show Time 607, an F-4B (BuNo 151438), Lieutenant Dean H. Forsgren, pilot, and Lieutenant (Jg) Robert M. Jewell, RIO, VF-96, while landing on board Enterprise following an armed reconnaissance over Laos, was waived off for being too low. Coming around for a second pass they reached “bingo” fuel status–which was 0 at the time of flameout–and ejected, disappearing from radar about 15 miles from the ship. The crew of a Douglas KA-3B Skywarrior marked the area of ejection, the ship giving “a good vector” toward 607’s last known position, 350º. Angel 4, a UH-2A (BuNo 149769) from Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC)-2 Det 65, Lieutenant Leif A. Elstad, pilot, Lieutenant (jg) Michael A. Johnson, co-pilot, ATN3 D.A. Larson and Airman M.P. Laws, were flying plane guard approximately 10 miles from the ship when they received the message announcing the crash.
Coming about, they flew to the scene, “easily” locating the survivors in the water by visual sighting of .38 cal. tracers and Mk-13 Mod 0 distress signals, barely 30 minutes into the search. Although both of the Phantom II’s crewmembers were carrying PR 49A radios, they were unable to “home in” accurately on their signals, most probably due to the two–three miles separating the survivors. The sea state was greater than initially reported (four foot swells), the rescue being “complicated” by high seas and gusty winds, as well as the reluctance of the two officers to leave their respective life rafts, but both were brought back on board via the rescue sling.
The next day tragedy again struck the ship. Silver Kite 203, an F-4B Phantom II (BuNo 151412), Commander Edgar A. Rawsthorne, squadron CO, pilot, and Lieutenant Arthur S. Hill, Jr., RIO, VF-92, were on an armed reconnaissance mission over southern Laos as part of Steel Tiger interdiction operations. Diving into a valley from 8,000 feet to make a rocket run against a pair of trucks at around 0238, Silver Kite 203 failed to pull-up and crashed into a ridge in a “fireball,” about two-thirds of the way up toward the summit, at approximately 17º35’30”N, 105º36’30”E. There was no possibility of ejection and though a CSAR was launched, the men were not recovered, the aircraft exploding upon impact and burning, leaving little likelihood of survival or identifiable remains. Commander Thomas S. Rogers, Jr., then assumed command of VF-92.