On the front lines of history:  USS Enterprise on its last deployment
The USS Enterprise (CVN-65) is nearing the end of it's 50+ year history serving America in oceans all over the world
October 31st, 2012
06:00 AM ET

On the front lines of history: USS Enterprise on its last deployment

By Larry Shaughnessy

The U.S. Navy has had eight ships named the Enterprise. The first was commandeered from the British in the early stages of the Revolutionary War by Benedict Arnold, before the America even had a navy and before he became America's most notorious traitor.

The seventh Enterprise was an aircraft carrier and a mainstay of the Navy's war in the Pacific during World War II. Three times the Japanese Navy said it had sunk "The Grey Ghost," but the Enterprise survived and is regarded as the most decorated warship in U.S. history.

But when the eighth USS Enterprise put to sea in 1962, it already had a place in American military history.

The ship's design replaced conventional boilers that had powered warships for decades with eight reactors, making it the world's first nuclear-powered carrier. It was longer, taller and faster than any warship the United States had ever launched.

A young fighter pilot named John McCain knew something about Naval history. Both his father and grandfather had been four-star admirals. He had previously served aboard the World War II-era carrier USS Interpid before ordered to the Navy's state of the art warship.

Also: USS Enterprise sailing off to history's scrap heap

"It really was a quantum leap, as much as we love the Intrepid. Between the Intrepid, World War Two and the USS Enterprise, it was exciting and it was an incredible experience to be on the first air wing on the USS Enterprise," McCain told CNN.

In October of 1962, the ship had just finished its maiden deployment when the White House and the Kremlin sparred over Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.

"We'd only been back a couple of weeks and they said, 'get out to the ship.' Nobody knew what we were doing, so we flew our airplanes out to the carrier as we were headed south," McCain said.

The Enterprise was one of the first U.S. ships to establish a blockade around Cuba, according to Navy documents on the Enterprise's history.

"I was launched a couple of times just to fly around, but not towards Cuba," said McCain, now the senior senator from Arizona. "They made sure we headed away from Cuba so as not to spark anything."

After 13 days, the crisis eased and the Enterprise returned to its home port of Norfolk, Va.

By 1965, it had been moved to the Pacific's Seventh Fleet and began six combat deployments to Vietnam. On Dec. 2 in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of North Vietnam, the Enterprise became the first nuclear-powered warship in history to engage in combat. It launched 118 sorties against Viet Cong targets in South Vietnam.

While steaming off Hawaii en route to Vietnam, the Enterprise suffered its worst disaster on Jan. 14, 1969.

The flight deck was loaded with fully armed and fully fueled aircraft undergoing pre-deployment inspection drills. Sailor Michael Carlin called it "the single-most terrible and most glorious day in our history."

Fire engulfs the USS Enterprise in 1969 (Navy Photo)


Carlin was the leader of a crew in charge of handling jet fuel on the ship.
He heard the exploding rocket and led his team to the fight deck.

"An aircraft carrier, especially with fully fueled and armed aircraft on deck, if something goes wrong it's a floating fireworks factory," he said.

All it took was one mistake - an aircraft starter unit was parked too close to a rocket on a nearby fighter jet. The unit's exhaust heated up the rocket and it exploded, triggering disaster.

Carlin and his sailors ran to grab a fire hose.

"For the first time we're seeing all these guys that are down, of burns indescribable burns and wounds," he said.

But they couldn't help the wounded because the fire was spreading from jet to jet and the stern was full of F4 Phantoms. They each carried six 500-pound bombs and eight rockets and were loaded with 9,000 pounds of fuel.

All those munitions started to blow up. In minutes the entire stern was engulfed in flames and thick black smoke. Exploding bombs blew huge holes on the flight deck and fuel poured to the areas below.

"I didn't get injured, I got blown down four times," said Carlin whose team was on the fire hose closest to the burning aircraft.

The fire was put out but 27 sailors had been killed and another 314 wounded.
Fifteen planes were destroyed and the ship was badly damaged. But after emergency repairs at Pearl Harbor, the ship was back off the coast of North Vietnam by the end of March conducting combat operations.

The quick, determined response is why Carlin said the disaster was a moment of glory.

"The ship and crew fought back and never quit fighting until the thing was finally beaten down," he said.

After dozens of deployments around the world over the next three decades, the Enterprise was leaving the Persian Gulf for home when the hijack attacks struck New York and Washington on September 11, 2001.

An F/A 18 launches during recent Enterprise deployment (Navy Photo)

Without orders, the Enterprise turned around and steamed at maximum speed toward Pakistan. By October 7, warplanes on the Enterprise were among the first to launch retaliatory strikes against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

It was the first of the Enterprise's 10 deployments to the Persian Gulf region in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

On Dec 1, the Enterprise will be deactivated and will make history again over the next three years. It will become the first nuclear-powered carrier ever decommissioned. After its nuclear fuel and eight reactors are safely removed, CVN-65, The USS Enterprise, will be cut up and sold for scrap.

But there's already a move underway to name CVN-80, a yet to be built carrier, as the ninth USS Enterprise.

Post by:
Filed under: Navy • Security Brief • USS Enterprise
soundoff (245 Responses)
  1. care equipment and aids

    I used to be very pleased to find this net-site.I wanted to thanks for your time for this wonderful read!! I undoubtedly enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you blog post.

    http://www.miniday.com.tw/uch/link.php?url=http://homelivingaid.com/2017/11/using-technology-to-engage-students.html

    December 2, 2017 at 1:44 pm | Reply
  2. Ilse Woolf

    To bardzo fascynujące , Jesteś zbyt profesjonalne bloger. Mam dołączył swój paszowe i usiąść za w poszukiwaniu extra fantastyczny postu. Także , Mam witryny podzielił swoją stronę WWW w moich internetowej sieci społecznych

    http://ludinantes.fr/forum/profile.php?id=4494

    November 30, 2017 at 6:08 pm | Reply
  3. investor adviser

    Exceptionally well written! I studied this field back when I lived in Connecticut. If your articles are always this helpful, I will be back.

    http://lulu.com/spotlight/dataGNI1PflIC

    September 7, 2017 at 4:32 pm | Reply
  4. press release

    I discovered your blog by chance Keep it up. Now I feel stupid. You appear to know a lot about this. No complaints on this end, simply a amazing piece.

    https://github.com/releaseCqT1zvUY

    September 5, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Reply
  5. cannabis doctor

    No complaints on this end, simply a awesome piece. Wow, that is a really cool way of thinking about it! Thanks for sharing your info.

    https://static.medium.com/embed.jsView profile at Medium.com

    September 4, 2017 at 6:41 am | Reply
  6. investment adviser

    Are there other articles you work on? I shared this on my page and 26 people have already seen it.

    https://www.kickstarter.com/profile/startupaFE86g2/about

    September 4, 2017 at 5:25 am | Reply
  7. new business adviser

    I discovered your article on my Tumblr feed. I could not refrain from commenting. I feel like people should send you money for this amazing material. I enjoyed reading what you had to say. It is really shocking you do not have a larger following.

    http://investorNz68s.yelp.com

    September 2, 2017 at 10:36 pm | Reply
  8. Jesse Grillo

    Your blog is cool! I am totally impressed!

    https://github.com/JesseOWqZHBK

    September 1, 2017 at 4:49 pm | Reply
  9. best public relations

    You remind me of my boyfriend. Your posts really makes me think. I like your style. Thank you!

    http://foodspotting.com/4312314-joe-mosley

    August 31, 2017 at 10:08 am | Reply
  10. Tom Nimsic

    28, not 27. Lt. Jim Barry, pilot of the first F4 to explode later died in Brook Army medical center of his wounds. As a F4 trouble shooter, he was my division officer. I spent a lot of time lying beside him in ICU in the burn unit at BAMC. Never forget him, the 28th Man to die as the result of the fire and explosions. The real complete story is told in the book: TRIAL, ORDEAL OF THE USS ENTERPRISE WRITTEN BY MICHAEL J CARLIN, THIRD EDITION. The new book, USS ENTERPRISE TRIAL BY FIRE is just out on Amazon, written by ship's photographer Stan Osterbauer.

    July 8, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Reply
  11. Jarod Harshaw

    naturally like your web-site but you need to check the spelling on several of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling problems and I find it very bothersome to tell the truth nevertheless I’ll definitely come back again.

    http://www.mytube.nu/15900

    July 7, 2017 at 5:36 pm | Reply
  12. Boyd

    I love your post! Is well written and the contents are easy to understand... will continue the publications of this site because they are very good!

    http://www.sobretarot.com/tarot-klimt/

    May 15, 2017 at 4:43 pm | Reply
  13. Lennie

    Es genial leer posts como este. Me ha enseñado cosas que no esperaba, me ha sorprendido y me ha maravillado.

    http://www.sobretarot.com/tarot-klimt/

    May 15, 2017 at 4:33 pm | Reply
  14. Shanon Amsdell

    hi!,I like your writing very so much! proportion we be in contact more approximately your post on AOL? I need an expert in this house to unravel my problem. May be that’s you! Taking a look ahead to peer you.

    http://www.3sSRzbdDOx.com/3sSRzbdDOx

    April 8, 2017 at 7:49 am | Reply
  15. Karma Bohnen

    Excellent site. A lot of helpful information here. I’m sending it to several pals ans additionally sharing in delicious. And naturally, thank you on your sweat!

    http://www.nQQOlalWsp.com/nQQOlalWsp

    March 31, 2017 at 2:56 pm | Reply
1 2

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.