12,000 watch as 'The Big E' is decommissioned
The second longest commissioned naval vessel in the US Navy, the USS Enterprise, was decommissioned yesterday in front of 12,000 former crew, their families, and friends. Only the 3 masted frigate, the Constitution, has been commissioned longer.
The first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, Enterprise was taken off the line at its home port of Norfolk, VA.
The 1,123-foot (342-metres) long Enterprise was commissioned in 1961 with eight nuclear reactors on board, and the next year was deployed to participate in a blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Since then, it has played a role in a number of naval missions, including deployments to Vietnam and to the Middle East as part of the U.S. response to the September 11, 2001, attacks. It returned from its final deployment about a month ago, said Navy spokesman Mike Maus.
Nicknamed the "Big E," the Enterprise was the oldest active duty ship in the U.S. Naval fleet, according to the military, and was the eighth U.S. military ship to bear the name Enterprise.
The roughly 12,000 people who participated in the ceremony for the USS Enterprise include many former crew members and their friends, Maus said. The ceremony was held in Virginia at Naval Station Norfolk.
The Enterprise will stay at Naval Station Norfolk for several months and then will move to a shipyard in nearby Newport News, Virginia, where its nuclear fuel will be removed from the vessel, Maus said.
After that, the ship will be towed to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington state, where its nuclear reactors will be dismantled and the Enterprise will be scrapped, Maus said.
The Enterprise was the only carrier in her class. Its 8 nuclear reactors powered the ship to speeds up to 34 knots. It carried a crew of 5,000 seamen and airmen and up to 90 aircraft. It was the longest naval vessel in the world in its time, displacing nearly 95,000 tons - a truly fearsome manifestation of American power.
There have been 8 ships named "Enterprise" in the history of the Navy. And now it appears there will be a 9th:
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced today via video message at the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) inactivation ceremony that the third Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier will be named Enterprise.
Mabus selected this name to honor USS Enterprise (CVN 65), the Navy's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, which was inactivated today in Norfolk, Va. Commissioned in 1961, CVN 65 served for more than five decades. It participated in the blockade of the Cuban Missile Crisis, launched strike operations in Vietnam, and conducted combat missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"The USS Enterprise was the first of its kind, and for 51 years its name has been synonymous with boldness, readiness and an adventurous spirit," said Mabus. "Rarely has our fleet been without a ship bearing the name. I chose to maintain this tradition not solely because of the legacy it invokes, but because the remarkable work of the name Enterprise is not done."
The future USS Enterprise, designated CVN 80, will be the ninth ship to bear the name.
The new Enterprise will have big shoes to fill and an extraordinary reputation to live up to. No doubt that professionalism and competence of her crew will make that a reality.