- USS Enterprise
History 1965 - 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
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
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. Enterprise launched 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
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
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
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
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
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
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 Enterprise)
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
Following the 1965 Christmas truce, Enterprise continued supporting Allied
troops in South Vietnam from Dixie Station, accompanied by destroyers Brush (DD-745)
and Hawkins (DD-873), the latter designated as the carrier’s “rescue
destroyer.” Further targets hit by the ship’s embarked aircraft December
1965–January 1966, included both the Hai Phong and Hai Duong Bridges. The
brief halt to the fighting, anticipated by some as the harbinger of peace,
“produced no discernible chance in enemy behavior.” Any cessation of
reduction in the operations was “illusory,” as the skipper noted in his 14
February family newsletter: “Although the pause in bombing the North seemed
to mean an easing of hostilities to the people at home, the war was no less
real to us.”
Sun Glass 501, an A-4C (BuNo 147704), Lieutenant (jg) Donald C. MacLaughlin,
Jr., VA-76, launched with his wingman as a “two-plane strike element” for a
strike over North Vietnam, on 2 January 1966. The weather en route was
overcast, three–five miles visibility, dropping to zero due to fog three
miles south of the target area. The leader made the first Snakeye run at
1,300 feet from east–west, pulling out to the right, after which MacLaughlin
advised that he was losing sight of the target. At about 0815, the leader
lost sight of the latter, whose transmissions were becoming “intermittent,”
though claiming he was receiving without interference. The leader told MacLaughlin
“to pull up and hold in clear area,” while he made his second run, but
received no answer from 501. Transmitting “in blind” for MacLaughlin to join
him over a geographic point at 10,000 feet, the leader orbited the area three
times, summoning CSAR forces before returning to Enterprise. Two A-1
Skyraiders from Hancock’s VA-215, launched in response. Later that day, a
rescue helo located wreckage approximately four miles east of the target, on
the 165º radial of a 1,700 foot hill, 45 miles from Chu Lai TACAN (Tactical
Air Navigation System), at about 14º46’N, 108º52’E.
Setting down next to the wreckage, the crew was unable to locate MacLaughlin,
finally being forced to leave due to enemy ground fire. The next day a
similar effort located MacLaughlin’s body, but was again unable to retrieve
him or any of his Skyhawk due to enemy fire. There was evidence that people
had been around the “blood-stained wreckage,” and speculation that the pilot
survived, the South Vietnamese carrying him away. His loss was considered the
“result of direct enemy action.”
The first big strike of the New Year 1966 came when 116 aircraft from
Enterprise, Hancock and Ticonderoga flew sorties against VC targets in all
four Corps areas in South Vietnam, on 8 January. “Suspected” troop
concentrations and storage areas were hit in successive runs, FACs reporting
97 structures destroyed and 94 damaged, all aircraft returning safely.
Gale Force 713, an A-4C (BuNo 147753), flown by Lieutenant (jg) Stephen B.
Jordan, VA-36, was on an armed reconnaissance mission as part of a Steel
Tiger strike against a Laotian bridge, on 14 January 1966. Obscured by “heavy
jungle,” the bridge was difficult to adequately locate and identify from the
air and Jordan made four runs over the target before locating it on his fifth
pass. Making an estimated 20º dive, 800 feet above ground level at 325 KIAS,
Jordan pickled once to drop one retarded MK-82 Snakeye bomb. Other flight
members reported that one bomb did impact the normal distance astern almost upon
recovery, a large cloud of dust and smoke appeared around Jordan’s Skyhawk.
Apparently, Jordan pickle released three-bombs, but though initiating a
standard recovery, the pilot “felt three mild bumps and experienced a
moderate mushing sensation.” Passing over the target, Jordan experienced
further settling and his A-4 contacted treetops beyond the bridge, beginning
to heavily stream fuel. His flight leader assessed Jordan’s damage, including
the loss of approximately one foot of each wing tip, together with damage to
the main landing gear and to the ailerons, the latter “vibrating rapidly.” An
A-3 rendezvoused with him for refueling en route to a divert to Da Nang Air
Base (AB), South Vietnam.
Meanwhile, Bainbridge’s CIC received Jordan’s emergency IFF signal and it was
arranged that the pilot would rendezvous with Bainbridge if possible, before
bailing out. However, unable to jettison his remaining MK-82 or to lower his
port main landing gear, Jordan elected to proceed toward Enterprise and eject
near the ship. The wind was 090º, 15 knots, and the air and water temperature
were both 75º. The sea was calm, with wave height estimated at no more than
two feet. Jordan ejected approximately 10 NM from Enterprise, while at 10,000
feet and 150 knots, at 1649. By the time he entered the water and deployed
his raft, Kittyhawk Angel, a UH-2A (BuNo 149769) Lieutenant James H. Biestek,
HC-1 Det M, pilot, the plane guard, raced to the scene. However, as the helo
crew attempted to recover the downed pilot, Jordan’s parachute shroud lines
were drawn-up into the Seasprite’s rotor blades, entangling Jordan’s legs.
Following several tense moments, the helo crew lowered Jordan back into the
water, a crewman leaping in to assist the dazed pilot, exhausted from his
ordeal. The crewman was able to cut Jordan free and the pilot was lifted-up
to safety at 1658, Jordan later noting that he believed the helo approached
so rapidly that he and his raft (which he had not fully entered) were blown
back into the parachute before it sank. Bainbridge later recovered the gear
adrift in the water and the raft.
Enterprise left the line after 45-continuous days of combat the next day,
CVW-9 having flown 4,242 combat sorties. Her “weary crew” headed to Subic
Bay, Philippines, holding memorial services for those lost in action while en
route, before arriving at Subic Bay, mooring to Leyte Pier, NAS Cubi Point,
on the 17th.
The seven days in port were “uneventful,” except for a meeting of the U.S.
and Philippine Mutual Defense Board, led by Rear Admiral Jack P. Monroe,
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Philippines, Major General J.W. Wilson, 13th
Air Force and General Rigoberto J. Atienza, General of the Armed Forces of
the Philippines, on 19 January.
After a week of rest and recuperation for her officers and men, Enterprise
steamed to Hong Kong, anchoring off Victoria Island for a six day visit, 26
January–1 February 1966. Among the sites visited by sailors in Hong Kong was
the Tiger Balm Gardens, while some men also “lent their efforts” in support of
the St. John’s Children’s Welfare Center.
On 28 January 1966, Enterprise held a reception including a buffet, colors
ceremony and displays, for distinguished visitors. Enterprise was “given a
rough treatment” by Chinese communist newspapers, especially following a
routine press conference presented by Rear Admiral Miller and Captain
Holloway on that date, the Peking International News commenting that “U.S.
imperialism has recklessly engaged in war intimidation and provocation by
showing off its “strength” in Hong Kong.” During this deployment, the British
colony was the only foreign port to receive the ship besides Subic Bay.
Soviet intelligence-gathering vessels (AGIs) constantly bedeviled U.S. ships,
following tracks and maneuvering so aggressively in their efforts to collect
material as to often impede operations, producing navigational hazards. One
such Russian “eavesdropper” in the Gulf of Tonkin began to plague Enterprise,
but Captain Holloway ordered the ship up to flank speed on a collision course,
afterward recalling that the AGI “got the hell out of the way.”
Beginning on the morning of 3 February 1966, however, Enterprise and
Bainbridge were followed by a “playmate,” Soviet AGI KO2-1399, whom they
affectionately dubbed Ivan. To deal with KO2-1399’s “somewhat troublesome but
not insurmountable… antics” fleet tug Molala (ATF-106) received orders to
“spy on the spy.” The formation was revised, Enterprise taking the lead,
followed by Bainbridge, in turn shadowed by Ivan, in turn “sleuthed” by Molala,
the latter conducting “shouldering and blocking tactics.”
Returning to Dixie Station in company with Bainbridge, Hawkins and Samuel B.
Roberts on 4 February 1966, Enterprise unleashed her aircraft against VC
“strongholds” in II, III and IV Corps in support of Operation Kick Quick IV,
9–10 February, which were “hammered.” About 100 buildings in “camouflaged
enemy buildup areas” were destroyed.
On the 11th, Enterprise moved up to Yankee Station, beginning armed
reconnaissance and interdiction attacks against VC supply lines in the north
two days later. Aircraft from the “Big E” and “Tico” struck “several” roads
north of the 17th Parallel, 13–14 February. The next day, her aircraft flew
16 missions against supply areas and bridges, including the Dong Ngam Shipyard,
and a highway bridge at Loc Diem. Operations continued throughout the month,
but “constantly overcast monsoon skies” prohibited large scale strikes.
On 16 February 1966, Rear Admiral Thomas J. Walker relieved Rear Admiral
Miller as ComCarDiv-3 and Commander, Enterprise TG. During his farewell
remarks, Rear. Admiral Miller praised the crew, presenting air medals to over
100 pilots and flight officers, noting that “…arduous work, almost
unbelievably long hours and combat environment have become a way of life that
all hands have taken in stride. Their performance has been superb in every
During February, the carrier rendezvoused with Bainbridge and fast combat
support ship Sacramento (AOE-1), the crew of the latter transferring 327 tons
of supplies to Enterprise and Bainbridge in barely 24 hours, a taxing
On 18 February 1966, Silver Kite 201, an F-4B, BuNo. 152297, Lieutenant (jg)
James T. Ruffin, pilot, and Lieutenant (jg) Larry H. Spencer, RIO, VF-92,
launched as the wingman of a two-plane section on a Big Look CAP mission.
Ruffin and Spencer reported radar, TACAN and compass malfunctions, losing
sight of their escort due to dense haze, while under control of guided
missile destroyer Joseph Strauss (DDG-16), who last held the Phantom II on
radar 14 miles north of Hon Me Island, at 19º39’N, 106º04’E, at 1350. The
flight leader instructed 201 to squawk emergency IFF, which was detected by a
SAR destroyer at 19º39’N, 106º50’E, “an area of high SAM threat.” Four A-4s
from Enterprise conducted a “low altitude air to surface search” but failed
to locate any trace of 201, being joined by aircraft from Kitty Hawk. Low
overcast, fog and poor visibility hampered search efforts. The F-4 was shot
down in the vicinity of Thanh Hoa, Spencer being taken by the North
Vietnamese after he hit the water following ejection. The pilot was unable to
escape his captors, “many junks and small boats” being observed in the area.
A Chinese communist correspondent gloatingly described Spencer’s capture: “The
Army and people of Thanh Hoa Province neatly brought down an invading U.S.
aircraft and captured its American flier yesterday,” continuing by describing
how 201 “was hit and burst into flames by the fierce barrage of antiaircraft
fire,” local militiamen taking “the American bandit alive.” The spiteful
communist propaganda was nonetheless accurate, as Ruffin did not survive, his
remains being returned to the U.S. on 3 June 1983, and identified on the
27th. Spencer, captured, did not see home again until 12 February 1973.
Strikes were run on the Bai Thuong Barracks near Thanh Hoa, and a storage
area near Vinh, on 20 February 1966. Three days later, Enterprise and Kitty
Hawk sent 108 sorties against enemy troop concentration, storage and supply
areas south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
Enterprise came about from Yankee Station for NAS Cubi Point later that day,
arriving at Subic Bay on 25 February 1966. Astronaut Captain Walter M.
“Wally” Schirra, Jr., and his wife, “special emissaries of the President,”
visited on 6 March. Five days later, Ferdinand E. Marcos, newly elected
president of the Philippines, and staff was piped on board by sideboys,
greeted by a 21 gun salute and Vice Admiral John J. Hyland, Com7thFlt.
President Marcos inspected aircraft and spaces, before departing by helo.
Enterprise stood out the next morning for Taiwanese waters for Operation Blue
Sky, a joint “special” AD exercise with the Nationalist Chinese. But at 0530
on the 14th, Bainbridge’s collision alarm sounded as Japanese Nippon Yusen
Kaisha tanker Tamba Maru headed on a collision course with the formation, in
clear violation of international rules of the road. Only “deft maneuvering”
by Bainbridge averted a collision; Tamba Maru continued on without yielding
the right of way.
Six hours later, Enterprise launched her aircraft for the demonstration. Vice
Admiral Hyland welcomed a party led by Generalissimo and Madame Chiang
Kai-Shek, who arrived on board from Taipei via an HC-1 Det M helo. “They are
more than trained or skilled, they are performing miracles,” observed the
Generalissimo regarding the ship’s pilots during the air show, adding that he
would remember his visit “with pleasure.”
However, rounding out an eventful day, just before sunset at 1723, at
23º49’2”N, 122º29”E, both ships felt a sudden jar, Bainbridge hauling out to
starboard. The origin of the jarring was “mysterious and later evaluated to
be of seismic origin,” an aftershock resulting from a magnitude 8.00
earthquake that struck at 1631 on the 12th, at 24º20’N, 122º60”E.
Following the exercise and a reception for the Taiwanese delegation on board
Enterprise, she returned “quickly” to Yankee Station to resume interdiction
strikes on 16 March 1966, though the monsoon was “at its peak, impeding many
scheduled strikes with rain, low foggy ceiling and thunderstorms.”
Hoboken 401, an A-4C, BuNo. 147740, Lieutenant (jg) Frederick C. Baldock,
Jr., VA-94, was section leader of an armed reconnaissance mission over North
Vietnam, on 17 March 1966. Following an attack on a target, Baldock was last
seen at 1453, executing evasive maneuvers “in an area of intense
anti-aircraft and surface to air missile defense.” The section leader, 404,
had ALQ-51 lock-on, and three minutes later “missiles away” was overheard on
the radio, though the caller was not identified. Although no one in the air
saw 401 go down, two Enterprise A-4Cs heard a beeper, while three other A-4Cs
in the area noted a column of white smoke at 18º34’N, 105º47’E. Crown Alpha
sped to the area for a CSAR, and A-1s flew toward a RESCAP area off the
coast, however, no trace of Baldock and his Skyhawk were located, though he
was tentatively identified as lost over the area of 18º37’N, 105º48’E.
Baldock was captured, destined not to return to the U.S. until 12 February
Gale Force 703, an A-4C, BuNo. 148313, Commander James A. Mulligan, VA-36,
launched as “number one” in a division of three aircraft on an armed
reconnaissance mission, on 20 March. Attacking traffic on a road, the flight
began receiving “intense anti-aircraft and automatic weapons fire commencing
at pull up.” Mulligan’s Skyhawk was hit while at approximately 2,000 feet and
began streaming smoke, fire and fuel from the vicinity of his aft engine
compartment. The strike was aborted, the flight beginning to climb up to
extinguish the fire, Mulligan also jettisoning a MK 83 from his starboard
wing station, but unable to do so with a hung MK 83 on his port wing station.
At approximately 10,000 feet, an explosion was observed in the vicinity of
the forward engine compartment, 703 rolling 360º to the left. Mulligan
leveled his wings “momentarily,” transmitting and then ejecting, slightly
nose down, while at 275 KIAS. Mulligan hit the ground in a marshy area,
around 18º28’N, 105º50’E, but apparently lay unconscious for upward of nine
minutes, failing to regain consciousness in time to escape capture by
six–seven North Vietnamese who arrived and carried him off. The two remaining
Skyhawks in the flight made strafing runs with their 20 mm guns in a vain
attempt to protect the pilot and to provide cover for a possible rescue, but
were unsuccessful. Mulligan did not see freedom again until his return to the
U.S. on 12 February 1973.
Also on the 20th, Silver Kite 202, an F-4B (BuNo 151410), Lieutenant Jmes S.
Greenwood, pilot, and Lieutenant (jg) Richard R. Ratzlaff, RIO, VF-92, was
conducting an armed reconnaissance as part of a strike against targets near
the Vinh Luu Bridge, 40 miles south of Vinh, North Vietnam. Accompanying 202
was Silver Kite 210, another squadron Phantom II. Both aircraft approached
the target from barely 100 feet from the west, receiving heavy AAA. Both jets
were hit “immediately after bomb release,” at about 1745. The crew of Silver
Kite 210 extinguished their fire by reducing power, returning to Enterprise.
Silver Kite 202, however, developed fires in both engines, Greenwood losing
control within two minutes. The aircraft pitched nose down and Greenwood
instructed Ratzlaff to eject. When they ejected, they were 20º nose down,
flying about 250 KIAS, between 6,000–7,000 feet, above low coastal clouds and
at approximately 18º20’N, 106º17’E. Greenwood afterward explained his
intention to remain with the plane as long as possible in an effort to get
well out over the Gulf of Tonkin when they bailed out, as the low cloud cover
prevented him from seeing whether they were over land or water. Greenwood,
whose legs “seemed numb” from tight straps attached to his leg restraints and
bleeding from a laceration to his head, hit the water about three miles out,
but Ratzlaff went in barely 100 yards from the beach. There were 15–20 junks
and sampans in the vicinity, as well as numerous people ashore who ran out to
the water’s edge toward the RIO. Greenwood afterward noted “Just before I hit
the water, I noticed one enemy junk about two miles north of us, and many
people gathering near the beach near the point where my RIO was descending. I
considered him too close to the beach to even think of an attempt to swim for
open water…”, noting armed men putting to sea in junks and sampans. Ratzlaff
stood little chance against such a horde and was captured, not being released
until 12 February 1973.
Observing the fate of his backseater, Greenwood justifiably hesitated to draw
attention to himself by inflating his flotation gear, waiting 10 minutes
until he spotted Crown Bravo, a USAF Grumman HU-16 Albatross flying search
patterns. It was now late in the day, and in the gloom of the overcast,
Greenwood proved difficult to spot in the water. The downed pilot fired a pencil
flare to alert the Albatross’ crew, but was immediately alerted by gunfire
from behind. Turning around, he was stunned to see a boat approaching him,
barely 500 yards off and closing rapidly, her occupants intent on finishing
Each time that Greenwood fired a flare, the North Vietnamese on board the
vessel, estimated at about 10 men and a woman, with at least two riflemen and
a gunner with an automatic weapon, opened up on him, but with the gathering
darkness rendering spotting him by the rescuers difficult, his options were
understandably limited. The crew of the Albatross made a pass over the junk,
exchanging automatic fire with the North Vietnamese and when the latter, by
now barely 100 yards away, continued toward Greenwood, following it up with a
second pass, dropping two empty fuel tanks, “narrowly” missing the boat.
Although the Albatross was hit, the pilot expressing doubt that he could land
due to impact holes in the fuselage, the men were undaunted, refusing to
leave the downed pilot until the RESCAP arrived, also dropping an orange
flare to mark Greenwood.
Enterprise was monitoring the entire battle on her radar and radios, doing
everything possible to effect the rescue. Overpass 004, an E-1B Tracer,
vectored Hoboken 402 and 410, a pair of A-4Cs, as RESCAP, together with
diverting Raven 05 and PND 306, another Skyhawk flight. Both flights hurtled
in, making strafing and rocket runs on the junk, causing about half of the
North Vietnamese on board to jump overboard, but the other half bravely
returned fire at the Skyhawks.
Guided missile frigate Worden (DLG-18) had meanwhile launched Clementine
Angel, her UH-2B, Lieutenant Commander David J. McCracken, Ensign Robert H.
Clark, Jr., Chief Davis and AMH2 G.E. McCormack, HC-1 Det 5 Froggy Five.
Clementine Angel was in contact with the Albatross crew, who told them to
hurry, as “enemy junks were closing in on the downed pilot,” and at
approximately 1830 the helo arrived on the scene. Two sampans turned and also
began closing in.
McCracken later reflected upon their close call. “I flew toward what I
thought was the flare, got too close to some junks near the beach, and they
opened fire on me. The smoke I saw wasn’t from the marker flare, however, but
from a burning belly tank.”
Immediately appreciating the dire situation, McCracken made a firing pass
from 50 feet above the junk, enabling McCormack to return fire with the M-60,
causing more North Vietnamese to jump, apparently killing at least one man.
The firefight was so intense that Clark lent a hand with an M-1 Thompson sub
machinegun, almost simultaneously spotting Greenwood in the water.
However, mortar and machine gun fire from shore now erupted around the scene.
Clementine Angel hovered over Greenwood, lowering a horsecollar sling that the
pilot gratefully grabbed “in a death grip,” and returned to Worden. But as
they were doing so, mortar rounds straddled the helo, the splash of the first
round lifting the Seasprite’s tail and putting it into forward motion,
McCracken later noting that “Getting out of there was my intention anyway–but
not in so violent a maneuver!”
Greenwood, who spent upward of an hour in the guided missile frigate’s sick
bay in shock and another two–three hours recovering, had been in the water
for almost 40 minutes.
Hoboken 411, an A-4C (BuNo 148499) Lieutenant Commander John M. Tiderman, and
Hoboken 406, another A-4C (BuNo 148515), Lieutenant Frank R. Compton, VA-94,
both launched as a SARCAP, on 21 March 1966. By the time they reached a point
approximately five–ten miles off Cap Mui Ron, the ceiling was 100 feet, with
thin scattered clouds up to 2,000. During the letdown from 18,000–1,000 feet,
the number two man on the starboard side overran the lead aircraft, reducing
power and repositioning himself “in a normal three plane, trail formation.”
Thus “there was some degree of maneuvering for position at the time of the
Hoboken 400, flight leader, was leveling off at 800–1,000 feet and the flight
was in and out of the cloud tops, indicating the three aircraft did not have
visual reference to one another at all times. Suddenly he saw a bright flash
in his rear view mirror and lost visual and voice contact with 411 and 406,
which probably collided. At 1010, however, while encountering low stratus
clouds with tops at 800–1,000 feet, the pilot and RIO of Showtime 613,
another F-4B, both saw a SAM off the coast, arching upward at high speed,
heading 090º at 1,000 feet. Their initial sighting was a “plume of smoke” and
then a “black pencil shaped object” leveling off. Flare 103, an RA-5C, also
spotted the contrail but not the SAM itself.
“Missile sighting and loss of Hoboken 411 and 406 correlate in time and
position” was one speculative analysis. In addition, Hoboken leader reported
two indications of his ALQ-51 light on briefly, and the general consensus was
of an SA-2 launching. Raven 302, flight leader of a reconnaissance mission,
together with Crowns Alfa and Bravo, Electron 502, Clementine helo and
Fetches 53 and 54, two SH-3Ws, were all diverted to assist with the CSAR.
Though visibility was poor at the scene, helmets, a lifejacket and similar
gear were recovered, their close proximity negating the possibility of
successful ejections, reducing the likelihood of anyone surviving. Neither
man was ever recovered.
Sun Glass 502, an A-4C (BuNo 148444) Lieutenant (jg) Bradley E. Smith, VA-76,
launched as the leader’s wingman in a three plane flight on an armed
reconnaissance over North Vietnam, on 25 March. The visibility near the coast
was four–five miles in haze, no cloud cover. Spotting a ferry slip at Quang
Khe highway ferry, near a river mouth approximately one mile inland, the
leader directed 502 to make a 20º Snakeye run on it. Prior to roll in, the
number three Skyhawk observed Smith over the water at around 3,000 feet, in a
right turn, at 0805. However, no explosion or impact, or bomb detonations
were noted, but as 502 failed to appear for the flight’s rendezvous, a CSAR
No less than 11 aircraft from Enterprise and Ticonderoga including a pair of
A-4s for RESCAP, an HU-16 and destroyer Agerholm (DD-826) and Worden searched
for hours, but no trace of Smith or his Skyhawk was discovered, nor any
beeper heard. The North Vietnamese, however, announced the capture of “a
pilot in the vicinity of Quang Binh City” on the same morning; Smith did not
return to the U.S. until 12 February 1973.
From 2 December 1965–31 March 1966, Enterprise’s aircraft flew 7,598 strike
sorties into both North and South Vietnam. As March passed into April, the
weather remained unpredictable and enemy fire “intensive.” When the ship
suffered casualties, they came in “isolated bunches, with sudden shock by all
On 1 April 1966, Hollygreen 112, an A-3B (BuNo 142665), Commander William R.
Grayson, pilot, det OIC, Lieutenant (jg) William F. Kohlrusch,
bombardier/navigator and ADJ1 Melvin T. Krech, crewman/navigator, VAH-4 Det
M, was on No. 1 Catapult preparing to launch for a daylight tanker mission in
support of strike aircraft while Enterprise was steaming in the South China
Sea. Suddenly, the Skywarrior’s nose wheel was observed to collapse aft and
the nose settled to the deck. A catapult end speed of 350 knots was recorded,
indicating “the aircraft became disengaged from the catapult.” The A-3
immediately dropped off the bow, though the airspeed was considered adequate
for the crew to attain “level attitude” prior to hitting the water nose down.
Tragically, the crew could neither deploy their parachutes nor survive the
impact. The structural failure was suspected of causing the aircraft and the
catapult “to become disengaged” at a time that prevented the Skywarrior from
“obtaining flying speed.”
Two days later, on 3 April 1966, the crew took a brief break to be
entertained by comedian Danny Kaye [David D. Kaminsky] and songstress Vikki
Carr [Florencia B. de C. M. Cardona]. Their show was “sandwiched into the
operation schedule at 0800,” permitting off duty crewmembers to gather in the
hanger bay for the 45 minute show.
At dawn on 4 April 1966, aircraft from Enterprise “dove out of the haze to
bomb an enemy supply center at the hub city of Vinh.” For almost a week, the
ship’s embarked aircraft “hurled destruction” at the communists, and “only
smoking rubble remained when they streaked away on the last run.” Among those
on board to witness the strikes were six members of the House Armed Services
Subcommittee, led by Deputy Secretary of Defense Cyrus R. Vance, as well as
her first skipper, Rear Admiral de Poix.
Retiring from the line on 12 April 1966, Enterprise came about for Subic Bay.
While in transit she received a distress call regarding a C-1A, BuNo. 146050,
Lieutenant Commander Clayton P. Mays, pilot, and three crewmembers, VAH-4,
Hancock that went down in a storm near China while crossing the South China
Sea en route from NAS Cubi Point to Kitty Hawk. Enterprise supported Hannah
by sending out 90 SAR missions over the next 24 hours, but neither men nor
machine were recovered.
Rear Admiral David C. Richardson relieved Rear Admiral Walker as Commander TF
77.7, on 14 April 1966. Enterprise arrived at Subic Bay the next day for a
brief stay, before standing out again on the 20th.
U.S. air strikes against VC “supply arteries” gradually eroded North
Vietnamese ability to move large convoys over roads, and they enemy began
substituting with waterborne shipping, meaning that CVW-9 “found itself with
an increasing responsibility against junk, sampan, and barge traffic
throughout Vietnam’s complex waterway system.” Strikes between 22–28 April
1966 thus concentrated upon these routes.
British, Australian and Japanese media representatives visited the carrier on
24 April 1966. Two days later aircraft from Enterprise flew a “massive raid”
on the railroads connecting Thanh Hoa with Vinh, “causing virtual disruption
of these lines of communication.”
Enterprise celebrated her 60,000 arrested landing, on 28 April 1966; she then
steamed south for Dixie Station, operating there against “the heavily
infested Mekong Delta” during 29 April–7 May 1966, before returning to Yankee
Station from the 8th–15th. The 29th of April marked the ship’s 100th
(non-consecutive) day of combat; the next day, Lieutenant Commander Walter S.
Gray had the honor of flying the ship’s 10,000th strike.
During the first half of May, the “bank of haze that had hampered air
operations since March, lay like a thick curtain over North Vietnam from Vinh
to the Chinese border and little could be accomplished.” The ship returned to
Yankee Station on 8 May 1966, launching interdiction strikes.
Coming about for NAS Cubi Point on 15 May 1966, Enterprise had barely arrived
before Typhoon Irma compelled her exit. Cruising along the Filipino coast for
three days (18-20 May), she rode out the typhoon before anchoring in Manila
Bay, 20–21 May. The next day, Enterprise stopped in Subic Bay to pick up
almost 300 crewmembers stranded by Irma before returning to Yankee Station to
resume strikes against the enemy, 22 May–5 June.
Early on the morning of 23 May 1966, Gale Force 712, an A-4C (BuNo 147762),
piloted by Ensign Karl W. “Butch” Leuffen, VA-36, participated in an armed
reconnaissance mission over Route Package 005, North Vietnam. Leuffen was
part of a five hour flight by three Skyhawks against Dong Khe Railroad
Bridge. The terrain, considered “flat,” was not a problem, however, the
ceiling was at 7,000 feet, overcast, with visibility at six NM, but during
the pre-brief it was revealed that a flight had located a “target of
opportunity” through the overcast. The Skyhawks made three passes over the
bridge, encountering “light” but “accurate” AAA, identified as 37 mm guns,
barely a minute into their runs, though claiming “all ordnance on target.”
During their third pass from a 30º dive angle from approximately 2,800 feet,
while flying around 400 KIAS, at 0305, Leuffen felt “a thump during target
run in.” Releasing his ordnance, he recovered at 2,500 feet. Butch Leuffen’s
Skyhawk began streaming fuel, the pilot noting a rapid loss of oil pressure.
Refueling from an A-4 tanker, he began heading back toward Enterprise, but
had no sooner reached the ship, beginning his landing approach from the 180º
position when he heard “loud scrapping noises,” and commenced losing
altitude. The pilot’s engine seized, forcing him to eject, at 18º15’N,
107º10’E, noting as he did so that his fuel bypass light was lit. Hitting the
water and sinking almost two feet before resurfacing, he was quickly
recovered by the ship’s plane guard UH-2A, HC-1. Leuffen felt survival was
due to “his ability to position himself prior to departing the aircraft.”
HC-1 Det 5 transferred from Worden to the “Big E”, on 5 June.
The communists were “moving even more…supply traffic over the water routes,”
and aircraft from Enterprise “inflicted heavy damage” to the port facilities
at Ben Thuy, on 28 May 1966. Enterprise launched “a large air armada” on the
Ben Thuy port facilities, which had taken over “a great deal of Vinh
traffic,” on 28 May, the “raid termed a large success.” Over a two day period
in May, VA-93 dropped seven North Vietnamese highway and railroad bridges,
earning the Blue Blazers the additional nickname of “Bridge Busters.”
Three days later Enterprise launched “one of the major strikes of the war” to
date, against the military complex at Nam Dinh, including a railroad yard and
a POL storage center, in the Red River region of North Vietnam. Six missions
blasted the facilities there, causing “massive destruction to its supply
The Nam Dinh area was heavily defended by both AAA, including 37, 57 and 85
mm guns, and by SA-2 SAMs. Attacking aircraft were greeted by a veritable
barrage of fire, yet pilots persevered, completing their runs. The flat
terrain aided visual identification from the air, and the ceiling was at
10,000 feet with broken clouds.
One flight of four F-4B Phantom IIs from VF-92 dropped a total of 31 MK 82
Low Drag General Purpose bombs on five separate AAA sites, each comprising up
to six guns, the first two and the fourth consisting of 85 mm batteries, and
the third of 37s. The Phantom IIs were over the guns between 1025–1028,
noting “no firing following attack,” though a previously unidentified 85 mm
battery at the fifth site surprised aircrews, continuing to fire till the
flight was “well clear of the area.”
Another flight of four Skyhawks from VA-93 blasted the railroad yard, destroying
as many as 10 boxcars, as well as damaging an “unknown number” of others,
together with some buildings, with 52 MK 81s.North Vietnamese AAA opened up
as the flight entered the target area, bursting at 7,000–10,000 feet, then
shifting fire to below the Skyhawks, which were coming in around 8,000 feet
at approximately 450 KIAS, then shifting to above them, then “right on,”
tracking. The pilots described the fire as “heavy and accurate,” believing it
to be radar controlled. One A-4C, BuNo. 147834, was struck a “glancing blow”
in its port wing by an 85 mm fragment, at 1024, recovering and returning to
Four more Skyhawks from VA-76 plastered nearby port facilities with 58 MK
81s, destroying “at least” six buildings and damaging “many others,” the pilots
observing “numerous” secondary explosions. However, the enemy started firing
while the A-4Cs were almost 5 NM from the target area, white, black and grey
AAA bursts being “seen at all altitudes below 10,000 feet.”
In addition, shortly after departing the target area the flight leader saw a
contrail and then an “orange-white burst,” at about 1029. An aircraft in
another “flight had a singer tone but did not see the SAM.” Although the
Skyhawks in this strike were similarly equipped, they had “no warning,” and a
“SAM red call” was not heard until after crossing the coast outbound
following the strike.
While the other aircraft were hitting Nam Dinh, a coastal reconnaissance
mission by a pair of VA-36 Skyhawks spotted eight cargo junks operating
suspiciously, sinking one with six MK 81s, between 1045–1100, at 20º17’N,
106º34’E, the pilots making runs 30 seconds apart.
Around 1100, the enemy fired a salvo of three SA-2s at the aircraft, while
the pilots were flying between 500–1,000 feet. The first missile passed ahead
of the Skyhawks, the second passed above them, and the third detonated above
the pilots, at 20º15’N, 106º36’E. The missiles burst within 150–200 feet of
the A-4Cs, which dived at least 100 feet to avoid the SAMs.
Former boxing champion Archie Moore [Archibald L. Wright], came on board
Enterprise on 2 June 1966, showing the crew movies of his championship boxing
exploits that spanned half a century.
On 5 June 1966, many of the “crew watched with relief as the last launch
nosed onto the angle deck.” After pulling off the line and discharging her
remaining ordnance and combat material at Subic Bay, Enterprise and
Bainbridge finally left for their new homeports on 9 June, CVW-9 aircraft
intercepting and escorting over the ships four Soviet Bears (Bears oddly
appropriate in view of their California destinations), on the 14th, the ships
crossing the IDL the next day and inchopping to Com1stFlt, on 19 June 1966.
Bainbridge detached from the carrier four days later to proceed independently
to Long Beach Naval Shipyard, while the carrier returned to NAS Alameda.
Newscasters began arriving on board Enterprise on 19 June 1966, and the crew
held an improvised end of cruise party on the 20th.
The next day, 21 June 1966, “the Golden Gate Bridge appeared through the
morning haze.” Sliding “through the mist” beneath the bridge the ship was
welcomed by one of the largest celebrations given a vessel entering the bay
Traffic backed up on the bridge approaches for miles as crowds of “cheering
people with streamers and signs leaned out over the rails of the Golden
Gate.” Whistles sounded and fireboats shot water geysers skyward as the ship
steamed into the bay, mooring at NAS Alameda, city officials dedicating the
day in honor of the ship. More than a third of the crew went on leave, the
remainder taking advantage of “the tremendously warm welcome” extended to
them by the people of the area, with San Francisco, Oakland and Alameda
proclaiming 21 June as “Big E Day.”
CVW-9 flew 20,076 sorties, 13,020 combat, 2 December 1965–5 June 1966, the
wing proudly claiming that “the queen of the seas was married to the king of
the air wings,” made 19,131 catapult launches and 18,142 arrested landings,
dropped 8,966 tons of ordnance, performed six helo rescues and spent 120 days
on the line.
Enterprise remained in the San Francisco-Oakland Bay area throughout the
summer and fall for ship’s maintenance and refresher training, being visited
by a party led by the Consul General of India, on 28 June. Enterprise moved across
the bay into San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard, Hunters Point, beginning a
period of repair and “routine maintenance,” and to “establish a base of
operations at her homeport,” 30 June–2 September 1966.
Workers at the shipyard put in 60,000 man days in barely two months on the
ship, principally concerned with five major projects: major repairs to all
four catapults; installation of an RIM-7E Basic Point Defense Missile System
(BPDMS) Sea Sparrow III launcher on the port quarter for AD; modification of all
aviation electronic shops to handle the electronic gear on E-2As and A-6s;
modification of communications spaces; and “ship painting and cleaning.”
While there Enterprise was visited by Vice Admiral Rickover, Mayor John F.
Shelley, San Francisco, and Archie Moore, the boxing champion’s second visit.
On 27 August, she was opened to over 2,400 shipyard workers and their
The carrier held a “fast cruise” for a day and a half checking out the new
systems before returning to Alameda, 2–6 September 1966. From then through
the end of the month, Enterprise conducted Carrier qualifications and
training exercises, preparing for her next deployment to Vietnamese waters.
During the first of two separate underway periods for Carrier qualifications
and crew familiarization, (6–10 and 12–16 September 1966), the crew received
a party of 14 prominent business and civic leaders, guests of the Secretary
of the Navy, and during the weekend between the two cruises, Admiral James S.
Russell (Ret.) visited the carrier.
During 10 days of “minor touching up” at San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard,
Hunters Point, CVW-9, comprising VA-35 (A-6As), VA-56 and VA-113 (A-4Cs),
VF-92 and VF-96 (F-4Bs), RVAH-7 (RA-5Cs), VAW-13 Det 65 (EA-1Fs), VAH-2 Det M
(A-3Bs) and HC-1 Det 65 (UH-2A/Bs), reported on board. Also on board at
various times were VQ-1 (EA-3Bs) and Heavy Photographic Squadron (VAP)-61
(RA-3Bs). In addition, VAW-112 (E-2As) would later be established at sea
while on board Enterprise in the Gulf of Tonkin, on 20 April 1967.
Meanwhile, Enterprise sailed down the coast for additional training,
including test firing her Sea Sparrow missiles, on 26 September 1966. The
ship returned for two days early on 28 September, to “check out her arresting
gear.” Anchoring for the night, she moored at San Francisco Bay Naval
Shipyard, Hunters Point, the next day.
The ship conducted additional drills and air exercises (3–12 October 1966), a
period punctuated by tragedy. At 2215 on that day, Flare 102, an RA-5C
Vigilante (BuNo 149288), Lieutenant John K. Sutor, pilot, and Lieutenant (jg)
Peter C. Carrothers, radar navigator, RVAH-7, launched from Enterprise on a
night reconnaissance mission. Flare 102 climbed to 21,500 feet and returned
overhead to attempt to rendezvous with Folder III, the KA-3B duty tanker
(BuNo 147650), Lieutenant Deighton A. Hunt, pilot, Ensign Carroll L. Gibson,
bombardier/navigator, and AO1 Melvin F. Colby, crewman/navigator, attached to
VAH-2 Det M, for inflight refueling practice. Enterprise advised Flare 102 that
they were “experiencing difficulty” contacting Folder 111, requesting that
the Vigilante connect with the tanker. The two aircraft rendezvoused, Sutor
joining Hunt on his starboard wing. At 2315, Flare 102 assumed the lead and
was vectored to the marshal point. A section penetration was initiated at
2331. The aircraft each entered the overcast at 1,700 feet, 10 NM astern of
the ship, transitioning to level flight at 1,200 feet, 175 KIAS. During the
transition to the landing configuration at approximately 2352, at the
eight-mile rate, in straight and level flight, they collided, Folder 111
“apparently” striking the Vigilante on the starboard side. Flare 102 rolled
to the left in a “nose down” attitude, Sutor shouting to Carrothers to
“eject!” Both men were rescued by one of the carrier’s helos and returned to
Enterprise, but an “immediate and thorough” search and rescue (SAR) by
aircraft from NAS North Island, backed-up by the Coast Guard, failed to
locate any survivors from Folder 111.
Enterprise returned to NAS Alameda to prepare for Operation Base Line Two, a
major 1st Fleet exercise giving “battle readiness testing to ships facing
deployment in the Far East.” A region of Southern California Special
Operations Area (The southern California operating area) was “roped off” to
create an area with features approximating those of Yankee Station off North
As Enterprise entered the “hostile sea,” she test fired the missile system,
also being subjected to simulated attacks by submarines, motor torpedo boats
and aircraft. On 17 October 1966, Vice Admiral Bernard F. Roeder, Com1stFlt,
came on board to observe operations.
However, teeth sheered off from a pinion, putting out of action one of the
reduction gears of the ship’s propulsion system, this and “minor repairs to
the catapults” forcing her to put into San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard,
Hunters Point, 21–31 October.
The ship stood out for a week of carquals for A-3s, F-4s, E-2s and C-2s, 31
October–4 November. On 5 November, a dependents cruise was held, an aerial
display being performed. Preparing for their impending cruise, VAH-2 Det M
departed NAS Whidbey Island, Wash., for the carrier, on 8 November.
Deploying for WestPac at 1000 on 19 November 1966, a “typically cold, rainy
and grey” day, Enterprise passed beneath a small group of well wishers
gathered on the Golden Gate Bridge and “churned on through the drizzle”
Hawaii-bound. Assigned to CVW-9 were 79 aircraft: 24 Phantom IIs, 28
Skyhawks, six Vigilantes, nine Intruders, five Skywarriors, four Hawkeyes and
Steaming to Hawaii in five days, Enterprise encountered seas and winds that
“were quite high at first,” though calmer weather prevailed as she neared
Hawaiian waters, postponing her continued westward sailing to give the crew a
brief respite by visiting Pearl Harbor, on 23 November 1966. Subsequently,
she completed her ORI, the crew “scurrying to general quarters, at odd times
during the day and in the middle of the night.” Lieutenant Governor Andrew
T.F. Ing presented Captain Holloway with a state proclamation issued by
Governor John A. Burns, declaring “Enterprise Day,” while local newspapers
ran stories heralding the arrival of “a new Enterprise,” referring to the
ship’s famous WWII predecessor.
Some 20,000 “curious citizens jammed the pier” to visit the carrier that
Sunday, but only four hours were allotted for the visitors and the influx
proved so unexpected that by the end of visiting hours at 1600, many
thousands still had not been able to come on board and the crew reluctantly
turned many away. Ten remaining plankowners still served on board, taking
advantage of the occasion to celebrate the ship’s fifth anniversary.
The carrier slipped from her berth the following Monday, heading out from
Oahu on her westerly course into WestPac accompanied by Bainbridge,
destroyers Turner Joy (DD-951) and McKean (DD-784) and guided missile frigate
Gridley (DLG-21), inchopping into 7th Fleet on 3 December 1966. Shortly
thereafter she came within range of Soviet reconnaissance patrols, being
overflown by Bears on “a few occasions.”
En route to the Philippines, the ship participated in Operation Newboy, an AD
exercise, on 7 December 1966. Enterprise moored at Leyte Pier, NAS Cubi
Point, the next day, and began loading supplies. Final combat preparations
for her embarked squadrons were completed at NAS Cubi Point.
Before sailing again for Vietnamese waters, Rear Admiral Walter L. Curtis,
Jr., ComCarDiv-9, broke his flag on board. Standing out on 15 December 1966,
the carrier was escorted by Bainbridge, Gridley and Manley (DD-940) to Yankee
Station, arriving on the 18th, beginning the ship’s first line period during
this deployment, covering 18 December 1966–16 January 1967.
The first jets roared off at dawn on 18 December 1966, Enterprise’s opening
strikes of the deployment. Although a low ceiling, fog and gloom from the
monsoon hampered those initial runs, the ship nonetheless commenced six
months of “grueling combat.” Despite ongoing inclement weather, she flew
successful strikes against rail networks and power plants. Enterprise’s A-6
Intruders proved particularly effective during night and foul-weather
missions using radar navigation and radar bombing when “low ceilings
prohibited visual deliveries.”
Interdiction of enemy supplies proved the primary objective for these earlier
strikes, hitting bridges, railroads and supply dumps near Vinh, Thon Hon and
Ha Tinh. While the majority of those missions took place under “instrument
and night conditions,” her aircraft also participated in both VFR and Iron
Hand missions. During a pre-dawn strike two days before Christmas of 1966,
her aircraft hit the Vinh Railroad Yard, North Vietnam. Lieutenant Commander
Robert W. Miles, pilot, and Lieutenant (jg) Kenton W. Van Lue,
bombardier/navigator, VA-35, both later received the Distinguished Flying
Cross for their part in this strike, with a “large secondary explosion” being
observed by other aircraft in the area.
That same day (23 December 1966), destroyer O’Brien (DD-725), patrolling
about 21 miles north of Dong Hai, North Vietnam, came under heavy fire by 57
mm enemy shore batteries, at 1046. Numerous shells exploded around the ship
and although she maneuvered to try and avoid the incoming salvoes, she
received three direct hits and suffered two men killed and four wounded.
Three divisions of CVW-9 aircraft from Enterprise, together with planes from
Kitty Hawk, were diverted from their primary targets to aid O’Brien, and
along with the destroyer’s own guns (130 rounds), silenced the batteries.
Destroyer Benner (DD-807) relieved O’Brien on station that evening, while
Maddox (DD-731), about 10 miles south when the latter was attacked, closed
the area, assuming control of strike aircraft. Their presence enabled the
damaged destroyer to retire to obtain medical assistance for her men, and
then proceed to Subic for repairs; O’Brien returned to sea in less than two
The 48 hour cease fire over Christmas, and “seasonal poor flying weather”
reduced the scope of operations in Vietnamese waters during 21–28 December
1966. Intruders, however, pounded the Hanoi-Vinh Railroad by “generally using
a full system radar drop,” and conducted a “limited amount of interdiction of
waterborne cargo traffic.”
On the day after Christmas of 1966, Archbishop Francis C. Spellman of New
York, Vicar of the Armed Forces, held mass for nearly 2,000 men gathered in
the hanger bay. In addition to the two day stand-down during the New Year’s
ceasefire, operations over North Vietnam were “further curtailed by the
dominant northeast monsoon weather pattern,” 29 December 1966–3 January 1967.
Through 16 January 1967, when she came about from Yankee Station, Skyhawks
and Phantom IIs from Enterprise carried out primarily armed reconnaissance
missions, “to seek out and destroy” communist waterborne logistics craft,
coastal highway bridges and suspected infiltration routes.
Under Secretary of the Navy Robert H. Baldwin visited Enterprise on 10
January 1967; Secretary of the Air Force Harold Brown paid a call on the
12th. Four days later, after 28 days on the line, she sailed for Subic Bay,
mooring at Leyte Pier, NAS Cubi Point, on the 18th. The next day, Rear
Admiral Maurice F. Weisner relieved Rear Admiral Walter L. Curtis, Jr., as
ComCarDiv-1, on board Enterprise.
Enterprise stood out from Subic on 26 January 1967, anchoring off Manila for
a brief visit (27–30 January, before steaming for Vietnamese waters.
Departing Manila on 30 January, she conducted an AAW exercise with British
carrier HMS Victorious.
Returning to Yankee Station on 1 February 1967, Enterprise resumed operations
against North Vietnam, though poor weather continued to “prevail and
discourage” Alpha (maximum-effort) strikes. During this period, coordinated
“major strikes” hit the Thanh Hoa Railroad Yard/Siding, Dong Phong Thong
Railroad Yard, and both the Hon Gai and Bac Giang Thermal Power Plants.
However, the weather continued to impose restrictions, missions often
depending upon “a transitory break in the cloud cover” to enable targets to
be seen from the air. Dubbed the “Winter War” by pilots in reference to their
difficulties in completing missions, this problem partially abated with the
introduction of the A-6, whose modern avionics and systems made possible
strikes hitherto restricted by weather. Referring to the tactical advantages
offered by their aircraft, Intruder pilots on board Enterprise began to quip
that “The weather was terrible, just perfect for us.”
The first two months of 1967 saw Enterprise aircrews paying considerable
attention to the railway facilities at Vinh, Thien Linh Dong–both “singled
out for particular decimation”–Dong Phong Thuong, Thanh Hoa, Pho Can, Qui
Vinh and Ninh Binh, all “soon in need of considerable repair.” In addition,
“numerous bombing and rocket” attacks were flown against enemy barges,
bridges and supply areas in the mountains near the DMZ. During 4–5 February,
aircraft from Enterprise and Ticonderoga hit the Thanh Hao trans-shipment
complex, forcing the communists to begin a massive reconstruction of
facilities there. Strikes in this period were part of an “interdiction in
The three-week lunar celebration known as Tet is the most significant
Vietnamese holiday. The U.S. and its Allies traditionally observed a truce
during this period, and beginning on 8 February 1967, the Tet cease fire,
normally authorized for 48 hours, was extended to six days, giving rise to
unfounded rumors of an end to the war. However, the war not only continued,
but the intervening lull afforded the enemy AAA gunners and SAM sites an
opportunity to strengthen their defenses.
At 1145 on 12 February 1967, Flare 105, an RA-5C (BuNo 151623), Commander
Donald H. Jarvis, pilot and squadron executive officer (XO), and Lieutenant
(jg) Paul M. Artlip, radar navigator, RVAH-7, launched from Enterprise on a
Blue Tree photographic reconnaissance mission, escorted by Show Time 603, a
Phantom II. At approximately 1240, Flare 105 was at about 800 feet, flying
450 KIAS, on a heading of 30º left bank, beginning a slight right turn, in
right echelon formation parallel to the Vietnamese coast. Suddenly, numerous
37 mm and 57 mm AAA commenced concentrated firing almost simultaneously. Both
aircraft received heavy fire from the enemy guns and 603 observed a hole in
105’s starboard wing. Both aircraft entered overcast.
Show Time 603 broke in clear on top at 6,000 feet, but failed to locate 105
by either visual or radio search, so immediately alerted CSAR forces, during
which the Phantom II crew sighted an oil slick on the water. Almost
afterward, the crew also heard a beeper signal, followed by a very weak
PRC-10 transmission: “Goodman, Goodman, down here.” Continuing their search
for the downed crew, the crew of 603 sighted both men in the water, one in a
raft and the other floating approximately one-fourth of a mile away, the
impact area at approximately 20º10’N, 106º24’E. Sighting the raft was
actually very difficult, as it blended into the “yellowish” water, but
unusually, the green flight suit stood out.
An enemy junk, however, was rapidly closing the downed crew, but 603,
assisted by a second Phantom II as RESCAP, drove her off. Loosefoot 68, an
SH-3A, arrived on the scene at about 1315 to pick-up Artlip, but due to an
overheating transmission, was forced to terminate the rescue and return to
Long Beach. A UH-2 then arrived and attempted to retrieve Jarvis, but was
unable to do so due to a hoist malfunction. Crown Bravo, an HU-16, arrived at
1400, assuming on scene commander. However, the rescuers now came under small
arms fire from shore, so a pair of Arab A-1s, together with a couple of
Battle Cry A-4s, were vectored-in to suppress the fire with Zuni 5.0 Inch
[130 mm] unguided rockets and 20 mm rounds. Thirteen minutes later, Crown
Bravo landed and picked up the pilot, the recovery hampered by injuries,
including two fractures, to Jarvis’s arm, and his entanglement in parachute
shroud lines, together with a helo crewman who had stayed in the water with
Jarvis. Crown Bravo returned Jarvis to Da Nang.
Although “prevailing seasonal poor flying weather” impeded operations during
the week of 15–21 February 1967,” Enterprise’s aircraft utilized radar
bombing and attacked targets “of opportunity” across North Vietnam. Rear
Admiral Weisner was relieved by Rear Admiral Roger W. Mehle as ComCarDiv-1,
on the 18th.
Toward the end of the week, planes from Enterprise concentrated their efforts
on lines of communications “interdiction control points in RT [route] areas
south of Than Hao, truck convoys and rail cars” replacing waterborne craft as
primary targets following inclement weather problems that “largely limited
combat operations to coastal recce [reconnaissance].”
During night operations, a pair of CVW-9 Intruders dropped four CBU-2A
cluster bombs, two MK 82 500 lb general purpose bombs and four MK 81 250 lb
bombs on a Route 1A “truck bottleneck at a downed bridge,” resulting in six
secondary explosions generating “large columns of black smoke.” Ongoing poor
weather over North Vietnam, however, compelled diversion of many sorties
toward southern Laos.
Show Time 614, an F-4B (BuNo 150413) Major Russell C. Goodman, USAF, pilot
and former Thunderbirds (USAF Air Demonstration Squadron) narrator, and
Ensign Gary L. Thornton, RIO, VF-96, launched with their wingman, Show Time
601, at 1530 on 20 February 1967. The flight was assigned a “lucrative
target” of 20 railroad cars at Thien Linh Dong Railroad Siding, six nautical
miles southwest of Thanh Hoa, the AAA plot indicating that the area was
Approaching the siding, the flight climbed to 11,000 feet, maneuvering into
position. At approximately 1625, 601 commenced its roll-in to a 45º dive to
release at 5,000 feet. As 601 leveled its wings in the dive, the crew
observed a 57 mm burst over the target, followed seconds later by an
explosion at 5,000–7,000 feet. Shortly afterward, 601 spotted a second
explosion on the ground northeast of 614’s aim point.
The wingman aborted his dive to search for survivors, but spotted no
parachutes nor overheard beepers, and believed the first explosion to be 614
impacting with the ground. Viceroy A-1s arrived overhead to support the
search, which was drawing heavy AAA and automatic weapons fire from the area.
However, Goodman was killed, while Thornton was captured and did not return
home until 4 March 1973.
“Unsatisfactory flying weather predominated over North Vietnam during the
entire week” of 22–28 February 1967, “severely restricting activities.”
Enterprise Intruders, however, conducted a total of five radar attacks on
both the Hon Gai and Bac Giang Thermal Power Plants, North Vietnam. Both
plants lay within “the flak umbrellas of Hanoi and Haiphong.”
Leading the first Alpha strike against the latter, accomplished on the night
of the 24th, aircrews from VA-35 (Commander Arthur H. Barrie) flew into the
teeth of “intense” AAA fire and SAM launches, but had the satisfaction of
noting three secondary explosions “accompanied by brilliant arcing and blue
Show Time 606, an F-4B, BuNo. 152989, Lieutenant David W. “Hawk” Hoffman,
pilot, and Lieutenant (jg) Robert C. Ewing, RIO, VF-96, launched for a night
Barrier Combat Air Patrol (BarCap), on 25 February. The ceiling was 10,000
feet with scattered clouds. After Show Time 615, another VF-96 Phantom II
flying as their wingman, was forced to abort its mission, 606 rendezvoused
with Piraz, another aircraft, when Hoffman discovered that the Phantom II’s
port engine was on fire. Shutting the engine down, Hoffman turned south
toward Enterprise, but the aircraft continued to lose altitude, the starboard
engine receiving no more than 80% power, so 606 called a “mayday situation.”
Folder, an A-3B tanker from VAH-2, stayed with 606 until the latter was at
1,600 feet, approximately 13 NM from Home Plate (Enterprise). Meanwhile, an
SH-3A from carrier Bennington (CVS-20) had closed the area to support the
SAR. Hoffman and Ewing ejected at 2124, at about 18º17’N, 107º42E, being
recovered by an HC-1 helo from the “Big E.”
On 26–27 February 1967, seven crews from VA-35 were involved in the first USN
aerial mining operations since WWII. Squadron Intruders dropped two fields of
MK-50 and 52 mines in the estuaries of the Song Ca, and in the Song Giang
Rivers, North Vietnam, attempting to disrupt enemy coastal and riverine barge
and sampan smuggling to VC and Laotian Pathet Lao forces. The Black Panthers
flew in low, but although they received some light AAA in the vicinity of
Vinh, noted no SAMs.
Additional minelaying missions in March by planes from Kitty Hawk over the
Cua Sot, Kien Giang and Song Ma Rivers supplemented those carried out from Enterprise
in late February. Although the enemy almost immediately began clearance
efforts, the combined minelaying flights forced the North Vietnamese to
temporarily suspend utilizing coastal barges for smuggling, as well as
seriously curtailing local fishing activities, often used to feed communist
The squadron eventually expended 53 mines in 11 sorties, a unique achievement
recognized by a message from Rear Admiral David C. Richardson
(ComCruDesGru-5), TF 77, on 2 March 1967: “…The outstanding professional
manner in which this task was efficiently and expeditiously accomplished was
most satisfying and emphasized again the value of keeping all your tools
sharply honed and ready for employment on short notice.”
Admiral Ulysses S. Grant Sharp, Jr., Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet
(CinCPac), visited the ship for “high-level discussions,” on the 27th.
Enterprise pulled off Yankee Station on 2 March 1967, entering Subic Bay on
the 5th. The carrier stood out from Subic for Hong Kong on 12 March, anchoring
near Green Island at the British colony, 14–20 March, providing “relief from
the rigors of combat.”
Enterprise returned to Yankee Station on 22 March 1967, and beginning the
following day, the Ha Tau Naval Supply Complex “felt the wrath of Enterprise
air strikes for several days.” Enterprise and her resourceful aviators were
demonstrating that “radar significant targets” could be struck by “utilizing
the all-weather delivery system of the Intruder.” Additional North Vietnamese
targets hit by strikes launched from the carrier included Chi Ne Army
Barracks, Thai Nguyen Thermal Power Plant and Thai Nguyen Iron and Steel
Mill, the latter two targets over 24–25 March. Opposed by SAMs and heavy AAA,
the aircraft still “inflicted heavy damage on the enemy.”
Reconnaissance missions often flew against considerable opposition, but while
just as perilous as strike sorties, seldom received much media attention.
Unarmed missions proved especially difficult for such crews, requiring steady
nerves without the possibility of returning enemy fire. Commander William
Winberg, III, pilot, and Lieutenant (jg) Paul M. Artlip, radar navigator,
RVAH-7, flew a “vital” 1.7 hour daylight reconnaissance mission, in RA-5C,
covering railroad segments 6A and 6B, together with “heavily defended” Thanh
Hoa complex, North Vietnam, on 26 March. A Phantom II from VF-92 provided
escort. Though reported as a clear day, haze over the targets reduced
Winberg approached Thanh Hoa at 1446, from a minimum altitude of 4,000 feet,
flying a maximum speed of 670 KIAS, on his way home by 1450. But it was a
long four minutes, as he received AAA fire over the targets. Nonetheless, he
“continued his run, obtaining 100 percent photographic coverage of his
assigned route.” In addition, Winberg decided to extend his flight to gain
coverage of both the railroad yard and the industrial complex, discovering a
new railroad bypass and a new Petroleum-Oil-Lubricants (POL) storage site.
For his resourcefulness and determination, the intrepid aviator was later
awarded the Navy Commendation Medal.
On 27 March 1967, Enterprise received her first Battle Efficiency “E” as part
of the Pacific Fleet. Two days later, 7th Fleet officers and men who
distinguished themselves in action against the communists, were decorated by
a South Vietnamese delegation, including Chief of State General Thieu,
Premier Air Vice Marshal Ky, Chief of the Joint General Staff General Cao V.
Vien and naval Captain Tran Van Chon, accompanied by a group led by Vice
Admiral Hyland, Com7thFlt and General William C. Westmoreland, USA,
Commander, MACV. Premier Ky presented awards to several naval aviators,
together with Captain Holloway, VA-35’s Commander Arthur H. Barie, Commander
Glenn E. Kollmann, Lieutenant Commander Ronald P. Hyde, and Lieutenant (jg)
Nicholas M. Carpenter, and Commander James L. Shipman, CAG, CVW-9, received
the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry. The next day Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge
visited the ship.
Strikes during April 1967 focused upon the Bac Gian power plant and the Thia
Nguyen steel plant. Skyhawk pilots pinpointed enemy bridges and supply caves
with Bullpups, while Phantom IIs crews “turned in superlative efforts”
During the first half of the month Enterprise was assigned to TG 77.0 (Rear
Admiral Roger W. Mehle, ComCarDiv-1, embarked in Enterprise, in turn under
Rear Admiral Richardson, TF 77, embarked in carrier Kitty Hawk, en route to
Yankee Station. On 9 April, Vice Admiral Hyland met with Rear Admiral Mehle
on board the “Big E,” while she was steaming at Yankee Station.
The Com7thFlt weekly summary for 5–11 April 1967 summarized operating within
the difficult weather conditions succinctly: “Although TF 77 averaged over
100 sorties per day in the Rolling Thunder program, continuing winter monsoon
weather patterns remained over North Vietnam during the week. Visible results
included destruction of five significant bridges and the damage or
destruction of approximately 10 trucks and 200 cargo junks and barges.
However, radar-controlled missions continued to maintain U.S. pressure over
much of NVN, including two A6A strikes against the Thai Nguyen steel plant
north of Hanoi.”
Six Intruders from Enterprise struck the Thai Nguyen Iron and Steel Plant
three times, all flights reporting success, and on the 8th, her Phantom IIs
“inflicted heavy damage” to several buildings in a storage area 30 miles
north of Vinh with 250 lb bombs. An additional strike by her A-6s on the Da
Chong Storage Area 37 miles east-northeast of Haiphong touched off a “huge”
secondary explosion by 500 lb bombs.
Inflicting such damage, however, did not come cheaply. Show Time 610, an F-4B
(BuNo 152978), Lieutenant James R. Ritchie, pilot, and Ensign Frank A.
Schumacher, RIO, VF-96, were on a coastal reconnaissance of North Vietnam on
8 April, when they lost utility hydraulic pressures following a hit by AAA,
while flying at about 1,500 feet. Ritchie was apparently unaware of the hit
initially, but by 1445 was noting the pressure loss. Ritchie was able to
guide the Phantom II over the Gulf of Tonkin before both men ejected at
approximately 1450, around 9,000 feet, at 20º31’N, 107º11’E, when it “pitched
up out of control.” Both men hit the water relatively near each other, about
four miles off the coast. Schumacher felt his chute slowly dragging him down,
so he pulled the raft over, inflating it on the way down, entering it.
Meanwhile, 615 attempted to reach 610 without result and Overpass, an AEW
aircraft from Enterprise, lost contact, so a CSAR was initiated.
Overpass diverted a pair of Skyhawks, which arrived as RESCAP, visually
sighting the RIO through his smoke signal. Both survivors utilized their
URC-10 survival radios and this enabled the SAR crews to localize the effort,
“Beepers received loud and clear.” Clementine 1, a UH-2B from HC-1 Det 17,
Lieutenant Jaque L. Meiling, pilot, Lieutenant Andrew J. Curtin, co-pilot,
ADJ3 Richard H. Hall and Airman Allen E. Salsbury, flying from guided missile
destroyer England (DLG-22), rescued both men, in an evolution “completed in a
very minimum of time due to close proximity of enemy controlled island
On 9 April 1967, three V-75 SA-2 Guideline SAMs neared an A-6 approximately
six miles before the pilot reached his target. Two of the Guidelines burst at
his “10 and 11 o’clock” positions within 200 feet of the aircraft, causing
“violent buffeting.” The third blew up directly under the Intruder, causing
light damage. After a successful run, the pilot “encountered intense AAA with
bursts all around the plane while outbound.”
The next day, Enterprise aircrews “returned to the Phu Cu railroad siding 28
miles south of Thanh Hoa,” accessing “good delivery” of their ordnance. On
the same date, CVW-9 aircraft pounded the Ha Tinh highway bridge 25 miles
south-southeast of Vinh with 250-pound bombs, “billowing grey smoke” rising
from the northern approach to the bridge after the raid.
Between 12–18 April 1967, TF 77 aircraft, including those flying from
Enterprise, damaged or destroyed more than 200 cargo junks/barges and more
than 50 trucks, in operations “largely limited to radar strikes and random
attacks where weather conditions permitted.” During that period, on the 17th,
A-4s from CVW-9 pulverized an automatic weapons site 30 miles north of Vinh
with Zunis. On the same day, Intruders hit the Thien Linh railroad siding
eight miles south-southwest of Thanh Hoa with 500 pounders, and other A-6s
struck the Ha Tou naval supply area, 28 miles east-northeast of Haiphong. The
next day, “moderating winter monsoons” permitted task force aircraft to inflict
damage by “a widespread armed reconnaissance throughout North Vietnam.”
Enterprise arrived at Cubi Point on 19 April 1967. On the 26th, Rear Admiral
Horace H. Epes, Jr., relieved Rear Admiral Mehle as ComCarDiv-1. The ship
returned to Yankee Station on the 29th, CVW-9 noting upon arrival that the
“weather now appears to be clearing to allow strikes up north.” “Big E’s”
planes attacked the Thien Linh Dong railroad bridge and siding nine miles
south-southwest of Thanh Hoa, interdicting it with 250 and 500 lb bombs, on
29 April. Other aircrews flew against the Ngoc Son storage area eight miles
south of Vinh, and dropped a bridge 13 miles south-southwest of Vinh with 500
lb bombs. The ship and her embarked air wing took advantage of the break in
the weather to launch alpha strikes against the Vinh and Bai Thuong
airfields, the latter cutting the runway in three locations.
Two minor airfields felt Enterprise’s ordnance the next day (30 April 1967)
when Skyhawks, escorted by Phantom IIs, “heavily damaged” the Vinh ammunition
and fuel storage area with 500 lb bombs. Another flight of A-6s pounded the
Hon Gai military storage area 33 miles northeast of Haiphong with
500-pounders, pilots noting a secondary explosion and “several fires.”
Meanwhile, her Skyhawks cut the approaches to the Tien Dien highway bridge
with air-to-ground missiles.
Also on the 30th, Lieutenant John K. Sutor, pilot, and Lieutenant Peter C.
Carrothers, radar navigator, RVAH-7, flew a 1.7 hour daytime unarmed photo
reconnaissance mission, in RA-5C, into Route Package IV, over the “heavily
defended” areas of Ninh Binh, Phu Ly and Namh Dinh, North Vietnam. The
photographs were required to provide pre-strike information for future
flights against these railroad targets, consisting respectively of a siding,
complex and yard. The Vigilante was escorted by an F-4B, VF-92. Encountering
clear weather, the aircraft made their run over the targets, from 1406–1411.
Barely two minutes into the run, 85 mm AAA engaged the aircraft, but despite
“heavy barrage fire, aircraft buffeting and aircraft damage,” the men
completed their mission, making their main run at high speed (a maximum of
620 KIAS) but at low altitude (a minimum of 3,500 feet), so that complete
photographic coverage of the objective areas could be obtained. Both pilots
evaded the AAA bursts, at least 20 being counted, by “jinking,” opting not to
launch Chaff countermeasures. Nonetheless, the RA-5C was hit, receiving
damage to its radar altimeter, but Sutor and Carrothers completed their mission.
Carrothers “skillfully” operated the “complex radar, navigation and
reconnaissance equipment,” and the success of the mission “under extremely
hazardous conditions” was due to “careful planning and personal courage,” by
both men, for which Carrothers was later awarded the Distinguished Flying
The fourth and fifth line periods saw “frequent breaks in the weather over
North Vietnam,” enabling more visual sorties to be flown than hitherto
possible during this deployment, over 50% of the total sorties flown during
May–June 1967. Targets struck included Haiphong’s thermal power plants (east
and west), Kep airfield and Van Dien vehicle depot. During one mission
against the latter, her aircrew counted no less than 35 airborne SAMs,
evading them “through violent evasive maneuvers.”
Planes from Enterprise participated in strikes over North Vietnam in Route
Packages II, III and IV, the Air Force bearing the primary responsibility for
Route Packages I and V, during the first week of May 1967. Over “a dozen major
bridges” were hit, together with “a large number” of waterborne vessels. In
addition, they carried out a successful strike against a SAM site near Thanh
On 1 May 1967, Enterprise and Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) launched a “May Day
celebration” in the form of a coordinated strike against “MiGs and flak
In the vicinity of Kep airfield. Flying an F-8E from “Bonnie Dick”,
Lieutenant Commander Marshall O. Wright, VF-211, downed a North Vietnamese
MiG-17 with an AIM-9D Sidewinder.
“The A-4 Skyhawks then took over the show and concentrated on the grounded
MiGs,” as enemy pilots desperately attempted to scramble or escape. During
the ensuing mêlée, Lieutenant Commander Theodore R. Swartz, VA-76, also
embarked in Bon Homme Richard, shot down a Fresco with a Zuni, making him the
first and only A-4C pilot to claim that unusual distinction, Swartz receiving
the Silver Star for this action. The combined strike force left three MiGs on
the ground “burning,” as well as “making the runway unusable.”
On 7 May 1967, the Chi Ne Military Barracks was struck, followed the next day
by the Ha Tou naval storage area. Major coordinated strikes were conducted
against the Bac Giang and Haiphong (East) Thermal Power Plants, on the 10th
and 13th, respectively. In addition, a raid against the Da Chong POL supply
base triggered “huge” secondary explosions.
The weather gradually improved over North Vietnam during 3–9 May 1967,
allowing naval planes to fly almost 1,200 attack sorties, concentrating upon
lines of communications (LOCs) and fixed military installations in Route
Packages II, III and IV. Over a dozen bridges were destroyed or damaged, and
aircraft from the “Big E’ hammered a SAM site near Thanh Hoa on the 4th, as
well as sinking or disabling a number of waterborne craft.
However, during the raid on the SAM site, Battle Cry 314, an A-4C (BuNo
148514), Lieutenant (jg) James S. Graham, VA-113, was lost. Graham was number
four of a flight of 10 aircraft. Rolling in, the leader saw 37 and 57 mm AAA
bursts, estimated at 5,000 feet. As number three pulled off from his attack
he observed 314 below, approximately 20º nose down, wings level attitude,
although not burning or smoking. Turning, number three spotted a parachute
over the target area at around 3,000 feet. When Graham failed to respond to
radio entreaties, the third Skyhawk flew by at 800 feet, Graham stoically
waving before he landed in the edge of trees bordering a small village near
the target area, approximately two miles from the coast. Graham’s Skyhawk slammed
into the ground three miles south of the target. Aircraft remained overhead
for approximately 30 minutes, but intense ground fire and the heavily
populated area forced them to terminate rescue efforts and return to the
ship. Sadly, Graham’s remains were not returned to America until 14 August
1985, being identified on 24 October of that year.
Enterprise A-6 aircrews attacked an ammunition storage area three miles north
of Thanh Hoa with 250 and 500 lb bombs, and 20 mm guns, on 5 May. “Dense
smoke from the southern half” of the area prevented further damage
assessment, but the men claimed “all ordnance was on target.” On the same
date, her Phantom IIs “silenced two flak sites” two miles east of Thanh Hoa,
some of CVW-9’s other F-4s hitting a storage area 23 miles north-northwest of
Vinh with 250 lb bombs, triggering a secondary explosion.
Two days later, her Intruders struck the Dong Phong Thuong Pontoon and
Railroad Bridges 12 miles north-northeast of Thanh Hoa with 250 pounders,
dropping the former, and the northern span of the latter. The ship’s Phantom
IIs destroyed a nearby AAA site.
During the week of 10–16 May 1967, carriers operating in Vietnamese waters,
including Enterprise, flew approximately 1,300 combat sorties, with major
strikes against Haiphong, Western and Bac Giang Thermal Power Plants, Eastern
Plant, which was “put out of commission,” Kien An Airfield, and numerous
bridges and waterways, dropping both the Tamda Railroad and Highway Bridges.
The alpha strike against Haiphong Thermal Power Plant East on the 10th was
fiercely opposed by the enemy, aircrews counting no less than 22 SAM
On 11 May 1967, Skyhawks and Intruders operating from Enterprise, escorted by
Phantom IIs, “sliced” the bypass and tracks in the Pho Can Railroad Yard and
Station 20 miles north-northeast of Thanh Hba with 250 and 500 lb bombs.
Other CVW-9 Skyhawks hit Chu Tu caves, utilized by the North Vietnamese to
store military supplies, with 500 pounders and air-to-ground missiles, as
well as hitting the AAA site there with additional missiles. Not to be
outdone, the wing’s F-4Bs sank a ferry loaded with two trucks, 17 miles
south-southeast of Vinh, their 250 lb bombs triggering a secondary explosion.
Two days later, Enterprise A-4Cs “triggered an orange secondary explosion at
the Vinh Petroleum Products Storage Area,” five miles north of Vinh, with 250
and 500 lb bombs.
On 18 May 1967, Battle Cry 316, an A-4C (BuNo 147842), Lieutenant Robert J.
Naughton, launched as part of a four plane section that split into two
flights, the first to tackle four 40 foot barges, and the second comprising
Naughton as the lead against Dong Phong Thuong Railroad Siding. The ceiling
was 1,500 feet, visibility 10 NM. Rolling in at 450 KIAS from 8,000 feet on a
string of boxcars for a 30º LAU-10 rocket attack, Naughton damaged four, but
was hit by AAA, tentatively identified as 37 mm, his wingman noting fuel
streaming from the centerline tank as 316 was pulling up. Both began heading
for the coast when the Skyhawk suddenly burst into flames, Naughton failing
to respond to his wingman’s calls, though able to jettison external stores.
The fire continued to burn fiercely, enveloping the A-4 from the mid-fuselage
area, aft, altitude now 6,000 feet. At this point, 1235, the Skyhawk was observed
to decelerate rapidly, entering a 20º dive, impacting the ground and
exploding. A parachute was sighted, and upon hitting the ground, near
19º56’30”N, 105º56’30”E, Naughton contacted his wingman via a URC-10 radio,
directing the latter’s strafing runs.
Additional aircraft, including the other two Skyhawks and a Champion flight,
arrived overhead, alternating strafing runs with the wingman on low level
passes until all ordnance was expended. Big Mother rescue helo “was holding
10 miles off the beach,” waiting for some A-1s for cover, but the latter
never arrived. As the aircraft were coming about, people were observed
entering the area, Naughton last seen seated on the ground surrounded by five
North Vietnamese. He did not return home until 4 March 1973.
Planes from Enterprise “ranged throughout” the theater in the third week of
May 1967, making “accurate and damaging” strikes against North Vietnamese
supply-support installations. Enterprise and CVW-9 participated in a three
carrier coordinated strike against “key” targets in the north, on 19 May.
Intruders from Enterprise, backed-up by Skyhawks from CVW-5, embarked on
board Hancock, damaged the eastern approach of the “vital” Hai Duong
Railway/Highway Bridge, 20 miles northwest of Haiphong, the primary rail link
between Hanoi and Haiphong, with air-to-ground missiles. The A-6s also
destroyed the nearby railroad station and depot at Thien Linh Dong railroad
marshalling yard, with “a barrage of missiles and bombs,” including both
1,000 and 2,000 pounders. In addition, aircraft hit the Van Dien vehicle
depot complex. En route to the latter, aircrews encountered a “barrage of
SA-2 missiles.” Nonetheless, Skyhawks fired upon four SAM sites in the
vicinity of Hanoi, but evasive maneuvers taken by the aircraft precluded
battle damage assessment (BDA). The “Big E’s” planes damaged the Thanh Hoa
Railroad and Highway Bridge on Route 1A and cratered the approaches to Dong
Phong Thuong Bridge. Skyhawks damaged structures at Thanh Hoa Storage Area,
and as flak suppressors, Phantom IIs struck three SAM sites. Intruders
pummeled Bai Ha Xa truck park and Quang Nap storage area.
At 1020 on 19 May 1967, Ray Gun 502, an A-6A (BuNo 152594) Lieutenant
Commander Eugene B. “Red” McDaniel, pilot, and Lieutenant James K. Patterson,
bombardier/navigator, VA-35, launched from Enterprise as part of a Rolling
Thunder strike mission. Their target was the Van Dien vehicle depot, Hai
Duong Province, North Vietnam. Broken clouds were initially reported, the
weather being considered adequate for prosecution of the strike, McDaniel’s
81st combat mission over North Vietnam. The aircraft went in from an altitude
of 15,000, but experienced “continuous blinking red” (enemy radar attempting
to track them) the entire flight and at 1107, 501 noted “missiles lift off,”
SAM launches against the aircraft. But though “jinking” all the way in and
back, none of the pilots observed AAA bursts.
Nevertheless, upon arriving over the target the weather was overcast at 8,000
feet “at least,” and the flight leader cancelled the strike, breaking left.
500 suddenly spotted three “silver” North Vietnamese MiG-21 Fishbeds “far
below” in a loose diamond “on the deck,” and when one of the MiGs broke
upward, jettisoned their ordnance.
While flying at approximately 280 KIAS, about 150 feet aft and 200 feet down
from the first pair of the aircraft (the flight leader and Ray Gun 502), the
wingman saw 502 “jettison all bombs and pull hard rolling just prior to a SAM
(believed to be an S-125 NEVA-M SA-3 Goa) detonation at 502’s one o’clock.”
McDaniel and Patterson broke right, jettisoning their bombs. 503 felt
“pellets hit” (though their aircraft remained undamaged) hearing both the
explosion and 502 calling “Being hit,” followed by an ominous silence from
the crew of the stricken Intruder. 502 commenced a descending turn slowing in
speed heading for a 3,930- foot peak and began smoking.
When just over the peak at around 4,000 feet, both men jettisoned the canopy
and ejected very close together, “two good chutes” being observed. McDaniel
and Patterson landed on the southeasterly slope of a small basin, while the
Intruder impacted nearby, in an area commonly known as “Banana Valley.”
Several minutes later, the wingman of the division leader, while egressing
from the target, established radio contact with both survivors. McDaniel
reported that he was in good condition, whereas Patterson felt he had “badly
broken” his left leg and “did not believe he would be able to move.” Due to
heavy transmissions and enemy interference in the area, the flight leader
believed that 502 was still airborne, checking on other possible losses from
the strike. Both aviators were subsequently captured by the North Vietnamese,
although Patterson reportedly eluded his captors for three–four days before being
taken. Red McDaniel endured captivity until his return to the U.S., on 4
March 1973. However, Patterson did not return home and at the time of
writing, his status is considered “presumptive finding of death.”
That same day, Show Time 604, an F-4B (BuNo 152264), Commander Richard Rich,
pilot, and Lieutenant Commander William R. Stark, RIO, VF-96, also launched
at 1020, as tactical air reconnaissance combat air patrol (TARCAP) for the
Van Dien raid. Enemy “SAM activity” was heavy, with as many as 10 missiles
seen detonating on the ground and as many as 15 in the air, forcing 604 and
its wingman to low altitude attempting to avoid the SAMs. However, upon
reaching low altitude, they encountered increased flak.
At that point, the Phantom II called out “Show Time One (the tactical call
sign of 604) is hit, one is hit, stick control little sluggish.” Following
this while maneuvering hard at low altitude, 604 called his wingman, asking
“Do you have me in sight?” The wingman noted 604 breaking right then left and
down, simultaneously watching a SAM burst in 604’s “immediate vicinity,” plus
two more impact on the ground below. The wingman maneuvered to avoid the
missile “fireball,” and had no further visual or electronic contact with Rich
and Stark. No CSAR was attempted, the F-4B going down near 20º45’N, 105º35’E.
Rich did not survive, his remains being returned to the U.S. on 26 April
2000, and identified on 10 October of that year. Stark was captured, only
being released and returning home on 4 March 1973.
Intruders launched from Enterprise destroyed the Nam Ly railroad siding with
500 lb bombs, on 21 May 1967, also “touching off a large orange secondary
explosion.” Catching “a barge concentration” three miles east of Vinh, the
ship’s A-4s “heavily damaged” four craft, setting off “large secondary
explosions which sent white smoke billowing into the air” with 250 and 500
“Flying through heavy fire,” Intruders and Skyhawks from Enterprise “blasted”
Kep Airfield, a “prime” facility 37 miles northeast of Hanoi, with 500 lb
bombs, the following morning. The pilots reported three MiG-17 Frescos “on
the ground burning, one heavily damaged,” and multiple hits on the taxiway,
together with “heavy damage” to a revetted area and an AAA site. Phantom IIs
flying from the ship “silenced” four nearby AAA sites. The same day, the “Big
E’s” aircrews also struck a vehicle complex at Van Dien, five miles south of
Hanoi, with 500 lb bombs, and her F-4s damaged a nearby AAA site. Aircrews
noted a total of 25 SAMs fired at them during this hotly contested strike.
Meanwhile, CVW-9 Skyhawks hit a SAM site 45 miles southwest of the communist
capital. Enterprise A-4, A-6 and F-4 aircrews “teamed up” for a combined
strike against the Da Chong Storage Area with 500 lb bombs, on 23 May. The
men destroyed three large storage buildings, setting off “numerous” secondary
explosions. On the same date, CVW-9 Skyhawks hit storage buildings on an
island 33 miles south of Thanh Hoa, while her Intruders had “good hits” with
250 pounders on a barracks area of a military complex.
The Haiphong (West) power plant was “destroyed” on 26 May 1967. The “fourth
period of special operations ended on 27 May,” the ship returning to NAS Cubi
Point on the 30th, but leaving on 3 June to be back at Yankee Station on the
Two days later, at 1125 on 7 June 1967, a pair of VF-96 Phantom IIs bombed a
“missile hold area,” near 20º37’45”N, 105º13’35”E. Dropping one string of MK
82s across the road on the west side, and a second string northwest to
southeast through the complex, the two F-4Bs obliterated the enemy position
with 22 bombs. Meanwhile, Enterprise’s planes also struck Kep airfield, at
about 1700, a flight of four Phantom IIs dropping 39 MK 82s on the northern
half of “Area Echo,” including revetments, destroying one plane on the ground
and damaging two. During that run, Falcon 606 took AAA in the starboard wing
while diving at a 45º angle at about 7,500 feet but returned to the ship
withour further incident. Another flight of three more F-4Bs put two bombs on
the runway, but took heavy fire from 85 mm guns, responding with a “direct
hit” on the flak site.
On 6 June 1967, RVAH-7 photographed heavy enemy activity 35 miles southwest
of Hanoi, the developed images revealing camouflaged SAM trailers, “not quite
well enough” hidden from the prying eyes of the Vigilante. The next day (7
June 1967), Enterprise planes returned with more than unexposed film. Usually
on the receiving end of the missiles, the pilots relished the opportunity to
take out the SAMs before the weapons “chased them through the air.”
A follow-up reconnaissance flight by a Vigilante from RVAH-7, Comdr. Philip
J. Ryan, squadron CO, pilot, and Lieutenant (jg) James E. Owen,
bombardier/navigator, reported “There were five good fires still burning
after the strike,” receiving a burst of AAA directly below Owen’s seat,
blasting a large hole in the fuselage.
Champion 406, an A-4C (BuNo 145145), Commander Peter W. Sherman, VA-56,
launched as lead of a two plane Iron Hand flight leading a four plane Alpha
strike against the Van Dien SAM support depot, at 1150 on 10 June 1967.
Although not slated for that strike due to the normal rotation, Sherman had
scheduled himself to lead the flight, and had “briefed his section to fly
above and in front of the strike group in the most vulnerable position
possible, thereby drawing the missile attack on themselves.” These tactics
allowed them to retaliate by firing AGM-45A Shrike air-to-ground missiles to
silence the SAMs, allowing the strike group to penetrate enemy defenses
unmolested. Preceding the strike element at 450 KIAS, 8,000–9,000 feet
altitude, Sherman and his wingman reached a position near Ha Dong, 10 miles
southwest of Hanoi over the Red River Delta, at approximately 1237, but
encountered “heavy SAM activity,” at least 12–15 SA-2s spotted airborne,
forcing them to take evasive action. The wingman turned to the right to fire
a Shrike, followed by a “right spiral” to avoid a SAM passing beneath his
Skyhawk, during which he lost contact with Sherman. There was no further
sighting or voice contact with, or beeper from 406. Sadly, Sherman never
returned from the mission; he was awarded the Navy Cross, posthumously. His
remains were not returned to the U.S. until 16 January 1991, being identified
on 29 April of that year.
Rear Admiral Horace H. Epes, Jr., Commander TG 77.8, embarked on board
Enterprise, had relieved Rear Admiral Mehle, embarked on board Constellation
(CVA-64), as Commander, Team Yankee, at 2300 on 8 June 1967. At 2300 on the
19th, they reversed precedence; Rear Admiral Mehle relieving Rear Admiral
The Hon Gia railyard and supply depot was hit, triggering secondary
explosions, on 12–13 June 1967. Several squadrons from Enterprise later
participated in missions against the Hai Duong railyard and supply area. On
the 16th, Enterprise Skyhawks “heavily damaged” a highway bypass bridge 40
miles south-southwest of Thanh Hoa, North Vietnam, with “multiple hits” from
500 lb bombs. Meanwhile, her Intruders caused a secondary explosion at the Da
Chong Storage Area with 500 pounders, and hit the Bac Giang Thermal Power
Plant, 23 miles northeast of Hanoi, with 1,000 lb bombs.
Between 0742–0804 on 20 June 1967, RVAH-7’s Commander Winberg and Lieutenant
(jg) Artlip were again taking fire over North Vietnam on an unarmed
reconnaissance run in their RA-5C, between Hanoi and Haiphong, flying at a
minimum altitude of 3,200 feet, as they photographed the Hai Duong
railway/highway bridge (east) and the Thanh Lien railroad marshalling yard
(west), escorted by a VF-92 Phantom II. Photography of those installations
was “urgently needed” to determine the damage inflicted by a previous strike
group, but although the Vigilante received a “heavy barrage” of AAA fire both
en route to, and over the target area, together with “continuous alert
soundings” for SAMs and enemy aircraft, the men completed their run, enabling
strike commanders to accurately access the damage inflicted.
Enterprise left the line on the same date, transferring “Yankee Team Assets”
to carrier Intrepid (CVS-11) before pulling in to Cubi Point for a brief
visit, 22–26 June 1967, her aircraft having completed 13,435 catapult
launches, flying 13,392 battle missions during 132 days of combat operations,
11,470 sorties, the ship steaming 67,630 miles within the 7th Fleet.
Ultimately, Enterprise stood out on the 25th for the U.S. arriving at NAS
Alameda on 6 July 1967. Both the ship and CVW-9 were later awarded the Navy
Enterprise then began a limited availability at San Francisco Bay Naval
Shipyard, Hunters Point, 12 July–5 September 1967. Mayor Shelley of San
Francisco came on board on 9 August, and a fast cruise was held on the 31st.
Enterprise completed her work and performed sea trials, 5–7 September, after
which she got underway for carrier qualifications (11–12 September). The ship
accomplished her refresher training off the coast of southern California
(15–30 September 1967), with brief visits to NAS North Island and Coronado
Roads. During this period, CVW-9 received A-4F Skyhawks with improved
electronics and “huskier” engines.
On 9 October 1967, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey visited Enterprise while
she lay moored at Alameda, speaking with her crew in the hanger bay. That
same date, the Secretary of the Navy announced that the ship had received the
Navy Unit Commendation for her previous deployment. Following that, the
carrier stood out and conducted carrier qualifications until the 13th, and
again between 16–20 October.
Enterprise departed NAS Alameda for refresher training, but after “pulling
out [on 8 November 1967]… rapidly and mysteriously sped south.” After the
carrier dropped anchor in Coronado Roads on the 10th, the reason for the
increased security became apparent the next day, when Enterprise was honored
by the visit of President Lyndon B. Johnson, Secretary of Defense Robert S.
McNamara and Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, the Chief of Naval Operations.
Stepping out of his helicopter onto the flight deck at approximately 1400 on
11 November 1967, the President and his entourage heard “several briefs.”
Subsequently, the chief executive and his party toured the ship, viewing
flight operations before retiring for the night. The next morning, President
Johnson led the crew in Veteran’s Day observances on the flight deck, noting
that peace talks could be held on “a neutral ship on a neutral sea–where, as
specks between the vastness of the ocean and heaven, men might realize the
ultimate smallness of their quarrels.” After the President’s departure by
helicopter, Enterprise continued with underway refresher training, anchoring
briefly at Coronado Roads to embark ComCarDiv-7 on the 17th, before returning
to NAS Alameda, on 22 November.
Following participation in Operation Blue Lotus, a 1st Fleet exercise, 28
November–4 December 1967, Enterprise returned to NAS Alameda for her first
Christmas in her new home port, conducting a Family Day Cruise on 9 December,
and carrier qualifications, 11–16 December 1967.
Enterprise sailed on her third WestPac deployment on 3 January 1968. Assigned
to CVW-9, embarking on 28 December, were 85 aircraft: 26 Phantom IIs, 26
Skyhawks, six Vigilantes, 15 Intruders, five Skywarriors, four Hawkeyes and
three Seasprites. On board as guests were AirPac and ComCarDiv-7. On the 7th,
Commander, Fleet Air, Hawaii, arrived on board, the ship entering the
Hawaaian Operations Area the next day.
Enterprise got underway for Midway Island on 9 January 1968. Six days later
(15 January 1968), two Soviet Bears aggressively approached the carrier and
her screen, but were intercepted and escorted off by a pair of CAP fighters.
U.S. Ambassador to Japan U. Alexis Johnson, Commander, Naval Air Forces,
Japan, and members of the Japanese Diet, and media, arrived on board on the
Enterprise, in company with guided missile frigates Truxtun (DLG(N)-35) and
Halsey (DLG-23), visited Sasebo, Kyushu, from 19 to 23 January 1968;
Enterprise and Truxtun were the first nuclear powered ships to visit the
country, and their arrival triggered “wide-spread controversy and violent demonstrations”
among anti-nuclear Japanese factions. Nonetheless, all three ships spent
their entire visit without a single desertion, absentee or major incident
among their crewmembers. Both the mayor of Sasebo and the governor of
Nagasaki visited the ship during her stay. As the American ships were
standing out of Sasebo on the 23rd, however, the Soviet
intelligence-gathering vessel Gidrofon “harassed” Enterprise, dangerously
crossing her bows without regard to international rules of the road.
Enterprise steamed toward Yankee Station, but shortly after sailing received
urgent word of a burgeoning crisis off Korean waters. On 23 January 1968, the
environmental research ship Pueblo (AGER-2) (Comdr. Lloyd M. Bucher) was
steaming off North Korea. Armed with only two .50 caliber machine guns, since
she was classified as a “non-combatant vessel…configured for hydrographic
studies and monitoring of electronic information…” Pueblo had received orders
to stay at least 13 miles off the coast, in international waters. Although
Pueblo had, at no time, entered North Korean territorial waters (her closest
point of approach to land being approximately 15.8 miles from Ung Do Island),
the Communists harassed the virtually defenseless American ship for some
time, finally surrounding her during the afternoon watch at 39º34'N, 127º54'E
with “unanticipatedly bold and hostile forces” including submarine chaser
SC-35 and torpedo boats led by PT-604. Two MiGs circled overhead. At around
1330, SC-35 opened fire with her 57 mm gun; soon thereafter, the communists
began boarding Pueblo, ordering her to come to “all stop.” At 1432, Pueblo
sent her last transmission: “Being boarded at this time. Four men injured,
one critically and going off the air now and destroying this gear.” Fireman Duane
D. Hodges was killed, while Bucher, seven sailors and one marine were
wounded. The North Koreans took the ship into Wonsan, the surviving 79
sailors and two marines of her company suffering deprivation and abuses at
the hands of their captors who refused “to accord them even the minimal
humane treatment required under international law.”
Contingency plans involved forces “not specifically designated,” ran from a
show of force off Wonsan, to retaking the ship, to seizing a North Korean
vessel in retaliation. The nearest U.S. ships, however, were almost a day’s
steaming (20 hours) time from the scene, and though Enterprise was considered
for planning, she and Truxtun, forming TG 77.5, were in the East China Sea
some 550 NM (470 air miles) south of Wonsan, “too far for effective use.” In
addition, the ship could not stage aircraft through Japan, due to the “status
of forces agreement.”
Com7thFlt directed a message to TF 77 to divert TG 77.5 “at best speed” to a
position off South Korea (although adding “No Task Group 77.5 ship or
aircraft take any overt action until further informed”) at 1506. Enterprise
came about at 1550, changing course to the north to proceed to position
32º30’N, 127º30’E. En route, she was informed to be prepared to conduct
photographic reconnaissance of the Wonsan area, and at 2356, 7th Fleet
advised CinCPac that “Enterprise was prepared to execute an air strike
against a suitable military target or take other action as authorized by
higher authority.” Captain Lee estimated that within one and a half hours
upon receiving the order, he could launch 20 aircraft, with an additional
hour and a half required for them to reach their targets in the Wonsan area.
Enterprise operated between Cheiu Do, Korea, and Fukoeshima, Japan, on 24
January. On 1 February, meanwhile, a South Korean delegation, led by CNO,
Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy and his deputy, visited the ship. On the 7th,
she steamed in the East China Sea.
On 12 February 1968, Enterprise became the flagship of TF 71 (Rear Admiral Epes),
established as the response force for the emergency, the linchpin of TG 70.6.
TF 71 received orders to steam in the Sea of Japan during the crisis,
providing the heavy muscle required by the force in the event of hostilities
with Pyongyang. The 7th Fleet’s Operation Formation Star “surged”
reinforcements into the region, including over 300 naval and Air Force
However, negotiations with the normally intransigent communists enabled TF 71
to gradually stand down, and Enterprise came about for Vietnamese waters, on
16 February 1968, transferring ComCarDiv-1 to Ranger and proceeding at high
speed to Yankee Station, where she was urgently needed in response to the Tet
offensive. U.S. naval commands maintained intermittent deployments in the
region until Pueblo’s survivors were released, ultimately, three days before
Christmas of 1968.
At 1800 on 29 January 1968, the Allies had declared a 36 hour cease-fire over
the Tet lunar holiday. Simultaneously, the Viet Cong announced a seven-day
truce, running from 27 January–3 February. However, the communists, who had
been infiltrating troops and equipment into South Vietnam for months
preceding Tet, gambled that an offensive, combined with popular uprisings,
would topple the U.S.-backed regime in the south, bringing the war to a rapid
Using the truce as a ruse, the Communists launched approximately 85,000 North
Vietnamese Army (NVA) and VC troops in attacks throughout South Vietnam on
the 30th. The enemy gained almost total surprise and their operations, on a
scale hitherto unseen, struck five of the six autonomous cities, including
Saigon and Hué, 36 of 44 provincial and 64 of 242 district towns across the
south. American sailors and marines operating within the country became
embroiled in fierce firefights and desperately needed support.
After two days of upkeep at Cubi Point (19–20 February 1968), Enterprise
arrived at Yankee Station and embarked ComCarDiv-3 on 21 February, beginning
combat operations the following day. The northeast monsoon season again
interfered with operations, however, and “poor flying weather” caused by “a
blanket of heavy clouds and torrential rains” across much of North Vietnam
restricted strikes. Despite the poor weather, VA-35 Intruders carried out a
pre-dawn raid against Hanoi’s port facility on 23 February 1968. The men of
VA-35 “dodged a flurry” of SAMs and “a heavy barrage” of AAA, inflicting
“severe damage.” Two more strikes were made over succeeding weeks, pilots
reporting “good systems runs.” In addition to these operations, her Intruders
pounded power plants, railroads and bridges within North Vietnam. In the
south, meanwhile, Skyhawks from VAs-56 and 113 and Phantom IIs from VFs-92
and 96 struck communist supply routes and destroyed bunkers, storage areas and
Other CVW-9 aircraft participated in the defense of the beleaguered 26th
Marines and South Vietnamese at Khe Sanh, South Vietnam, where, beginning
late the previous year, elements of three NVA divisions and VC guerillas had
begun digging extensive siege works around the marines’ perimeter in an
effort to draw their lines closer, to divert U.S. forces from communist
operations elsewhere in northern South Vietnam, notably at Hué. One of the
most bitter battles of the war, Khe Sanh became a magnet for both sides’
forces, bleeding each other white as neither was willing to disengage and
admit defeat. Striking the base with as many as 1,000 mortar and rocket
rounds per day, the enemy clung to the battle tenaciously, but aircrews from
Enterprise were among those supporting the marines, dropping 1,000 lb bombs
with delayed action fuses, caving in enemy tunnels and bunkers almost as
quickly as they were dug, systematically destroying Communist supply dumps,
storage areas and truck convoys. Supported by overwhelming air power and
artillery, the leathernecks held, and the NVA and VC abandoned the siege,
having suffering heavy casualties in trying to reduce Khe Sanh.
Operations against the north, meanwhile, continued. Ray Gun 512, an A-6A
(BuNo 152938), Lieutenant Commander Henry A. Coons, pilot, and Lieutenant
Thomas Stegman, bombardier/navigator, VA-35, launched at 1910 on 28 February
1968, in company with Ray Gun 507, for a strike against Bai Thuong airfield.
Ray Gun 507 hit the Do San coastal defense site about 12 miles from Haiphong.
Meanwhile, Ray Gun 512 “reported his intention to execute his mission at
approximately 1945.” Coons and Stegman should have reached their “coast-in”
by 1950, then nine more minutes overland, but no further transmissions were
received. Radar tracking of the aircraft ceased after the two men crossed
land, contact being lost at the time of the execute call, when IFF was
secured. However, it is believed that Coons and Stegman remained on course,
as their last known position corresponded closely with their intended track.
Ray Gun 507 proceeded to their pre-briefed rendezvous point, alerting CSAR
forces and “cognizant radar-following agencies.” Ray Gun 506 launched from
Enterprise at 2045 to supplement CSAR efforts by conducting an electronic
search of 512’s intended course, but the CSAR proved unsuccessful in locating
any trace of the men or their aircraft. “Very light” AAA was encountered both
near the target and at Thanh Hoa. In addition, the left “wing warning indicated
presence of enemy radar position on left during runin to target.” 506
“repeatedly overflew” 512’s track but failed to spot any debris until forced
to return due to fuel status. Guided missile frigate Jouett (DLG-29) and
destroyer Southerland (DD-743), however, recovered debris that included
Intruder access plates with what initially appeared to be flak damage,
indicating a probable combat loss. However, by 1545 visibility of less than
100 yards precluded further retrieval. At the time of writing, the fate of
both men is considered “presumptive finding of death.”
Ray Guns 500, 502 and 504, the latter an A-6A Intruder (BuNo 152944),
Lieutenant Commander Thomas E. Scheurich, pilot and Lieutenant (jg) Richard
C. Lannom, bombardier/navigator, VA-35, launched at 1805 on 1 March 1968, for
a strike against various North Vietnamese targets. 504 was to hit the Cam Pha
Military Barracks. At 1837, Scheurich and Lannom reported their “intentions
to execute” their mission. This was the last contact with the two men, and IFF
being immediately secured. “Coast-in” should have occurred five minutes
later, followed by two more minutes overland, but no further transmissions
were heard from 504. The other two planes proceeded to their pre-briefed
rendezvous point, where they alerted the CSAR package, but the stricken
Intruder could not be located by visual, radar, radio or electronic means. No
SAM launches were detected by searching aircraft, though some unconfirmed
“gun firing” was believed to have originated from Bach Lang Vi Island. Ray
Gun 506 launched from Enterprise at 0002 on the 2nd, conducting an “extensive
electronic search of intended route and target area of 504 and repeatedly
over flew intended track and route between last known position and intended
coast-in point with no electronic emissions noted,” only ending the search
due to “fuel state.” At the time of writing, the fate of both men is
considered “presumptive finding of death.”
On 12 March 1968, an A-6A was lost at sea, probably due to a flame out, its
crew not recovered. The next day, a “chance” break in the weather permitted a
large Enterprise strike group to hit the Haiphong rail and highway bridge
(west). In CVW-9’s only Alpha strike into North Vietnam’s heartland before
the bombing curtailment above the 20th Parallel on 31 March, aircrews dropped
Between 16–17 March 1968, Enterprise planes flew a total of 89 Rolling
Thunder and Steel Tiger combat/combat support sorties. Three “seeding
operations” were conducted by Intruders at the Du Dong and Phu Duc highway
ferries and the Hoanh May water interdiction point. In addition, her A-6s hit
the Ninh Binh railroad siding and the Cam Pha military barracks; her Phantom
IIs and Skyhawks hit an earthen bridge and a small wooden bridge on Route 1A
and a secondary road, as well as two 37 mm batteries, a command post and “a
suspected troop concentration.” A-4s also fired Shrikes at two radiating SAM
Sadly, the ongoing strikes carried with them the increased likelihood of
losses, and at 0207 on 17 March 1968, Ray Gun 510, an A-6A (BuNo 152940),
Lieutenant Commander Edwin A. Shuman, III, pilot, and Lieutenant Commander
Dale W. Doss, bombardier/navigator, VA-35, launched on a night, low-level
strike into North Vietnam. At 0245 a transmission was overheard indicating
that 510 was proceeding to execute its assigned mission. Five minutes later
510 broadcast a request to other strike aircraft to keep radio transmissions
to a minimum. Shuman and Doss should have been over their target at 0258, but
by 0303, when no “bombs away” was overheard, Ray Gun 522, assigned to support
the mission in “an anti-missile role,” attempted to establish radio contact
with 510. Failing in that endeavor, 522 flew to the pre-briefed lost
communications rendezvous point, remaining there until 0345. The exact
position of 510’s loss was unknown; both men were captured by the enemy,
enduring their captivity until their return home on 14 March 1973.
Enterprise departed Yankee Station on 18 March 1968, arriving at Subic the
following day. The ship stood out for carrier qualifications on 25 March,
setting course for Yankee Station the next day.
ComCarDiv-1 and Assistant Commander, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) visited
the ship, on 29 March 1968, the ship’s company being entertained the next day
by a USO show.
Rising popular opinion against the war, meanwhile, had prompted President
Johnson to entice the North Vietnamese toward renewing peace talks. In an
attempt to express U.S. willingness to make concessions, on 31 March 1968, he
announced that the bombing of North Vietnamese targets north of the 20th
parallel would stop on the following day. With the advent of the new bombing
restrictions and the breaking up of the monsoon weather, aircrews from
Enterprise concentrated their operations against enemy trucks, barges,
bridges and storage areas near Vinh, and along the border near the DMZ,
particularly targeting the city’s transhipment plant, the southernmost
collection point for military supplies before they were dispersed along the
Ho Chi Minh Trail west into Laos and south into South Vietnam. Typical
targets near Vinh were large truck convoys moving under cover of darkness.
One attempted to slip past the watchful eyes of Enterprise aircrews on the
night of 15 April, a pilot describing it as …more trucks than I could count.
Headlights stretched as far as you could see and dispersed into the haze.”
The fighting continued without letup, and on 18 April 1968, while flying an
armed reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam, a VA-35 A-6A (BuNo 152951) encountered
heavy AAA. While flying at around 450 KIAS during its “pullout” over a
bridge, 152951 was struck on its left side, just below the canopy, by a
probable 37 mm round, fragments exploding into the cockpit, putting powder
burns onto the pilot’s flight suit, puncturing his suit and wounding him
below the left elbow. Nonetheless, he safely returned to the ship.
Coming about from Yankee Station on 24 April 1968, Enterprise arrived at Cubi
Point, the next day. Following a brief period of rest for the crew and
maintenance for the ship, she stood out again on 30 April, arriving at Yankee
Station on 2 May.
Commanche Trail 102, an RA-5C (BuNo 149278), Lieutenant Giles R. Norrington,
pilot, and Lieutenant Richard G. Tangeman, bombardier/navigator, RVAH-1, launched
with an F-4B escort on a photographic reconnaissance mission over North
Vietnam, on 5 May 1968. While flying a southerly heading at 5,000 feet, at
1330, the Vigilante was hit by AAA near its bomb bay gas tank and exploded,
emitting “a huge fireball.” Commanche Trail 102, “engulfed in flames,” went
out of control and “snap rolled,” dropping in two pieces. Both men
miraculously ejected, activating their rescue beepers, but upon landing were
overwhelmed by enemy troops. Hanoi reported that “The people’s armed forces
in Ha Tinh Province shot down an American A-3J plane [sic] at 1330 today
capturing the two air pirates who bailed out.” Both men endured captivity
until their release and return to their homeland, on 14 March 1973.
Planes from Enterprise flew 121 combat/combat support sorties on 7 May 1968,
hitting Vinh airfield, Trai Tranh Xoa, Chu Le, Tho Ngoa, Da Do, Dia Loi, Vinh
Luu, Tho Son, Lac Son, Tam Da, Hung Long and Chau Lam highway bridges, Tu
Dung and Xom Gia highway ferries and the Nui Moi highway segment. Vehicles on
these roads were destroyed or damaged, as were storage areas, where “residual
fires were reported.”
At 1454 on that day, U.S. forces in Southeast Asia received startling news:
“MIGS (four reported) engaged south of 19 North Repeat 19 North.” During the
confusion of the subsequent hours, aircrews flying missions had also to be
aware of the possibly increased air threat. Silver Kite 210, an F-4B (BuNo
151485), Lieutenant Commander Ejnar S. Christensen, pilot, and Lieutenant
(jg) Worth A. Kramer, RIO, VF-92, was northeast of Vinh, “coasting out” and
barely calling “feet wet” (crossing from land–water outbound) when hit by a
SAM at about 1844. Initial message traffic indicated that 210 was downed by a
MiG. Ejecting using the alternate ejection handle, both men hit the water,
using chute risers to drift further out to sea, closer to SAR forces. The
pilot lighting smoke flares to give the SAR helo crew wind direction, Kramer
was in the water about 16 minutes, and Christensen six minutes more before
both men were picked up by the helo.
In addition, at 1623 that day, Battle Cry 302, an A-4F (BuNo 154214),
Lieutenant Commander Paul W. Paine, CVW-9, was returning to Enterprise,
following both a strike mission over North Vietnam and the SAR effort for
Silver Kite 210. Paine’s Skyhawk apparently was hit by AAA somewhere during
the mission, although the pilot may not have been aware of the extent of the
damage while making his approach to the carrier. Suddenly 302 slanted toward
the water from low altitude. Paine ejected but was so low that his parachute
did not deploy in time before he struck the water. Guided missile destroyer
Cochrane (DDG-21) and the UH-2C Seasprite plane guard from Enterprise,
Lieutenant (jg) John F. McMinn, pilot, Ensign Jack L. Berg, co-pilot, and AZ3
Allen J. Fox and Airman Frank J. Foreback, HC-1 Det 65, both raced to the
scene, two nautical miles away, the former lowering her motor whaleboat to
assist the helo crew. Arriving at the scene at 1625, the rescuers discovered the
pilot unconscious 30 feet beneath the surface, entangled in shroud lines and
without any flotation gear. Two rescue swimmers dropped from the helo
attempted to cut Paine lose and bring him to the surface. Cochrane’s motor
whaleboat arrived and its crew joined the swimmers in recovering Paine,
administering artificial respiration. Efforts to revive him proving
unsuccessful, they took him back to the destroyer, where a pair of medical
officers were flown out from the carrier, but Paine failed to recover.
A massive Alpha strike from carriers steaming in the Gulf of Tonkin,
including Enterprise, struck the Xom Trung Hoa storage area, northwest of
Vinh, on 8 May 1968. Described as one of the largest enemy POL and ammunition
facilities south of the 20th Parallel, three days of bombing devastated the
site, triggering “hundreds” of secondary explosions.
At 1050 on 8 May 1968, Champion 406, an A-4E (BuNo 152005), Lieutenant Dennis
A. Lawrence, VA-56, launched from Enterprise as part of a flight of four
Skyhawks on an armed reconnaissance mission against North Vietnamese
communications targets, including Highway 151B, a storage area and a truck
park. Arriving over the highway at 1102, the four A-4Es began their attacks
from dive angles averaging 45º, at release altitudes of 5.5 miles, cutting
the road with four MK 82s and eight MK 83s. Continuing on to the storage
area, which received addition attention from the Skyhawks in the form of four
MK 82s, they then blasted the truck park with no less than 152 LAU 60 rockets.
Pulling off, Lawrence was hit by AAA. It “was apparent” that he would not
make it to the sea, so he ejected at about 1215, watching his Skyhawk spin
and burn as he descended toward the enemy-infested jungle. After his descent,
he ran almost a mile to the top of a hill before being picked up by an SH-3A
from carrier Yorktown (CVS-10) after about 32 minutes.
Five days later, on 13 May 1968, Ray Gun 510, an A-6A (BuNo. 152951),
Lieutenant Bruce B. Bremner, pilot, and Lieutenant John T. Fardy,
bombardier/navigator, VA-35, launched from Enterprise on a night mission
against Vinh airfield. Over the target at 2124, 510 dropped 18 Destructor
(DST) MK 36 bottom mines from 1,400 feet, encountering AAA. The Intruder was
struck by a 57 mm round, however, while over “the northern right end of
runway,” the shell slamming into the left wing fold, which caught fire, the
impact also blowing out of the panel the aircraft instruments. Bremner flew
back to Enterprise, where “the whole ship was treated to a spectacular air show
as the plane flew by…looking like a flying Zippo…” Both men “punched out” two
miles aft of the carrier, from an altitude of approximately 2,500 feet, but
upon hitting the water did not experience additional difficulties, thanks to
gentle swells. Bremner was in the water for 8–10 minutes but did not inflate
his raft, both he and Fardy being located due to the guard beeper,
floodlights and Bremner’s strobe light, by Lieutenant (jg) Thomas A.
Matthews, Lieutenant (jg) Harlan W. Woodward, Airman Richard L. Wilson and
AE3 Barry E. Puckett, HC-1 Det 65 Riding’s Hoods, in a UH-2C, bringing both
men back on board the carrier within 15–20 minutes of ejecting.
Throughout the spring of 1968, meanwhile, diplomatic efforts toward a
cessation of hostilities in Vietnam produced rumors of an early return.
However, the ship was directed to remain on station in the event of a
possible “last push” by the communists to improve the latter’s position at
the Paris peace talks, as the enemy’s Tet offensive lost momentum.
Enterprise came about from Yankee Station on 20 May 1968, conducting a
memorial service en route, and entered NAS Cubi Point, 22–23 May. She then
steamed to Hong Kong, where both the British Commodore, and Commander, Hong
Kong, were guests. Her visit, however, triggered a Communist Chinese protest
that the colony was being used as a 7th Fleet base for operations in the
Vietnam War. The British quickly repudiated the obvious ploy and the ship
stood out as scheduled on the 30th.
Operations continued with increasing ferocity across South Vietnam as Allied
forces attempted to regain much of the ground lost during the opening
communist attacks in Tet. Enterprise returned to the line, sailing from Hong
Kong on 30 May 1968. Arriving at Yankee Station on 1 June, she launched
primarily interdiction strikes, also hosting a Spanish delegation led by
Chief, Army Central Staff, Director General, Military Academy, Director, Air
University, and Director, School of Advanced Studies.
Silver Kite 215, an F-4B (BuNo 150453), Lieutenant Commander Peter A.
Carroll, pilot, and Lieutenant Commander Edward P. Sierra, RIO, VF-92,
launched on a ForceCAP mission, at 1825 on 2 June 1968. After completing the
mission they were returning to Enterprise when the Phantom II unexplicably
lost altitude, its nose dropping slowly. Applying more power, back stick and
trim, Carroll attempted to correct the situation, but the aircraft continued
to drop, forcing the pilot to shout “Eject!” Sierra asked “Eject?” but
looking forward toward Carroll could see water through the windshield as they
approached the sea and ejected, noting 800 feet on the altimeter as he did
so, at 1953, followed by Carroll. Fortunately, both men were spotted thanks
to their flares and the pilot’s strobe light and recovered by the UH-2C plane
guard helot, Lieutenant (jg) Edward E. Rea, pilot, Lieutenant (jg) Jack L.
Turner, co-pilot, ADJ3 Paul L. Swartz, crewman, and AE3 Barry H. Puckett,
swimmer, HC-1 Det 65, at 2004–2005.
At 1458 on 7 June 1968, Lieutenant (jg) Roderick J. Edens, Jr., pilot, and
Lieutenant (jg) William R. McClendon, III, RIO, VF-92, launched from No. 4
catapult on a BarCAP in an F-4B (BuNo 150994). Immediately after the aircraft
left the flight deck, however, Edens attempted to lower the left wing and
started to initiate a climbing attitude and a left clearing turn, but
experienced “difficulty in moving the stick.” Using both hands in a final
desperate attempt to save the Phantom II, which was not responding, Edens
told McClendon to eject and then followed suit. At this point, the aircraft
was level with the flight deck and just starting to cross the bow of
Enterprise. The F-4B impacted the water nose down and still in a right bank
about one mile off the starboard beam of the carrier after completing a
180º–200º turn from its original launch course. Lieutenant (j.g.) Rea and his
crew again responded, having both men in sight and already hovering in their
SAR, ready to recover as the men had barely hit the water, having them both
back on board in approximately 10 minutes.
Rear Admiral Cagle relieved Rear Admiral Epes as ComCarDiv-1, on 8 June 1968,
and while en route to Washington, DC, to assume his new post as Chief of
Staff of the U.S. Army, General William Westmoreland arrived on board on 9
June. The general chose Enterprise as the setting for his farewell address to
the 7th Fleet.
Numerous guests who visited Enterprise during this time included Com7thFlt,
ComCarDivs-2 and 7, and Lieutenant General Robert E. Cushman, Jr., Commanding
General, III Marine Amphibious Force (MAF); on 12 June 1968, Enterprise
welcomed a midshipmen indoctrination class.
Interdiction strikes over the “panhandle” of North Vietnam continued without
pause. Shortly after arriving over his targets, Trang Mao POL storage area
and Nghia Dong truck park, as part of a three plane strike, Champion 414, an
A-4E (BuNo 149665), Lieutenant Julian M. Wright, VA-56, experienced two
thumps, on 15 June 1968. Noticing fluctuating oil pressure, Wright tried to
make it back to Enterprise, but when the oil pressure dropped to zero the
A-4E lost altitude and the engine flamed out. Wright managed to restart the
engine and climb to 4,500 feet where he ejected at 1057. An Angel UH-2C from
HC-2, from America (CVA-66), recovered Wright.
A flight of four A-4Fs from Enterprise hit the Vinh Storage area on 23 June,
encountering scattered and broken clouds, a ceiling of 8,000 feet and
visibility of 10 nautical miles. One after the other, the Skyhawks swept over
the target, maintaining 1,500 yard spacing between then and releasing from
6,000 feet. Although smoke and dust obscured the target area, the pilots
expressed confidence that they had hit it hard with 28 MK 82s, a Raygun
flight noting secondary explosions, though the strike received 37 mm AAA over
the target area. Battle Cry 301, one of the A-4Fs (BuNo 154216), Lieutenant
Ernest E. Christensen, VA-113, coasted out, joining up with the others at
10,000 feet. However, 301, probably hit by flak, experienced power problems
during join-up, culminating in a flame out just after he went “feet wet.”
Attempts to restart failed and Christensen was forced to eject from 5,000
feet. Christensen was in the water approximately 10–15 minutes before rescue
by Big Mother 71.
Enterprise aircraft flew 130 combat/combat support sorties on 24 June 1968,
“to impede the flow of war material and men to the south.” Intruders “seeded”
the Song Ca water interdiction point, Trai Trang and Nui Ngoc choke points,
Vinh transshipment point (southeast) and the Linh Cam highway ferry. A-6s
blasted the Vinh Railroad and Highway Bridges, the Thanh Dam highway ferry,
and “waterborne traffic” on Waterways 9 and 11, as well, claiming damage to
as many as 33 vessels.
CVW-9’s Skyhawks destroyed the Xom Trot highway bridge, and hit several other
bridges, while at least 10 secondary explosions were noted at the Dia Linh
truck park and ammunition storage. Two AAA sites near Ben Thuy Ferry were
pummeled, and two–three secondary fires were observed at the Vinh Flat Face
As usual, such operations did not occur without cost. Ray Gun 503, an A-6A
(BuNo 152949), Lieutenant Nicholas M. Carpenter, pilot, and Lieutenant (jg)
Joseph S. Mobley, bombardier/navigator, VA-35, launched at 1931 on 24 June
1968, in company with Ray Guns 511, 513 and 521, for independent strikes
against North Vietnam. 503’s target was the Kim Ma water interdiction point
near Vinh. Carpenter and Mobley’s “coast-in” should have occurred at 1955,
but at 1956, 503 reported sighting “numerous trucks” at 18º33’N, 105º44’E,
vectoring a flight of Skyhawks toward the trucks and then proceeding on its
mission. At about 1959, Champion 401, an A-4E, VA-56, and Ray Gun 521, both
sighted a “fireball” in the vicinity of 18º37’N, 105º39’E, the former also
spotting AAA bursts in the sky over Vinh just moments before. That position
coincided with an IFF “squawk” from 503 received by Knicknack 701, an E-2A.
Six minutes later, Champion 401 and “other aircraft” received a “beeper”
distress signal in the same area. 401 homed in on the signal and established
its location to be approximately where the fireball was observed.
Subsequently, a momentary beeper signal was received, but was “interrupted
frequently” by several “excited” voices talking simultaneously in what was
tentatively identified as Vietnamese. Listeners noted no further
transmissions. Carpenter did not survive the war, and his remains were only
returned to the U.S. on 13 September 1990, and identified on 27 March of the
following year. Mobley was captured and did not return home until 14 March
A ship’s Skyhawk was lost at sea due to a flame out, though the pilot
survived and was recovered, on 23 June 1968. Another A-4 crashed on the
flight deck on this busy day, due to its nose wheel collapsing, but the pilot
On 26 June 1968, Enterprise finally completed her third WestPac tour and came
about for home, arriving at Subic two days later. The ship’s company
celebrated Independence Day in full dress, while a gun salute honoring the
Republic was fired by Naval Station, Subic Bay. The next day a joint
U.S.-Australian delegation led by AirPac visited Enterprise, the ship
standing out for home, on 6 July. Enterprise returned to NAS Alameda on 18
July 1968, having completed 12,839 catapult launches, with 12,246 sorties --
9,182 of them combat.
After conducting post-deployment conferences, Enterprise sailed for Operation
Northwest Passage, the voyage to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton,
Washington, on 27 July 1968, with dependents embarked. The ship entered the
yard on 29 July. During her stay there, various guests, including AirPac, and
the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Atomic Energy, visited. On 22
September, the ship held an open house for shipyard workers and their
families, conducting a fast cruise on the 26th. Completing the “much needed”
but limited overhaul, she stood out for her home port on 28 September,
arriving home on the 30th, during which the ship and CVW-9 each received the
Navy Unit Commendation, and Captain Lee received the Legion of Merit.
Enterprise then alternated in-port periods with carrier qualifications,
refresher training and combat readiness exercises in the southern California
operating area, 9–25 October, off northern California operations area, 2–10
November, and again off southern California, 12–22 November. Knowing they
would eventually be returning to Vietnamese waters, however, the crew pushed
themselves hard getting ready during the intervening period -- sometimes
On 5 November 1968, a KA-3B (BuNo 138906) (NJ 311), Lieutenant (jg) Frank J.
Carson, pilot, and AMH2 Charles E. Collett, plane captain, launched for
carrier qualifications. Completing two touch and go landings, the men came
around for their third, commencing their approach with a slight overshoot. As
the plane passed over the stern of the ship the wings were level and the
landing signal officer (LSO) was anticipating a “good three wire
arrangement.” Suddenly, the right wing dropped and the aircraft contacted the
deck with the right wing tip and the starboard main landing gear. Carson
immediately turned downwind for another approach, attempting to regain
control, boltering. The aircraft was directed to NAS Alameda, and though
experiencing lateral control problems during acceleration, landed ashore
without further incident. Both men escaped uninjured, but the KA-3B received
damage, including the wing tip torn from the aircraft.
Later that evening, Drake 305, an RA-5C (BuNo 147850), Lieutenant Commander
James K. Thompson, pilot, and TD1 Carl D. Noto, reconnaissance attack
navigator, RVAH-3, launched to make three night carrier landings, at 1918.
Thompson completed two but on the third landed “extremely hard,” the hook
skipping all four wires. An arrested landing was accomplished upon the fourth
attempt. The Vigilante suffered extensive damage, however, requiring it to be
off loaded to Naval Air Rework Facility (NARF) Alameda.
Angel 73, a UH-2C (BuNo 150177) (073), Lieutenant Ronald R. Bradley, pilot,
Lieutenant (jg) George G. Kirsten, co-pilot, AMH2 Kenneth S. Carpenter and
Airman Brian S. Mullen, crewmen, HC-1 Det 65, lifted off forward on the
angled flight deck for plane guard, at 2232 on 16 November 1968. Kirsten made
the take-off and climbed straight ahead up to about 500 feet. Approximately
one mile ahead and to port of Enterprise, Bradley took control, the tower
instructing him to drop down to 250 feet. As Angel 73 began a descending left
turn, Kirsten noted that he was unable to see the carrier, which was almost
directly aft. Dropping rapidly, the helo impacted the water hard, but fixed
wing recovery continued as the carrier attempted to regain radio
communication with Angel 73. About 25 minutes after 73 launched, there was a
single A-3 remaining to be recovered, and at that time it was determined that
no one held visual or radar contact with the Seasprite. After three bolters
the A-3 arrested on deck, approximately 41 minutes after Angel 73 had
launched. Search helo No. 83, Lieutenant (jg) Jack L. Berg, HC-1 Det 65,
pilot, launched from Enterprise at 2255, shortly joined by No. 80, a SAR helo
from Kitty Hawk, 45 minutes later. Surface fog and haze impeded rescue
efforts to locate the survivors, who fired “numerous” flares. In addition,
Berg’s doppler gear became inoperative, his radar altimeter failed in hover,
and “gusty winds” and high swells complicating the rescue. At about 2355, No.
80 picked up Kirsten and Carpenter, 83 recovering Bradley, who was
unconscious, a few minutes later. Bradley died of his injuries at 0055, and
no trace of Mullen was ever found.
On 3 December 1968, Enterprise joined 27 other ships and 31 Naval Aviation
squadrons for Operation Beeftrust. This was a seven day 1st Fleet combat
training exercise designed to prepare commands not only for potential Vietnam
deployment, but also for situations they might encounter “anywhere in the
Western Pacific,” held off the southern California operating area, Enterprise
returning to NAS Alameda on the 9th.
Early in that period of training, Folder One, a KA-3B (BuNo 138909),
Lieutenant (jg) Tommy L. Masten, pilot, ADJ2 Walter H. Kaess,
crewman/navigator and ATC Richard H. Edwards, crewman/navigator, VAQ-132,
launched from the No. 1 catapult during the morning watch, at 0946 on 4
December 1968. All preflight and prelaunch checks were normal, the turnup signal
was given, the final checks were completed and the salute given. However, at
approximately one third the stroke, the nosewheel rose perhaps one foot above
the deck. Suddenly, the nose tire and “possibly” the wheel exploded,
unidentified “pieces” being observed falling from the underside of the nose
of the aircraft. The rate of acceleration decreased, part of the nose gear
collapsed, and a length of the bridle arrester flew off to starboard and into
the water. The shuttle detached from the KA-3B, which left the bow in a nose
down attitude with the right wing slightly low. The aircraft rotated to a
somewhat nose high attitude before hitting the water. Just prior to the crash
many small splashes were seen ahead of the ship.
“Plane in the water” announced the Officer of the Deck (OOD), the captain
ordering “Left full rudder,” followed by “Right full rudder,” in addition to
coming to all stop. The crash alarm was sounded, and the plane guard, her old
consort Bainbridge, was notified by radio, launching her motor whaleboat.
Once the spray cleared, the right wing could be seen intact separated from
the fuselage, leaving the upper part of the latter open. ADJ2 Kaess, the only
survivor, broke the surface almost immediately, without his helmet. Two life
rings were thrown to him, but fell short. However, the plane guard UH-2C,
Lieutenant (jg) Harlan W. Woodward, pilot, Ensign Alan W. Jacka, co-pilot,
Airman S.B. Griffith and AMH2 J.A. Zils, crewmen, HC-1 Det 65, soon arrived
on the scene. Lowering a swimmer once the ship was clear, the shocked
survivor, who had injuries to both his arms, was hoisted into the helo, his
“rescue characterized by excellent crew coordination and outstanding
performances by the swimmer and the efficient calm manner of the first crewman.”
Although the men of the SAR team did everything they could to find Masten and
Edwards, no trace of either was seen.
NG (Busy Bee) 305, an A-7B (BuNo 154459), Lieutenant Commander Robert J.
Simonic, VA-146, launched as the scheduled flight leader of a two-plane night
rocket mission assigned a target on San Clemente Island, Calif., at 1856 on 7
December 1968. Rendezvousing with Lieutenant Humphreys, the second man in the
flight, the two proceeded on their runs, expending all ordnance, before
coming about for Enterprise, Humphreys taking the lead. At 2035, Simonic
reported to the ship that he had experienced a PC-2 hydraulic failure, asking
to “come aboard as soon as possible or be diverted to Miramar or some other
Enterprise granted 305 almost immediate clearance, the pilot responding that
he could commence in about 90 seconds. As he descended toward the ship, still
over 20 miles out and at about 8,000 feet, Simonic told the ship he was
experiencing trouble holding his nose up. Within barely a minute, he
requested that they dispatch the SAR helo, transmitting “Passing 35, punching
out,” approximately five miles aft of the ship. The HC-1 Det 65 crew arrived
overhead in about seven minutes, guided by the pilot’s strobe light. The helo
crewman entered the water, but discovered Simonic badly entangled in his
parachute and shroud lines. Unable to free him, the swimmer requested help
from destroyer Higbee (DD-806), which launched a whaleboat, and did
everything possible for the pilot, including keeping his head above water
until he could be pulled into the boat and taken to the ship. Artificial
respiration, however, proved unavailing, and Simonic was pronounced dead on
board Higbee at 2215.
Enterprise deployed from Alameda on 6 January 1969. Embarked was CVW-9,
comprising VFs-92 and 96, VAs-145, 146 and 215, VAW-112, RVAH-6, VAQ-132 and
HC-1 Det 65. She conducted flight operations on 9 January, prior to arrival
in Hawaiian waters the following day. These air operations continued until
the ship pulled into Pearl on the 12th.
Tragedy struck Enterpriseas she stood out for her operational readiness
inspection on 13 January 1969 during the morning watch, on 14 January 1969.
At 0819, the ship was at 20º27’7”N, 158º27’5”W, steaming on a 090º course at
11 knots. Visibility was 10 miles with no obstructions to vision, ceiling was
3,000 feet, and there was a gentle breeze with eight foot swells.
Following the 0700 launch of Event 1, there were 41 aircraft on the flight
deck. Fifteen aircraft were respotted and loaded for Event 2: four F-4Js,
VF-96, CAS; two F-4Js, VF-92, CAP; two A-7Bs, VA-146, CAS; four A-7Bs,
VA-215, Strike; one RA-5C, reconnaissance; one EKA-3B Tanker/ECM; and an A-7B
Test Flight. There were also two F-4J Alert 5 CAP, an A-7B CAS “spare” and a
KA-3B Alert 30 tanker. Twenty-two other aircraft were on the flight deck “in
various states of readiness,” maintenance and servicing. Pilots manned their
aircraft about 0800, commencing preflight preparations, the order to start
them being given 10 minutes later.
During the start sequence No. 6 MD3A Aircraft Starter Unit, known as a
Huffer, driven by Airman John R. Webster, was connected to the starboard side
of Phantom II No. 105, (BuNo 155785), Lieutenant (jg) James H. Berry, pilot,
and Lieutenant (jg) Buddy D. Pyeatt, RIO, VF-96. 105 was configured with full
fuel, both internally and tanks, 18,500 lb of JP-5. It is believed that the
Huffer’s gas turbine exhaust fumes were pouring directly onto the Zuni
rockets loaded onto 105 for two to three minutes, heating them to dangerously
Suddenly, at 0819, an explosion erupted near the starboard wing of 105, most
probably caused by the detonation of a Mk 32 Zuni warhead. Fragments from the
warhead ruptured the Phantom II’s fuel tanks, igniting spilled fuel into a
“catastrophic” fire spreading “quickly” to adjacent planes. “Within minutes”
flames engulfed the entire after end of the flight deck, and exploding
ordnance prevented adequate fire-fighting measures, the intensity of the
flames and flying fragments preventing many men from even approaching the
The primary damage to the ship was caused by explosions of weapons
penetrating the flight deck, “sending large, high velocity fragments into
compartments below.” Five large holes in the flight deck were made by Mk 82
bombs that “cooked off in the fire.” A series of four explosions occurred
between 0822–0826, and four more from 0830–0835. Making desperate efforts to
clear the area of potential hazards, the crew had jettisoned all unexploded
ordnance into the sea seven minutes later.
Just as the fire began the ship was starting a port turn to facilitate
launching aircraft. Captain Lee took the helm seconds after the initial
blast, ordering a continuation of the port turn to her head “into the wind,”
the maneuver keeping the 18-knot wind blowing the flames toward the fantail,
away from the aircraft and the island.
Holes in the flight deck, however, allowed burning fuel to enter lower deck
compartments, starting Class A, B and C fires. Burning fuel spilling over the
sides damaged equipment in and around the catwalks and the BPDMS launchers.
Fortunately, the holes in the flight deck also provided access for fire
fighting water by the damage control parties. Damage to the SPS-33 antenna
required heavy repairs during overhaul later in the year.
Destroyers Rogers (DD-876) and Stoddard (DD-566), meanwhile, wasted no time
in laying alongside to assist Enterprise’s deck hose teams in battling the
blaze, often as close as 50 feet to the carrier, the destroyers being
enveloped by smoke. Once the fires above deck were under control, at about
0900, they joined Bainbridge searching for men in the water.
One of the HC-1 Seasprites on deck at the time of the catastrophe had been
damaged, but the other, piloted by Lieutenant Commander J. M. Harris, rescued
men blown over the side of the ship, his crewman, AMH2 J.A. Zils, making four
jumps into the water retrieving shipmates. A flight of planes on a bombing
run over the range at Kahoolawe, southwest of Maui, diverted to Barbers
Point, the 14 pilots “waiting on the pier” as the ship moored eight hours
Enterprise lost 25 men, including Lieutenant (jg) Pyeatt and Airman Webster,
that day, and listed two as missing, presumed dead, not recovered. She
sustained a total of 371 casualties during the fire; 62 required transfer to
the U.S. Army’s Tripler General Hospital, Honolulu, which ordered a “mass
casualty” alert, for additional treatment and/or aeromedical evacuation to
mainland government hospitals. Among the latter were 10 burn victims
airlifted to Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas, a hospital
specializing in burn treatment. Damage to aircraft, ground support equipment,
aircraft-installed equipment and air-launched weapons due to fire, explosions
and salt water proved extensive. Fifteen aircraft were lost: 17 damaged.
Enterprise terminatied her ORI and returned to Pearl on the same date;
CinCPac came on board to inspect the damage. ComCarDiv-1 began a preliminary
investigation of the fire the next day, the formal investigation board
convened by AirPac, with Rear Admiral F.A. Bardshar, ComCarDiv-7, as the
senior member, on the 16th, the same day that the SAR for missing crewmembers
was reluctantly ended.
The report released by the board, that completed its investigation on 11
February 1969, indicated that “…sound damage control organization, training
and execution minimized casualties and prevented the initial fire from
spreading beyond the Fly Three area of the flight deck to any significant
degree.” Though Enterprise was stricken by the intensity of the
conflagration, her crew responded with dogged and selfless determination to
save their ship, something reflected in many men receiving citations and
commendations for heroism. Enterprise could have commenced operating aircraft
again if necessary by noon on the 14th, eloquent testimonial to her damage
control parties. Her catapults, arresting system and landing area remained
intact throughout the ordeal.
Nonetheless, Enterprise required repairs exceeding $10 million to restore her
to “pre-fire conditions,” and replacement costs for the aircraft lost totaled
$44,109,442. The crew and workers at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard began
immediate repairs to the ship. Pushing themselves hard, these men had
Enterprise ready for sea in half the projected time, a point noted on 27
February 1969 by William D. Bennett, President, Pearl Harbor Association, who
presented the crew with a plaque commemorating the rapport developed between
the crew and shipyard workers.
After conducting a fast cruise on 3 March 1969, and pre-deployment briefings,
3–4 March, Enterprise and her crew were once again prepared for their
interrupted WestPac deployment. She stood out of Pearl Harbor on the morning
of 5 March, but as she passed the southeast corner of Ford Island, mud and
silt injected into her condensers caused her to lose power. She moored on the
northwest side of the island to address the condition, and was underway again
before the end of the day.
Refresher training in Hawaiian waters (5–9 March 1969) prepared the crew for
continuing westward, beginning with their departure from Pearl Harbor on the
11th. Assigned to CVW-9 were 87 aircraft: 26 Phantom IIs, five Vigilantes, 14
Intruders, 30 LTD A-7E Corsair IIs, five Skywarriors, four Hawkeyes and three
Seasprites. Crossing the IDL two days later, Enterprise completed five days
of operations in Philippine waters designed “to familiarize pilots and crews
with specific procedures that would be used in the Yankee Station
environment,” 22–26 March.
Enterprise then spent two “brief, busy” days moored at Cubi Point (27–28
March 1969), for refueling, briefings and preparations, ComCarDiv-1 breaking
his flag on the 27th. Standing out from Subic Bay on the 29th, the ship arrived
at Yankee Station two days later, commencing combat flight operations a
little over two hours into the morning watch on 31 March 1969.
Field Goal 604, an RA-5C (BuNo 150842), Commander Danforth E. White, pilot,
and Lieutenant Ramey L. Carpenter, bombardier/navigator, RVAH-6, launched
with Silver Kite 213, an F-4J escort for a reconnaissance mission, at 1004 on
the 31st. They were to cover Route 8 in Laos from Muang Gnommarat to Nape
Pass. Both aircraft penetrated the coast at Hué, proceeding toward Laos at
18,000 feet. At about 20 miles south of the assigned rroute, the flight began
a descent to about 5,000 feet. After leveling off, they made a 360º turn
“apparently to verify starting position of the run.” Turning hard to
starboard, probably to line up over the road, Field Goal 604 was making an
80º bank pulling “about 3 G’s” when the aft section exploded “in a large
black and orange ball,” at approximately 1055. The Vigilante broke up into
several pieces with the forward part of the fuselage and part of the wings
forming the largest piece, which seemed to enter into a flat spin. Silver
Kite 213 transmitted “eject” several times over UHF radio before this portion
of the Vigilante impacted at the base of a nearby ridge and burned. Observers
neither saw parachutes nor heard beepers. The escort orbited overhead until
relieved by A-1s. Though no AAA fire was observed by the F-4J prior to the
explosion, “moderate” automatic weapons fire was noted while orbiting the
scene. Speculation focused upon the prospect that a fuel cell was hit by
small arms or AAA fire, triggering the explosion. Both men’s remains were not
returned until 11 March 1997, being identified on 9 July 1998.
Operations continued until 16 April 1969 with one stand down day on the 9th,
being interrupted by unforeseen events to the north. An unarmed VQ-1 Lockheed
EC-121M Constellation (BuNo 135749) was on a routine reconnaissance patrol
over the Sea of Japan from its base at NAF Atsugi, Japan, on 14 April. North
Korean aircraft shot down the Constellation about 90 miles off the coast of
Korea, killing all 31 crewmen.
Task Force 71 was activated on the 16th, and dispatched to conduct SAR
missions and to protect ongoing U.S. reconnaissance flights, such being
conducted over international waters. While steaming on station, Enterprise
came about to reinforce TF 71, at 1239 on 19 April 1969. That same day, while
en route to Korean waters, planes from Enterprise intercepted two Soviet
Bears in the “vicinity of the task force.” The ships of the force entered the
Sea of Japan on 21 April, where they were again threatened by a pair of
Bears. Phantom IIs from the “Big E” again saw off the Tu-95s.
Joining with carriers Hornet (CVS-12), Ranger and Ticonderoga and their
screens and support ships, Enterprise was subsequently designated as the
flagship of TF 71. Transiting the Tsushima Strait en route to Defender
Station in the Yellow Sea, on 26 April 1969, Enterprise was visited by
Admiral Hyland, CinCPac, on 1 May. After moving south into the East China
Sea, on 3 May, the “Big E” was relieved on station by Kitty Hawk on 12 May.
Although Enterprise launched no combat sorties during the crisis, she carried
out valuable training operations. She remained on station after the departure
of the other carriers until tensions between North Korea and the U.S.
subsided enough to free her to proceed to Cubi Point where she arrived on 14
May after an “arduous” 47 consecutive days at sea.
Enterprise stood out for Singapore on 21 May 1969, and conducted a port visit
from 24 to 28 May. Underway on the 29th, Enterprise reached Yankee Station,
beginning her second line period of the cruise with a strike, launched at
0630 on 31 May. The ship’s single operational loss of the deployment occurred
during this second line period, a VA-215 A-7B, near Chu Lai, South Vietnam,
on 1 June. The pilot, however, was recovered.
“Combat support operations” concluded on 16 June 1969, Enterprise coming
about for Philippine waters. During this WestPac deployment, the ship
launched 1,699 strike sorties, and her aircraft dropped 4,351 tons of
ordnance, a daily average of 84 and 131.8, respectively. Ordnance delivered
included 14,437 high explosive (HE) bombs, 327 cluster bombs and five
air-to-ground missiles. In addition to her own 42 underway replenishments,
Enterprise “topped off” destroyers 27 times.
Enterprise visited Cubi Point (18–19 June 1969), disembarking ComCarDiv-1 and
offloading stores. Standing out on the morning of 20 June 1969, she headed
home, crossing the IDL on the 27th, and arriving at Alameda on 2 July.
Due to the carrier’s overhaul, scheduled for at least 50 weeks, Enterprise’s
homeport was changed to Norfolk, effective on 10 July 1969. With her air wing
ashore, the ship loaded crewmen’s automobiles, setting forth for her new homeport
on 14 July. Her mammoth dimensions precluded a transit of the Panama Canal
and forced her to “round the Horn.” Enterprise crossed the equator at
108º08’W, on 18 July 1969, “Neptunus Rex” inducting 2,380 “lowly pollywogs
into the brotherhood of Trusty Shellbacks.” A little less than a week later,
the crew saw land for the first time in 10 days “as the sunrise silhouetted
Terra del Fuego,” at 0857 on 24 July 1969. Uncommonly for the region, the
ship encountered calm seas, partly cloudy skies and air temperatures of 40º
Rio de Janeiro “welcomed” Enterprise, 29 July–2 August 1969, and she held
public visiting daily, limiting passes to people who had obtained them from
the U.S. Embassy. Following her Brazilian visit, Enterprise continued on, and
ultimately arrived at her new home port on 12 August, proceeding up the
Elizabeth River to her berth at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard to commence
Enterprise entered Dry Dock No. 8, on 22 August 1969, and on 11 October, she
made a “deadplant transit” to her builders’ yard. Other than a small fire
destroying the flag bag on the starboard side of the bridge on 14 May 1970
(the damaged bag was replaced), the work proceeded uneventfully, and the ship
remained in yard hands through the end of 1970. During that time, an
administrative detachment traveled to Alameda to provide “…logistical,
transportation and administrative coordination, primarily for families in the
area, including new families reporting in” for the change in homeport that
During the overhaul, an Improved Rearming Rate Program (IRRP) was initiated
on board; a “total systems approach” for faster weapons handling and loading,
including strikedown/strikeup rates, together with enlarged elevators and
power operated doors and ready service magazines. Communications improvements
included modernizing UHF facilities. In addition, retrofitting the IOIC and
the Naval Intelligence Processing System (NIPS) improved the reliability of
“Multi-sensor interpretation,” enhancing intelligence processing. However,
regarding modifications to NTDS, delays were incurred due to the age of some
parts, some of which were no longer available and had to be manufactured by
the shipyard. The Mk 2 Mod 1A Ships Inertial Navigation System (SINS) was
replaced by the Mk 3 Mod 7 SINS, providing data on ship’s position, velocity
and attitude to ship’s systems such as Aircraft Inertial Navigation Systems
(AINS). A satellite navigation system and Loran C were installed. The
AN/URN-20 TACAN dual system replaced the single transceiver system, and
AN/SPN-10 radar was upgraded by the addition of AN/SPN-42.
The flight deck, gallery walkway and fantail washdown system was modified
from sea water to a sea water/”light water” foam fire fighting system. The
high capacity protein foam system was modified into a high capacity light
water foam system. The ship’s eight reactor plants were refueled, and a
distilling plant capable of handling 70,000 gallons per day was installed.
This second nuclear refueling gave Enterprise the ability to steam unrefueled
for 10–13 years of combat operations. Enterprise was repainted, a laborious
process requiring the chipping and preservation of her “skin,” together with
refurbishment of all major spaces and equipment. A complete resurfacing of
the hanger and flight decks with non-skid was accomplished. All 12 of the
ship’s boats were overhauled and “re-outfitted.”
Between 9–12 January 1971, Enterprise carried out a fast cruise while moored at
her builders’ and again, from the 15th–16th, while anchored at X-Ray
Anchorage, Norfolk. Sea trials with her newly designed nuclear reactor cores,
containing enough energy to power her for the next ten years, ensued under
the direct observation of Vice Admiral Rickover himself off the Virginia
capes (17–19 January). Enterprise then returned to Pier 12, Norfolk (20
January–3 February), for supplies before beginning her return voyage.
The next day (4 February 1971) Enterprise sailed for the west coast, conducting
flight refresher training en route for 26 embarked aircraft from CVW-14.
Enterprise crossed the equator on 12 February, initiating 2,021 new
“shellbacks.” Three days later the carrier entered Rio de Janeiro, 15–20
February. During the visit, her 10 operable boats transported 36,320 visitors
out to the ship and back. In addition, Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., the
Chief of Naval Operations, visited the ship, on the 17th.
Rounding Cape Horn on 25 February 1971, Enterprise thus experienced the
unique opportunity of crossing the equator twice, off the east and west
coasts of the Americas respectively. In addition, she conducted extensive
refresher training period in preparation for her next ORI. Enterprise passed
up the west coast of South America, ultimately mooring at North Island on 7
Enterprise completed refresher training and her ORI in the southern
California operating area (9–17 March 1971), returning to her home port of
Alameda (which had, administratively, become effective on 15 September 1970),
the next day, the crew spelling out “E Is Home” on her flight deck as she
passed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge.
Enterprise conducted additional air operations in the southern California
operating area, (13–20 April 1971), and again 26 April–7 May, in preparation
for the upcoming WestPac deployment. The next day 4,000 dependents came on
board for a short cruise, following which the ship again steamed in the
southern California operating area for refresher training, 11–20 May, also
embarking Navy League members at North Island for a one-day cruise, on the
Enterprise sailed from Alameda for her fifth WestPac deployment on 11 June
1971, with CVW-14 (Tail Code NK) embarked, comprising VF-142 and VF-143
(F-4Js), VA-27, VA-97 (A-7Es) and VA-196 (A-6Bs and KA-6Ds), RVAH-5, VAW-113,
VAW-130 Det 4, and HC-1 Det 4. On the morning of the 13th, she rendezvoused
with destroyers Rupertus (DD-851) and Wilson (DD-847). The task group arrived
in the Hawaii operating area on 16 June, beginning five days of air
operations in preparation for an operational readiness exercise (ORE).
Putting into Pearl Harbor on the 21st, Enterprise then completed her ORE,
22–23 June, before returning to Pearl, 24–25 June.
Clearing Pearl the next day, the ships completed a largely uneventful
transit, one punctuated by Enterprise airlifting eight EOD divers to Rupertus
while the latter lay at Midway, enabling the destroyer to complete underwater
repairs to continue her voyage. Chopping to Com7thFlt on the morning of 2
July 1971 they were designated TG 77.5, with Enterprise as the flagship. The
carrier arrived at Leyte Pier, Cubi Point, on the 7th. The next day Rear
Admiral Damon W. Cooper, “triple-hatted” as ComCarDiv-5, Commander, TF 71 and
Commander, TF 77, began moving on board with this staff, remaining with the
ship until January 1972.
Through the end of July 1971, Enterprise served intermittently off Vietnam,
together with Midway (CVA-41) and Oriskany (CVA-34), the three carriers
launching a total of 2,001 strike sorties during 22 two-carrier days and nine
single-carrier days, operations interrupted by typhoons Harriet, Kim and
Jean, that each swept across the South China Sea. Each storm forced the ships
to shift station to evade it. Nonetheless, the month entailed a slight
increase in strikes flown over South Vietnam, due primarily to missions
against enemy troop positions and supporting U.S. helo operations.
Underway on 12 July 1971, Enterprise arrived on Yankee Station for her first
line period, 15–30 July. She flew strikes in both the Steel Tiger Area in the
eastern Laos Panhandle, and in Military Region I of South Vietnam, her planes
pounding infiltration and logistic targets both day and night. As a matter of
course, flight operations proved perilous and uncomfortable for sailors
regardless of work assignment. Of the 15 men in each catapult crew, for
example, some were stationed below decks in spaces where the temperatures
seldom dropped below 100º F., in what they referred to as “steam-conditioned”
The first underway replenishment and vertical replenishment conducted during
this period, with fast combat support ship Sacramento (AOE-1) and combat
stores ship Niagara Falls (AFS-3), involved a complex night vertical
replenishment utilizing four CH-46s, on 20 July 1971. The transfer involved
“a complete variety of stores and a full ordnance rearmament,” Sacramento
also refueling Enterprise for the latter’s aircraft, and for the carrier to
refuel escorts as needed.
Five days later Sacramento completed a second VertRep with the “Big E” with a
then unprecedented aerial transfer rate of 90 tons per hour. During this line
period, Enterprise was visited by Rear Admiral S.H. Kinney, ComCruDesPac,
Rear Admiral R.C. Robinson, ComCruDesFlot-11 and industrialist H. Ross Perot.
Coming about on 31 July 1971, the ship arrived at Subic on 2 August.
During the following month, dual-carrier operations off of Vietnam were
conducted only during the first week; and as of 16 August 1971, Enterprise
filled in the remainder of the month as the sole carrier on station. The
strike mix was almost completely reversed from the previous month as a
result; with a total of eight two-carrier days and 23 single-carrier days
producing 1,915 strike sorties.
Enterprise cleared Subic Bay on 13 August 1971, and reached Yankee Station
three days later. During her second line period she was visited by Vice
Admiral W.P. Mack, Com7thFlt, Rear Admiral J.D. Ramage, ComCarDiv-7, U.S.
Deputy Ambassador to South Vietnam S.D. Berger, and Major General G.M. Dolvin,
U.S.A., Commander, XXIV Corps. Coming about on 4 September, she moored at
Cubi Point two days later.
Remaining on station through the first four days of September 1971,
Enterprise was relieved by Oriskany during the middle of the month, she in
turn being relieved by Midway, which flew the final four days of strikes for
the month. A total of 1,243 strike sorties rounded out the month.
In company with Bainbridge, Enterprise stood out of Subic on 11 September
1971, the carrier being visited by Dr. Goh K. Swee, Singapore’s Minister of
Defense, and U.S. Ambassador to Singapore Charles T. Cross, on the 13th.
Shipping traffic to the port and the nearby Malacca Strait, always “extremely
heavy,” often required the ship to make “…numerous course changes to avoid such
in the narrow confines…” In addition, the ship eventually discovered that her
arrival time needed to be programmed for slack water, to avoid having the
pilot guide her to a holding anchorage to await such, causing delays.
Following the visit to Singapore, 14–20 September 1971, Enterprise and her
consort transited the Malacca Strait and entered the Indian Ocean, forming TG
77.5. They collected hydrographic and meteorological data and “demonstrated
the quick response of nuclear vessels.” On 25 September, the ships crossed
the equator, Enterprise initiating 847 “lowly pollywogs.” They then made a
wide loop to the south, skirting the Bay of Bengal and then coming about,
again entering Indonesian waters, where they transited the Sunda Strait, and
then crossed the Java Sea northbound toward the Philippines, mooring at Cubi
Point on the morning of 2 October 1971.
Enterprise stood out for a day to avoid Tropical Storm Faye, on 4 October
1971. Faye swept across the Philippines through Subic and out into the South
China Sea, and then reversed course to pass back over the Philippines, before
dissipating in the Pacific. Returning to Subic Bay until 9 October,
Enterprise sailed for her third line period of the deployment (11 October–2
November 1971), one “characterized by continued poor flying weather resulting
in reduced sorties as the monsoonal pattern over Southeast Asia began to
change from Southwest to Northeast.” This proved especially true of Tropical
Storm Hester in late October, that approached Palawan from the east at 11
knots, but which “accelerated rapidly,” intensifying into typhoon force as it
crossed the South China Sea to slam into the South Vietnamese coast south of
Targets were again located almost “exclusively” in the Steel Tiger East portion
of the Laotian Panhandle. Enterprise and her screen departed Yankee Station
on 3 November 1971, steaming toward Singapore, where Dr. Swee and Ambassador
Cross again visited the ship on the 5th, before she visited the city the next
morning. While there Rear Admiral W.H. Bagley, Assistant Chief of Naval
Personnel, Rear Admiral Ramage, and Major General Tawit Bunyawat, Commander,
Thai Forces, South Vietnam, were on board. During their visit to Singapore,
6–15 November, the men of Enterprise experienced a special treat when a
chartered planeload of their wives flew into the city from Oakland, Calif.,
to visit their husbands; the aircraft flying some of the men back home on
Clearing Singapore on 16 November 1971, Enterprise arrived back on Yankee
Station on the morning of 19 November, relieving Midway and “immediately”
beginning strikes into Steel Tiger East. This line period was similar to the
first three, except that the weather was beginning to improve, with a
corresponding “rise in sorties flown and target results noted.”
Joined by Oriskany on the last day of November 1971, the three carriers
recorded 1,024 ordnance-delivering strike sorties, 30 of them in South
Vietnam and the remainder in Laos during the month. The air warfare posture
changed on the 20th when six MiGs, however, two each at Vinh, Quan Lang and
Bai Thuong, were deployed south of 20ºN.
Normally, planners found it necessary to put two KA-3/KA-6 tankers aloft per
cycle, “dispensing maximum” fuel to launching Phantom IIs, then “consolidating”
the two tankers; one then landed, short cycling, and the other full cycled.
While C-1A COD support from Da Nang proved “reliable,” a ship the size of
Enterprise required three–four daily trips. In addition, 300,000 lb of mail
was carried by HC-1 Det 4 during this WestPac, requiring 920 transfers, as
well as 3,210 passengers.
While on her fourth line period of the cruise, Rear Admiral R.E. Riera,
Commander, Fleet Air, WestPac (ComFairWestPac) and U.S. Ambassador to South
Vietnam Ellsworth Bunker visited Enterprise.
During December 1971, Laser Guided Bombs (LGBs) were introduced to
Enterprise, Constellation and Coral Sea (CVA-43). Some 16 trial LGB drops
were made against communist roads, subsequently also targeting AAA sites.
During 1972, LGBs would more than prove their worth by “working as advertised
in a most effective manner” against “heretofore seemingly indestructible
targets,” such as heavy steel bridge structures built into solid rock.
However, the initial lack of Navy Illuminators as an integral part of air
wings was noted as a “drawback” requiring correction.
Wars and rumors of wars continued unabated. The Indo-Pakistani War began on 3
December 1971. On the 7th, the head of the United Nations relief mission in
East Pakistan (subsequently renamed Bangladesh) indicated that due to the
spread and scope of the fighting, evacuation of Western nationals from the
country might become necessary. Enterprise received orders to “proceed
immediately” to that theater.
Responding to the crisis with “no advanced warning,” Enterprise came about
from Yankee Station, proceeding toward the Malacca Strait, on the morning of
10 December 1971. Combining with other elements of TF 74, including an
amphibious ready group, to form the 7th Fleet’s Contingency Force, Enterprise
was designated flagship of TF 74 (Rear Admiral Cooper). The carrier and her
escorts arrived at a holding area northeast of Singapore on Sunday, 12
Against the backdrop of these contingency operations, at 0844 on 12 December
1971, a COD flight, Grumman C-2A Greyhound (BuNo 152793), Lieutenant Vetal C.
LaMountain, Jr., pilot, and Lieutenant (jg) Gale V. Woolsey, Jr., co-pilot,
VRC-50 Det Cubi Point, took off from Cubi Point, bound for Enterprise, routed
via Tan Son Nhut, for a “logistic support mission.” Two other crewmembers,
Airman James M. Van Buswum, plane captain, and ABH3 Richard C. Gaynor, load
master; together with six passengers, Petty Officer 1st Class D.E. Dickerson,
CTR1 W.R. Woods, CTM2 G.K. Zeller, CTO3 J.M. Coon, CTISN J.M. Deremigio and
Seaman S.H. Elliott, were also on board. Flying across the South China Sea on
Airway R68 the Greyhound reported in at 0927, having reached Coral
Intersection, at approximately 13º07’N, 117º00’E. From 0941, however, nothing
further was heard from the C-2A.
When the COD flight failed to report its next scheduled position 29 minutes
later, Tan Son Nhut became concerned, the C-2A passing its “zero fuel time”
at 1330. Not until 1650, however, did the squadron’s detachment at Cubi Point
receive notification from base operations that the flight was “overdue.”
During the course of these communications, the 13th Air Force Joint Rescue
Command Center, Clark AB, Philippines, launched a SAR. A “ramp check” of
available airfields in the South China Sea area, done in the event that the
flight might divert to another field due to an emergency, turned out
negative. At 0730 the following day, 13 December 1971, Coral Sea and her
escorting destroyers, Chevalier (DD-805) and Epperson (DD-719), reported
spotting the Greyhound’s debris, including an empty life raft, in an area
about 200 miles southwest of Subic. None of the 10 men on board survived.
Enterprise and her screen, meanwhile, remained within the holding area while
the force assembled, the 10 ships departing two days later to transit the
strait, entering the Indian Ocean on the 15th. Coral Sea relieved Enterprise
and Constellation on Yankee Station on that date, ensuring that the tempo of
strikes continued through December, 2,462 ordnance-bearing strike sorties
being flown by all three carriers through the end of the month.
Freed temporarily from the fighting, the Contingency Force, with Enterprise
as flagship, sailed for the Indian Ocean. Planning was conducted en route for
an operation to fly into Dacca, the capital, bringing out not only Americans
trapped by the fighting, but also a variety of other nationals. Over 2,000
evacuees could be accommodated in her hanger deck if necessary, and hundreds
After one day of operations at Point Alpha, west of the Andaman Sea, TF 74
moved to Point Charlie, off the southern tip of India, to “await instructions
from higher authority.” While at Charlie, guided missile destroyer Decatur
(DDG-31), guided missile frigate King (DLG-10), and destroyers McKean
(DD-784) and Orleck (DD-886) operated with Enterprise.
In the interim, however, the on 12 December 1971, the British Royal Air Force
(RAF) evacuated westerner nationals from East Pakistan, eliminating the
requirement for a U.S. effort. Nonetheless, TF 74 entered the Indian Ocean on
the 15th as a show of force, monitoring both Indian and Pakistani operations
and maritime and air traffic on the one hand, and the increasing numbers of
Soviet aircraft and vessels on the other.
Operations in the Indian Ocean during this cruise “were devoted to
contingency planning, surface surveillance and reporting.” Throughout most of
the crisis, at least one or more vessels of the Soviet Indian Ocean Force
were “in company” with the task force. Thus operations at Point Charlie
consisted of aerial reconnaissance, both visual and photographic, of Soviet
naval forces “in proximity,” updating intelligence holdings regarding East
Bloc operations in the Indian Ocean littoral. However, a limit of 12 jets of
all types per flight cycle was established, due to the lack of “bingo”
(emergency divert) fields. A problem of “major proportions” occurred,
however, when supplies of “key” charts required for the Indian Ocean became
exhausted, and the network of forward U.S. bases proved unable to provide
enough for the ships of TF-74. As a result, Enterprise entered “the chart
reproduction business” to support the ships of the task force. Subsequently,
Enterprise’s Captain Ernest E. Tissot, Jr., recommended that carriers
deploying to the 7th Fleet depart the U.S. with two complete portfolios of
Indian Ocean charts, and that inventories of such items among escorts and
support ships be checked and filled before departing the South China Sea
while COD service from Cubi Point was still available.
Further navigational hazards “flourishing in the waters surrounding and
between” the six straits and passages–Singapore, Malacca, Sunda, Gaspar, San
Bernadino and Palawan–transited during this WestPac deployment included oil
rigs, many not noted on charts. In addition, navigation lights were often
erroneously marked on charts or missing altogether, small unlighted vessels
also becoming quite numerous. “Extreme vigilance at night in these waters,”
Captain Tissot advised, “is mandatory.”
Enterprise received orders on 7 January 1972 to cease operations in the
Indian Ocean. Coming about the next morning, she transited the Malacca
Strait, arriving at Cubi Point, at 0800 on 12 January, following 58
continuous days at sea, 34 in the Indian Ocean. The crew missed mail between
11–24 December, but during an underway replenishment on Christmas Eve
received the welcome addition of 46,000 lb of backlogged letters and parcels.
However, January witnessed further weather interference in the form of
Tropical Storm Kit, which moved into the eastern Philippines “very rapidly,”
stopped, and then turned northeastward into the Pacific, giving the crew some
tense moments. Nonetheless, on the morning of the 17th, Enterprise stood out
from Subic Bay, arriving at Yankee Station on the morning of 19 January.
Rendezvousing with Constellation, the “Big E” debarked Rear Admiral Cooper
and his staff, 19–20 January 1972. Also on the 20th, the ship hosted Canadian
Brigadier General Robert T. Bennett, Senior Military Representative, International
Enterprise then began strikes, but while eager to return home, her men were
still fully aware “that there was no margin for error and no room for
complacency.” However, the ongoing withdrawal of American troops from the
theater, combined with relatively limited troop contacts, lowered the air
tempo considerably, aircrews dropping only 944 tons of bombs on the enemy
during her fifth line period of the deployment. Just eight Navy tactical air
sorties were flown over South Vietnam during the entire month of January
1972, and very little attack effort was made against the north, with the
exception of some proactive reaction strikes. Enterprise served
intermittently on station with Constellation and Coral Sea throughout the
Recovering her last strike on 24 January 1972, the ship “turned due east,”
entering Subic Bay on the afternoon of the 25th. On the morning of 27
January, she stood out with guided missile frigate Fox (DLG-33) and destroyer
Epperson (DD-719). Chopping to Com1stFlt on 2 February, the ships were
overflown the next day by Soviet bombers. Intercepted by F-4Js from
Enterprise, the Russians “demonstrated no hostile intent” while conducting
surveillance of the task group, waving, “smiling and gesturing” to the aircrews
more than once to be able to take pictures.
Refueling both her escorts on 4 February 1972, Enterprise and her consorts
then visited Pearl Harbor, 6–7 February. With Epperson detached to her home
port, Pearl, and after leaving Hawaiian waters en route to California, Fox
detached to her home port of San Diego, Enterprise flew most of the aircraft
in her wing off on the 11th.
Thus, on a “cold foggy morning” Enterprise slipped beneath the Golden Gate
Bridge, her crew “manning the rail” in blues, greeted by a sign welcoming the
“Big E” held by wives on the bridge. The sun finally broke through as the
ship moored to Pier 3, Alameda, during the afternoon watch on 12 February
Following standdown, Enterprise crossed to San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard,
Hunters Point, on 15 March 1972, beginning a 60-day selected restricted
availability (SRA). While there the ship conducted a fast cruise, 6–7 May. On
the 8th, she was underway for sea trials in the northern California operating
Enterprise returned to NAS Alameda on 16 May 1972. She was again at sea for
additional training off the coast of northern California between 23 and 27
May. Standing out of Alameda on the morning of the 30th, Enterprise completed
refresher training and ORI in the southern California operating area through
15 June, mooring at North Island overnight on the 31st, 3–4 June, 10th–11th
and 17th–18th. Vice Admiral Thomas J. Walker, AirPac, embarked during her
return to Alameda.
The ship was underway for an inspection by the Board of Inspection and
Survey, 19–20 June 1972. Escorted by ocean escorts Brooke (DEG-1) and Bradley
(DE-1041) the carrier conducted Carrier qualifications in NoCal, 26–30 June.
The crew then celebrated Independence Day weekend in port, hosting “several
thousand” dependents for a day cruise, on the 5th, though enduring inclement
Enterprise again completed carrier qualifications, in company with Bradley,
6–11 July 1972, but the ship’s remaining time at home was not without
tragedy. On 7 July 1972, an F-4 Phantom II from VF-121 was lost on a catapult
shot. The pilot was killed, though his RIO, Lieutenant Commander Samuel N.
Hallmark, was rescued by the plane guard helo (Lieutenant Russell L.
Hallauer), HS-2 Det 1.
On 14 July 1972, VA-196 embarked on board Enterprise at Alameda for carrier
qualifications, ORI and a weapons training exercise. During this period, an
A-6B Intruder (Lieutenant Commander Richard J. Toft and Lieutenant (jg) John
D. Austin, Jr.), experienced control difficulties barely five minutes into
its flight to Miramar, Calif. Both men ejected successfully. An SH-3G
(Lieutenant Commander Roger P. Murray, officer in charge of HS-2’s Det 1),
rushed to the point where the ship’s radar last held the Intruder, but it was
almost 30 miles away from the actual impact area. Undaunted, Murray and his
crew worked out the navigation problem, steering straight to the downed
aviators. The helo’s swimmers assisted the survivors in disentangling
themselves from their parachutes and within scant minutes, the survivors were
en route to the Naval Medical Center, San Diego, near Balboa, Calif., Toft
sustaining injuries requiring extensive treatment.
Anchoring in San Francisco Bay for an ammunition onload on 12 July 1972,
Enterprise spent the weekend at Alameda before returning to sea for carrier
qualifications, this time with Fox, 17–21 July. Accompanied then by
Bainbridge, she conducted qualifications off the southern California
operating area between 25 July–4 August, one of these exercises including
being overflown by a P-3 as practice for Soviet overflights. The carrier then
made a brief stop at North Island (28-29 July).
While egressing from North Island, on 29 July 1972, Enterprise collided with
VI Pak, an Albatross-built, 23-foot wooden sailboat. On board the latter were
Anthony C. Miller, her owner, a local citizen from San Diego, and two other
men. The busy harbor was packed with small craft and Coast Guard cutter
40580, Enterprise’s escort, that preceded the ship, attempting to clear
vessels from ahead of the carrier. The Coast Guardsmen approached the
sailboat, which was on the right edge of San Diego Harbor Channel between
Buoys 17 and 19, instructing Miller and his passengers by hand signals to
come about and leave the channel. Although her mainsail was hoisted, VI Pak
lost the wind and was drifting on the carrier’s starboard bow. At 1131, VI
Pak was barely 100 feet forward of the carrier, collision imminent. Captain
Tissot ordered three blasts on the ship’s horn. Only one of the sailboat’s
crew allegedly attempted to paddle backward out of the way, the remainder
appearing unconcerned, but the existing wind caused her to drift further into
the channel and across Enterprise’s bow, becalming the tiny boat almost dead
center in the channel, with the carrier bearing down upon her. Fortuitously,
the wake from the Coast Guard cutter positioned the sailboat parallel to
Enterprise’s hull and preventing a broadside collision. VI Pak passed along
the carrier’s port side, Enterprise’s bow wave seeming to push the sailboat to
one side. The sailboat’s mast cracked and she slid past under the catwalks,
striking the carrier several times in succession. At this point, Enterprise’s
speed was approximately three knots. As the boat approached abeam of Hanger
#1 on the island at 1140, the Coast Guardsmen caught up with her, passing
those on board a line and towing the boat about 250 feet toward shore,
letting go the line once Miller and his companions, who escaped without
injuries, were safe. Meanwhile, Enterprise went to starboard ahead 2/3 at
1132, followed a minute later by all ahead 2/3, proceeding on her way and
clearing the channel without further mishap. 40580 went to the Commercial
Basin at about 1215, where her coxswain, Engineman 3rd Class Gary R.
Priester, boarded VI Pak and cited her for “negligent operation,” before the
cutter returned to North Island, mooring at 1315.
Returning to Alameda, 5–6 August 1972, Enterprise stood out for a cruise
hosting several hundred under-privileged children from the San Francisco Bay
area, together with wives and children of men held as POWs or listed as MIAs
in Southeast Asia, on the 7th.
Enterprise then accomplished night operations with CVW-14 off the southern
California coast, escorted by Bainbridge, 8–10 August 1972, followed by an ORI
and a weapons training exercise, from the 12th–16th, before she returned to
Although anti-war demonstrators attempted to interfere with her departure,
Enterprise deployed as scheduled during the morning watch on 12 September
1972, again embarking CVW-14, comprising VFs-142 and 143 (F-4Js), VAs-27 and
97 (A-7Es) and 196 (A-6Bs and KA-6Ds), RVAH-13 and HS-2 Det 1 (SH-3Gs).
Unusually, Enterprise and Bainbridge did not pause at Pearl, but continued
their high speed westward transit, crossing the IDL on 18 September 1972, and
chopping to Com7thFlt on the 20th, becoming TG 77.5. The ships were forced to
alter course during their westward transit to avoid Typhoon Ida, nonetheless
completing their transit in the relatively rapid time of only 10 days, a tribute
to the men of their engineering and reactor departments, arriving in Subic on
the afternoon of the 24th.
Increased violence in the Philippines, however, caused by Communist
insurgents, led to the implementation of martial law, the first time that the
men of Enterprise were faced with a strictly enforced curfew in that country.
The possibility of sailors ashore being mistakenly shot by Filipino troops
was very real, aggravating security concerns. The situation also resulted in
what appeared to be “a steady decline in the availability of both hard
narcotics and marijuana in Olongapo.” Since alternate sources, especially of
heroin “of lethal purity,” were available in Hong Kong and Singapore,
however, the ship exercised greater care searching packages of crewmembers
returning from liberty.
Getting underway on the morning of 28 September 1972 for type training off
Subic Bay through 1 October, Enterprise and Bainbridge then shaped course for
Vietnamese waters, arriving on Yankee Station on the 3rd.
Enterprise devoted her first line period during this WestPac tour to strikes
against “known enemy troop locations,” supplies, LOCs and logistics bases in
both Laos and South Vietnam, utilizing those strikes as “a warm-up for the
more demanding air operations over North Vietnam soon to come.” Commander
James O. Harmon, CO, VAQ-131, launched from the deck of Enterprise and flew
the first Grumman EA-6B Prowler combat support mission, in a squadron
Prowler, on 3 October 1972. Although VAH-4 Det M was embarked on board the
carrier during her 1965–66 WestPac, this was also the first deployment of the
entire squadron on board the carrier since the squadron’s redesignation on 1
On 8 October 1972, strikes north of the DMZ began, hitting bridges, truck parks,
storage areas and “other logistics support facilities used by the Communists
to support their massive invasion of South Vietnam.”
The next day, 9 October 1972, Enterprise moved north to Yankee Station,
shortly after launching an Alpha strike comprising A-6s, A-7s, EA-6s, E-2Cs,
an A-5 and F-4s, against the Mi Lai petroleum storage compound. VF-143 took
this opportunity to engage its first MiG CAP about 25 miles inland over North
Vietnam. While flying this protective position northwest of the target area,
the Phantom IIs “operated in the envelopes of several SAM installations and
received response from the enemy AAA batteries.” However, the enemy “elected”
to remain on the ground, unwilling to “put MiGs in the air with the Navy F-4s
in the area.”
The U.S. imposed a further halt upon bombing above the 20th parallel in North
Vietnam, concluding Linebacker I operations on 23 October 1972, a goodwill
gesture toward Hanoi intending to promote North Vietnamese cooperation during
the Paris peace talks. On that date, Vice Admiral Cooper shifted his flag
from Kitty Hawk to Enterprise. By the time the strikes ended aircrews from
Enterprise dropped 2,000 tons of bombs on the enemy. Linebacker I had proved
partially successful by seriously disrupting the flow of supplies from North
Vietnam to communist forces in the south. From May–October 1972, the Navy
flew a total of 23,652 tactical air attack sorties into North Vietnam.
While there were no MiG kills or losses sustained during this period,
Enterprise alternated with America, Constellation, Coral Sea, Hancock, Kitty
Hawk, Midway, Oriskany, Ranger and Saratoga on Yankee Station during these
months, continuing to fly reconnaissance and training flights, with the usual
dangers inherent with such operations, maintaining a carrier presence at all
Following President Richard M. Nixon’s confirmation of the bombing halt
order, the tempo of activities gradually declined, though losses continued,
albeit reduced from previous levels.
Both fighter and attack aircrews were now trained in the delivery of MK 82
and 83 LGBs, both embarked fighter squadrons also utilizing hand-held
light-weight laser designators. Two such designators were available to
CVW-14, and the weapons performed so well that their primary limiting factor
continued to be weather. A secondary factor was the reflective quality of
available targets, which, outside of North Vietnam, continued to be very low.
The aircrews nevertheless obtained “highly effective results,” particularly
against bridges, “when weather and operating authorities permitted,” as the
men of the ship were still fighting the war with extensive politically
imposed limitations. Weather inhibited the deployment of Walleye IIs as well,
also in limited supply due to their “cost and phase of development.” However,
in good weather, they proved to be “devastating” weapons against “specific,
high priority targets.” Walleye IIs were almost immediately recognized as
having the “accuracy and penetrating power required to completely destroy a
heavily constructed railway bridge.”
On 24 October 1972, Enterprise came about for Cubi Point, arriving the next
day. Accompanied by Bainbridge, the ship then stood out from Subic Bay on
Halloween, spending the entire month of November along with the first nine days
of December, on Yankee Station. The ship repeated her previous schedule,
devoting the first several days to strikes south of the DMZ and in Laos,
before hammering North Vietnam. During this second line period, CVW-14
aircraft dropped 3,400 tons of bombs on the enemy.
Aircraft operating from Enterprise flew two reconnaissance missions against
the airfield at Vinh during November. AAA gunners gave the pilots a warm
reception and on both missions escort aircraft dropped ordnance in a
“protective reaction role” against the gunners, and executed other reaction
Constellation, Enterprise and Oriskany alternated on Yankee Station during
November 1972, fulfilling their missions with a total of 22 two-carrier days
on the line, 12 into North Vietnam and nine into South Vietnam, operating
1,766 ordnance-bearing strike sorties. The number of SAMs fired at U.S.
aircraft increased dramatically and, in combination with bold incursions by
North Vietnamese MiGs into Laos, prompted both the Air Force and the Navy to
develop new proactive tactics to counter the threat.
While in the Gulf of Tonkin for her second line period, Enterprise was caught
in the path of Typhoon Lorna, encountering “high winds, heavy seas and much
rain.” The crew secured Enterprise as well as possible, riding out the
typhoon within the skin of the ship, although the stability and sea keeping
qualities provided by the carrier were put to the test, many of her
crewmembers getting “the chance to gain their sea legs.”
Agreement signals arranged with the Russians were found to be very successful
in dealing with AGIs, appearing to “…assist in the prevention of dangerous
situations during maneuvers for flight operations.” However, the ship was
under “light to moderate” enemy radar surveillance from shore, over 170
emissions being intercepted, primarily Chinese communist Crosslots from North
Vietnam and Hainan Island.
Enterprise rendezvoused with submarine Gudgeon (SS-567), the sub surfacing to
enable a helo from HS-2 Det 1 to evacuate two seriously ill crewmen from
Gudgeon, on 1 November. A little over a fortnight later, on 16 November 1972,
Enterprise and Bainbridge rendezvoused with Long Beach and Truxtun -- the
first time that all four nuclear-powered ships operated together.
On 25 November 1972, Enterprise’s crew (including six “plank owners” who were
on board when she was commissioned) celebrated the eleventh anniversary of
the ship’s commissioning, attended by Vice Admiral Holloway, Com7thFlt. Her
third skipper, Admiral Holloway had had the honor of taking the “Big E” into
harm’s way for her first combat deployment in December 1965, and helped the
crew celebrate their second consecutive Thanksgiving at sea. “It is good to
see how much progress the ship has contributed to nuclear power in the Navy,”
Holloway told the crew, “There is no doubt in my mind, or in the Secretary of
the Navy’s or the CNO’s minds that Enterprise’s performance in combat was the
clincher which convinced Congress to appropriate more funds for the nuclear
During the latter part of November and early December 1972, the North
Vietnamese stymied peace talks at Paris, taking advantage of the lull
afforded to repair damage from previous strikes and to transport supplies and
equipment by rail from China. Against that ominous backdrop, Enterprise came
away from Yankee Station on 10 December for a visit to Hong Kong (11–17
December), a port call “made even more enjoyable” for the married men on
board by the arrival of 250 wives who came to spend the week with their husbands.
During that time, however, North Vietnamese intransigence had found ultimate
expression in their breaking-off negotiations on 13 December.
Sailing from the British colony on the 18th, Enterprise returned to Yankee
Station on the 19th, one day after the commencement of Operation Linebacker
II, a more intensified version of Linebacker I and a resumption of the
strikes above the 20th parallel, launched on 18 December 1972 in a final
attempt to bring the communists back to the bargaining table. A comprehensive
strategic air campaign “against the most heavily defended targets of the
entire Vietnam War,” including hitherto restricted areas near heavily
populated Hanoi and Haiphong, the tip of the spear for Linebacker II would be
strikes by USAF Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses, naval aircraft being required
to supplement these raids with a variety of missions, including suppression
of enemy air defenses (SEAD).
Enterprise joined her planes with those from America, Midway, Oriskany,
Ranger and Saratoga i1 days of some of the most intense bombing of the war.
Naval tactical air sorties focused upon targets in the Hanoi and Haiphong
areas, including SAM and AAA sites, army barracks, POL storage areas,
railroad and truck stations and Haiphong naval and shipyard areas, missile
equipped patrol craft and vehicle support facilities. In addition, minefields
Between 18–22 December 1972, the Navy flew 119 strikes in North Vietnam in
support of Linebacker II, with a total of 505 sorties in this area during the
operation. Enemy opposition proved fierce, however, with the primary limiting
factor upon operations being inclement weather. On 19 December, A-6s and A-7s
from Enterprise attacked three North Vietnamese Komar-class missile boats,
sinking one and damaging the other two.
While on a strike over North Vietnam during the night of 20–21 December 1972,
a VA-196 A-6A (BuNo 155594) Commander Gordon R. Nakagawa, pilot, and
Lieutenant Kenneth H. Higdon, bombardier/navigator, took AAA fire. Other
aircraft in the area heard Nakagawa cry out that their Intruder was hit on
the left wing and that they were bailing out at 0056. Other listeners heard a
call sign, tentatively identified as Milestone 511 or 51, then silence. No
emergency beepers were received, but a last tenuous voice contact was made
with the downed crew at 0115, prior to both men being captured. Fortunately,
Higdon was able to return home on 12 February 1973, and Nakagawa on the last
flight of repatriated POWs, on 29 March 1973, and thence to his ship.
By Christmas of 1972, 420 B-52 raids pounded the enemy, with no less than 122
strikes on the 18th, the highest number of any day. Aircraft from CVW-14 flew
around the clock sorties during these raids, alternately blasting and
confounding North Vietnamese AD systems.
Following an air “recess” over Christmas Day, with the ship being honored by
a visit from Secretary of the Navy John W. Warner, Admiral Bernard J. Clarey,
CinCPac, and Vice Admiral Holloway, attacks resumed on the 26th, with 113
B-52 raids, the next highest sortie count, heavily supported by naval
aircraft, including those from Enterprise. Targets encompassed airfields,
missile assembly points, railroads and marshalling yards, fuel reserves,
command and control stations and powerhouses. By the end of the next day,
intercepted enemy messages indicated that the strikes were so effective that
the North Vietnamese were losing their SAM potential, as new missiles could
no longer be moved from assembly points to the launchers.
Many days during these strikes, VF-143 had 10 of 12 aircraft in the air
simultaneously. This type of exhausting tempo paid off for the ship’s Phantom
II aircrews on 28 December 1972, as an F-4J, Lieutenant (jg) Scott H. Davis,
pilot and Lieutenant (jg) Geoffrey H. Ulrich, RIO, of VF-142, downed a North
Vietnamese MiG-21 Fishbed with an AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile. Wildly
maneuvering between altitudes of 50–7,000 feet, Davis and Ulrich made their
kill approximately five miles to the south of the outskirts of Hanoi. The 24th
MiG downed by Navy and Marine Corps pilots that year, it was also the first
and only one for Enterprise during her Vietnam tours. Both men were later
awarded Silver Stars for their exploit, while Commander Donald E. Riggs and
Lieutenant Steven P. Crall each received the Distinguished Flying Cross for
their “tactical efforts” in assisting Davis and Ulrich.
However, Flint River 603, an RA-5C (BuNo 156633), Lieutenant Commander Alfred
H. Agnew, pilot, and Lieutenant Michael F. Haifley, bombardier/navigator, RVAH-13,
was heading approximately south after completing a pre-strike photographic
mission, on 28 December 1972. Both 603 and its escort, Taproom 102, had just
gone “feet wet,” at 1230, when 102 sighted a MiG at his “8 O’clock” position
heading north, vectoring 603 to the right and turning to engage the MiG. No
further contact with Flint River 603 could be established. Agnew was captured
by the communists, returning home on 29 March 1973, but Haifley did not
survive; his remains were returned to the U.S. on 14 August 1985, and
identified on 7 October of that year.
Linebacker II ended on 29 December 1972, with the resumption of peace talks
in Paris, the bombing considered a major impetus for North Vietnamese
willingness to continue discussions. Heavy raids around Hanoi ceased, the
last of over 700 B-52 sorties. The following day the U.S. called another
bombing halt over North Vietnam, the Navy ending all tactical air sorties
above the 20th parallel. A total of 15 Stratofortress’, 2% of all B-52s flown
during the entire period were lost, with none shot down on 28–29 December,
demonstrating the almost complete disruption of the North Vietnamese air
defense network. This “virtual paralysis of the system” was accomplished in
large part due to naval air operations, CVW-14 flying a daily effort of as
many as 120 strikes in a 150 sortie day. Keeping Enterprise at sea taxed men
and ships alike, the ship accomplishing no less than 64 underway
replenishments during 1972.
From 1–12 January 1973, Enterprise concluded the second half of her third
line period of the deployment at Yankee Station. Unlike the previous month of
high tempo operations against the Hanoi/Haiphong industrial complex, however,
she now confined her air operations below North Vietnam’s 20th Parallel. On
the 12th, Vice Admiral Cooper, TF 77, recognized the ship and CVW-14 as the
last carrier aircrews to fly combat sorties against targets in the north.
Completing strikes against enemy troops, supplies, LOCs and logistic bases in
northern routes in South Vietnam, she came about the next day for the
Philippines, arriving on the 14th.
On 23 January 1973, Enterprise stood out from Subic Bay, rendezvousing at
Yankee Station the next day with ocean escort Lang (DE-1060) as her plane
guard. Shadowed by a Soviet Kusan-class intelligence vessel, Enterprise began
her fourth line period of the WestPac, but at a reduced tempo, flying combat
missions into Laos only.
On 27 January 1973, the Vietnam cease-fire, announced four days earlier, came
into effect and all four carriers operating on Yankee Station, Enterprise,
America, Oriskany and Ranger, cancelled combat sorties for the remainder of
that day. During the intervening period the “Big E” flew some of the last
naval air strikes over South Vietnam.
However, while making a bombing run under control of Covey 115, a FAC,
Taproom 113, an F-4J (BuNo 155768), Commander Harley H. Hall, pilot, and
Lieutenant Commander Philip A. Kientzler, RIO, VF-143, was shot down near
Quang Tri, South Vietnam, at 1720 on the 27th, just 11 hours prior to the
beginning of the ceasefire. During his parachute descent, Kientzler made one
guard transmission on his PRC-90, but nothing further was heard from the two
men until some beepers were overheard after parachutes were seen on the
ground on an island. It is believed that Taproom 113 was struck by an SA-7.
Nail 89, another F-4, was also shot down by an SA-7 in the same vicinity,
reporting over the radio “he was about to be captured.” Taproom 113 bore the
sad distinction of being the last naval aircraft lost before the end of the
conflict. Kientzler was captured, but subsequently released, returning home
on 27 March 1973. Hall did not survive, however, though Kientzler noted that
he was still alive when he hit the ground after his ejection, and Hall’s
remains were not to return to the U.S. until 25 January 1993, being
identified on 6 September 1994.
The crew welcomed Sunday 28 January 1973, not only because it established a
cease fire in Vietnam…but because it meant the return of American Prisoners
of War, some of them friends and shipmates of the men of the “Big E.” At 0800
most men off watch assembled on the flight deck to join with millions of
Americans in a memorial and thanksgiving service marking the cease-fire,
Enterprise’s led by Captain Frank R. Morton, the ship’s senior chaplain.
However, the very next day aircraft from Enterprise joined those of Ranger’s
in lines-of-communications strikes in Laos. A total of 81 sorties were flown,
following an overflight corridor between Hué and Da Nang, South Vietnam. The
Laotian government requested the support, which was not related to the
Vice Admiral Holloway was the main speaker as Rear Admiral William R.
McClendon relieved Vice Admiral Cooper as Commander, Carrier Striking Force
7th Fleet (ComCarStrFor7thFlt), presenting Cooper the Distinguished Service
Medal, on 27 February.
February 1973 became an active month for Enterprise as she shifted emphasis
from strikes to supporting mine countermeasures (MCM) forces in Operation End
Sweep. Much of the military equipment required by the North Vietnamese had
arrived by Eastern Bloc ships, and Operation Pocket Money had been developed
to cut that flow of supplies. Beginning Pocket Money, three A-6As and six
A-7Es from Coral Sea, supported by an EKA-3B, laid a total of 36 MK 52-2
mines in the outer approaches to Haiphong harbor on 9 May 1972. Their mission
initiated a campaign that ultimately sowed 108 special MK 52-2s and more than
11,000 MK 36 type destructor mines over the next eight months. The mining
proved to be one of the most successful naval operations of the war, closing
the port of Haiphong for upward of 10 months.
With the ceasefire, however, arrangements were made with the Communists, in
part to ease the return of POWs and MIAs. Operation Endsweep was one of the
resulting U.S. concessions, designed to clear North Vietnamese waters of
mines, beginning with the activation of TF 78, on 27 January 1973.
On 5 February 1973, Commander, TF 78, supported by other naval mine demolition
experts, met with North Vietnamese leaders in Haiphong to discuss the
operation. A detachment formed around a helicopter and 10 men from
Enterprise’s HS-2 Det 1 flew several flights daily from guided missile
frigate Worden to Cat Bi airfield, near Haiphong, transporting U.S. and North
Vietnamese negotiators to meetings to initiate the operation (4–20 February
1973). The next day the force began preliminary minesweeping to prepare an
anchorage for command and supply ships providing on-scene support, in deep
water off the approaches to Haiphong harbor. Airborne mine countermeasures
began on 27 February, the first such operations ever accomplished with “live”
mines. Despite interruptions caused by North Vietnamese intransigence and
petty ploys, the operation proved successful, clearing North Vietnam’s waters
Both aircraft and ships, including Enterprise, Coral Sea, Oriskany and
Ranger, supporting mine countermeasures forces at various times from the Mine
Logistics Carrier Station, Gulf of Tonkin, participated in the operation,
including an Air Mobile Mine Countermeasures Command. The latter at various
times comprised Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM)-12, Marine
Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH)-463 and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM)-165.
The squadrons were normally organized into four operating elements,
Alpha–Delta, each consisting of an airborne mine countermeasures planning,
command and control, aircraft and material element. Dangerous work, aircrews
endured hazardous flying operations, both surface and aircrews facing errant
mines and weather interference. Operation End Sweep ultimately concluded on
27 July 1973 and TF 78 was disbanded, but during its six months of
operations, the airborne element made 3,554 minesweeping runs totaling
1,134.7 sweeping hours in 623 sorties. Surface elements made 208 sweeping
runs of 308.8 hours. Three helicopters were lost during the operation, all
due to operational accidents.
Enterprise also continued launching unrelenting CAS and interdiction missions.
On 14 February 1973, the Pentagon announced an increase of strikes in Laos
from 280 to 380 daily. On that date aircraft from Enterprise and Oriskany
flew about 160 of these sorties into Laos. During the last two days of this
line period, Enterprise began operating under what was almost a peacetime
environment. Except for photographic reconnaissance, force defense and
similar missions, tasking focused upon training. Among her visitors was
General Frederick C. Weyand, U.S.A., Commander, MACV, on 22 February. On the
24th she came about for Cubi Point, staying there from 25–27 February, before
getting underway again for Singapore, in company with destroyer McCaffery
While visiting Singapore, 3–10 March 1973, the crew received word of their award
of the Battle Efficiency “E” for attack carriers of the Pacific Fleet, the
Engineering/Reactor and Supply Departments, the latter its first such award,
also receiving “Es,” as did two of CVW-14’s squadrons with similar “Es” in
their respective communities. In Singapore a chartered flight with some of
their wives from Oakland, Calif., gave some families a brief reunion, the
same plane also taking back some of the crew on leave. The crew also hosted
almost 1,000 visitors.
Enterprise and McCaffery returned to Yankee Station on 12 March 1973, where
the carrier continued her support of Operation End Sweep. On the 20th, TF 77
transferred to Constellation (Captain J.D. Ward) after 151 days on board
Enterprise. With the exception of embassy and similar people, the last U.S.
combat forces in South Vietnam were withdrawn on 29 March, with the
disbandment of MACV and with them, the need for maintaining carriers on
Yankee and Dixie Stations gradually diminished.
While strikes ceased against North Vietnam, operations continued for sometime
over Laos and Cambodia. Aircraft from Enterprise were in action over both
countries during this period, joining USAF aircraft, including B-52s, in
strikes against the Pathet Lao and Khmer Rouge, the latter besieging the
Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. Facing virtual starvation, people trapped
within the city were desperate, Phnom Penh’s only lifeline to the outside
world being the Mekong River, the Khmer Rouge ambushing shipping along the
crucial waterway. Aircrews from Enterprise supported USAF aircraft flying
from Thailand in blasting Khmer Rouge positions along the river and the
surrounding countryside, eliciting protests from the communist negotiators in
Paris over this apparent “violation” of the peace accords. The U.S. responded
by momentarily suspending End Sweep operations, making the point loud and
clear with Hanoi.
While steaming toward Cubi Point on 6 April 1973, Enterprise was involved in
an exhaustive all day SAR effort, when a man fell overboard from the carrier.
Three of the four Sea Kings from HS-2 Det 1, together with one E-2 Hawkeye,
one Grumman C-1A Greyhound and one Lockheed C-130 Hercules donated by the Air
Force, “combed the seas,” searching from dawn to dusk, but in vain, as the
sailor was never found.
Leaving the Philippines in company with destroyer Corry (DD-817), on 15 April
1973, Enterprise began air operations upon her arrival at Yankee Station the
On 26 April 1973, an F-4 Phantom II from VF-142 exploded about ½ mile aft of
the ship. Both the pilot and his RIO were rescued by an HS-2 Sea King crew,
the survivors brought on board in barely 11 minutes. Early in May 1973,
another pilot and his RIO from VF-142 were forced to ditch, when their
Phantom II suffered a control failure. The men were quickly rescued, again by
the Golden Falcons.
Operation Blue Sky was an exercise with the Nationalist Chinese, 8 May 1973.
Aircrews from Enterprise flew simulated strikes testing Taiwanese defenses,
who reciprocated with practice bombing and strafing runs against the ship’s
bombing spar. Observers included General Chen I-Fan, CinC, Chinese
Nationalist Air Force, and Vice Admiral Philip A. Beshany, Commander, U.S.
Taiwan Defense Command.
Returning to Subic Bay on 10 May 1973, Enterprise and her crew spent ten days
of rest and relaxation, before returning to her seventh and final line period
of this deployment, in the South China Sea, on 20 May. However, operations
began to wind down as Congress debated continued U.S. involvement, eventually
ordering the cessation of all combat operations in Southeast Asia by 15
August, on 20 June. Usually on the receiving end of underway replenishments,
Enterprise reciprocated by replenishing destroyer Turner Joy on the 22nd.
On the evening of 27 May 1973, Enterprise turned due east, arriving at Cubi
Point on the morning of the 29th, the ship staying for a single day before
standing out the next morning for the U.S., unaccompanied.
Enterprise’s solo return from WestPac proved eventful. While Enterprise was
inchopping to Com3rdFlt on 3–4 June 1973, the men of a Lockheed EP-3B Orion
from VQ-1, conducting Kennel Post operations from NAS Agana, Guam, detected
four Soviet Bear Ds attempting to overfly the ship. A tense situation ensued,
but the Russians disengaged, coming about and avoiding the ship at the last
moment. The Soviet aircrews appeared friendly, however, several times waving
to escorting F-4Js.
The next day the carrier’s crew rescued 31 crewmen and one woman, Georgette
Galiatsatos, the wife of Charalabos Galiatsatos, the 2nd officer, from the
Liberian registry freighter St. Constantine. Chartered by Barber Lines
(Norway). St. Constantine was en route to Savannah, Ga., from Yokohama,
Japan, with general cargo, when a half hour before the mid watch on 31 May
1973, an oil line had ruptured in her engine room, allowing fluid to spray
onto the exhaust manifold of the ship’s diesels. The resulting fire quickly
engulfed the machinery space and defied the efforts of the crew to contain
it. Captain Apollon Alexakis, her master, “quickly ordered the Radio Officer
to send out a distress signal.” The ship had no sooner begun transmitting an
S.O.S. when the ship’s electrical power failed, and before emergency power
could be brought on line, the fire destroyed all of the ship’s communications
equipment, as well as disabled her engines. Unable to send distress signals
or to maneuver the gutted and smoldering vessel, the crew drifted with her at
the mercy of the sea.
By 1100 on the 5th, St. Constantine had reached a point approximately 1,290
miles west-northwest of Honolulu, about 510 miles northeast of Wake Island.
Heat from the fires and heavy seas forced them into a lifeboat, to drift
alongside the ship. Commercial aircraft flew overhead more than once but
ignored the survivors, who had reached the limit of their endurance when an
EP-3B flew nearby, dropping down to a lower altitude for a closer look. The
survivors fired red distress flares, which were spotted by the men of the
Orion. The EP-3B immediately notified Enterprise, the closest known ship,
about 153 NM to the south. Turning toward the reported position of the
crippled merchantman, the carrier launched two HS-2 Sea Kings and a
reconnaissance aircraft when 100 NM away, at 1245.
As Enterprise was still some distance away, however, the Orion crew circled
their aircraft low over St. Constantine to assure the crew that they were
seen, then searched the immediate area for other ships to aid in the rescue.
When no other ships were located, the EP-3B returned to the location of the
freighter, orbiting overhead until the helos arrived.
Meanwhile, the helicopters from Enterprise raced to the scene, arriving at
approximately 1336, by which time the carrier was within 82 miles of the
stricken vessel. The first Sea King overhead, 004 (Lieutenant Commander Frank
W. Butler), picked up 13 people. When 004 completed packing survivors on
board, 001 (Lieutenant Paul A. Alfieri), moved in and beginning at 1351,
hoisted aloft 11 more into the hovering helo. A third helo, 002 (Lieutenant
Commander Roger P. Murray), was launched at 1412, and brought back the
remaining eight survivors.
Prior to leaving the foundering ship, the master of St. Constantine had
requested that containership Sea Train Louisiana, arriving within the
vicinity to supplement the SAR, remain by the distressed ship until a
decision was made on the disposition of St. Constantine, although Sea Train
Louisiana left the “derelict” still burning and adrift the next day.
Arriving on board Enterprise, the survivors were rushed to the ship’s medical
facilities, where doctors and medical people examined each in turn, providing
treatment to those requiring it, though only the stricken vessel’s first
officer, Nick Vlachos, sustained serious injuries, suffering burns. The
survivors were debarked in Hawaii, “in good health, good spirits, and very,
very thankful for the presence of the U.S. Navy and HS-2 Det ONE.”
Meanwhile, Operation Homecoming, the release of 591 American POWs by the
North Vietnamese, 566 of whom were military personnel, including 144 naval
pilots and aircrewmen, had occurred. The final group of 148 POWs was released
by Hanoi on 29 March 1973. Enterprise moored at Pearl Harbor, 7–8 June 1973,
and embarked five former POWs for the homeward voyage: Rear Admiral James B.
Stockdale, Commander Gordon R. Nakagawa, Commander John D. Burns, Lieutenant
Commander Philip A. Kientzler and Lieutenant Joseph S. Mobley, together with
105 sons of crewmembers, many of the latter POWs and MIAs.
The morning of Enterprise’s return to San Francisco dawned “cold, damp and
overcast,” but the weather did not prevent fireboats from welcoming the ship
with cascading “plumes” of water or “numerous” vessels from maneuvering
around her. At about 1100 on 12 June 1973, she moored at Alameda. During her
cruise, Enterprise had catapulted 14,481 aircraft and recorded 14,889
Following a brief period of leave and upkeep, Enterprise offloaded her
ammunition at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, 26–27 July 1973, standing out for
Operation Northwest Passage, the voyage to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard,
Bremerton, Wash., on the 30th. On board for the transit were 200 dependents;
the ship arrived at Bremerton, on 1–2 August.
Among projects completed during her extended selected restricted availability
(ESRA) were repairs and alterations to enable the ship operate Grumman F-14A
Tomcats and Lockheed S-3A Vikings. Equipped with AIM-54A Phoenix air-to-air
missiles, Tomcats could engage targets up to 100 miles out, the merger of the
two systems considered to be one of the most capable air superiority
platforms ever developed. This was the first fleet deployment of the
Enterprise’s aircraft intermediate maintenance department (AIMD) introduced
maintenance equipment designed for Tomcats, known as the versatile avionics
ship test (VAST) #12. VAST was supplemented by the inertial platform test
atation, weapons equipment storage and handling facilities, a modified jet
engine test facility and a “completely” converted airborne fire control
avionics ship #3. Two magazines were modified to facilitate storage for
Additional projects included the conversion and update of CIC, modernizing
the carrier air traffic control center (CATCC) by replacing the AN/SPN-12
with the AN/SP-44 range-rate radar, the modification/redesignation of the
AN/WSC-1 to the AN/WSC-5 for the Naval Communication Satellite, the cleaning
of the bottom, rudder shaft and screw repair, extensive engineering
refurbishments, the scaling to bare metal and recoating with Mare Island
Epoxy of all propulsion plant bilges, and overhauls of pumps and most
The Combat Information System was modernized with an updated generation of
NTDS, comprising computers, programming and equipment interfacing, replacing
the previous installation. The update provided Enterprise with a two-way data
link between CIC and embarked F-14s. The Electronic Evaluation Station
acquired software allowing it to process intelligence tapes from Grumman
EA-6B Prowlers as well as RA-5Cs. One of the valuable features of the NTDS
upgrade was the ability of air intercept controllers to receive F-14 track
information on their NTDS/Intercept Control scopes to augment the ship’s air
search radar presentation.
In addition, with the changeover of HS-2 into the wing on 6 August 1973,
Enterprise began transitioning from the concept of a CVAN to that of a CVN,
slated to be effective on 1 July 1975. VFs-142 and 143 were replaced by VF-1
and VF-2 on 1 September. VAQ-137 (EA-6Bs) would replace VAQ-131 on 4
Enterprise was refloated from drydock shortly after Thanksgiving of 1973,
completing her shipyard work by January 1974. She was originally scheduled
for sea trials during the third week of January, planning to sail for her
return to Alameda on 2 February 1974. Later in the month she completed two
days of dock trials pierside, before getting underway for sea trials, 21–24
January, returning to Puget Sound.
On 30 January 1974, Enterprise crewmembers began loading personal effects on
board for Operation Golden Gate, the transfer of the ship back to her home
port of Alameda. On board for the move, made from 2–4 February, were 615
dependents, 100 pets, 1091 cars, 90 motorcycles, 45 pickups and campers, 12
boats and “several tons of household goods.”
Vehicles and goods crowded the 4.47-acre flight deck, leaving little room for
the crew and their passengers’ topside, although children were kept
“entertained” in a nursery run from 0830–1930 daily. The voyage was not
without incident, however, as choppy seas encountered as the ship passed the
northern California area caused seasickness among many dependents who had
never before been to sea. In addition, as she was approaching the entrance to
San Francisco Bay, Enterprise was informed that fog had much of the area
“socked in,” forcing her to delay arrival until mid-afternoon of 4 February
Getting underway for training between 12–19 February 1974, Enterprise’s
ship’s company focused upon battle damage procedures, ship handling,
communications and radar procedures. Back at Alameda, Enterprise also began
taking on board the first of 1,500 tons of ammunition she would load by the
end of the year. Rear Admiral Robert S. Smith, Director, Combat Systems
Division, visited the ship on 1 March.
Enterprise sailed for workups and refresher training, 4–28 March 1974, the
first portion of which was spent in the workups, with the weekends of 9–10,
16–17 and 23–24 March, being spent in San Diego. During this period the ship
was also used by a number of different squadrons for carrier qualifications,
as well as a test platform for both F-14As and S-3As. During that time,
Lieutenant Commander Grover Giles, pilot, and Lieutenant Commander Roger
McFillen, RIO, VF-1, made the maiden F-14A Tomcat landing on board Enterprise
on 14 March 1974. Later that day, Giles and McFillen were joined by a pair of
Tomcats from the Naval Air Test Center (NATC) Patuxent River, Maryland.
Enterprise spent the remainder of March through mid–April 1974 conducting a
“Readiness Improvement Training Period,” followed by further carrier
qualifications for both CVW-14 and other unattached squadrons. The ship
anchored in San Francisco Bay, 29 March–5 April, mooring at Alameda,
6th–17th. Following this period she stood out again off the southern
California operating area, 18–26 April, 7–15 May, 4–13 June, 21–28 June and
16–25 July, returning to Alameda between each period, with the exception of
29 June–3 July, when she again anchored in San Francisco Bay.
Taking advantage of these carquals were VAs-104, 122, 125, 127 and 128;
VFs-101 and 121; Marine Composite Reconnaissance Squadron (VMCJ)-3; Air Test
and Evaluation Squadron (VX)-4; VFP-63 and the training command. In addition,
VAQ-128 conducted “last minute” carrier qualifications in July. As an example
of the hectic pace, during the seven days of carquals in May, the ship
recorded 1,177 arrested landings.
Other significant events occurred during this period. On 9 April 1974,
Captain Carol C. Smith, Jr., relieved Rear Admiral Tissot, who had been
promoted while serving as commanding officer. During the ceremony, Vice
Admiral Robert B. Baldwin presented the ship and her crew with the Navy Unit
On 18 April 1974, Enterprise hosted Lieutenant Governor Henry A. Boucher of
Alaska, who had served on board the seventh Enterprise (CV-6) during WWII,
and who presented to Captain Smith and his crew an ensign that had flown on
board that carrier on 14 May 1945 when a Japanese kamikaze crashed into her
No. 1 elevator, off Honshu, Japan. Boucher told the crew that since WWII he
had been holding “the flag in trust” until the opportunity occurred when he
could return it to it’s rightful place.
In June 1974, Enterprise again tested her BPDMS, firing four NATO Sea
Sparrows at maneuvering MQM-74A target drones. During July, CVW-14 reported
on board, comprising VFs-1 and 2 (F-14As), VA-27 and VA-97 (A-7Es) and VA-196
(nine A-6As and five KA-6Ds), VAW-113 (E-2Bs), VAQ-137, HS-2 (SH-3Gs) and
RVAH-12. Arriving on board later for the WestPac deployment was VQ-1’s EA-3B
At sea during 16–25 July 1974, Enterprise completed exercises of “increasing
complexity.” KomarEx pitted the ship and her aircraft against simulated
attacks by Soviet Komar-class missile boats. The ship also launched two
“mini-Alfa” strikes and conducted two ReadiExes, the latter consisting of
nuclear weapons loading exercises designed to test “command and control,
intelligence, operations, air operations, and weapons in addition to other
functions.” General quarters sounded for real on the night of 24–25 July 1974,
when damage control parties battled a serious fire in the newly-installed
VAST spaces. The “skill and proficiency” of the fire-fighters quelled the
blaze, and although the damage to the system and its “sensitive” electronic
equipment proved extensive and required considerable repairs, a “crash
program” involving both sailors and civilians enabled VAST to be operational
again within two weeks.
In preparation for her ORI, Enterprise participated in a weapons training
exercise, 7–16 August 1974, after which she returned to San Diego. On the
morning of the 19th, she began her ORI with an opposed transit from San Diego
Bay, the operation evolving into a ReadiEx. Over the next three days,
Enterprise took part in BellCam, an exercise involving “attacks” by simulated
“enemy ships,” including hydrofoils Flagstaff (PGH-1) and High Point (PCH-1),
together with CVW-14 aircraft, supported by USMC McDonnell Douglas AV-8A
Harriers, returning to Alameda on 27 August.
Enterprise deployed to the western Pacific on 17 September 1974. Her transit
was “literally quiet,” in that the ship made most of it under electronic
emissions control (EmCon) restrictions, enabling her to avoid many Soviet
forces attempting to intercept and track her. Training continued throughout
the passage, and on 22 September, Enterprise conducted a BearEx when a P-3B
simulated a Soviet bomber “in order to test the ship’s ability to detect and
intercept hostile aircraft.” The next day (23 September) the ship pulled into
Pearl for a “full day of meetings, resupply operations and recreation.”
Underway again the next day, however, Enterprise conducted training exercises
and daily flight operations near the Hawaiian Islands. ComTuEx 8-74 consisted
of a week of flight operations, 24–29 September, including the second Sea
Sparrow launch of the year, on the 25th, observed by Vice Admiral James H.
Doyle, Jr., Com3rdFlt. Also during that period, at 1230 on 27 September,
Admiral Weisner, CinCPac, participated in Enterprise’s 147,000th arrested
landing, in a Tomcat piloted by Lieutenant John O. Creighton, VF-2, following
a 45 minute demonstration flight. Enterprise returned to Pearl on 29
The “Big E” slipped from her berth on the morning of 2 October 1974, leaving
Pearl behind as she steamed west. The next day the Secretary of the Navy
visited the ship. En route to Asian waters, the crew participated in a
cookout and musical show, a boxing smoker, and a Captain’s Cup sports
tournament, the latter including an “arduous” three mile run “on a very hot
As Enterprise neared the Philippines on 16 October 1974, her arrival proved a
“stormy” one, as she encountered heavy seas from Typhoon Carmen in transiting
Mindoro Strait. The next day she moored to Leyte Pier, Cubi Point.
While many Enterprise men enjoyed liberty ashore, CVW-14 conducted flight
operations from the nearby facilities, the ship pulling back out on the 21st
to enable the wing to do so from her flight deck. The additional training was
considered “necessary in order to build aircrew proficiency” following their
transit, which had “offered few flying hours.” The end of October 1974 also
marked a year of accident-free flying for CVW-14, a very uncommon milestone
among air wings at that time.
Secretary of the Navy Middendorf again visited the ship, in company with Vice
Admiral William D. Houser, Deputy CNO (Air Warfare), 31 October–1 November
1974, upon his arrival presenting Commander Gordon R. Nakagawa, CO, VA-196,
with three medals, including the Bronze Star, a Gold Star in lieu of a second
Bronze Star, and a Gold Star in lieu of a second Navy Commendation Medal. The
awards recognized and honored Nakagawa’s “Heroic endeavors, exceptional
skill, and devotion to duty…” while a POW.
After pausing at Cubi Point (2-5 November 1974), Enterprise stood out over
the 6th–7th to avoid Typhoon Gloria, which was sweeping toward Subic Bay with
winds of over 100 mph. Narrowly escaping Gloria, the ship headed south just
as the typhoon passed on a northerly course, coming back in, 8–10 November.
MultiPlex 2-75, 11–17 November, was an underway exercise involving a variety
of methods to test the ship’s “ability to respond to different level of
conflict,” consisting of counterinsurgency, “general naval war” and “all-out”
nuclear war. With the conclusion of MultiPlex, she dropped anchor at Hong
Kong on the morning of the 18th.
Just as Enterprise was getting underway from the Crown Colony, Commander,
British Forces, Hong Kong, visited the ship, the air wing putting on a brief
flight demonstration in his honor, on 24 November 1974. Returning to
Philippine waters, the ship participated in MablEx/Bayanihan, the latter a
Filipino expression meaning “working together,” 4–6 December, a joint
U.S.-Filipino amphibious exercise, Enterprise providing air cover for the landing
force. Visitors to the ship at the start of that evolution on 4 December 1974
included U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines William H. Sullivan, Chief, Joint
Military Assistance Group, Rear Admiral Hilario Ruiz, Flag Officer in
Command, Philippine Navy, and Deputy Commanding General, Philippine Air
With many of the crew looking forward to spending Christmas in the
Philippines following the conclusion of Bayanihan, Enterprise was directed by
the JCS, 9–10 December 1974 to proceed to the Gulf of Tonkin to conduct
cyclic air operations off the coast of South Vietnam. These operations,
“often hampered by the very poor weather conditions,” were accomplished under
“very close air control.”
Coming about on 24 December 1974, Enterprise reached Cubi Point in time for
Christmas Eve. VQ-1 Det 65 immediately departed for NAS Agana, Guam, but
although many men were able to go ashore, ominous message traffic indicated
that Enterprise would have to begin preparing for an extended deployment to
the Indian Ocean. Preparations began for a cruise “far removed from
established channels of support.” Extensive work lay ahead. The deck
department worked 12-hour days repainting the hull, special flights from the
U.S. brought in “critical” aviation repair parts and the ship “took on a
large quantity” of aviation fuel, as well as supplies, including over 10,000
pounds of charts.
Two days into the New Year 1975, the ship lost an F-14A (BuNo 158982), NK
107, Lieutenant Commander Giles, pilot, and Lieutenant Commander McFillen,
RIO, VF-1. The Tomcat was on a training mission from Cubi Point when “a loud
thump” was heard, followed by a fire, the men losing control of the aircraft.
Both men ejected approximately 15 seconds later and survived.
On 7 January 1975, the “Big E” began her second month-long underway part of
the cruise, sailing from Cubi Point for the Indian Ocean. Early in this
underway period, VF-1 Tomcats engaged in maneuvers with AV-8A Harriers from
Although South Vietnamese “diplomatic sources” had intimated that a U.S. task
force led by Enterprise was coming to their aid, the ship nonetheless
proceeded toward the Indian Ocean. She entered the Malacca Strait on 11
January 1975, spotting more than 60 ships during her one-day transit. Two
days later, VAQ-137 lost an EA-6B Prowler (BuNo 158812) which splashed barely
15 seconds after launch when it “flamed out.” Two of the four crewmembers
were unharmed, but Lieutenant Jack L. Pedersen perished in the mishap and
another crewmember escaped with back injuries. Captain Smith later eulogized
Pedersen as “an officer who reflected the Navy’s highest levels of
professionalism,” whose “death serves as a continuing reminder that our
calling is a dangerous one, whether it be conducted in peace or in war.”
Another mishap, the second involving a Tomcat within a fortnight, occurred
the following day (14 January 1975) when an F-14A (BuNo 159001), NK 112,
Lieutenant Commander David G. Bjerke, pilot, and Lieutenant Gerald W. Kowlok,
RIO, VF-1, flamed out while conducting a VFR intercept mission. Again, the
men heard “a loud bang,” experiencing aircraft vibration, and observed flames
and smoke, followed by an uncontrollable yaw, forcing them to eject. Although
both men were recovered by helo and survived unharmed, all F-14s on board
were grounded, pending a comprehensive investigation into the two Tomcat
losses. After “extensive analysis,” investigators attributed both accidents
to catastrophic failure in the compressor sections of their TF30-P412A
engines. The investigation and modifications reduced flying time for the
remainder of the month.
Enterprise crossed the equator, the first of four crossings during the
cruise, at 84º30’E, on 15 January 1975. A general standdown accompanied King
Neptune’s arrival, and “3,872 slimy pollywogs” became shellbacks.
Subsequently, Enterprise continued her Captain’s Cup tournaments, hosting
track and field, a rope-climb, tug-of-war, weight-lifting, arm wrestling, a
boxing smoker, and pinochle and cribbage events. Meanwhile, the wing
conducted flight operations during 24 of the 32 days in the Indian Ocean,
averaging 60 fixed wing sorties daily.
Enterprise continually received supplies from her escorts “in order to
sustain this level of activity,” and all ships replenished via COD airlift
from Singapore, Bandar Abbas, Iran, U’Tapao, Thailand, Mauritius and Diego
Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), collecting “tons of
accumulated mail” that arrived at the latter place. RVAH-12 flew photographic
mapping missions over Diego Garcia, which proved vital during subsequent
construction efforts there. These fields were also designated as potential
divert areas in the event of emergencies, though Enterprise flight
controllers maintained an “aggressive no-divert spirit.”
While Enterprise was heading for Mombasa, Kenya, a Tomcat experienced a flame
out on 27 January 1975, but the pilot was able to restart an engine and reach
the ship without further incident. On 2 February, “another emergency
situation arose” when an F-14A was forced to make a barricade landing,
resulting in minor damage to the plane.
A party of dignitaries, including U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Anthony J.
Marshall, Philip Gitonga, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of
Defense, Kenya, Lieutenant Colonel James Kimaro and Colonel Dedan N. Gichura,
the commanders of that nation’s Navy and Air Force, respectively, arrived on
board two days later (4 February 1975), being “treated” to an aerial
On the morning of 5 February 1975, Enterprise anchored four miles outside of
Mombasa, while guided missile destroyer Benjamin Stoddert (DDG-22) and ocean
escort Rathburne (DE-1057) moored to buoys. Initially, the Enterprise liberty
party was restricted to 1,500 men per day, a number to be reduced due to high
afternoon winds known to occur in the area. However, liberty coordinators
were “delighted” to learn that the port could accommodate larger parties,
even with British liner Queen Elizabeth II in port, and the crew received
additional time ashore, some taking advantage of safari tours to Mount
Kilimanjaro and visiting Nairobi, the capital. Two days later, Rear Admiral
William L. Harris, Jr., relieved Rear Admiral Owen H. Oberg, as Commander,
Carrier Group Seven.
On 6 February 1975, however, Cyclone Gervaise struck Mauritius, causing
damage estimated in millions of dollars as “the worse storm to hit [the area]
since 1956” destroying or seriously damaging thousands of homes; nine people
perished. Prime Minister Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolan accepted U.S. offers of
aid. Enterprise got underway on 9 February 1975, under orders to proceed and
render assistance to the beleaguered island nation “taking advantage of her
nuclear propulsion” to cover the 1,600 miles at an average speed “of nearly
30 knots.” She was to join Long Beach and fast combat support ship Camden
(AOE-2), together with French and Soviet forces, to provide disaster relief.
En route, Enterprise prepared for a variety of contingencies, organizing work
parties of six–ten men each, some groups with specific skills and some for
general cleanup. In addition, combat stores ship Mars (AFS-1) received orders
to join the operation; since she could not match the “Big E’s” speed,
however, she cross-decked C-3 Det 104 to Enterprise, enabling heavy loads,
like large sections of water pipes, to be transported into remote areas
otherwise inaccessible for heavy gear on the ground.
Arriving off Mauritius on the afternoon of 11 February 1975, Enterprise
dropped anchor at Port Louis the next day. Her teams sprang into action,
spending more than 10,000 man-hours restoring water, power and telephone
systems, and repairing a hospital’s roof and air conditioning plant.
Enterprise provided medical aid, food, 60,000 gallons of potable water and
10,000 pounds of dried milk, and helicopter transportation -- helos proved
instrumental in surveying the damage to Mauritius’ sugar cane fields, the
main source of income for the islanders. An Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD)
team from Enterprise cleared trees from roads and buildings. Men from the
ship removed literally “tons of debris,” but volunteers far exceeded
available openings for work parties, so approximately 300 men went ashore
each day, some of which visited French carrier Clemenceau, which arrived on
the 10th to render assistance, too. Commander Thomas W. Turner, Enterprise’s
medical officer, supervised the examinations of islanders, including the
sores of children at an orphanage, for infections.
U.S. Ambassador to Mauritius Phillip W. Manhand visited Enterprise at the
culmination of the relief efforts, personally thanking the crew, after which
she sailed on 15 February 1975, passing arriving Soviet cruiser Dmitri
Pozharski as she did so. En route to Singapore, Enterprise neared Diego
Garcia and picked up mail and supplies, but a group of media representatives
in chartered Australian yacht Billie Blue, protesting her deployment to the
Indian Ocean, resulted in a curtailment of photomapping operations.
Enterprise paused at Singapore (22–25 February 1975), after which she
proceeded on to the Philippines. She reached Cubi Point, mooring on 4 March.
During the 5th–11th, Enterprise participated in Prime Rate, a JCS nuclear
command and control exercise. Her next at-sea period (12–20 March) saw her
conducting refresher landings for VRC-50’s C-1s and C-2s, as well as USMC
Phantom IIs, and a mining exercise by Intruders and Corsair IIs. Enterprise
also began the underway offloading of all but 1,000 tons of ammunition in
preparation for her return home, as well as loading on board 11 “dud”
aircraft, beginning on the afternoon of the 21st, with her return to Cubi
Enterprise received an urgent message just after midnight on 28 March 1975,
however, postponing her scheduled return home that morning, and the sudden
change of events forced the rapid offloading of her aircraft, for Enterprise
had returned from the Indian Ocean as South Vietnam, struck by a massive
communist offensive, began to disintegrate, imperiling Americans trapped
within the chaos. Responding to the crisis, carriers Coral Sea, Enterprise,
Hancock, and Midway and the amphibious assault ship Okinawa (LPH-3) received
orders to proceed to Vietnamese waters for “contingency operations.”
Enterprise was also potentially needed for Operation Talon Vise, the
extraction of Americans and allied Cambodians from that embattled country.
The ship had to double her onboard stores and ordnance, an exhausting effort
for her crew. Additionally, while at sea between 28 March–9 April, much of
the time was devoted to “standing by,” and to providing airborne and deck
While that alert requirement resulted in only minimal flight operations,
Enterprise served as a forward logistics staging area for amphibious TF 76.
Carrier-capable aircraft ferrying personnel and/or supplies landed on board
Enterprise to refuel and/or turn the cargo over for other modes of
transportation to the amphibious forces. Midway relieved the “Big E” on the
latter’s 12th day on the line, so that she could return to Cubi Point for
four days, where she remained on 12-hour standby status. While in port,
Enterprise hosted CVW-21 from Hancock, enabling “Hannah” to serve as a
helicopter platform for the evacuations. As an example of displacement
experienced by Enterprise, three VF-2 Tomcats and crews remained at Cubi
Point when she got underway again.
On the morning of 18 April 1975, Enterprise entered Manila Bay. Although her
alert status had dropped to four hours, that was not to last, as “no sooner
had she dropped anchor” then Enterprise received a message ordering her to
proceed at 25 knots to a holding area 150 NM from Vung Tau, South Vietnam.
Upon arrival at her new position, however, the next 14 days proved
Hanoi criticized the presence of the U.S. ships, calling the operations a
brazen challenge to the 1973 Paris Peace Accords. With South Vietnamese
troops and refugees pouring down choked roads, barely ahead of North
Vietnamese tanks, the outcome was not in doubt. The situation required
desperate measures to avert the possible massacre of Americans still within
the country, including Ambassador Graham A. Martin, his family and staff.
The enemy was shelling Saigon as they closed in upon the city, North
Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong mortar and rocket salvoes closing Tan Son Nhut
Air Base to normal airborne traffic. The situation deteriorated quickly and
on 29 April 1975, Enterprise received orders to execute Operation Order 2-75,
Operation Frequent Wind. Together with Coral Sea, the two carriers covered
evacuation helos for 18 hours, a “short, but busy” day, the “Big E’ steaming
about 90 miles from the South Vietnamese coast, well outside that country’s
Due to previous delays at senior levels and the close envelopment of the city
by enemy troops, closing waterways to heavy traffic, only helicopters were
considered appropriate for slipping in past the constant bombardment.
Communist treatment of South Vietnamese who cooperated with Americans left
little doubt as to their fate if they should they fall into unfriendly hands,
and some were also brought out at the behest of their U.S. friends. Marines
from the 9th Amphibious Brigade were flown in to Tan Son Nhut and key points,
securing a defensive perimeter.
The first section of Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallions from HMH-462 touched down
to the cheers of people waiting to be evacuated at the “Alamo,” the HQ
building, Defense Attaché Office (DAO)/Air America Complex, at 1506 on 29
April 1975, kicking off the evacuation. At 0458 the next day, 30 April 1975,
Lady Ace 09, Captain Gerald L. Berry, USMC, pilot, lifted off from the
helipad, carrying Ambassador Martin, subsequently transmitting “Tiger is
out,” the prearranged signal for the ambassador’s extraction. “Dodging small
arms fire and using riot control agents against people attempting to force
their way to the rooftop,” Major James H. Kean, USMC, OIC, Company C, Marine
Security Guard Battalion, and 10 of his men, boarded Swift 2-2, an HMM-164
CH-46, departing from the embassy rooftop at 0752, the last helo to leave
South Vietnam. The Marines behaved with exemplary discipline, Ambassador
Martin afterward noting that “…the Marines refrained from employing firearms
relying only on non-lethal deterrents to accomplish their mission.”
A total of 395 Americans and 4,475 Vietnamese and “third-country nationals”
were evacuated from the DAO/Air America Complex, and 978 Americans and 1,120
third-country nationals were brought out of the embassy. During the last two
days of the evacuation, aircraft from Coral Sea and Enterprise flew 173
sorties providing air support, F-14s, A-6s and A-7s orbiting Saigon, and USMC
UH-1Es and AH-1Js provided low-level escort and evacuation runs, supporting
the larger helos, Boeing Vertol CH-46E Sea Knights and CH-53s, together with
eight USAF CH-53Cs and two HH-53s embarked in Midway. Planes from Enterprise
flew 95 sorties: 20 F-14As, 44 A-7Es, four A-6As, 14 KA-6Ds, seven EA-6Bs,
and six E-2Bs. No aircraft dropped ordnance, however, and the ship embarked
no evacuees; an A-7E was lost, however, due to “undetermined causes.”
The ship received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (third star) for 29–30
April 1975, together with a Meritorious Unit Commendation for 22–30 April.
Upon completion of the evacuation, the ship came about for a last weekend at
Cubi Point. Before beginning the 7,000 NM transit back to Alameda, on 5 May
1975, a USMC CH-53 squadron and its 290-man contingent embarked on board.
While outchopping from WestPac, Enterprise received a message from Vice
Admiral Steele, Com7thFlt, saying in part that her operations “…have been
characterized by standard setting prowess…”
One hour into the forenoon watch on 14 May 1975, Enterprise moored at Pearl
Harbor, but received word of another crisis that could require her presence
in Southeast Asia.
A Khmer Rouge gunboat had seized the U.S. containership Mayaguez in
international waters during the afternoon watch on 12 May. Soon thereafter,
however, the men of Enterprise learned that American forces in the Cambodian
area had recovered Mayaguez and her crew, and the carrier was able to
continue home, embarking 150 sons of crewmembers in Hawaii as part of
Operation Tiger, on the 15th. Enterprise arrived at Alameda, on 20 May 1975.
During the cruise, Enterprise had steamed over 60,000 miles, and over 1,100
“major” F-14 avionics components were tested by VAST, almost 1,000 being
returned “ready for installation.” Fifty-seven flight crewmembers became
Centurions, each logging over 100 or more arresting landings. The ship
commenced a “well earned” 30 day standdown, followed by a four month selected
restricted availability (SRA), during which time she accomplished repairs and
On 1 July 1975, the aircraft carrier designation CVA was replaced with CV for
all such ships still so designated, including Enterprise. This redesignation
was made to improve the accuracy of ship designations reflecting their roles
in modern warfare. By removing the letter A, describing attack, the new
designation of CV could indicate a multi-role ship capable of air, surface
and ASW roles, depending upon the types of aircraft embarked and missions
assigned. On board Enterprise this was principally accomplished by the
introduction of a “true” ASW capability, including the acquisition and
testing of an ASW tactical support center (TSC), allowing her to process sensor
information obtained from S-3As. Additional system installations during this
period added the SLQ-17 ECM deception repeater, and a new NTDS program,
enabling TSC/CIC interfacing.
The AN/SSR-1 satellite receiver and associated antennae was installed “in anticipation”
of the Fleet Satellite Broadcast System’s inauguration. A joint
Anglo-American agreement made possible the installation of SCOT-1, a British
satellite terminal, for a two-year evaluation. A U.S. master oscillator was
added to SCOT-1, facilitating “variable, continuous tuning” to allow access
to any super high frequency satellites, via 15 channel operation. SCOT-1
provided communications in areas hitherto inaccessible or suffering
interference over conventional systems, such as the Indian Ocean, and her
deck edge antenna layout was modified by adding a 35 foot trussed whip, one
fiberglass whip and two UHF antennae.
The air wing composition changed mid-way through 1975, with VAQ-134 and
RVAH-1 replacing VAQ-137 and RVAH-12 respectively, while an additional
squadron, VS-29, also reported on board with 10 S-3As, recording 97 arresting
landings between 7 and 9 December 1975.
Admiral Holloway, the ship’s third commanding officer and the then-current
Chief of Naval Operations, visited the ship with Robert J. Walker, Master
Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON), on 3 October 1975. Subsequently,
Enterprise conducted an in-port fast cruise (28–29 October) and sea trials at
month’s end, that ensured accurate evaluation of the SRA, which ended on 7
November. She utilized the two remaining underway periods in 1975 for
additional familiarization training, during which she exercised her BPDMS
twice. British Rear Admiral John D. Fieldhouse, Flag Officer, Second
Flotilla, RN, visited Enterprise, 1–3 December, and the ship returned to
Alameda on 15 December, holding a Training Readiness Inspection on the 16th,
before initiating a holiday standdown.
Enterprise began the Bicentennial Year 1976 with a period of intensive
training in preparation for her forthcoming WestPac deployment. From 1–28
January 1976, she conducted refresher training and conducted carquals.
Embarked during the former were 32 reservists from CV-220, a reserve command
from San Jose, California. The “workup routine” was interrupted when a
civilian electronics technician suffered a heart attack on board
oceanographic research ship De Steiguer (T-AGOR-12). Ordered to render
assistance, Enterprise sped to the area at 30 knots and launched two helos to
recover the patient and bring him on board for treatment. The man was
subsequently flown to San Diego for additional care. At the end of that
period, as Enterprise entered San Francisco Bay, her wake allegedly swamped a
small fishing boat on 28 January 1975, eventually requiring litigation.
Operation Valiant Heritage, FleetEx 1-76, a projected exercise involving 40
ships from five nations, proved of such complexity that “several months” were
required to review the numerous operations orders, conduct pre-exercise
conferences, and to train several ship’s “warfare teams.” Thus, she needed to
perform air refresher training and continue evaluation of the SLQ-17/WLR-8 EW
suite, and the S-3A/TSC combination, while underway (18–26 February 1976).
The day after her return to port, the ship became the Com3rdFlt “ready duty”
carrier and assumed a commitment to Com7thFlt as part of a “surge force,” and
assignment that necessitated a higher alert posture for the remainder of her
time before deployment.
Toward the end of February 1976, the crew learned that Enterprise received
the Battle Efficiency “E,” with departmental efficiency awards given to CIC,
Air, Engineering and AIMD. Beginning with an exercise emergency sortie from
San Diego, on 2 March, FleetEx 1-76 tested men and equipment in a grueling
series of simulations off Southern California operating area.
Tragedy marked Enterprise’s next at-sea period (29 March–9 April 1976) when
an A-7E from VA-125, the Pacific Replacement Group, struck the round down,
sheering off its starboard landing gear strut. Continuing down the flight
deck, the pilot was unable to prevent the aircraft from careening off the bow
and into the water. Both the pilot and a member of the Air Department died in
Over 3,000 dependents were embarked for an eight hour dependent’s cruise at
the beginning of the next underway period (28 April–5 May 1976), the air wing
staging an air show.
Going to sea, 10–17 May 1976, Enterprise accomplished “more specialized
training,” including a team training visit from the Nuclear Weapons Training
Group, and a three-day ASW exercise. On the 15th, actor Martin Milner visited
A visit by midshipmen for their summer cruise coincided with both a weapons
training exercise and a carrier readiness inspection, 8–12 June 1976. On the
last day Vice Admiral Robert E. Baldwin, AirPac, visited the ship. The crew
enjoyed a standdown while anchored off San Diego, highlighted by rope
climbing, tug-of-war, and various track events associated with the Captain’s
Cup, on the 13th.
Enterprise devoted the remainder of June 1976 to an ORI and ReadiEx 4-76, “a
scaled down version of Valiant Heritage,” and hosted a visit by Vice Admiral
Robert P. Coogan, Com3rdFlt, on the 25th. Following the completion of those
requirements, the ship moored at North Island on 30 June, enabling the
offloading of her complement of Tomcats, due to a temporary Navy-wide
grounding of the F-14.
Enterprise began her westward transit of this deployment on 30 July 1976,
with Captain Smith serving in the dual role as Task Group Commander and the
ship’s skipper. The transit differed from previous ones in that routine “open
ocean” flight operations were conducted during periods when no divert fields
were available. The composition of CVW-14 remained the same, with VQ-1 Det C
arriving on board later, on 31 August, and VS-38 embarking during 1977. She
conducted numerous AAW, strike and ASW exercises en route Hawaiian waters,
culminating in CompTuEx 1-7T, an exercise in the Hawaii area involving air
intercepts, ASW, marine carrier landings and a BPDMS firing.
Attack submarines Scamp (SSN-588) and Tautog (SSN-639) “contributed greatly”
to evaluations of the SH-3D, S-3A and TSC as “an ASW team.” Japanese
destroyers Akigumo (DD 120) and Aokumo (DD 119), supported by a Japanese
maritime patrol squadron equipped with Lockheed P-2 Neptunes, joined
Enterprise for the latter exercises.
Enterprise hosted high-ranking visitors during this period, including Rear
Admiral J.W. Moreau, Commandant, 14th Coast Guard District, and Major General
W.A. Boyson, U.S.A., Tripler Army Hospital, the Army’s senior medical
officer,who visited the ship on 7 August 1976. Admiral Thomas B. Hayward
relieved Admiral Weisner as CinCPac, in a ceremony held on board Enterprise,
on 12 August, in the presence of the CNO and Com7thFlt.
While steaming westward soon thereafter, Enterprise and Ranger came under
surveillance by “two separate waves” of Bears, five Tu-95s all told being
intercepted by the ship’s Tomcats and Corsair IIs while in the vicinity of
the task group.
ComCarStrFor7thFlt’s InChopEx commenced with the arrival of Rear Admiral
Harris, TF-77, on 31 August 1976. InChopEx challenged the Enterprise task
group with “numerous hostile” submarines, ships and aircraft belonging to
Mooring to Leyte Pier, Cubi Point, on 6 September 1976, Enterprise’s planned
three week “sojourn” was cut short by Typhoon Iris, that forced the ship to
anchor in the center of Subic Bay to prevent damage (14-16 September).
Subsequently, when the weather permitted, a Filipino delegation, led by
General Romeo C. Espino, Defense Chief of Staff, Major General Fidel V.
Ramos, Chief of Constabulary, Brigadier General F. Afat, Commanding General,
Army, Brigadier General S. Sarmiento, Commanding General, Air Force, and
Commodore E. Ogbinar, Flag Officer in Command, Navy, toured Enterprise, on 25
Enterprise got underway later that day (25 September 1976) for her 4,000-mile
transit to southern Australian waters for Kangaroo II. She relaxed cyclic air
operations a week later for “Crossing the Line” and an afternoon firepower
demonstration by New Zealand frigate Otago (F-111). She conducted refresher
training and dissimilar ACM between CVW-14’s Tomcats and RAAF Mirage IIIs
between 9–11 October.
Kangaroo II began with a “bang” with the ship commencing 55 hours of
continuous air strikes and defensive operations against the RAAF Williamtown
target complex, on 12 October 1976. The Australians “enlivened” the 600-mile
transit northward toward the Rockhampton area with “continual harassment,”
aircrews flying from Enterprise responding with “equal vigor.”
Emergencies punctuated the fast-paced training. A marine embarked in Okinawa
suffered a concussion on the evening of 17 October 1976 and required
immediate transfer to an Australian hospital. Coming about to within
helicopter range, Enterprise launched a helo that retrieved the patient and
transported him ashore for urgent care.
Five days later, on 22 October 1976, an HS-2 suffered engine failure on
takeoff and made a forced landing approximately one mile from the ship. The
crew made “numerous attempts” to get the helo airborne. The crew was finally
forced to deploy flotation gear, securing the engine. The ship had meanwhile
lowered a motor whaleboat that retrieved the men and helped maneuver the helo
alongside Enterprise, where it was raised by the ship’s crane.
That afternoon (22 October 1976), a VA-27 Corsair II pilot spotted 15 Taiwanese
fishermen stranded on a small island, where they had been for four days in
the wake of their boat being holed by a coral reef. Enterprise launched a
helo that rescued them and brought them out to the ship for medical
examination, after which they were flown on to Australia.
The final phase of Kangaroo II consisted of operations designed to support
the task force as it reinforced an amphibious landing, concluding with a
conference on board Australian carrier HMAS Melbourne on 25 October 1976.
Four days later, hundreds of pleasure boats met Enterprise at the mouth of
the Derwent River, escorting her to her anchorage at Hobart, Tasmania. In
addition to 1,200 visitors in organized tours during the week long stay (29
October–4 November 1976), “about 40,000 visitors” waited long hours to clamor
on board the 200-seat ferry boats, despite wind and rain, to see the carrier,
referring to her as “Tasmania’s fifth largest city.” Among the visitors to
the ship were Governor-General of Australia Sir John R. Kerr, Prime Minister
Malcom Frazer, Premier W.A. Nielson of Tasmania, Lord Mayor Douglas R.
Plaister of, Hobart, U.S. Ambassador to Australia James W. Hargrove, Captain
Benjamin T. Sutherlin, U.S. Naval Attaché, as well as Julie A. Ismay, Miss
Australia 1976 and Miss Tasmania 1975. The “extraordinary reception given to
Enterprise… defies description,” was the summation of her Command History
Report, the consensus of the crew being that “Hobart was the best liberty
port west of Alameda.” Getting underway past shores thronged with waving
crowds on 5 November, the crew responded to the outpouring of hospitality by
the Australians by donating $10,000 to local charity, sent to Lord Mayor
En route to Subic Bay, Enterprise conducted an ASW exercise, during which Rear
Admiral Harris, ComCarStrFor7thFlt, was relieved by Rear Admiral Henry P.
Glindeman, Jr. Arriving in the Philippines on 22 November 1976, the crew
highlighted the date by a picnic celebrating the ship’s 15th birthday. A week
later, the crew then received what they considered a “Christmas present”
(albeit an early one) in the form of the beginning of a visit to Hong Kong
(29 November–3 December). Though giving some sailors the opportunity to
temporarily reunite with their families, the visit was also marred by the
drug-related deaths of two crewmen.
Enterprise returned to Cubi Point on 5 December 1976. Attended by Vice
Admiral Baldwin, she held a change of command ceremony on 10 December, during
which Captain Smith was also promoted to rear admiral.
Enterprise conducted MultiPlEx 1-77 and MissilEx 1-77 underway (14–28
December 1976), in preparation for a larger exercise in the New Year.
However, five days into those evolutions, on the morning of the 19th, an F-14
from VF-2 was lost at sea three miles ahead of the ship. Experiencing a
“flight control malfunction while attempting to land,” the Tomcat boltered,
the crew unable to maintain directional flight control. The tip of a wing
clipped the tails of two planes parked on the port bow after the Tomcat struggled
airborne. Both men ejected and were recovered unharmed by a helo.
VRC-50 and VMA-223 conducted refresher training from Enterprise during this
period; two days before Christmas, an A-4M from the latter squadron lost
control just prior to launching and ended up in the port catwalk. The pilot
was unharmed and the Skyhawk retrieved with minor damage.
ReadiEx 1-77, a training evolution emphasizing AAW and ASW, proved to be the
first commitment for Enterprise in the New Year, 16–21 January 1977. Three days
into that period of work, on 19th, a pair of Soviet Bear Ds flew into the
exercise area in the Philippine Sea, to be intercepted by Phantom IIs from
Enterprise then participated in Merlion III, an exercise with the
Singaporeans, on 25 January 1977. Visiting the ship on that date were Deputy
Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Swee, and U.S. Ambassador to Singapore
John H. Holdridge. Three days later, Enterprise, Long Beach and Truxtun
transited the Malacca Strait (28 January 1977). Entering the Indian Ocean,
they rendezvoused with attack submarine Tautog, the first time that an all
nuclear-powered task force operated in those waters since Sea Orbit.
Soviet interference materialized on occasion. Kynda class raketnyy kreyser
(rocket cruiser) No. 822 began trailing the task group on 8 February 1977.
This movement portended more than mere observation, as the cruiser
continuously jockeyed for the most advantageous position from which to attack
Enterprise in the event of hostilities. Less than a week later, on 14
February 1977, two Soviet Ilyushin Il-38 Mays, flying from Somalia,
reconnoitered Enterprise and her consorts as they steamed east of Socotra
Island, Gulf of Aden. Over a period of four hours, the Mays made three
separate passes overhead, being intercepted by Tomcats.
Two days later (17 February 1977), TF 77 initiated Operation Houdini, aimed
at evading the close surveillance of Kynda class No. 822. Before proceeding
into additional operations, Enterprise began maintaining high speed, with the
objective of “putting a heavy drain on the Kynda’s fuel supply.” That the
intent achieved some manner of success is that the Soviet cruiser effected a
“number of refuelings” with her accompanying fleet replenishment ship
Vladimir Kolyechitskiy. Under the guise of routine flight operations,
Enterprise opened beyond radar range, Long Beach remaining behind to shadow
the shadower, noting the latter’s failure to relocate the carrier for three
days. The keys to the operation lay in complete reliance on satellite
communications and maintaining a strict EmCon posture.
Enterprise anchored at Mombasa (19–22 February 1977), welcoming visiting U.S.
Ambassador to Kenya Anthony D. Marshall upon her arrival. After splintering a
portion of a huge camel there, one of two caissons carried and positioned
alongside Enterprise for Tautog, it was “unanimously concluded the best way
to support a submarine in an open road anchorage was with liberty boats while
she was anchored.”
Enterprise planned a routine transit back to the Philippines, but the
worsening crisis in Uganda necessitated a change of plans. Public derogatory
remarks made against the U.S. by President Idi Amin Dada of Uganda,
accompanied by Amin’s directive that all Americans living in Uganda meet with
him personally, caused concern for the safety of those people. The JCS
ordered the task group to maintain station 300 NM east of Kenya, where the
ships steamed between 25 February and 3 March 1977. Enterprise was released
for normal operations after President Amin lifted travel restrictions on
Americans. The Ugandan incident “provided a real sense of purpose to extended
cruising of distant oceans.”
During the return passage to the Philippines, Enterprise and her consorts
briefly came under surveillance by the Soviet Kashin class guided missile
destroyer Odarenny in the vicinity of the Seychelles, on 4 March 1977; nine
days later, the carrier reached Cubi Point.
Enterprise, Long Beach and Truxtun got underway for their return on 17 March
1977, making a fast, 24-knot, passage home via a modified Great Circle Route,
arriving on schedule at Alameda on 28 March 1977. During the 1976–77 cruise,
the ship steamed 64,000 miles and was at sea 164 of 240 days deployed.
Logistics in such isolated areas had been a major concern. It became
necessary to take on board 150 tons of parts “through the C-141/CH-46 supply
chain,” by HC-3 Det 112, Kansas City (AOR-3), from Singapore on 26 January,
Karachi on 9 February, Mombasa on 20 February, and Diego Garcia on 6 March.
“Never missing a mission,” the busy helo crews also performed daytime plane
guard as well as logistics support. However, this overtaxed the limited
number of aircraft available, and both in Australian waters and in the Indian
Ocean, a cargo backlog ensued, prompting Captain Austin to recommend to
AirPac on 31 March: “Organic CH-46 capability for out-of-area operations
should be given careful consideration.” And, although Enterprise “easily
steamed the far reaches” of the Pacific and Indian Ocean at “sustained high
speed,” it was twice necessary to refuel JP-5 in the latter from chartered
logistics Military Sealift Command (MSC) tankers American Trader (6
February), and Arabian Sea (23 February), Enterprise airlifting technical
support teams to the tankers for assistance.
Following a 30-day post deployment standdown, Enterprise was at sea again for
carrier qualifications in Southern California operating area (27 April–10 May
1977). During this period, VFs-121 and 124, Marine Tactical Reconnaissance
Squadron (VMFP)-3, VSs-38, 41 and 91, VAQ-129, VAW-110 and “various aircraft
from CVW-11” trained on board the carrier. Some 1,359 arrested landings
brought the ship’s total to 174,092 since commissioning.
SRA 77 proved to be an $8.5 million repair and alteration package including
overhauling one of the two waist catapult systems and resurfacing the flight
deck (11 May–31 July 1977). Visitors during this period included Vice Admiral
Wagner, Commandant, Coast Guard 12th District, on 13 June, and Vice Admiral
J.D. Watkins, Chief of Naval Personnel, on 8 July.
Back at sea “in her natural environment” for sea trials, Enterprise conducted
flight deck certification and drilled her repair parties, between 1 and 5
August 1977. After a brief in-port period at Alameda (6–14 August), the carrier
was underway again for the southern California operating area for additional
refresher training and work ups, from the 15th–19th. Soon after she moored
back at Alameda, the ship began receiving over 4,000 visitors for a
dependents day cruise, including a flight operations demonstration.
Enterprise completed a variety of training exercises and battle problems,
including refresher training (29 August–20 September 1977), punctuating that
work with an in-port period moored at North Island over Labor Day Weekend
(2–5 September). Subsequently, Admiral Rickover inspected the ship (29–30
Underway from Alameda on 3 October, Enterprise conducted additional carrier
qualifications, refresher training and automatic carrier landing system
certification through the 10th. Among the squadrons utilizing the ship were
VFs-121, 124, 301 and 302, VFP-63, VAs-303, 304 and 305, VSs-37 and 41 and
VAQ-129. The ship returned to Alameda on 14 October. She returned to the
southern California operating area for additional air refresher training, 25
October–10 November, but this time with part of CVW-14. The ship also
conducted a MissilEx with her BPDMS with the Pacific Missile Test Center, 31
Enterprise’s final underway period of the year (2–15 December 1977) focused
on workups in the southern California operating area with the full wing
embarked, conducting cyclic air operations, principally ASW. The wing
completed its “fly off” on the 15th, and the carrier steamed north, mooring
at Alameda on 16 December, remaining there for the holidays.
Enterprise began the New Year 1978 in her homeport, preparing for her next
phase of work ups. From 10–19 January and 23 January–2 February, with a brief
visit to North Island in between, she conducted “at sea operations,” culminating
in ReadiEx 2-78, designed to further prepare her in “sea control and power
On the morning of 18 January 1978, tug Cree (ATF-84) released ex-YO-129 as a
target for “live” bombing practice by naval aircraft, while steaming off the
coast of southern California. Cree then proceeded north to clear the target
area, taking her assigned station, but mistakenly became a target when a
“Navy jet aircraft” made an attack run on her at 1206, unleashing three 500
lb bombs on the ship and her crew. One bomb struck the mast and exploded in
the air close aboard to starboard, showering the tug with fragments. The
second bomb fell along the port side, sliced beneath the ship and exploded
underwater off the starboard side, “engulfing” Cree in a wall of water. The
third slammed into the ship on the port bow, passing through seven bulkheads
in the forward part of the ship, before becoming wedged into the passageway
between the chief petty officer’s quarters and sick bay, though failing to
detonate. The damage to the ship was severe, including holing of the mast,
destruction of two life rafts, severing of the emergency power cable and
fragment damage above the 01 Level. Below decks, the ship’s gyro was
destroyed by the bomb forward, which also damaged the diving locker and
bulkheads. The underwater explosion, however, caused the most serious damage,
blasting several holes in bulkheads and spliting seams. Motor room B-2 became
“a tangled mass of warped frames,” with equipment “wrenched from mountings and
broken lines.” Flooding in excess of 2,000 gallons per minute was reported.
Going to General Quarters, the crew responded immediately, but during their
gallant efforts to save the ship, discovered the live bomb where it wedged
forward, just 20 feet from where the repair party was stationed. Moving aft
away from the 500 pounder, the repair party was temporarily relieved by an
EOD team from Enterprise rushed to Cree. Within 45 minutes the team was on
board and able to defuse the bomb. Seven men of the repair party braved
“rising water, leaking fuel and oil from broken lines,”as well as the absence
of light, entering Motor Room B-2 to battle the flooding for two hours before
getting it under control.
Additional ships rendering assistance included Long Beach, guided missile
destroyer John Paul Jones (DDG-32) and tug Moctobi (ATF-105), providing
portable pumps, gasoline and “other supplies.” Taken under tow that evening
by John Paul Jones, which transferred her to Moctobi early the next
afternoon, Cree returned to San Diego on the 19th, her exhausted crew having
battled for 27 hours to keep their ship afloat.
On 18 February 1978, Enterprise became the adopted ship of the City of
Oakland, California. Ten days later, standing out from Alameda, Enterprise
sailed for the southern California operating area to perform an ASW exercise
with attack submarine Blueback (SS-581), on 1 March, and conduct carrier
qualifications and an oerational radiness examination (ORE), returning to her
home port on the 11th. Vice Admiral Coogan, AirPac, embarked on 18–19
January, and again on 3 March.
Two weeks of intensive AAW and ASW team training as part of RimPac 78, a
joint exercise with Australian, New Zealand and Canadian naval forces,
preceded the ship’s WestPac deployment that began with Enterprise sailing on
8 April 1978.
During the transit phase, 172 S-3 and SH-3 sorties were flown in direct
support of Blue Force operations, as there was a large Orange submarine
threat consisting of both nuclear and diesel submarines. In addition, upon
arrival in the Hawaii operating areas, RVAH-1 flew 15 photo mapping flights.
Enterprise received a visit by Rear Admiral N.E. McDonald, Commander, RAN
Supply, on 17 April, and moored at Pearl, 23–25 April.
The task group chopped to Com7thFlt on 2 May 1978, ComCarGru-1 shifting his
flag from Enterprise to Kitty Hawk the same day. Two days later, while east
of Guam, the ship was shadowed by no less than five Bears. Enterprise
participated in exercises Fortress Warrior I and Fortress Warrior II while
approaching the Philippines, 9–11 May, followed by transiting the San
Bernadino Strait on the 12th; she ultimately moored at, Cubi Point on 17 May.
Enterprise then participated in Exercise Cope Thunder (22 May–1 June 1978),
pausing in the midst of it to conduct a mission of mercy: the rescue of 13
Vietnamese refugees, known as “boat people,” from their sinking sampan about
90 miles west of Luzon, Philippines, on 27 May 1978. Enterprise fed and
clothed the destitute people, then transferred them to destroyer Hull
(DD-945), which transported them to Subic Bay.
Enterprise then visited Hong Kong (12–17 June 1978), and after a period of
local operations, sailed for the Indian Ocean on 5 July. Rear Adm. Tissot,
ComCarStrFor7thFlt, embarked on board Enterprise, as senior officer afloat.
Conducting Fortress Warrior IV, on the 9th, the next day the ship encountered
Soviet AGs Antares and Agor Nevelskoy and Ropucha-class tank landing ship
(No.383). Transiting the Strait of Malacca on 12 July, she entered the Indian
Ocean the next day. Following a VertRep from Masroor Airfield, Karachi,
Pakistan, on 22 July, Enterprise and her task group encountered a Soviet
Kashin-class destroyer (DDG-100) and a Don-class submarine tender (AS-941).
Enterprise gave her pollywogs a chance to become shellbacks by crossing the
equator, on 27 July 1978. Two days later, she conducted a helo logistics lift
from Diego Garcia, and while in the area, RVAH-1 flew five photographic
reconnaissance missions for “mapping and orientation of Diego Garcia and all
other island groups within the Chagos Archipelago.”
Returning to Cubi Point on 26 August 1978, Enterprise stood out toward
Okinawa and ReadiEx 1-79, on 16 September. A “scaled down” exercise (24
September–1 October 1978), it developed into a series of exercises off
Okinawa followed by an opposed sortie from Buckner Bay by an amphibious ready
group, the latter joining the Enterprise and Midway task forces as they
steamed through the Ryukyus toward Korean waters, concluding just north of Tsushima
Strait. As could be expected, the Societs showed great interest in the
proceedings, Enterprise encountering a pair of AGIs, Ilmen and Izmeritel, on
the 24th and 26th, respectively. In addition, Bear Ds came out the day after
FinEx, making several runs toward the ships, but did not approach closer than
30 miles, being intercepted and escorted by F-14s. Soviet forces played a
game of cat and mouse with the ship and her screen, yet at no time during the
cruise “was their conduct considered to be either improper or hazardous.”
Mooring at Cubi Point on 5 October 1978, TF 77 and ComCarGru-5 disembarked.
Enterprise stood out for the South China Sea four days later for storm
evasion, returning on the 12th, for a brief stop for loading, before getting
underway for her return to the U.S.
Enterprise chopped to Com3rdFlt and rendezvoused with Constellation on 18
October 1977. From 22–24 October, the ship moored at Pearl, embarking 150
crewmembers’ sons for a Tiger Cruise. Following a four-day ammunition
backload with fast combat support ship Camden, the ship arrived at Alameda on
Following her standdown, Enterprise got underway for carrier qualifications
in the southern California operating area (28 November–15 December 1978),
with a brief stop at North Island over the 2nd–4th. CVW-11 flew on board on 6
December, conducting refresher operations, the ship also completing her mine
readiness certification on the 13th.
Enterprise returned to Alameda for the holidays (16 December 1978–9 January
Enterprise sailed from Alameda, with 2,200 officers and men and 500
temporarily embarked dependents, on 9 January 1979 and arrived at Bremerton
on the 11th. Immediately upon arrival, she entered Dry Dock No. 6, where she
remained until 30 September, then moving to Pier 3, remaining there through
the end of the year. This was considered the “most extensive and highly
complex overhaul” of the ship’s history to date. To enable Enterprise
crewmembers relatively safe and clean berthing during overhaul, the auxiliary
(former MSC transport) General Hugh J. Gaffey (IX-507) (ex-T-AP-121) was made
available to them as an “off-ship berthing facility.” During overhaul,
Enterprise was required to assign a “10-man dedicated maintenance crew” to
the ship, which also stood watches and performed similar duties while so
The deck department undertook the maintenance, preservation and improvement
of over 330 spaces, primarily the hull, forecastle, quarterdeck, sponsons,
heads, passageways and ceremonial spaces, many heavily used by the crew.
During the overhaul, the aircraft intermediate maintenance department (AIMD)
focused the rehabilitation of departmental spaces, expanding/improving a
validated/effective individual material readiness list, the
overhaul/operational readiness of “assigned activity assets,” and improving
the operational availability and material condition of the ship’s C-1A (BuNo
146057), the latter maintained by a det of six men at Kitsap County Airport,
Additional avionics packages installed enabled support of the forward looking
infrared radar (FLIR) systems, at this point principally on A-6Es and A-7Es.
Ground support equipment overhaul and calibration and testing of precision
measuring equipment, and the checking of production efforts, were the
responsibility of the ground support equipment rework det, established on 9
January 1979, at NAS Alameda.
New instrumentation was emplaced on the jet engine test cell control booth,
relocated from the port side of the fantail to the ship’s centerline,
facilitating the installation of three MK 15 Mod 1 Phalanx Close-In Weapon
Systems (CIWS). Developed in response to the ongoing threat poised by
sea-skimmer and anti-ship cruise missiles, CIWS was a last-ditch
“fast-reaction” defense system against those missiles, combining on a single
mount fire control radars and a six barrel M61A1 Vulcan (Gatling) gun firing
tungsten alloy projectiles at a rate of up to 4,500 rounds per minute.
Additional defensive improvements included installation/modifications of three
eight-celled MK 29 launchers for Raytheon AIM-7F Sea Sparrow
surface-air-missiles, and three single MK 68 20 mm guns.
The engineering department oversaw the removal, refurbishment and
modification of the high pressure propulsion turbines, the emergency diesel
generators, the electric driven firepumps, and the main feed pumps, together
with the installation of the reboiler system, the latter to separate the main
propulsion steam system from the ship’s service steam system, be utilized to
supply “hotel and selected reduced pressure steam services” normally supplied
by the main steam system.
Air Conditioning and Refrigeration were overhauled, with a new 300-ton air
conditioning plant installed, together with additional sea water and chilled
water pumps. The former was necessary not only for crew habitability, but
also for the electrical equipment, to maintain radar and similar high voltage
systems at temperatures preventing damage from overheating. In addition to
engineering and crew needs, the pumps were also required for potential damage
control. The ships’ four degaussing motor generator sets were removed and
overhauled. Degaussing “demagnetized” Enterprise, protecting her from
magnetic mines and similar threats.
The “beehive” ECM structure atop Enterprise’s island, long a unique and
prominent recognition feature of the ship, was replaced by a heavy pole mast,
mounting improved radar, TACAN and communications equipment. The AN/SPS-12,
32 and 33 air search radars were replaced by the AN-SPS-48, 49 and 65,
improving “reliability in the functional areas of three dimensional radar and
long and short range air target acquisition.” The AN/SPS-48 also provided an
automatic weapons system interface between NTDS and NATO Sea Sparrow. The
AN/SPS-10 surface search radar was modified to work with the AN/SPS-65 to
provide a low level air target acquisition capability in conjunction with
CIWS. The AN/WLR-1 EW system was removed, and the AN/WLR-8 (V) 4 also was
The Carrier Air Traffic Control Center/Direct Altitude and Identification
Readout system was installed, enhancing air traffic control capabilities
through the departure, marshal, and approach phases. The Fleet Satellite
Secure Voice Communication System replaced the STEAM VALVE system. The
Carrier Intelligence Center (CVIC) received a number of equipment exchanges
and additions, enhancing its capabilities by increasing data capacity,
reducing data processing time and improving data retrieval time. Among these
innovations were computer and graphic devices for improved mensuration and
interpretation of reconnaissance imagery. The RA-5C support system from the
Airborne System Support Center (ASSC) was removed, and Tactical Air
Reconnaissance System (TARPS) POD maintenance support equipment installed.
Also during the overhaul substantial work was accomplished on the optical
landing system, arresting gear and MK C 13 catapults, including installation
of new rotary launch valves and capacity selector valves on the latter. All
UnRep stations were refurbished and repaired, and the motor whaleboat was
replaced. In October 1980, JP-5 fuel was taken on board for the first time in
almost two years, a sure indicator that the ship’s overhaul was nearing
In October 1979, Paramount Pictures, Inc., filmed parts of the movie “The
Winds of War,” on board battleship Missouri (BB-63) moored at Puget Sound.
More than 400 men from Enterprise took part in the production as “extras.”
Enterprise received many VIPs during her long sojourn at Bremerton,
culminating in visits by Vice Admiral De Poix on 6 September 1980, Secretary
of the Navy Edward Hidalgo on 25 September 1980, Admiral Thomas B. Hayward,
CNO, on 24 October 1980, Vice Admiral R.F. Schoultz, AirPac, on 3 September
and 6 November 1980, 26–27 January, 22–23 April, 15 July and 1 December 1981,
and Admiral J.D. Watkins, CinCPac, on 3 September 1981.
In May 1981, Enterprise saw helicopter operations for the first time in over
two years, and the following month her arresting gear again became
operational. JP-5 was pumped to the flight deck for the first time on almost
three years, in October 1981.
This was also the first time in her history that the ship’s prototype nuclear
reactor propulsion plant received a complete overhaul, the magnitude of the
project later noted succinctly by her skipper: “Continued intricate testing
of the ship’s reactor equipment extended the overhaul into 1982.” The total
cost of her overhaul was approximately $276 million.
Beginning in January 1982, CVW-11 transitioned from carrier America to
Enterprise. Incorporated into the wing were five new squadrons: VAs-22 and 94
(A-7Es), VS-37 (S-3As), VAW-117 (E-2Cs), and HS-6 (SH-3Hs). Already assigned
were: VF-114 and VF-213 (F-14As), VA-95 (A-6Es), and VAQ-133 (EA-6Bs). Vice
Admiral Schoultz was on board as well, 18–19 January, followed on the 21st by
Under Secretary of the Navy James F. Goodrich.
To the sounds of country and western singer Willie Nelson’s “On the Road
Again” piped through the ship’s 1MC communication system, Enterprise got
underway from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, at 0959:58 on 2 February 1982. “I
know I promised you a week ago to be underway from Pier 2 at 1000 on 2
February,” the skipper afterward joked with the crew, “Well, we didn’t meet
that schedule. We were two seconds early.”
Enterprise stood out for a week of sea trials. Preceded by a fast cruise (25
January–1 February 1982) she completed her sea trials satisfactorily,
returning to Bremerton on the 8th. Embarking “dependents, pets and
automobiles” (422, 76 and 944, respectively), Enterprise conducted Operation
Southwest Passage, the return to Alameda, 11–13 February 1982. Glibly dubbed
Noah’s Ark by her crew, the carrier sported a “pet motel” on the fantail to
accommodate the animals. On hand to greet the crew when they returned to
their homeport for the first time in almost three years were Mayors Dianne
Feinstein, Lionel Wilson and C.J. Corica, of San Francisco, Oakland and
From 21 February–3 March 1982, Enterprise completed workups in the southern
California operating area, accomplishing her first post-overhaul aircraft
landing on 22 February, and her first catapult launch on the 27th. Rear
Admiral Joseph J. Barth, Jr., ComCarGru-3, embarked on board Enterprise on 12
March (being relieved by Rear Admiral Edwin R. Kohn, Jr., on 30 October).
During the seven-month period between her return to California and her
WestPac deployment, Enterprise spent 87 days at sea, primarily in the
southern California operating area. She conducted refresher training (15–19
March 1982), numerous carrier qualifications (during which, in April an A-7
Corsair II made the ship’s seventh successful barricade arrestment),
exercised herTARPS capabilities for the first time, conducted an ORE (29
July–1 August), and participated in two large-scale training evolutions,
FleetEx 1-82 (6–28 July), and ReadiEx/MSR 82-4. Sadly, during the former, the
ship lost radar and radio contact with NH-300, an A-7E from VA-22, on 15
July. A major SAR effort utilizing aircraft from Enterprise and ships in
company found no trace of the pilot or of his Corsair II. Visitors during
this period included Vice Admiral W. Lawrence, Com3rdFlt, on 17 July, Vice
Admiral Schoultz, 26–27 July, Attorney General William French Smith, on 11
August, and Rear Admiral C.A. Easterling, AirPac, on 26 August.
Enterprise sailed from Alameda for her 10th deployment on 1 September 1982.
While en route to Hawaiian waters, she conducted SHAREM 48, a joint Ship ASW
Readiness Evaluation Measuring exercise, and AIREM X-ray, an Air Readiness
Evaluation Measuring exercise, 7–12 September. Admiral S.R. Foley, CinCPac,
was also on board, on the 8th–9th.
Following a visit to Pearl (13–16 September 1982), Enterprise stood out on
the morning of the 17th for “several days of flight operations.” Her aircraft
utilized the opportunity to deliver a wide variety of ordnance, both live and
inert, including AGM-84A Harpoons. While still in the vicinity of Hawaii, her
aircrews sighted a sailboat in distress and coordinated a successful SAR on
Transiting to the North Pacific (NorPac), Enterprise conducted “freedom of
the seas” operations with the Midway Carrier Battle Group (CVBG). The two
groups steamed in an area roughly centered upon 51ºN, 171ºE, approximately
300 miles southeast of the extensive Russian facilities at Petropavlosk, the
Soviet Banner Pacific Fleet’s major submarine base.
From the time she neared her NorPac operations area on 23 September 1982,
until she departed the Sea of Japan, Enterprise proved “the subject of
extensive Soviet air, surface, and subsurface surveillance.” Of particular
note was the “unprecedented” use of Backfire bombers, on 30 September and 2
October, to “reconnoiter” both CVBGs. The tension between the two superpowers
provided both with opportunities to test the other’s resolve and naval
competency, and planes from both carriers conducted simulated dual wing
coordinated strikes that were frighteningly real in the circumstances.
On 23 September 1982, Sideflare 74, a CH-46 from HC-11’s Sacramento det,
ditched at sea due to fuel starvation, Enterprise assuming on scene SAR
command. “Prompt action” by the latter’s air traffic control center vectored
HS-6 to the scene, recovering all crewmembers from the frigid northern
Pacific. Additionally, a pair of Tomcats from VF-213 were diverted to Adak,
Alaska, due to reduced ceiling visibility in the carrier operating area. The
F-14s returned to Enterprise the following day, believed to be the first time
that F-14s landed or took off from Adak.
On 30 September 1982, the Enterprise CVBG inchopped to the 7th Fleet,
proceeding with the Midway CVBG southward, to the east of the Kuril Islands,
and entering the Sea of Japan via the Tsugaru Strait, between Hokkaidō
and Honshū, Japan, on 3 October. Vice Admiral M.S. Holcomb, Com7thFlet,
visited the ship, on the 5th.
CRAE 83-1 was a four cycle dual carrier exercise between Enterprise and
Midway, with all sorties practiced by their aircraft being conducted as Mini
Alpha strikes. Four days later the “Big E” departed the Sea of Japan via the
Tsushima Strait. An international group of consul generals, led by British
General Sir John Archer, Commander in Chief, U.K. Land Forces, visited the ship
on 12 October 1982.
Enterprise moored at Cubi Point (14–18 October 1982); later, while in
Philippine waters, she conducted MissilEx 83-2, providing CVW-14 “valuable
air to air weapons work,” off Poro Point. Ultimately standing out for the
South China Sea en route to Singapore, she encountered and rescued a boatload
of six Vietnamese refugees, later disembarking them in Singapore.
Upon arrival at that port on the 25th, a party led by Harold E.T. Thanyer,
U.S. Ambassador, Singapore, Yeap A.B.C. Rose, Deputy High Commissioner,
Malaysia, and the Filipino and Indonesian ambassadors to Singapore, visited
Following her visit to Singapore, 25–29 October, she transited the Strait of
Malacca, entering the IO the day before Halloween. The carrier steamed toward
the north Arabian Sea, where she operated until 19 November.
This was especially important owing to the recent outbreak of war between
Iraq and Iran. Following the radical islamic revolution in Iran in 1979,
Saddam Hussein took advantage of the ensuing chaos and ordered the Iraqi Army
to invade Khuzestan province in southwestern Iran on 22 September 1980. The
invasion was both an attempt to inspire a populist revolt against the
fundamentalist Shia regime in Teheran and to gain control of the vast
petroleum reserves of the region.
Although Hussein anticipated a quick victory that would allow him to install
a friendly government in Tehran, the invasion provoked a determined,
nationalist resistance by the Iranians that stopped the Iraqi offensive dead
in its tracks. Despite enjoying a significant military advantage -- the Iraqi
Army was well supplied with Warsaw Pact tanks, artillery and other weapons --
the campaign bogged down into a stalemate, with both sides suffering heavy
losses in a war of attrition among the fortifications and trenches along the
border. Both sides soon escalated the conflict through air, artillery and
missile strikes against enemy cities, later extending these attacks against
oil tankers and other ships carrying enemy commodities in the Northern
By the early 1980s, neutral ships in the region could anticipate missile or
gunboat attacks from either side, and Enterprise was needed to monitor
activity, and to respond to ships damaged or in peril from attack.
On 9 November, Enterprise was visited by Rear Admiral C.E. Gurney, III,
Commander, Middle East Force. On the 20th, she came about for a visit to
Mombasa, 24–28 November, initiating 3,994 pollywogs by crossing the equator
at 044º33’E, on 20 November. Also in Mombasa was Samuel Gompers (AD-37),
enabling some upkeep to be completed on board the carrier.
After clearing Mombasa, Enterprise operated for the remainder of the year in
the north Arabian Sea with Battle Group (BG) Foxtrot, also comprising
Bainbridge, Waddell (DDG-24), Hull (DD-945), O’Callahan (FF-1051), Hepburn
(FF-1055), Shasta (AE-33), Sacramento (AOE-1), White Plains (AFS-4) and
Ponchatula (T-AO-148). In addition, destroyer Harry W. Hill (DD-986) was
detached to shadow Soviet carrier Minsk, which was transiting the Indian
Ocean for her first deployment to the Far East, a matter of considerable
interest to U.S. planners. As such, Enterprise assigned two intelligence
specialists to the destroyer to help the latter’s crew in tracking the
Russians. Harry W. Hill rejoined on 19–20 January 1983. Frigate Reasoner
(FF-1063), similarly detached for ASW duty, rejoined on 10 January. French
destroyer Kersaint (D-622) also operated with the group until 10 January.
While with BG Foxtrot, Enterprise took part in exercises Jade Tiger 82 (2–8
December 1983), and Beacon Flash, a two-day event, the former involving CAS,
CAP surface surveillance, anti-boat patrol and ASW missions flown in support
of amphibious landings, and the latter allowing “aircrews to hone their low level
and navigations skills.” During these exercises, Lieutenant General Robert
Kingston, U.S.A., Commander, Rapid Deployment Joint Task Forced (RDJTF), Rear
Admiral Stanley Arthur, Commander, RD Naval Force and Arthur Lowrie, RDJTF
Political Advisor, consulted with officers on Enterprise, 2–3 December. U.S.
Ambassador to Bahrain Peter A. Southland visited the ship on 19 December, and
Rear Admiral Stevenson, Deputy Chief of Chaplains, on the 21st..
On New Year’s Eve, Enterprise was southbound en route to Diego Garcia for
participation in Weapons Week 83. During 1982, the ship completed 11,372
arrested landings and made 33 UnReps.
BG Foxtrot conducted two exercises in the first week of January 1983. Weapons
Week, 3–9 January 1983, provided CVW-11 with training in air-to-air and
air-to-ground weapons delivery. Rainbow Reef was a convoy transit exercise
with merchant ships from the RDJTF det at Diego Garcia, before beginning her
easterly transit toward western Australia. Beacon South, a joint exercise
with the Australians (18–19 January) provided Enterprise aircrews with low
level and weapons delivery training. After the exercise, Enterprise, Harry W.
Hill and Sacramento entered Fremantle for a brief visit on the 20th, other
ships of the group visiting Geraldton and Bunbury. Among the distinguished
visitors to Enterprise from Western Australia were Premier Ray O’Connor, Mr.
Sinclair, Minister of Defense, Air Chief Marshall McNamara, Chief of Defense
Force Staff, and Vice Admiral Leach, Chief of Naval Staff.
Standing out from their respective ports and reforming on 26 January 1983,
the ships steamed northerly courses toward Indonesian waters. Encountering
some difficulty regarding Indonesian intransigence to allow the ships through
Sunda Strait, the force pressed “right of free passage,” transiting
northbound on 1 February. Crossing the Java Sea they entered the South China
Sea, arriving at Subic Bay on the 7th. En route to the Philippines,
Enterprise’s marine detachment prepared and instituted a plan to repel pirates
known to be operating in the area.
During February 1983, U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand H. Monroe Brown visited
the ship, as did Ambassador to South Korea and Mrs. Richard L. Walker.
Enterprise sailed from Cubi Point on 27 February, rendezvousing with other
“elements” of the battle group returning from a visit to Hong Kong. Russian
“reaction” was not long in coming, and a pair of Bear Ds reconnoitered
Enterprise as she operated just off Subic Bay, on 2 March. Soviet
surveillance continued as Enterprise and her consorts steamed north through
the Tsushima Strait and into the Sea of Japan to participate in Valiant
Flex/Team Spirit 83, a 16 day joint amphibious exercise with ROK forces,
during which Enterprise supported the landings and provided interdiction
support. “Numerous” civil aircraft penetrated her carrier control zone during
the evolution, seven unauthorized flights being so dangerous as to be
reported to Commander, Naval Force Japan. Upon completing the exercise,
Enterprise visited Sasebo, 21–26 March, but unlike her first visit (1968), no
major incidents occurred other than “a few” peaceful demonstrations by
Japanese opposed to her brief stay.
After standing out of Sasebo, Enterprise operated independently before
rendezvousing with Midway on 30 March 1983. The two ships then steamed
northerly courses across the Sea of Japan and through the Tsugaru Strait into
the northern Pacific. There she participated in FleetEx 83-1, rendezvousing
with Coral Sea, on 9 April. All three carriers then completed a
“counterclockwise sweep” of the northwestern Pacific. A “rare opportunity”
was provided for both naval and Air Force crews via aerial refueling with the
latter’s KC-10 tankers, which refueled KA-6s, in turn refueling naval
aircraft. The large Extender fuel loads “provided tactical flexibility” and
thus permitted naval air intercepts “at realistic speeds and extended cycle
times.” Soviet aerial reconnaissance was “heavy,” but unusually, Russian
surface surveillance was “nearly non-existent.”
At midday on 18 April 1983, Enterprise detached for home. Admiral Foley noted
that FleetEx 83-1 “…fully integrated three carrier battle force operations;
theater wide operations in support of the battle force; integration of the
full range of air force maritime capabilities into battle force and theater
naval operations, and incorporation of both Canadian and Coast Guard units
into the battle force.”
On board for Enterprise’s return to Alameda was actor George Takei, who had
portrayed Lieutenant Commander Sulu, the “helmsman” of the “starship
Enterprise” in the television and film series Star Trek. During the final leg
of the inbound channel, however, approximately a half-mile from the pier,
Enterprise ran aground and was delayed for almost five hours until the
incoming tide and tugs could free her, mooring at Alameda on 28 April 1983.
During the cruise CVW-11 had flown approximately 29,000 hours and recorded
over 11,000 traps.
Following her post-deployment standdown, Enterprise then underwent an
“extensive” SRA, 15 May–20 September 1983, durig which, in July, her C-1A
Greyhound was transferred to VRC-30, which was to provide future COD support.
At the completion of the availability, Enterprise conducted sea trials (20–26
September). During that period the flight deck was recertified, on 21
September, as was the automatic carrier landing system (ACLS). From the
22nd–24th, Enterprise also evaluated for CNO the catapult launch of F-14s
towing gunnery banners, and carried out full rudder tests with a maximum heel
at 30 knots/30º rudder of 12º. Also in September, her operations and medical
departments received Battle Efficiency “Es.”
Enterprise returned to sea for CVW-11’s carrier qualifications, with VS-21
replacing VS-37, 7–13 October 1983, logging 1,429 arrested landings, 863
day/566 night, qualifying 113 pilots. She returned to San Francisco in time
to participate in Fleet Week, joining the procession of ships beneath the
Golden Gate Bridge and into the bay, including Kitty Hawk, Merrill (DD-976),
Chandler (DDG-996), O’Brien (DD-975), Mars, Wabash (AOR-5), Mauna Kea
(AE-22), Berkeley (DDG-15), Duncan (FFG-10) and Lewis B. Puller (FFG-23).
From 31 October–22 November 1983, the “Big E” completed refresher training in
the southern California operating area. During a “dark night,” the ship
received a distress call, around 2300. Alert 30, the HS-6 helo on plane
guard, was aloft and racing to the scene in barely 15 minutes, followed
closely by a second and then a third, all three staying airborne until the
SAR was called off.
After refresher training, Enterprise enjoyed a brief break to celebrate
Thanksgiving; subsequently, an Underway Material Inspection, 12–14 December
1983, proved to be the last significant at sea event for the ship before the
From 10 January–15 February 1984, Enterprise operated in the southern
California operating area, devoting the first six days to carrier
qualifications, with 109 of 114 wing pilots qualifying during a total of
1,502 traps, 964 day and 538 night. Then, following a brief visit to San
Diego (17-18 January), she provided an “open deck” for Strike Fighter
Squadron (VFA)-125, VF-124, VAQ-129, VAW-110, VMPF-3, VS-41 and VRC-30
through the 25th, adding an additional 559 arrested landings, 314 day and 245
night. Another stay in San Diego (25-31 January) was followed by ReadiEx
84-2, 31 January–15 February, that included an opposed sortie from San Diego
and a multithreat scenario composed of long and short range AAW, anti-surface
warfare (ASUW), a mine warfare exercise and ASW “at an intense level.”
Enterprise conducted five UnReps, including one alongside of Sacramento where
she suffered a gyro casualty, but carrying out an “emergency breakaway” from
a four station detail, a dangerous maneuver accomplished without further
Enterprise and CVW-11 also conceived and implemented “a more flexible and
combat relevant mode of conducting air operations than traditional cyclic
operations.” Based upon initiatives providing “more efficient management of
flight deck time and space, major reposts were eliminated,” the landing area
and waist catapults being kept clear for flight operations “on a continual
and flexible timing basis throughout the operating day.” Designated Battle
Flex Deck (BFD), its implementation commenced on 10 January.
Enterprise returned to the southern California operating area for additional
training (23 February–2 March 1984), recording a total of 1,568 arrested
landings, 1,127 day and 441 night. In addition to the wing’s VS-21 qualifying
18 of its pilots, CVW-14, CVWR-30, VA-122, VFA-125, VF-124, VMA-21, VAQ-33,
VAW-110, VS-41 and VRC-30 also took advantage of the carquals. On the 3rd,
3,900 dependents embarked for a one-day cruise.
Standing out of Alameda on 14 March 1984, Enterprise participated in ReadiEx
84-3, the final phase consisting of “an opposed, multithreat Orange Force
scenario,” including a Harpoon missile exercise, on the 30th. ReadiEx 84-3
was followed by ORE, 2–5 April. Another multithreat scenario, it added “power
projection strikes ashore.” Refresher air operations were then completed in
the southern California operating area, 19–30 April.
Enterprise sailed on her 11th deployment on 30 May 1984. Accompanying her was
BG Foxtrot, comprising guided missile cruisers Arkansas (CGN-41) and Jouett
(CG-29), destroyers Kinkaid (DD-965) and Leftwich (DD-984), frigates Mahlon
S. Tisdale (FFG-27), Brewton (FF-1086) and Robert E. Peary (FF-1073),
Sacramento and ammunition ship Flint (AE-32). One day into her deployment,
Enterprise was visited by Vice Admiral Crawford A. Easterling, AirPac. En
route to Hawaii, the group participated in RimPac 84, through Enterprise’s
arrival at Pearl Harbor, on 15 June. A “multinational, two carrier, extended
exercise,” RimPac 84 involved U.S. and Japanese P-3s, USAF B-52s, and about
90 American and Australian ships and submarines, the latter numbering both
diesel and nuclear-powered boats.
The initial rendezvous of seven individual surface groups, integrating 50
ships into a single formation, set the tone for the complex exercise.
Enterprise avoided Orange submarines detecting and localizing her by
“high-speed” restrictive emissions control (EmCon) and “zig-zag.” The
exercise culminated in an amphibious operation off Maui.
Clearing Pearl Harbor on 19 June 1984, Enterprise took part in BgaRem 84-4,
an ASW exercise northwest of Kauai “appended” to RimPac 84, and Bell Volcano
84-1, an amphibious and power projection exercise requiring the ship to
provide CAP and CAS, both exercises in the Hawaiian Operations Area. Rear
Admiral Kohn was relieved as ComCarGru-3 by Rear Admiral John R. Batzler, on
26 June. During June, primarily in RimPac 84, CVW-11 flew 80–110 sorties per
day for 4,762 flight hours.
Enterprise returned to Pearl Harbor for a second visit, 29 June–2 July 1984,
then continuing on her westerly course into WestPac. En route she was twice
shadowed by Soviet Bears, on 7 and 16 July. At one point, an F-14 was
diverted to Wake Island, maintained in a caretaker status for just such
emergencies and for “island resupply.” In addition Enterprise conducted a
TransitEx ASW evolution with attack submarine Drum (SSN-677), a PassEx with
Japanese ships in the vicinity of Guam, and an InChopEx with Kitty Hawk
aircraft as opposing forces, on the way. Four Soviet Sibir class AGEs and a
Primorye class AGI monitored the transit with more than passing interest.
In July 1984, Enterprise completed incorporation of the Seawater Activated
Release System (SeaWars), something that promised to facilitate rescues of
downed aircrew, in 15 parachutes. Vice Admiral J.R. Hogg, Com7thFlt, stayed
on board, 23–24 July, Enterprise mooring at NAS Cubi Point, 24 July–2 August.
MissilEx 84-5 consisted of a RIM-7H NATO Sea Sparrow fired at a QM-74C drone
target, on 2 August, after which time the ship visited Hong Kong (6-11 August),
requalifying 114 pilots from CVW-11 during two days of carquals en route.
Following her visit to the British Crown Colony, Enterprise crossed the South
China Sea headed for the Indian Ocean. Three Badgers, however, backed up by a
Bear, operating out of American-built facilities at Cam Ranh Bay,
reconnoitered her on 13 August 1984.
Transiting the Strait of Malacca westbound Enterprise executed an InChopEx
with America, whose crew and aircraft provided “realistic scenarios for the
north Arabian Sea environment,” relieving the latter on 24 August 1984. While
there, Enterprise proved a “stabilizing force” and evidenced a “show of
[U.S.] resolve to countries in the region,” ongoing destabilization resulting
from the Iranian-Iraqi War embroiling the region.
Soviet Il-38s and AN-12 Cubs, and Iranian P-3Fs and C-130s operating in the
battle group area of interest were intercepted and escorted. Shipping was
carefully monitored, merchant shipping being of “particular interest” due to
the resurgence of Iranian and Iraqi attacks on maritime traffic in the
Northern Arabian Gulf. For the first two weeks in the Indian Ocean, “an
active flight deck” was maintained in the mornings hopefully preventing
seasonal heavy dew and reducing hazards, as well as Iranian P-3 patrols,
whose flights often coincided with early mornings. The weather continued to
be a problem, however, as blowing dust in the air was very prevalent,
“creating low level haze and occasionally reducing flight visibility,” the
mixture of settling dust and a wet flight deck also creating slippery,
During September 1984, Enterprise accomplished passing exercises known as
PassExes with British, French and German forces, comprising air defense,
maneuvering, communications and data link exercises. ASWEx’s 84-9U, 21–24
September, and 85-1U, 13–15 October, were considered especially noteworthy
due to “intensive and successful ASW prosecution efforts” evaluating ASW
operations in the Indian Ocean environment. For example, a Soviet Type II nuclear
powered submarine was localized and tracked for 41 hours on the 5th, and a
second boat for 14 hours, on 20 October. Robert E. Peary regained contact
three days later, her SH-2 gaining sonobuoy contact and vectoring in other
aircraft to the hunt. While in the north Arabian Sea, Enterprise had her
hands full with Russian surface ships as well, including minesweeper Natya,
submarine tender Ugra, AGI Alpinist and Mertkr Nahodka, as well as “numerous
Soviet arms carriers” heading for Iraq and other Arab client states.
Attempting to enhance relations with their allies in the region the Russians
dispatched a mine countermeasures force, including the helicopter cruiser
Leningrad, to the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Given that her capabilities were
of considerable interest, Enterprise sent some intelligence people to
Arkansas for “special operations,” enabling the U.S. cruiser to monitor
Soviet progress in September 1984. With Arkansas detached, Enterprise became
Anti-Air Warfare Commander (AAWC), 15–20 October. In addition, Rear Admiral
J.F. Adams, Commander, Middle East Force, and members of his staff, were on
board on the 6th, as was Rear Admiral McCarthy, Commander, TF 70, 26–29
Enterprise was discharged of her north Arabian Sea responsibilities prior to
actually being relieved by Independence, but following the hijacking of a
Saudi airliner en route to Iran on 5 November 1984, Enterprise received
orders to take station in the northern Arabian Sea for possible emergency
response. Speedy resolution of the crisis, however, resulted in a
cancellation of the order the next day, while she was steaming toward the
area, and Enterprise turned eastward on 5 November. Just west of Eight Degree
Channel the ship was shadowed by an Indian Il-38 May, and again by Russian
bombers out of Cam Rahn Bay while crossing the South China Sea, before
putting into Cubi Point, on the 12th, after 93 days at sea.
Standing out of Subic Bay on 19 November 1984, Enterprise commenced FleetEx
85, joining forces with Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and Midway. “Numerous” Russian
reconnaissance flights dogged the ship and her consorts while participating
in the exercise, drawing “extensive Soviet air surveillance.” Orange
opposition comprised naval, USMC and USAF commands, including KC-135s and E-3As,
and seven Japanese and U.S. submarines, both diesel and nuclear powered
types. A Soviet aerial “multiwave regimental size raid” was also simulated.
Post exercise analysis confirmed that Enterprise “contributed to over 27
hours of contact time and 46 constructive attacks by VS and HS assets.”
During FleetEx 85, CVW-11 flew over 800 sorties and 2,200 flight hours in a
12-day period, the BFD concept providing “the means to quickly set and
maintain the grid and to quickly respond to all contingencies arising during
grid operations.” Rear Admiral McCarthy was on board on 25 November, as was
Vice Admiral Hogg, the next day, and Japanese Rear Admiral Oyama, 26–30
November. After completing the exercise, Enterprise sailed for home, by which
point she had controlled over 2,700 aerial intercepts during this deployment.
Among the latter were 61 non-U.S. surveillance aircraft, the last of which
were Bears on 2 and 3 December. In every such instance during the cruise,
fighters from Enterprise intercepted these aircraft and escorted them out of
Arriving at Pearl Harbor on 10 December 1984, Enterprise sailed three days
later with 900 male guests for a Tiger Cruise, returning to Alameda five days
before Christmas of 1984 to begin a post-deployment standdown. The ship had
completed 17,569 arrested landings during 1984.
Enterprise completed a three month SRA on 30 April 1985, with dock trials,
22–26 April, and a fast cruise on the 29th. During this time, the concept of
a Strike Operations Center (SOC) was developed, integrating it into “the
planning and execution of each major evolution.” Among the servicing to the
ship and her systems completed was work upon all centerline arresting gear
wire supports and the relocation of existing wire support assemblies, which
“significantly reduced aircraft bolter rates,” as well as eliminating the
hazard of foreign object damage caused by broken arresting gear wire
supports. In January, VAQ-133 began transitioning to Improved Capability
(ICAP) II EA-6B Prowlers, rejoining the wing in July.
Between 2–8 May 1985, Enterprise conducted ACLS certification and aircrew
refresher training off the coast of northern California. She then completed
CVW-11 refresher training in the southern California operating area, 22–29
May, and again with fleet replacement squadron and training command carquals,
5–20 June. During this third period, Enterprise recorded 2,481 catapult
launches, 1,951 day and 530 night, and 2,498 arrested landings, 1,963 day and
Enterprise stood out for refresher training, 8–21 July 1985, with BFD being
the “normal mode of flight operations,” the last two days being devoted to
carquals for CVW-9 from Kitty Hawk. This was followed by an additional period
of underway training in the southern California operating area, emphasizing
“war at sea strikes,” AD, power projection and ASW, 30 July–8 August 1985.
“Peace in the Pacific,” a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of V-J Day,
found Enterprise making a rehearsal cruise to prepare for her part in the
ceremony, on 13 August 1985, followed by the actual ceremonies the next day.
Noted dignitaries visiting the carrier included Vice President George H.W.
Bush, a decorated Naval Aviator who served during WWII, Secretary of Defense
Caspar Weinberger, Secretary of State George Schultz, the Chief of Naval
Operations and Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Jean McArthur, widow of
the late General of the Army Douglas MacArthur.
Three days later, Enterprise held a dependent’s day cruise off the Farallon
Islands, just outside San Francisco Bay, highlighted by both ship and
“impressive” CVW-11 aircraft demonstrations. Rear Admiral Batzler,
ComCarGru-3, was embarked until 19 August 1985, when the embarked flag
shifted to Rear Admiral Jonathan T. Howe, ComCruDesGru-3. Also embarked
during much of this period was Captain T.A. Barthold, Commander, Destroyer
Squadron (ComDesRon) 23, The Little Beavers.
Enterprise completed additional carquals and fleet replacement squadron
operations (27 August–7 September 1985) five days early. She logged 2,775
catapult launches, 2,170 day and 605 night, and 2,785 arrested landings,
2,178 day and 607 night, with a total of 372 pilots from “various” squadrons
qualified. Enterprise then completed four days of work in the southern
California operating area, from 23–27 September 1985 prior to mooring at
North Island for a four-day visit (27 September–1 October). She then
completed ComptuEx 86-1, 1–10 October, a multi-threat scenario utilizing the
BFD, and including separate CIWS and NATO Sea Sparrow shoots.
During this work-up period Enterprise operated with BG Foxtrot, consisting of
cruisers Truxtun and Arkansas, destroyers David R. Ray (DD-971) and O’Brien
(DD-975), frigates Lewis B. Puller (FFG-23), McClusky (FFG-41), Bagley
(FF-1069) and Reasoner (FF-1063), and old logistics consort Sacramento, after
which time Enterprise became the lead ship of the parade of 14 ships passing
beneath the Golden Gate to enter San Francisco Bay for the culmination of
Fleet Week, 12 October 1985. On hand to greet her were Admiral James A.
Lyons, CinCPac, and Mayor Diane Feinstein, all being treated to an air show
by the Naval Flight Demonstration Squadron Blue Angels, before she moored at
From 28 October–23 November 1985, Enterprise conducted her last at-sea period
of the year, operating in the southern California operating area in an ORE,
ReadiEx 86-1, that also involved threats by terrorist aircraft, and her
Battle Group evaluation. While steaming south-southwest of San Diego,
however, on 2 November 1985, Enterprise struck a portion of Bishop Rock. The
crew counter-flooded the void and controlled flooding, but in addition to
damage to the hull, the No. 1 screw received damage. The grounding also
resulted in the temporary loss of the use of 24 JP-5 fuel storage tanks.
After having a one-day standdown to assess the damage, Enterprise continued
her scheduled training, returning to Alameda on 3 November 1985, with Vice
Admiral Moranville, Com3rdFlt, visiting on board, 5–7 November. The damage
incurred on 2 November, however, required repairs that could only be
completed in drydock. She anchored in San Francisco Bay, 27–28 November,
before shifting to Hunters Point Naval Shipyard for an emergency SRA on the
28th. In December, an EOD detachment was established on board to inspect the
damage. Twenty-five dives, encompassing 400 man-hours, were required to
evaluate the damage, the diver also investigating underwater damage to Lewis
Enterprise floated free from drydock, 6–7 January 1986, then remained at
Alameda until the 12th, when she conducted the fly-on for CVW-11, 12–13
January. The wing consisted of VFs-114 and 213 (F-14As), VAs-22 and 94
(A-7Es) and 95 (A-6Es and KA-6Ds), VAQ-135 (EA-6Bs), VAW-117 (E-2Cs), VS-21
(S-3As), VRC-50 Det (C-2As), a single EA-3B from VQ-1 Det B, and HS-6
(SH-3Hs). Sadly, however, an accident claimed two lives, when, on 13 January
1986, the day the ship deployed from Alameda for Pearl, Lieutenant Joseph
Durmon, pilot, and Lieutenant (jg) Steven Engeman, RIO, VF-213, were both
killed when their ejection seats were fired from NH 203, their F-14A, on the
While en route to Hawaii, an unidentified submarine was detected and
“aggressively prosecuted until the intruder was chased out of range.”
Subsequently, Enterprise participated in BgaRem-86, a major fleet exercise
involving surface, subsurface and air action culminating in an amphibious
operation on Maui. A scheduled NATO Sea Sparrow firing from the starboard
launcher, however, failed due to a transmitter casualty, the problem being
addressed so that RIM-7Hs would be uploaded in February. Meanwhile, the ship
pulled into Pearl Harbor, 29 January–2 February 1986.
Clearing Pearl on 2 February 1986, Enterprise steamed west, entering the
“Bear Box,” where intercepts by Soviet aircraft became likely, on the 8th.
The vigilant Russians did not disappoint Enterprise and VF-213 Tomcats
intercepted two Bear Ds that day, the ship inchopping into 7th Fleet on 10
February, when two more Bear Ds were intercepted. On 14 February, a flight of
one Bear D and a Bear F were intercepted using “Bear Bash” tactics. NH 205,
however, an F-14A, became lost at sea and suffered fuel exhaustion nearly 500
NM northwest from the battle group, Enterprise acting as SAR coordinator.
Lieutenant Ross Sklenka, pilot, and Lieutenant Commander Thomas Lorenzo, RIO,
were found “alive and well” the next morning, returning on board late that
afternoon by SH-3s.
While en route to the Philippines, Enterprise’s CDC tracked “numerous” Bears,
the Russians flying daily sorties from Cam Ranh Bay. Enterprise rounded the
northern tip of Luzon, mooring at Cubi Point on 17 February 1986, remaining
there until the 24th.
Following the “Aquino Revolution” in the Philippines, when President Marcos
was overthrown, Enterprise came about from the South China Sea to remain in
Philippine waters, dropping anchor in Subic Bay at night in order to
“demonstrate American resolve in support of the Filipino government,” 24–26
February 1986. On the 26th, the EA-3B and catapult No. 1 were both damaged
due to a broken bridle.
Shortly after Rear Admiral Batzler, ComCarGru-3, was relieved by Rear Admiral
E.W. Clexton (28 February 1986), Enterprise next visited Singapore (2–5
March) after a passage that had taken her just to the north of Borneo outside
of Indonesian territorial waters and been lacking in the usual encounters
with Bears flying out of Vietnam. At Singapore, she was toured by U.S.
Ambassador to Singapore J. Stapleton Roy and a military delegation from that
Following her visit to Singapore, Enterprise completed PassEx 86-1M,
transiting the Malacca Strait and entering the Indian Ocean, 5–6 March 1986.
On the 8th, VA-94 lost an A-7E on final approach when the Corsair II’s engine
malfunctioned, the pilot being recovered.
As the ships neared Sri Lanka, poor weather resulted in “minimal interaction”
between Enterprise and the Indian Navy, the latter “apparently” conducting an
annual training exercise west of Goa, India. Nonetheless, Enterprise was
located by two Indian Il-38 Mays during the afternoon watch on 12 March 1986,
the Mays passing five times near the carrier with Closest Points of Approach
(CPAs) of as little as 500 yards. Bagley recovered a spent SS-N-2C Styx SSM.
The next day, another Indian May reconnoitered BG Foxtrot, followed by the
Russians, staging IL-38s out of al Anad, Yemen. The Soviet Mays located a
“deception group” southwest of Enterprise, but (apparently) not the carrier
Enterprise then visited Karachi, Pakistan, where she was toured by a
Pakistani delegation led by Rear Admiral M.S. Choudry, Commander, Karachi,
15–19 March 1986. Clearing that port on the 19th–20th, the ship conducted an
“air and surface demo” for key Pakistani leaders. Both the Russians and the
Indians exhibited more than passing interest in the exercise, the former
sending a pair of Mays from al Anad, which made one pass each in “stepped up
formation,” and the latter sending an Il-38 making no less than four passes
of Enterprise barely two minutes after the second Soviet pass.
Anchoring at al Masirah Island, Oman, on 22 March 1986, Enterprise stood out
of her anchorage on the afternoon watch on the 24th, returning during early
morning of the next day, and was underway again during the afternoon of 25
March, returning in the early morning of the 26th. While anchored at al
Masirah, Enterprise again found herself monitored by Soviet Mays out of al
Anad. On 24 March 1986, Rear Admiral Jonathan T. Howe, ComCruDesGru-3, was
relieved by Rear Admiral Paul D. Miller. Subsequently, receiving word of a
downed Indian AN-32 Cline south of Karachi, Enterprise launched two SAR
flights in support of the Indians (26–27 March 1986). While operating in the
northwestern Arabian Sea, the ship launched low-level flights into Oman under
exercise Lightning Flash, 29 March.
Anchoring at al Masirah early the next morning, Enterprise stood out that
evening (30 March 1986) for a PassEx with British frigates Broadsword,
Cardiff and Tidespring; however, the next day, 31 March, a TARPS mission over
the Shu-ab anchorage, Socotra Island, revealed Soviet Kara class cruiser
Tallin (CG-547), an Ugra class submarine tender, a Boris Chilikin class AOR
and an Internatsional class Mertkr.The Russians continued their game of cat
and mouse with the group, flying another May over Enterprise with barely a
1,000 yard CPA, on 1 April. Arkansas, meanwhile, made a “pass-through” of the
Socotra anchorage, and TARPS imagery showed the Russians still at anchor.
Returning to al Masirah on 2 April 1986, Enterprise cleared the anchorage the
next morning with an Omani delegation led by Yusuf bin Abdullah, Foreign
Minister, and G. Cranwell Montgomery, U.S. Ambassador, Oman, embarked for an
aerial demonstration. The ship was also visited while in this area by Rear
Admiral John F. Addams, Commander, Middle East Force. During the morning
watch on 7 April, Enterprise sailed from al Masirah, with a visit by Rear
Admiral Hugh M. Balfour, CNO, Oman.
While steaming in the Gulf of Oman, Enterprise was visited by Vice President
Bush and his wife Barbara, on 9 April 1986, who remained on board until the
next day. Enterprise then sailed southward toward Diego Garcia, but was
diverted northward toward Socotra Island, on the 11th. Enterprise steamed
near Socotra, launching “daily sorties” and monitoring maritime traffic in
the strategically vital Bab-al-Mandeb. The ship continued her surveillance,
14–15 April, until being placed “on alert” on the 15th. The next day, the
carrier was reconnoitered by a pair of Russian Mays flying out of al Anad,
the Russians swooping by the ship’s port side from bow–stern at a CPA of
1,500 yards, in the western Gulf of Aden.
The area was also patrolled by the French, who maintained facilities at Djibouti,
Horn of Africa (HOA). One of their Atlantique maritime patrol aircraft also
reconnoitered BG Foxtrot, though not approaching Enterprise, on 21 April
1986. The “Big E” flew an aeromedical evacuation to Djibouti, on the 23rd.
The same day Russian Mays from al Anad flew a Gulf of Aden reconnaissance
flight within 150–200 yards of Enterprise, the ship also effecting “Airhead”
operations to Berbera, Somalia.
Enterprise received orders directing her to the Med in response to the crisis
with Libya, on 25 April 1986. An ongoing series of terrorist attacks against
Westerners, including Americans, during the 1970s–80s were encouraged and
supported by the Libyans through their leader, Captain, later Colonel,
Muammar al-Qadhafi. The U.S. initiated a series of “Freedom of Navigation”
exercises in the Gulf of Sidra. With both sides’ forces operating in such
close proximity, clashes were inevitable. Rising tension with Libya had
prompted President Ronald W. Reagan to issue an executive order declaring
that “the policies and actions of the Government of Libya constitute an
unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy
of the United States,” on 7 January 1986.
The Libyan Arab Air Force possessed credible strength on paper, with over 700
aircraft, including MiG-23 Floggers, MiG-25 Foxbats, Su-22 Fitters and Il-76
Candids, and French Mirage Vs and F-1s, although without enough qualified
pilots to man all. The Libyan Arab Air Defense Command also deployed a
limited but potentially lethal air defense system. Three regional defense
sectors, Tripoli, Benghazi and Tobruk, each comprised an H.Q., two SA-2,
two–three SA-3 and two–four SA-6 Gainful/SA-8 Gecko SAM brigades, several
radar companies and varying numbers of AAA battalions and batteries. These
defenses included a battery of SA-5 Gammon SAMs at Surt, near Sirte, the
Libyans also possessing SA-7 portable air defense platoons and French Crotale
SAMs, presenting attacking aircrews with a multitude of challenges. The small
but modernized Libyan Arab Navy boasted 115 vessels, including six Foxtrot
class submarines, six midget subs, 65 surface combatants, 26 amphibious ships
and 14 auxiliaries.
By 22–27 March 1986, Vice Admiral Frank B. Kelso, II, Com6thFlt, deployed TF
60, designated Battle Force Zulu, three CVBGs, America, Coral Sea and
Saratoga (CV-60), with upward of 250 aircraft, 26 ships and submarines and
27,000 sailors and marines. Undeterred, Qadhafi boarded La Combattante II G
class missile boat Waheed, loudly proclaiming to media representatives that a
“line of death” stretched across the gulf at 32º30’N. During Operation Attain
Document III, TG 60.5, a Surface Action Group (SAG) composed of guided
missile cruiser Ticonderoga (CG-47), guided missile destroyer Scott (DDG-995)
and destroyer Caron (DD-970) crossed that line.
Libyan aircraft and SA-2s and 5s fired on the Americans during the mid watch
on 24 March 1986, who responded with Operation Prairie Fire, sinking Waheed
with two Harpoons and MK 20 Rockeye cluster bombs from A-6E Intruders of
VAs-34 and 85, the first operational use of the missile in combat. Additional
strikes sank Nanuchka II class corvette Ean Mara with a Harpoon and Rockeyes,
and damaged a second corvette, while the SA-5 battery at Surt was also
knocked out, by AGM-88 High Speed Antiradiation Missiles (HARMs) fired by
VA-83 A-7E Corsair IIs. The SAG steamed 40 miles below the “line of death”
for 75 hours without a single casualty, the air wings flying 1,546 sorties,
375 of them south of the line.
Qadhafi struck back with more terrorist strikes, prompting Operation El
Dorado Canyon, 14–15 April 1986. A joint operation, the Air Force flew 18
F-111F Aardvarks of the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing, and four EF-111A Ravens
from the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing, together with 29 tankers, all flying
from England, a round trip of nearly 6,000 miles.
On the eve of battle, Rear Admiral Henry H. Mauz, Jr., Commander, TF 60,
informed the sailors and marines of Battle Force Zulu that their actions were
sending a message to “those who sponsor [terrorism]…that retribution will be
swift and sure.” Consequently, at 0150 on 14 April 1986, the lead aircraft
went to work on the Libyan air defense systems, jamming some radars and
blasting others with HARMs and Shrikes; subsequent attacks pounded Libyan
terrorist and military target areas near Tripoli, the Frogman School at Murat
Sidi Bilal, the military zone at Tripoli International Airport, and Bab
al-Azziziyyah Barracks; together with two targets near Bengazi, Benina
Airfield and the al-Jamahiriyyah Barracks.
With Enterprise thus urgently needed for “contingency operations,” she passed
through the Bab-al-Mandeb during the late afternoon of the 26th, astern of
Arkansas and Truxtun. Making good time, the carrier arrived in the approaches
to the canal during late afternoon on the 28th, anchoring in the Gulf of
Beginning at 0300 on 29 April 1986, Enterprise became the first nuclear
powered carrier to transit the Suez Canal. Since Arkansas, one of her
consorts, had been the first nuclear powered ship to do so, in 1984, the
cruiser earned the honor of leading the battle group through “The Ditch,”
followed by the carrier and then Truxtun. At 0402, Enterprise entered the
canal, exiting at 1514 when she entered the Med for the first time in almost
In addition to the Libyans, the Russians also evidenced an interest in her
presence, and almost immediately Enterprise sighted Soviet AGI Kurs, which
trailed the carrier until the next day, 30 April 1986, when Kurs was relieved
in the eastern Med of “her tattletail ops” by destroyer Sovremennyy, which
was in turn relieved by Udaloy overnight on 1 May, the Russians shadowing the
carrier and her consorts even more closely than usual.
To ensure readiness in the event hostilities should escalate, Enterprise
participated in a “war-at-sea strike” with Coral Sea during the afternoon of
1 May 1986, while steaming toward the latter to relieve her, doing so the
next day. Enterprise conducted “spinner ops”–attempts to provoke Libyan
responses–on the 2nd and 4th, but the Libyans apparently had had enough from
their previous handling by the U.S., and logged “no significant reaction.”
Enterprise came about from the Central Med and entered the Tyrrhenian Sea via
the Strait of Messina, on 7 May 1986. Udaloy terminated her “talletale ops”
as Enterprise approached the strait, though the carrier sighted Soviet Mayak
class AGI, as well as a pair of Mays en route to Tripoli.
After visiting Naples, 8–18 May 1986, where Vice Admiral Frank B. Kelso, II,
Com6thFlt, visited the ship, Enterprise steamed in the Med through the 30th,
when she navigated the Strait of Bonifacio, between Corsica and Sardinia,
entering Toulon, 30 May–9 June. Clearing French waters on the 9th, the “Big
E” steamed to Augusta Bay, Sicily; during the passage, Tomcats launched from
the carrier intercepted and escorted a pair of Russian Mays flying from
Libya, on the 13th. Between 10–14 June, meanwhile, four A-7Es and one EA-6B
detached from Enterprise to form a special detachment at NAS Sigonella, Sicily,
in support of NATO exercise Tridente. Enterprise conducted her “turnover”
with Forrestal on the 17th, and the next day Roger Mudd, NBC News, embarked
to film a documentary.
Following a visit to Augusta Bay (23–25 June 1986), Enterprise got underway
for Australia via West Africa. Transiting the Strait of Gibraltar on 28 June,
she chopped to Com2ndFlt the next day. Interestingly, the ships in
Enterprise’s battle group were operating simultaneously in four major
maritime theaters on 29 June 1986: Enterprise, Arkansas and Truxtun in the
Atlantic, O’Brien and Lewis B. Puller in the Pacific, Reasoner, with Captain
Barthold, ComDesRon-23, embarked, Bagley and Sacramento in the Med, and David
R. Ray and McClusky in the Indian Ocean.
Crossing the equator on 3 July 1986, Enterprise rounded the Cape of Good Hope
on 9 July, chopping to Com7thFlt. Four days later, on 13 July, an EA-6B
Prowler was lost after a catapult launch, following “control malfunction.”
The mission commander landed on the flight deck after ejecting, and his crew
was recovered in the water. Three days later, another mishap caused tense
moments for the crew of a C-2 from VRC-50 when a propeller failed on
“flyoff.” The men flew the Greyhound on to Perth on a single propr, making an
After Enterprise visited Perth (18–22 July 1986), she turned toward the
Philippines. Negotiating Indonesian waters, she steamed northerly courses
through the Makassar Strait, crossing the Celebes and Sulu Seas, mooring at
Cubi Point on 27 July. Underway again on the 30th, she inchopped to the 3rd
Fleet on 3 August. After pausing at Pearl (7-9 August), she embarked 665
Tigers for the journey home, the visiting dependents receiving a 21-gun
salute and a sea power demonstration courtesy of Arkansas and Truxtun. CVW-1
concluded the show with “a spectacular diamond-shaped flyby.” Enterprise
returned to Alameda from her deployment on 13 August 1986.
Enterprise cleared Alameda for carquals off northern California, completing
519 traps on 13–14 September 1986. She then began SRA 87, moving to Hunters
Point Naval Shipyard on the 18th. Enterprise had completed 6,854 day and
2,133 night catapult launches, together with 6,293 day and 2,702 night
arrested landings, during 1986. She had also logged 1,581 day and 367 night
helo launches, along with 1,511 day and 367 night helo landings. Aircraft
were moved over 8,330 times in the hanger bay and 41,000 on the flight deck.
Enterprise was towed from Hunters Point Naval Shipyard to Alameda on 22
January 1987, and completed her SRA on 1 March. Among the alterations
performed, all CIWS mounts were replaced and bomb jettison ramps were
installed. An attempt was also made to replace the slatted aircraft elevator
platforms, Enterprise then being the only carrier so fitted, with solid
surface platforms, but design flaws discovered in the latter caused the
project to be abandoned. The ship conducted a fast cruise, 27 February, and
sea trials, 2–9 March, and again 20–25 March, when she also certified her
ACLS and conducted carquals. Enterprise anchored in Coronado Roads, near
North Island, on 7 March, and shifted to San Francisco Bay two days later.
The “Big E” moored at North Island (25–26 March 1987), before she stood out
for additional carquals and Fleet Replenishment Squadron (FRS) air refresher
training off southern California with VAs-122 and 128, VFA-125, VF-124,
VAQ-129, VAWs-88 and 110, VSs-21 and 35, VQ-1, VRC-30, and VX-4, from the
27th–31st. Also in March, the ship test fired the first carrier-mounted Super
Rapid Blooming Offboard Chaff (SRBOC), as well as holding an “Anti-Terrorist
Enterprise completed her Training Readiness Evaluation in San Diego, 1–2
April 1987, followed by a weapons exercise off southern California and at the
San Clemente Island complex, 3–5 April, anchoring in Coronado Roads on the
4th, before returning to Alameda. Enterprise then completed refresher
training off southern California with Rear Admiral Clexton, ComCarGru-3,
embarked (23–30 April 1987), anchoring in Coronado Roads on the 27th and
29th, with additional steaming through 4 May. Following refresher training,
the ship anchored in Coronado Roads on the 4th, before mooring at North
Island (5–7 May).
Enterprise completed FRS Carrier qualifications with VAs-122 and 128, VFA-125,
VF-124, VAQ-129, VAW-110, VS-41, VRC-30, and VX-4 (7–12 May 1987), and again,
6–12 July, returning to Alameda in between.
The Tactical Environmental Support System (TESS), “significantly” enhancing
Enterprise’s capability to provide rapid responses to meteorological and
oceanographic requirements, was installed between 14–18 May 1987. On 10 July,
Enterprise also celebrated her 90,000th catapult launch from No. 1 catapult,
and this period marked the initial use of the Joint Operational Tactical
System (JOTS), providing interfacing to NTDS, embarked staffs and other
ships, on board Enterprise. Also in July, the AN/SRN-25 Global Positioning
System (GPS) was installed.
Enterprise pulled into San Diego on 13 July 1987 to embark ComCruDesGru-3,
CVW-11 and ComDesRon-23 staffs and their cargo, and then conducted work at
sea in the southern California operating area for additional training in mine
warfare, coordinated CVBG and “scenario ops” (13–23 July). Enterprise also
operated with Japanese P-3s and destroyers Hatakaze, Hatsuyuki and Shirane,
on the 21st.
Between 23–24 July 1987, Enterprise moored at North Island, embarking CVW-10
for its only at sea period prior to being disestablished. Standing out of San
Diego on the 24th, Enterprise conducted carquals and flight operations, with
Lieutenant (jg) Mason, VFA-161, making the ship’s 254,000th arrested landing,
on 25 July 1987.
Completing Behavior Criterion 87-20 exercises en route, Enterprise visited
the Seattle Sea Fair (29 July–3 August 1987), hosting upward of 68,000
visitors, including a special reception for 500 in her hangar bay, before
returning to Alameda, mooring there from the 7th–17th. About 450 Tigers
embarked for a cruise to North Island, CVW-10 flying an air show, 18–19
August. The ship then hosted the Air Pac change of command on 21 August, Vice
Admiral J.H. Fetterman relieving Vice Admiral James R. Service.
At one point during carquals and FRS (22 August–1 September 1987), Enterprise
accomplished 65 catapult launches and traps during a single hour on 31
August. Enterprise again stood out for FRS qualifications, including TA-4s
from training carrier Lexington (AVT-16) and “various West Coast squadrons.”
She also conducted a NATO Sea Sparrow shoot before she returned to Alameda on
From then through the end of September 1987, Enterprise completed a rigorous
series of exercises in the southern California operating area and off San
Clemente to prepare her for deploying, including ComptuEx 87-4, Kernal Blitz,
an amphibious operation near Camp Pendleton, Advanced Tactical Assessment,
and ReadiEx 87-4A, included live Harpoon and HARM shoots, together with a
long range strike up to 850 NM, “24hr AAW” and “extended ASW.” Enterprise
also anchored in Coronado Roads on 14 September, returning to Alameda on the
In the autumn of the year 1987, Enterprise participated in NorPac-87,
considered the year’s operational highlight for the ship, with
“multi-faceted” evolutions being conducted in “an opposed environment under
less than optimum climactic operating conditions.” NorPac-87 made severe
demands on the crew, forcing them to endure “high sea states, low visibility,
bitter cold weather and around-the-clock flying.”
Enterprise conducted additional carquals in the waters off southern
California (25 October–1 November 1987), before sailing on the latter date
for Alaskan waters. The following day (2 November 1987), however, she
suffered the loss of Petty Officer 2nd Class Marble (Air Department) in a
flight deck accident (E-2 Hawkeye propeller), as she was steaming on
northerly courses in the vicinity of San Francisco.
Ultimately, Enterprise reached the Gulf of Alaska without further incident on
7 November 1987, having conducted TARPS runs and strikes in the vicinity of
the Canadian air station at Comox, British Columbia, en route, together with
Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) between F-14s and USAF F-15C Eagles
flying out of Eielson AFB, Alaska. She combined those evolutions with bombing
runs to Eileson’s “mock-up” airfield 300 NM inland and ASW to seaward with
attack submarine Tunny (SSN-682).
After arriving in Alaskan waters, Enterprise pursued a three-phase operating
schedule. In Phase I, Enterprise steamed in the Gulf of Alaska, 8–10
November, reaching her farthest point north during NorPac-87 on the 8th, at
58ºN, 148ºW. On the 9th and 10th, she launched a follow-on strike against the
Eielson complex, with operations including AAW versus B-52s, DACT with F-15s,
and a “mini” weapon exercise with command ship Coronado (AGF-11), in which
Vice Admiral Hernandez, Com3rdFlt, had broken his flag. She also carried out
Spidernet/Slyfox exercises. During that time, Enterprise found time to host a
visiting delegation led by Governor of Alaska Steve Cowper.
During Phase II, Enterprise conducted an opposed transit to Naval Station,
Adak, and the Sitkin Sound Operations Area (11–13 November 1987), followed by
Phase III (13-17 November), performing haven operations in and around Sitkin
Sound. The former involved a grueling 10 hours of radar navigation in restricted
waters. Operations increased in tempo as the exercise progressed, Enterprise
launching simulated strikes against military installations as well as
performing CAP and AEW, ASW versus attack submarine Olympia (SSN-717) and
mine warfare with S-3A Vikings. Sadly, during Phase III, Enterprise lost
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brashear overboard on 14 November; an intensive
search failed to recover him.
Operating in Sitkin Sound, a “bounded sea haven” approximately 10 by 15 NM,
surrounded on three sides by mountainous terrain varying in height from
2,000–5,000 feet presented tremendous navigating and flying problems for both
the ship and her embarked air wing. Accordingly, Enterprise’s men “developed
special departure and recovery procedures designed to provide terrain
clearance and easily understood procedures for all weather operations.”
As could be expected, given their proximity, the Soviets monitored NorPac-87
intensively, including reconnaissance flights by Tu-95D Bears and Tu-16
Badgers on 13, 15, 16 and 17 November, all intercepted by Tomcats and EA-6Bs,
initially at 220 NM out from the battle group, while Balzam-class AGI SSV-080
watched the proceedings “throughout Sitkin Sound Haven ops.” Although
Enterprise accomplished a live firing of an AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missile,
the persistent presence of SSV-080 forced the cancellation of the scheduled
live Harpoon firing. Foul weather compelled cancellation of an HS-6 torpedo
Enterprise came about on 18 November 1987, returning via southeasterly
courses to NAS Alameda, arriving on the 24th. Observers detected no Soviet
aerial or surface surveillance during the return voyage, although, usually,
Russian subs were known to be active in the area.
During 1987, Enterprise completed 28 UnReps with 10 different ships,
including three ammunition onloads with ammunition ships, including 312
pallets with Pyro (AE-24) on 6 April, 456 pallets with Kiska (AE-35) on 7
July, and 250 pallets with Mt. Hood (AE-29) on 23 September. She also
completed 13,959 catapult launches, 10,240 day and 3,719 night, and 13,961
arrested landings, 9,690 day and 4,271 night.
Enterprise deployed on 5 January 1988, with Rear Admiral R.G. Zeller,
ComCruDesGru-3, Captain James B. Perkins, III, Commodore, ComDesRon-9, and
CVW-11. The ship conducted carrier qualifications off the southern California
operating area, 5–6 January, following which she steamed to the Hawaiian
Operations Area, Kaulakahi Channel and Nihoa Island, conducting a long range
strike to the Pohakuloa training area, on the 9th.
Two days later she arrived north of Oahu to commence ReadiEx 87-4B, a battle
group exercise testing her ability to respond to “mines, small boats,
terrorist planes” and Chinese Silkworm SSMs, while escorting/supporting
convoys in a simulated Persian Gulf environment. Maintaining BFD, she
finished the exercise with a 42-aircraft night strike. Operations included
Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACs), ASW, power projection strikes,
and live firings of a Harpoon, two AIM-7 Sparrows, four Sidewinders and a
Shrike. An ASW passive acoustic training system was also developed, providing
realistic recognition and threat analysis of actual submarine signatures.
Continued Iranian and Iraqi attacks on shipping in the Persian Gulf,
meanwhile, were becoming so frequent that the Kuwaitis requested U.S.
assistance and Operation Earnest Will, designed to maintain freedom of
navigation within that body of water, was initiated. At the outset, 11
Kuwaiti tankers were “re-flagged,” the Middle East Force escorting the first
ships through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf to Kuwait, and then
returning outbound, beginning on 22 July 1987. By the time the operation
ended on 16 August 1990, 490 missions involving 649 merchant ships were
completed. The training acted as a precursor for Enterprise, shortly to be
involved in Earnest Will.
Admiral Jeremiah, CinCPac, and Vice Admiral Hernandez came on board for tours
and an awards ceremony, on the 13th. En route into WestPac, Enterprise
completed ASW and AAW operations with naval, USMC, USAF and Japanese
commands. Mishaps, however, reminded all hands of the hazards inherent in
carrier operations: an A-7E from VA-22 and its pilot, the plane captain, were
lost when the Corsair II slid off aircraft elevator No. 2 during a respot,
during the mid watch on 16 January. Three days later, the squadron lost NH
305, another Corsair II, during Dissimilar Air Combat Maneuvering (DACM),
though the pilot ejected and was recovered uninjured.
As she had done in the past, Enterprise again provided humanitarian aid
during that deployment. On 22 January 1988, a crewman on board the Japanese
fishing vessel Yahata Maru 81, operating within range of the carrier,
suffered a ruptured spleen and began going into shock, requiring immediate
medical attention. Enterprise transferred a helo to Truxtun, which brought
the patient back to the carrier for surgery, which was successfully completed
on 1 February, when he was then transported to Subic Bay. The severity of his
injuries necessitated blood donations from 12 crewmembers.
Chopping to the 7th Fleet on 25 January 1988, Enterprise once again found
herself the object of attention by the familiar Bear Bs and Ds on the 25th,
26th and 29th, though in each instance, her Tomcats saw the Intruders off.
Vice Admiral Miller, Com7thFlt, brought Japanese Admiral Higoshiyama on board
for a tour and aerial demonstration, on 30 January.
Enterprise moored at Subic Bay (1–5 February 1988), after which time the ship
stood out of Subic Bay with 17 distinguished Filipino visitors on board,
including that country’s CNO, Acting Commander, Air Force, and Chief of Naval
Aviation, on 6 February. The ship provided an orientation and air
demonstration, including firing a pair of Sidewinders at an AQM-37 target
Subsequerntly, two days out of the Philippines Enterprise’s embarked Tomcats
intercepted Bear Ds and Fs, escorted by MiG-23 Floggers, all flying out of
Cam Ranh Bay. In addition, Mayak-class AGI Aneroid followed in the carrier’s
“trail.” Rendezvousing with Singaporean forces, including patrol boats, F-5s
and A-4s, on the 9 February 1988, Enterprise conducted a PassEx with them,
some air evolutions being cancelled due to foul weather. The next day the
ship transited the Strait of Malacca, tracking 267 shipping contacts in the
crowded channel. Limited operations with the Indonesians followed, CVW-11
aircraft accomplishing low-level training over Sumatra, on 11 February.
Overnight and into the 12th, the ship completed a PassEx with Indonesian
frigates north of Sumatra, activities including “tactical maneuvering” and a
gun exercise off her starboard beam. Rendezvousing with Midway, Enterprise
then conducted a turnover, consisting of meetings and cross-deckings (14–15
February). Chopping to TF 800 on the 17th, Rear Admiral Zeller then presented
to Enterprise the Meritorious Unit Commendation for her 1986 deployment, in a
ceremony on the flight deck.
The first identified Soviet reaction to BG Foxtrot’s entry into the Indian
Ocean occurred when a pair of Il-38s flying out of Aden shadowed Enterprise,
being intercepted by the ship’s F-14As, on 18 February 1988. Five days later,
the ship hosted a Saudi delegation led by members of the Saudi Royal Family
and the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Hume A. Horan, an aerial
demonstration being held.
A joint Franco-American exercise between Enterprise and Clemenceau, followed
on 5 March and on 7–8 March 1988, with French Admiral Deramond visiting on
the latter date; the evolution punctuated by Enterprise being shadowed by Soviet
Mays flying out of Aden (vectoring F-14As to intercept them on at least one
occasion on the 10th), sighting a Pakistani C-130 (25 February), intercepting
and tracking a Russian AN-12 Cub transport, (1 and 3 March), and a Helix helo
launched from Udaloy class destroyer Admiral Tributs, which was intercepted
by the wing’s Tomcats, on 25 February and again on 6 March.
Enterprise, meanwhile, completed her first Earnest Will mission on 25
February 1988, her embarked aircraft flying 17 F-14A escort/CAP, 12 tanker,
five EA-6B and three E-2C sorties. Inside a fortnight, Enterprise embarked
the three-man crew from an SH-2F from HSL-35 Det 7, embarked in Bagley, that
crashed on 5 March 1988. Though not suffering major injuries, the three men
were transported to the carrier for medical evaluation, returning to their
ship following the mishap investigation. Rear Admiral Anthony A. Less,
Combined Joint Task Force Middle East (CJTFME) visited Enterprise, on 9
March. Four days later, Enterprise crossed the equator. Program for Afloat
College Education (PACE) instructor Joseph Schweigenhoffer, who first
“Crossed the Line” in 1936 on board battleship Arizona (BB-39), portrayed
Enterprise anchored off Mombasa (15–18 March 1988) and hosted visitors that
included U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Elinor Greer Constable. Eight civilian
cargo vessels/tugs contracted to ferry the liberty party ashore, however,
evidenced unfamiliarity with naval equipment; one tore the aft accommodation
ladder from its mountings while navigating in “offsetting currents” running
as high as three–four knots. The ladder was recovered and repaired within a
Enterprise stood out of Mombasa on 18 March 1988, and headed for Somalia,
over which her aircraft flew low-level flights, from the 20th–22nd. In
addition, Lieutenant Commander Laughler, VA-22, made the ship’s 4,000th
landing of the cruise. While steaming north northeast of Socotra on the 23rd,
the carrier again found herself shadowed by Russian Mays out of Aden, the
snoopers being intercepted by her Tomcats.
Enterprise conducted her second Earnest Will support mission from the Gulf of
Oman, including CAP, SUCAP and ASW, on 26 March 1988; and was shadowed by an
Iranian P-3F. She subsequently anchored near al Masirah Island for a brief
standdown, holding “flight deck Olympics,” including a tractor-driving
contest, from the 27th–28th. During the deployment, two destroyer tenders,
Cape Cod (AD-43) and Samuel Gompers (AD-37), lay anchored nearby at various
times, enabling forward support to Enterprise and her group, supplemented by
COD aircraft routed through Diego Garcia and al Masirah.
On 29 March 1988, Enterprise dispatched a “material exploitation team” to
Samuel Gompers by helo to inspect a small Iranian boat. Seized in the Persian
Gulf by destroyer John Rodgers (DD-983), the vessel was identified as that
utilized by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a raider, such
boats also often ending their careers as suicide craft.
The wing’s aircrews, meanwhile, kept busy, and on the 30th intercepted a pair
of Russian aircraft en route to their delivery to the Indians, a May and a
Bear F. Meanwhile, an entourage led by Ambassador Montgomery visited the
ship, an aerial demonstration being performed.
Commander Tad Chamberlain, CO, VA-94, made Enterprise’s 265,000th arrested
landing in an A-7E, on 1 April 1988. The ship anchored off al Masirah to
enable the crew to celebrate Easter, 2–4 April.
Soviet surveillance continued unabated, and Admiral Tribut’s Helix remained
on the Enterprise’s “trail” for 15 hours (5–6 April 1988). On the latter
date, another May out of Aden was also intercepted, and the ship performed
her third Earnest Will mission with multiple CAP, SUCAP and AEW sorties, on
Following a “disastrous” explosion at a Pakistani army depot in Islamabad,
the ship dispatched an EOD team to that city to render assistance, on 10
April. The next day U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain Sam H. Zakhem visited
A joint Franco-American exercise was held with Clemenceau, consisting of
“war-at-sea strikes,” 12–14 April 1988. The men of Enterprise held an air
show for their French counterparts, and hosted the Omani Assistant Chief of
Air Staff. Planes from the ship intercepted another Soviet Il-38 out of Aden
on the 12th.
Mines continued to be a threat in these constricted waters since the previous
summer, when tanker Bridgeton struck one west of Farsi Island, on 24 July
1987, and a helo from frigate Jarrett (FFG-33) surprised Iran Ajr, a modified
Iranian landing craft laying mines north of Bahrain, in September 1987.
Disabling Iran Ajr with rockets and machine gun fire, the helo crew enabled a
Sea-air-Land (SEAL) team to board, photograph and impound the minelayer, the
While steaming 55 miles northeast of Qatar on 14 April 1988, however,
lookouts on board guided missile frigate Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) spotted
three mines ahead. Going to general quarters, the ship soon struck a fourth
mine that exploded and blew a 21-foot hole in her port side near frame 276, injuring
ten sailors, and inflicting “considerable damage to the hull, deckhouse and
foundation structures, essentially breaking the ship’s back.” Herculean
damage control efforts by the crew, however, saved the ship. Over the next
ten days, Coalition mine countermeasures vessels located eight additional
mines, examination of which left little doubt as to their Iranian origins.
During 15–16 April 1988, planning commenced for “potential retaliation” for
the mining, and for an earlier incident on 5 March when Iranians on Sassan,
an oil platform from which they had been attacking shipping, fired upon a
pair of helos from guided missile frigate Simpson (FFG-56). Multiple meetings
took place with “much interaction between flag, ship and airwing.” Much of
the responsibility for the operation’s planning and execution fell upon the
men of Enterprise and CVW-11. On these dates she also refueled guided missile
destroyers Lynde McCormick (DDG-8) and Joseph Strauss, and frigate Reasoner,
in preparation for battle. In addition, an Iranian P-3F was intercepted
patrolling over the Gulf of Oman.
On the 16th, BG Foxtrot ships began repositioning for potential execution of
plans against the Iranians. Commodore Perkins departed Enterprise for
embarkation on board Lynde McCormick, Enterprise becoming the Anti-air
Warfare Commander for Operation Praying Mantis, the “measured response”
adopted by the U.S., aimed at attacking Sassan, as well as two other Iranian
oil platforms, Sirri and Raksh. President Reagan and Admiral William J.
Crowe, Jr., Chairman, JCS, issued rules of engagement, that allowed the
Americans to defend themselves should Iranian planes or warships challenge
them. Among the latter was the Saam-class frigate Sabalan, notorious for her
“vicious” attacks against unarmed merchant ships in the Persian Gulf, in
which she had made it a point to fire at crew’s quarters.
Intelligence analysts assessed a photograph taken on the 14th of an Iranian
dhow with a “bulbous, netted device hanging off stern plus several round
objects in water astern” as a probable minelayer, indicating additional
danger to the group. A special mine watch was therefore established on board
Enterprise, and escorts were stationed ahead and astern of her while in
Three SAGs were formed, the first two to assault the rigs and the third,
operating off Bandar Abbas, to neutralize the Iranian fleet therein,
especially Sabalan. E-2Cs from Enterprise flew AEW tracking and analyzed
targets, along with air intercept control, F-14As few CAP and A-6Es and A-7Es
performed surface CAP.
The action lasted all day, 0730–1900 on 18 April 1988. Throughout the battle,
Enterprise steamed to the south of Jāsk, Iran, in company with Truxtun.
SAG Bravo began action apparently catching the Iranians by surprise, as great
commotion ensued on the rig, men running about with small arms, shouting and
gesticulating and manning at least one of three ZSU-23-2 23 mm guns emplaced
on the rig’s three-tiered southernmost deck. The destroyers broadcast a
warning in English and Farsi, granting the Iranians a five-minute reprieve
before they opened fire, just enough time for about 29 of the estimated 60
men on board to scramble onto two tugs and escape. Merrill (DD-976) and Lynde
McCormick then opened up, firing 133 5-inch rounds using proximity fuzes for
air bursts above the platform, a retaliatory raid against Rostam, another
Iranian rig, on 19 October 1987, having required more ammunition but failed
to disable the strong concrete and steel supports. The Americans learned their
lesson and against Sassan air bursts worked well, devastating the vulnerable
upper works of the structure. Despite fierce resistance by the remaining
Iranians, who returned fire with one of the three ZSU-23-2s, not a single hit
was scored against either destroyer. Four AH-1 Cobra gunships then cleared
the way for a vertical assault from 150 marines from Marine Contingency Air
Ground TF 2-88, embarked on board dock landing ship Trenton (LPD-14), who
rappelled down ropes from hovering C-46s. After securing the rig, any
facilities that had “weathered” the battle were blown by demolitions.
At one point one of the tugs radioed the U.S. ships, requesting permission to
return and evacuate about 30 Iranians, and the request was granted, the
Americans holding fire for approximately 45 minutes during the process. Radio
traffic indicated at least one Iranian killed and another wounded, though
additional casualties may have been inflicted. Commodore Perkins also noted:
“We believe that Sassan was a communications and surveillance station…We
found weapons, ammunition and communications gear.” Referring to the seizure
of the rig, he added “It was a textbook example of how a combined Navy-Marine
Corps operation ought to go.” The weapons were of the type utilized by the
Iranians in their speedboat raids.
Off Bandar Abbas, Wainwright (CG-28), Bagley and Simpson shelled the Sirri
oil platform, but found themselves challenged by Iranian La Combattante II
Kaman class missile boat Joshan. The Americans warned her to stand clear, but
Joshan disregarded the warning and fired a Harpoon. Wainwright turned her bow
into the missile and fired chaff, the missile locking onto the ensuing fog
cloud 100 feet off the starboard beam, a near miss. The cruiser retaliated
with a salvo of six Standards and then a Harpoon, practically blasting Joshan
out of the water. Streaking to the latter’s aid was an Iranian F-4 Phantom
II, but as the aircraft closed the ship, Wainwright damaged it with another
couple of Standards, the F-4 crew retiring homeward. Another pair of Phantom
IIs out of Bandar Abbas, and one flying from Bandar Būshehr, a coastal
station further north, also were detected, but after being tracked by Lynde
McCormick’s radar, retired.
Meanwhile, the Americans decided to cease action, believing to have made
their point, but the Iranians continued by sending Saam-class frigate Sahand
across the Gulf to attack U.A.E. oil platforms. A pair of A-6Es from VA-95
flying surface CAP for Joseph Strauss spotted Sahand but were almost immediately
attacked by the Iranians. After avoiding SAMs launched from the ship, the
Intruder crews responded with two Harpoons, two WE-IIs, four AGM-123s, three
Mk 82 LGBs, 18 Mk 20s and 18 Mk 83s. Joseph Strauss finished Sahand off with
another Harpoon, the fires burning furiously on her decks eventually reaching
her magazines and touching off explosions leading to her sinking.
An Iranian speedboat flotilla of five Swedish-built Boghammers attacked
Murbaric Oil Platform, an American-flagged supply ship and a Panamanian-flagged
ship, but was turned back by a pair of Intruders from Enterprise, the A-6Es
sinking one of the Boghammers and “damaging several others.”
Late in the afternoon, two AH-1Ts from Marine Light Attack Helicopter
Squadron (HMLA)-167, embarked in Trenton, were ordered toward Wainwright to
identify “hostile surface contacts.” As Warrior 1-1 was being towed off the
helo landing spot, preparing to secure for the evening, Warrior 1-2, Aircraft
No. 34 (BuNo 161018), Captain Kenneth W. Hill, USMC, and Captain Stephen C.
Leslie, USMC, responded to a call from the cruiser’s CIC to identify a
contact. Closing, Warrior 1-2 suddenly reported “being locked up” and dropped
from Wainwright’s radar. An immediate CSAR failed to reveal either wreckage
or survivors. Hill and Leslie were both later awarded the Distinguished
Flying Cross for their heroism throughout the action.
When the fighting erupted, Sabalan, one of the original targets, was
underway, but being apparently warned by radio, came about, fleeing at high
speed into Bandar Abbas, hiding by anchoring between a pair of tankers. At
1700, however, the Iranians committed their naval reserve, Sabalan clearing
Bandar Abbas. As she did so, Sabalan was spotted by several A-6Es from VA-95
and fired three SAMs at the Intruders, their crews deftly avoiding the
missiles. The aircrews responded by dropping a 500 lb Mk 82 LGB down the
frigate’s stack, which detonated with devastating force in her engineering
spaces, stopping Sabalan dead in the water.
Although Rear Admiral Less requested permission to finish off Sabalan,
Admiral Crowe and Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci, monitoring the
operation from the “Pentagon War Room,” ended the battle, Admiral Crowe
saying to the Secretary: “We’ve shed enough blood today.”
The attack on Raksh was also cancelled, due to the success of the strikes
against Sassan and Sirri. The battle group commander later commented that
intelligence support, largely provided by or disseminated by Enterprise,
proved to be “the most crucial factor” in U.S. success. The “decisiveness”
demonstrated by the U.S. naval forces “stunned” the Iranians, and in
combination with the attrition of the long war and recent Iraqi victories,
proved instrumental in driving Teheran to seek a compromise peace.
On 21 April 1988 , CNO Admiral C.A.H. Trost, referred to the sailors and
marines who participated in Praying Mantis, saying in part “Your actions have
sent a clear message of resolve to those nations that may choose to challenge
the right of free navigation of international waters.”
Enterprise remained “on hold” south of Jāsk, continuing to launch CAP,
SUCAP and SST sorties into the Strait of Hormuz with occasional F-14A
photographic reconnaissance into the southern Persian Gulf (19–22 April
1988), on the latter date completing an Earnest Will mission “with no
incidents.” With tensions still high in the region, abetted by the televised
funeral (on 21 April) of 44 Iranian sailors killed during the battle, amid
crowds of mourners chanting against the U.S. and the Iraqis, Enterprise
aircrews maintained a high mission tempo. Planes from the “Big E” flew CAP,
SUCAP and ASW missions supporting the outchop of a surface action group (SAG)
from the Persian Gulf on the 24th and recorded no Iranian reaction to the
movement. Two days later, Enterprise conducted another Earnest Will mission
in support of four inbound tankers and their three escorts. Subsequently,
Enterprise exercised with the French Clemenceau CVBG, including
“Sledgehammer” operations, a Silkworm missile attack simulation and aerial
gunnery (28-29 April).
The first “feet wet” Iranian maritime aerial patrol since the U.S.
retaliation on the 18th, occurred when an Enterprise F-14A intercepted an
Iranian C-130 over the Gulf of Oman, on 30 April 1988. For the most part,
April proved to be the busiest month of 1988, with 1,522 day and 439 night
aircraft launches, and 1,297 day and 665 night recoveries.
Enterprise completed an Earnest Will mission on 1 May, supporting two
outbound tankers and their two escorts, as well as hosting a visit by
Ambassador Montgomery and the Omani CNO. The next day the carrier completed
another Earnest Will mission, supporting three inbound tankers and two
Russian aerial monitoring of the ship and her operations renewed with the
interception of a May flying out of Aden, on 4 May 1988. Two days later,
Enterprise conducted an Earnest Will mission, supporting two tankers and
their two escorts. Catapult No. 1 logged its 96,000th shot, on the 7th. Rear
Admiral Less visited Enterprise on 10 May, to present Combat Action Awards to
men of VA-95 who had distinguished themselves during Praying Mantis.
The ship completed her last Earnest Will mission of the deployment, on 13 May
1988, her planes intercepting an Iranian P-3F over the Gulf of Oman. The next
day, several F-14As flew into the Strait of Hormuz to assess the aftermath of
a “large-scale” Iranian attack on tankers southwest of Lārak Island. As
the Iranians continued to test American resolve, planes from Enterprise
intercepted an Iranian C-130 on the 16th, and a P-3F the next day. The “Big
E” was relieved by Forrestal (CV-59) 18–20 May, and as she egressed from the
area, the carrier continued to be monitored by the Iranians, another P-3F
being intercepted by an F-14A in the vicinity of the southern coast of Iran,
on 19 May.
Guided missile frigate Jack Williams (FFG-24) distinguished herself against
the Iranian fleet in the targeting role during Praying Mantis, utilizing her
embarked SH-2Fs, HSL-32 Det 2, the first U.S. helos in the region with two
door-mounted M-60 machine guns, infrared detection system and a missile
detection and jamming system. As the Iranians took reprisals, carrying out
two days of attacks against neutral merchant ships attempting to sail in the
southern Persian Gulf, Enterprise conducted a SAG escort mission, sending
A-6Es and A-7Es into the Strait of Hormuz in support of Jack Williams, which
was protecting ships, on 20 May 1988.
Rear Admiral “Snuffy” Smith, ComCarGru-6, visited Enterprise to complete the
“turnover” as the ship prepared to leave the region; coming about from the
region at 1515 on 21 May 1988; the carrier then headed across the Indian
Ocean and chopped to the 7th Fleet. While in the Indian Ocean, she had the
opportunity to track an Indian Kilo class submarine. Later, Enterprise
participated in INDUSA XI , a PassEx with the Indonesians consisting of low
level aerial runs over Sumatra, 25–27 May, during which her planes also
tracked an Indonesian Type 209 class submarine. The carrier hosted groups of Indonesian
and Malaysian visitors on board as she transited the Malacca Strait on the
As Enterprise crossed the South China Sea, she noted no “Soviet reaction,”
either from planes based at Cam Rahn Bay or from an AGI stationed in the
vicinity of the Spratley Islands (29–31 May 1988). On the 31st, the ship also
conducted carrier qualifications for VRC-50, then visited Subic Bay, the
first liberty for the crew in 75 days (1–4 June).
Standing out of Subic Bay on the 5th–6th, Enterprise steamed toward Hong
Kong. An S-3A from VS-21, however, crashed immediately after being launched,
killing three of the four crewmembers: Commander Robert Anderson, squadron
CO, and Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 2nd Class David Stentrom, whose
bodies were recovered; Lieutenant (jg) Charles Roy, lost at sea; and
Lieutenant (jg), who escaped with “minimal injuries.” The ship’s motor
whaleboat was launched and utilized during the recovery of the fourth
crewmember and the SAR swimmers.
Following a visit to Hong Kong (6-10 June 1988), Enterprise sailed for the
northern latitudes; she conducted an ASW exercise on the 12th–13th, and DACT
with the USAF and the Japanese on the 13th. Enterprise anchored off Pusan,
Republic of Korea (14–17 June), before she sailed for home. The carrier
conducted ASW exercises and flight operations, transiting the Tsugaru Strait
(18–19 June), and conducted a weapons exercise against a Japanese SAG. Fog
cancelled flight operations from the 19th–20th, and the ship chopped to the
3rd Fleet on the 20th. No sooner did the fog clear, however, than a Bear D
was intercepted as it transited northeast from Petropavlovsk. Soviet air
activity, including Backfires from Alekseyevka and Badgers from
Petropavlovsk, became “moderately heavy” despite intermittent fog, 21–22
The next day, Enterprise conducted a weapon exercise with Carl Vinson in the
Gulf of Alaska, the latter steaming 400 NM northeast of the Enterprise. The
weather proved “very bad,” with “quick deterioration,” ice fog, fog, heavy
winds and high seas. Vice Admiral Fetterman was on board on the 26th, VA-95
and VAW-135 also flying off to NAS Whidbey Island, Wash. Two days later the
carrier welcomed almost 1,100 Tigers on board while moored at Seattle.
Clearing that port on 29 June 1988, Enterprise held an air show while en
route to her home port, with a “Steel Beach Picnic” on the 30th; the airwing
began its fly off on 1 July. Enterprise returned from her deployment to
Alameda on 2 July 1988.
Following standdown, she facilitated FRS and Carrier qualifications for
active duty training of CVWR-30, 10–14 August 1988. The ship recorded her
270,000th arrested landing on 14 August, the last day of that period of work.
Promoting voter registration, Reverend Jesse Jackson visited the ship on the
20th, and Enterprise offloaded 813 pallets of ammunition the next two days on
two 12 hour underway replenishments.
Captain Spane made his 1,000th arrested landing on board the ship in an A-7E
while she was steaming off the southern California operating area, on 24 August
1988. Enterprise held her Annual Dependent’s Day Cruise two days later, when
she hosted over 2,400 guests and provided them a picnic in the hanger bay, a
USO show, five bands and an air show.
From 1 October 1988–10 April 1989, Enterprise completed an SRA at Alameda,
“early work” beginning on 16 September. Among the services completed was
overhaul of all four catapults and modifications to the RIM-7M missile
system. During 1988, the airwing had accumulated 20,903 flight hours, the
ship also transitioning E-2C support from AN/USM-247 VAST to AN/USM-467
RadCom. Throughout her SRA, Enterprise lay moored at Alameda. She conducted
pre-flight deck certification, 9–12 January 1989, 40 flight deck sailors
cross-decking to Carl Vinson for refresher training, 25 January–2 February.
In March, the nonskid for the entire hanger deck was replaced. Enterprise
completed the SRA on 10 April, the Fleet Training Group inspected her the
next day. Additional training and inspections while in port followed.
Ultimately, Enterprise stood out of Alameda for post-SRA sea trials and
carrier qualifications in the southern California operating area, 13–28 April
1989. On two separate underway replenishments with ammunition ship Pyro
(AE-24), Enterprise onloaded 805 and 148 pallets of ammunition, respectively,
on 19 and 20 April. She repeated the procedure on 5 June, loading 142 more
pallets from Mount Hood (AE-29).
Enterprise received the Battle “E” from Vice Admiral Fetterman on 27 April
1989, mooring at North Island, 28 April–1 May, anchoring at Coronado Roads on
the 2nd, and again on the 9th.
Enterprise completed refresher traning in the southern California operating
area, including air defense against naval aircraft, B-52s and North America
B-1A Lancers, and tactical maneuvering with battleship Missouri, 1–13 May
1989. She then completed ReadiEx 02-89 in the southern California operating
area, conducting carquals, tactical exercises and cyclic flight operations
with BG Foxtrot and Japanese units, 5–30 June. The crew enjoyed the opportunity
of participating in the creation of the motion picture “The Hunt for Red
October,” when Paramount Studios filmed scenes on board, 8–9 June.
Enterprise later took part in ComptuEx 89-4, including mock raids from
“multiple aircraft in a hostile electromagnetic operating environment,” and
from the Japanese, 19–26 June 1989, followed by her Advanced Training
Assessment (ATA), including CIWS and missile firings, 27–29 June. Shortly
thereafter, on 30 June, CNO issued homeport change information, assigning
Norfolk as Enterprise’s home port effective 15 April 1990
Subsequently, Enterprise participated in ReadiEx 89-4A, 25 July–16 August
1989, working in scenarios that included multiple raids, communications
jamming and radar jamming. Although two men were lost overboard on the 29th,
both were recovered uninjured.
Ultimately, Enterprise deployed from Alameda for World Cruise 89–90, on 17
September 1989. CVW-11 was again embarked, with the same composition as the
previous deployment. Rear Admiral Strasser, ComCruDesGru-3, was Commander, BG
Foxtrot, while Captain Linton Wells, II, ComDesRon-21, commanded the other
ships of the group. Enterprise transited to Cape Flattery Operations Area to
rendezvous with 3rd Fleet forces, including Carl Vinson and Constellation,
for PacEx 89, a joint large-scale training evolution involving U.S., Japanese
and ROK forces. Dual carrier operations were conducted with “real time”
coordination used to “resolve air traffic control airspace conflicts.”
However, northern latitudes “complicated” the exercise with “adverse weather
and sea states.”
Enterprise transited the northern Pacific, steaming northwesterly courses,
skirting the Aleutians. Conducting her transit in EmCon, she relied heavily
upon EW information in lieu of radar to track Soviet aircraft. A man fell
overboard on 22 September 1989, though being recovered without injury.
Chopping to Com7thFlt operational control, on 1 October, the ship spent the
entire month operating in the vicinity of Japan and South Korea. The “Big E”
participated in AnnualEx 01G, Tandem Alley and Valiant Blitz 89 with the Carl
Vinson, Missouri and New Jersey (BB-62) battle groups, together with the
Enterprise conducted open ocean AAW exercises, together with an opposed
transit, ASUW and support of amphibious operations, though interrupted by
“near daily” Soviet aerial reconnaissance flights. From 1–7 October 1989, she
operated off Hokkaidō, Japan, then off Okinawa, 8–14 October. Admiral
Huntington Hardisty, CinCPac, visited the ship during that period, on the
11th. On the 14th, Enterprise steamed in a joint U.S. and Japanese formation
of 48 ships, including Carl Vinson, Missouri and New Jersey, hosting over 300
Japanese and ROK dignitaries and military personnel, and conducting a fire power
Russian interference increased during Valiant Blitz 89, 15–28 October 1989,
as Enterprise transited the Strait of Tsushima into the Sea of Japan, her
proximity to Soviet air bases reducing range and flight time. Almost “daily,”
Russian flights included “anti-carrier exercises” against the force, once
involving a huge simulated strike of at least 34 Badgers. Enterprise steamed
off the east coast of South Korea, supporting amphibious landings, altogether
accumulating 45 continuous days at sea.
Enterprise came about on 28 October 1989 and then proceeded, via the Luzon
Strait, to Hong Kong, where she enjoyed “good weather and a quiet anchorage”
(31 October–5 November). Clearing the Crown Colony, she then conducted
carquals and cyclic flight operations in support of Cope Thunder, a joint
Navy and USAF power projection exercise west of Luzon, before mooring at Cubi
Point on 11 November.
Less than a fortnight later, Enterprise cleared Subic Bay to evade Typhoon
Hunt (21–23 November 1989), returning on the 24th as the storm passed over
northern Luzon, avoiding Subic. Upkeep, carquals, and training with Midway
Transiting Verde Island South Passage, Enterprise entered Tayabas Bay for
“near land operations” (30 November–1 December 1989). Tayabas Bay proved a
“demanding” operating area, requiring special procedures with “modifications
to accommodate the close proximity to mountainous terrain which made standard
carrier approach procedures unusable.”
Enterprise returned via Verde Island North Passage and Calavite Passage to
Leyte Pier on 1 December 1989, but a contingency sortie began soon thereafter
due to an attempted Filipino military coup d’état against the Philippine
government. Enterprise cleared the harbor in barely an hour, rendezvousing
with Midway for Operation Classic Resolve, supporting the regime in Manila
and preparing for the possible evacuation of Americans. Steaming with BG
Alpha at Banca Station off the west coast of Luzon, the carriers stood by,
launching Hawkeyes providing “continuous” radar coverage of the Manila Bay
During the second of two underway replenishments conducted during Classic
Resolve, a nighttime transfer of 90 pallets of cargo with the MSC-operated
combat stores ship Spica (T-AFS-9) on 7 December 1989, a group of small
Filipino fishing vessels suddenly appeared ahead. Both Enterprise and Spica
conducted emergency breakaways, the latter coming too close as the ships
slowly turned together to port. Both ships “compensated in an opposite
direction,” opening rapidly, and quick thinking by Enterprise’s Boatswain’s
Mate Senior Chief Everett averted further damage or casualties by approaching
a rig from behind the padeye and releasing the pelican hook, causing the
entire rig to carry away, “bouncing once near the deck edge before going over
With the resolution of the crisis in the Philippines, meanwhile, Midway came
about for her homeport of Fleet Activities, Yokosuka, Japan, Enterprise
returning to Cubi Point, 8–10 December 1989, before she continued with her
deployment to the Indian Ocean. Enterprise next visited Pattaya Beach,
Thailand (14–19 December).
Enterprise next visited Singapore, completing two underway replenishments en
route, one with ammunition ship Kilauea (T-AE-26) on 20 December 1989,
offloading 21 pallets of ammunition before outchopping from the Pacific Fleet
for the last time for many years. Upon arriving in Singapore, the ship
dropped anchor in Man of War Anchorage, 22–28 December. While there she was
joined by ships of New Jersey’s BG Romeo, returning from the Indian Ocean.
At approximately 1700 on Christmas Eve, 1989, the quartermaster reported
Enterprise’s position to be outside of her drag circle. The afternoon tide
shift and 20 knot winds had swung her to the west of the anchorage and over
the next two hours caused the carrier to drag anchor approximately 120 yards
toward cruiser Lake Champlain (CG-57), anchored about 600 yards away. Slow
dragging continued, so that after the captain’s return by gig at 1830,
Enterprise weighed anchor and shifted into the eastern half of the original
anchorage. Alert watchstanders had prevented what would almost certainly have
been a collision, with dire results in those crowded waters.
Standing out of Singapore, Enterprise transited the Strait of Malacca,
conducting “coordinated operations” with the Malaysian Navy, 28–29 December
1989. The ship transited the Nicobar Strait into the Bay of Bengal, en route
to Diego Garcia, 29–31 December 1989, conducting one of her last evolutions
of the year -- an underway replenishment of 187 pallets of food from combat
stores ship Niagara Falls (AFS-3) on the 30th. Commander Eckstein and
Hospital Corpsman Master Chief Rosario then flew to destroyer Hewitt (DD-966)
for an overnight medical “assist visit.”
Battle Week exercises highlighted early-to-mid January 1990, including
air-to-air missile shoots in the vicinity of Diego Garcia (4–8 January 1990).
Rear Admiral Strasser flew ashore to Diego Garcia on the 3rd, returning to
the ship on 16 January. After extending Battle Week into the morning of the
9th, Enterprise came about that afternoon for the northern Arabian Sea.
Enterprise crossed the equator on 10 January 1990, “cleansing” herself of
2,800 pollywogs. Chopping to CJTFME on 12 January, she hosted a visit by U.S.
Ambassador to Bahrain Charles Warren Hostler on 14 January. Her Tomcats
intercepted an Iranian P-3F on 15 January, and Wichita (AOR-1) combined with
a C-141 for a unique resupply on the 16th and 27th–28th. The ship
participated in William Tell operations in the northern Arabian Sea, 22–28
January. “Diplomatic clearance” was cancelled for al Masirah airhead by the
Omanis (though no reason was given), on 23 January. Nonetheless, Enterprise
few TARPS reconnaissance missions, supported by a USAF Boeing KC-10 Extender.
Additionally, while conducting Earnest Will convoy operations, the ship’s “EW
Module” was the primary means of identifying both Iranian reconnaissance
planes, and the many commercial aircraft continually transiting the skies in
Although conducting reduced flight operations, Enterprise remained alert, a
status demonstrated impressively as the ship attempted to have a “steel
beach” picnic on 25 January 1990. Detecting a plane flying south out of Iran,
approaching the carrier on a direct interception course, the ship went to
general quarters and vectored her alert CAP toward the intruder. The
stranger, a Soviet Cub, veered off and passed Enterprise 38 NM to the west.
Beefsteak 704, an S-3A, diverted to al Masirah due to a “degradation” of
flight controls, on 27 January 1990; two days later, the C-1A flew off to al
Masirah to test and finish installation of internal fuel tanks, before
repositioning to Diego Garcia. Anchoring at al Masirah on noon of the 30th,
Enterprise remained in the area with Long Beach to recover Beefsteak 704,
while SAG Foxtrot, comprising Hewitt, Berkeley, Bagley, Rathburne, Niagara
Falls and Ponchatoula, “formed up” under Captain Wells to begin steaming east
to outchop the northern Arabian Sea, Wichita detaching by southerly courses
toward Diego Garcia. Recovering Beefsteak 704, together with mechanics via a
Sea King, in the middle of the afternoon watch on the 31st, Enterprise and
Long Beach stood out of al Masirah, outchopping from the north Arabian Sea at
the end of the mid watch on 2 February.
The next day, 3 February 1990, Enterprise put on speed to “get ahead” of two
typhoons, canceling flight operations and maintaining an SOA of 27 knots. By
the 4th, the typhoons “were no longer a factor,” though maintaining the
speed, just in case, also learning that no more COD flights would be
available until 2 March. Two days later (6 February), the ship finally held
her “steel beach” picnic, an event impossible soon thereafter as high winds
and rain predominated during her passage around the Cape of Good Hope en
route to Brazil, often forcing cancellation of flight operations.
Chopping to Com2ndFlt overnight on 11 February, the ship experienced a narrow
brush two days later when a helo reported a “mine” floating in the water. An
EOD team boarded a second helo to reach the scene, but discovering that they
did not have film to photograph the object of their interest, prompting a new
Enterprise rule: “all helos will be photo capable.”
Enterprise anchored at Rio de Janeiro (18–22 February 1990), her first
liberty port in 52 days. Underway from Rio on the 23rd, the ship steamed
northerly courses, aeromedically evacuating a patient from Long Beach on the
25th, flying him on the next day to the naval hospital at Roosevelt Roads,
Following a week of flying in the Puerto Rican Operations Area, including
E-2C and S-3 drug interdiction alerts on 2 March 1990, Enterprise visited St.
Thomas (5–9 March). Standing out of that port, the first 30 aircraft from
CVW-11 flew off on 10 March, making room for a key ammunition offload. The
ship slipped into Port Everglades Anchorage, off Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.,
embarking over 1,200 male dependents, on 12 March, flying a “spectacular” air
show for the Tigers, the last aircraft flying off on the 14th. Prior to
entering her new home port, Enterprise conducted an ammunition offload with
carriers Saratoga and Theodore Roosevelt and ammunition ship Santa Barbara
(AE-28), off the coast of Florida.
Enterprise returned from her World Cruise 89–90 to Norfolk, Va., on 16 March
1990. All aircraft that started the deployment returned safely home after
completing 8,410 launches and recoveries.
Enterprise conducted a fast cruise on 7 May 1990, and then got underway for
independent steaming exercises (9–16 May) On 4 June, she completed another
fast cruise, followed by carquals off the Virginia capes (6–15 June).
Accomplishing a fast cruise on 9 July, the carrier then stood out for further
carquals from the 11th–18th. On 20 July, a “superb” Dependent’s Day Cruise
airshow proved a “fitting wrap-up” to the last fixed wing air flight
operations scheduled on board until 1994. Following a fast cruise on 6
August, Enterprise conducted additional training (8–14 August) at sea.
Enterprise shifted berths, moving over to Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry
Dock Co., 18 days ahead of schedule to avoid Hurricane Lili, on 12 October.
Most of the crew onloaded Floating Accommodation Facility (FAF), a $20
million barge fitted with berthing, galleys, office space and medical
facilities (1–5 November 1990), cutting the ribbon establishing FAF during a
ceremony on the 8th. During a reception at The Mariner’s Museum, Hampton,
Va., sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce, the day was declared “USS
Enterprise Day” by the mayors of Newport News and Hampton, on 14 November.
Also in November, Enterprise sent six deck department petty officers to the
amphibious assault ship Tarawa (LHA-1) for six months in support of
Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
On 17 March 1991, FAF was moved to Slipway 10, positioned next to Enterprise
“in support of the Complex Overhaul/Refueling.” During 1992, Enterprise sent
men from the air department to operational carriers, where “senior personnel
honed their ABH skills,” and undesignated airmen were introduced to the
“challenges” of working on a dangerous flight deck. Two detachments went to
John F. Kennedy (CV-67) in March and May, three to Dwight D. Eisenhower
(CVN-69) in June, September and November, and one each to George Washington
(CVN-73) and Theodore Roosevelt in October.
Enterprise was transferred to AirLant on 1 October 1992, and the ship was
towed from Dry Dock No. 11 to Pier 2, both at Newport News Shipbuilding and
Drydock Co., on 14 December 1992. She was followed by FAF, which shifted
berths from Dry Dock No. 10 to Pier 2, across from the carrier, three days
During the overhaul, V-1 and V-3 divisions were combined until August 1993,
when the hangar bay division was re-activated. All four catapults were
overhauled, while improvements made to the flight deck included the
fabrication and installation of all 194 flight deck safety nets, as well as
the application of non-skid, covering 194,332 square feet of the flight deck,
the latter between May–September 1994. Her crew performed an “overhaul and
replacement” of the flight deck and hangar bay aircraft engine starting
stations in four months, eight months less than the shipyard estimate, saving
over $200,000. They also “rewired and overhauled” the flight deck lighting
system on their own, saving over $70,000 when compared to the shipyard bid.
Enterprise sent some men to other ships for ongoing training in 1993,
including 18 members of the air department to America, John F. Kennedy and
George Washington, members of the communications department to George
Washington, and sailors of the deck department to George Washington, Theodore
Roosevelt and Merrimac (AO-179).
Following the collapse of the East Bloc and the corresponding lessoning of
Cold War tensions, however, Congress issued a mandate for the Navy to
“drawdown,” or reduce its force. In 1994, Enterprise offered “Early Out,” a
fleet-wide program allowing service members to terminate their active duty
commitment, nearly 20% of the crew taking advantage of the program, with
approving authority given by the commanding officer.
New CIWS Block 1 “low-profile” gun mounts 23 and 24 were installed, and both
MK 57 Mod 3 NATO Sea Sparrow systems were refurbished by Raytheon Co., Virginia
Beach, Va. In 1993, Combat Systems Fire Control Division was re-activated as
an Operations Division. The AN/SPN-46 ACLS Radar, “the new final approach
radar,” was installed, and additional systems overhauled were the AN/SPS-64
Navigation, AN/SPS-67 Surface Search, AN/SPS-49 Air Search, AN/SPS-43
Marshalling and AN/SPS-48C 3D Radars. These were the principal radar systems
with which she operated into the 21st Century. To better enable the OI
division to prepare for returning Enterprise to her natural element, the open
sea, sailors of that division combined with those of the navigation
department for two small cruises with the Naval Academy’s self-propeller
patrol craft (YPs), building shiphandling, radar and visual navigation
skills. During one such trip in March 1993, the craft was navigated from
Annapolis harbor down Chesapeake Bay to NB Norfolk, making daily trips from
there out to sea.
One of the most important changes to Enterprise’s capabilities since
commissioning was the installation of a Local Area Network (LAN), involving
the running of “thousands of feet” of cable, both coaxial and fiber optic. A
“very labor intensive project,” departments relocated from FAF to the ship,
then moved from space to space within her. In addition, SITE 501 CCTV cable
was distributed throughout the ship, and the Navy Standard Teletype (NST) was
installed in the main Communications Center. Installing the CCTV system
included over 50,000 feet of cable and more than 1,000 television cable
“drops,” as well as 450 new television sets, enhancing the ship’s ability to
hold training. Also overhauled was the AN/UQC-1 Underwater Telephone System.
A valve barge was moored near Enterprise, playing “a vital role in the
overhaul.” The crew made a “herculean effort” to complete her yard period,
which ended on 27 September 1994. Enterprise then conducted sea trials,
including a four-hour full power run, over the succeeding three days, before
returning to Norfolk on 30 September. Following her trials, Enterprise
conducted a shakedown cruise (12–26 October), during which she recovered
aircraft for the first time since her overhaul began. Some 116 pilots “CQ’d”
-- 57 from CVW-8 and 49 from CVW-1, completing 901 traps, 659 day and 242
Enterprise held a Family and Friends Day Cruise on 5 November 1994, followed
by independent steaming exercises for training, 8–22 November, cut short by
heavy weather caused by Hurricane Gordon. A total of 69 pilots from CVW-17
CQ’d, completing 655 traps, 460 day and 195 night. Standing out for further
carquals, 6–16 December, 57 pilots completed 55 day and 23 night arrested
landings, together with 34 pilots from CVW-20 accomplishing 784 traps, 690
day and 94 night. During these four underway periods, she launched and
recovered over 2,500 aircraft. Throughout 1994, Enterprise enabled 240 pilots
to complete carquals with 2,340 arrested landings, 1,809 day and 531 night.
The ship also concluded “numerous” ASW exercises with SH-60Fs from HS-15 and
attack submarines Albany (SSN-753) and Baltimore (SSN-704). Distinguished
visitors to the “Big E” during 1994 included CNO and several cast members of
the Star Trek and Babylon Five television shows.
Enterprise commenced a PSA/SRA at Newport News on 23 January 1995. Among the
installations accomplished were the AN/SLQ-25 Nixie towed torpedo decoy and
the AN/SLQ-32(V)4 EW suite, the AN/WLR-1H(V)5 being upgraded. The Quad Dama
UHF satellite transceiver and SeaTel satellite television systems were some
of the installations made to enhance the ship’s communications, together with
a video teleconferencing system. The ship made a “Dead Stick” move to
Norfolk, on 7 July. Returning to sea for sea trials and independent steaming
exercises (ISE), Enterprise completed her first cyclic flight operations in
almost five years, 14–21 July.
Designated as Combined ASW Commander, the Enterprise CVBG completed no less
than eight ASW exercises with fleet ballistic missile submarines James K.
Polk (SSBN-645) and West Virginia (SSBN-736), attack submarines Albany, L.
Mendel Rivers (SSN-686), Narwhal (SSN-671), Norfolk (SSN-714), Philadelphia
(SSN-690) and Pittsburgh (SSN-720), cruiser Gettysburg (CG-64), destroyer
Briscoe (DD-977), frigate Klakring (FFG-42), VS-30, HSs-3 and 15, and VPs-5,
16, 24 and 26. Additionally, Enterprise received a “last minute” request from
CVW-1 to facilitate their carquals in time for the wing’s Med deployment on
board America, standing out to enable the pilots to attain readiness for
overseas operations, 25–27 August.
During Enterprise’s Family and Friends Day Cruise on 16 September 1995, an
aerial demonstration was staged for her “thousands of guests.” Standing out
for additional training, 8–15 September, the “Big E” enabled 166 FRS pilots
to complete carrier qualifications on board. A fire power and weapons capability
demonstration was conducted for a visit by NATO Defense Ministers, 4–9
October, after which Enterprise then visited Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., 9–12
October, clearing the harbor to conduct ISE off the Jacksonville and Virginia
capes operating areas, from the 12th–14th. An “extensive” ammunition offload
was completed at sea utilizing CH-46s and experimental K-Max helicopters,
Enterprise then accomplished a brief ASW training period (20–22 November
1995). Later, a total of 52 aircraft from CVW-17 operated from her decks (30
November–2 December), the “largest contingent” on board since she entered the
shipyard in 1990, 115 pilots completing carquals. The ship also assumed
duties as the SAR Coordination Center while at sea, as such assisting in a
joint USCG and Navy night rescue of the crew of sailing vessel Knight Sound,
foundering approximately 100 miles off of the North Carolina coast.
That fall, the Joint Maritime Command Information System (JMCIS), the
“central” piece of Enterprise’s vital Command, Control, Communications,
Computer and Intelligence (C4I) suite, was installed, while CVIC was “filled
with computers” to support strike planning and photographic intelligence,
while the Tactical Flag Command Center was upgraded, giving embarked staffs
the ability to monitor and coordinate the entire battle group. Ready Room A
was converted to the Joint Forces Air Command Center (JFACC), allowing
Enterprise to coordinate the kind of air operations seen during Operations
Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
During 1995, Enterprise recorded 6,879 fixed wing aircraft traps, 5,250 day
and 1,629 night, together with 760 helo landings, 599 day and 161 night,
facilitating over 600 pilot qualifications. In addition, there were 3,877
launches from the bow catapults, with Catapult No. 1 surpassing its 110,000th
Conditioning hikes on the flight deck by the ship’s marine detachment were a
routine occurrence, but on 13 August, 14 and 16 September and 10 December
1995, the leathernecks also performed fast rope exercises in Hangar Bay 1,
and with HS-17 on the latter date. Fast-roping had become necessary to
rapidly deploy the marines in CSAR and similar disaster response
situations–and in a changing world–to conduct Visit, Board, Search and
Seizure (VBSS) of vessels suspected of smuggling to terrorists, as well as of
pirates and slavers. In February 1996, the ship’s marines would perform the
first of nine VBSS exercises with SEAL Team 8 this year, to fast combat
stores ship Supply (AOE-6), additional ships in the later exercises including
Bradley, Klakring, destroyer Mitscher (DDG-57) and oiler Kanawha (AO-196).
Enterprise also remained in the forefront of naval research by being used as
a “platform to gather data on a state-of-the-art Infrared Optical Aircraft
Tracking System,” for application in the future design of aircraft carriers.
During 1995, the at sea fire party spent two weeks in Alabama on board
ex-Shadwell conducting practical damage control evaluations for Naval
Research Labs and Naval Sea Systems Command (NavSea). Due to their
“professionalism,” the team was the first of several teams from Fleet
commands to be invited back. Enterprise hosted 21,029 visitors during 1995.
Enterprise conducted ISE off the Virginia capes (10–17 January 1996), then
spent most of February at sea, including CompTuEx Phases I and II, 21
February–1 April. The deck department’s expanding the number of underway
replenishment teams from two to four enabled Enterprise to refuel and handle
Enterprise pulled into St. Martin, Netherlands Antilles, 1–4 March 1996,
after which she visited Port Everglades, from the 18th–21st. In April, the
ship received three boat dollies from America as that carrier prepared for
decommissioning, and steamed off the Virginia capes for ORSE, 2–5 April. No
less than 21 U.S. and 24 British vessels participated in “simulated war
scenarios and battle problems” in Combined Joint Fleet Exercise (CJTFEx) off the
east coast, 16 April–16 May, CVW-17 performing “at a feverish pace.” In May,
the ship became a test platform for an experimental paint designed to prevent
rust streaking, which the ship’s company applied prior to deployment.
Enterprise also converted her ships control displays from analog to digital,
and integrating control inputs. However, she also had to stand out for HurrEx
96 (28 May–5 June).
Ultimately, Enterprise deployed from Norfolk on 28 June 1996. During
TransLant 96, an ASW exercise, she coordinated “waterspace,” developing and
testing undersea warfare (USW) tactics. Admiral Smith, CNE, and Vice Admiral
Abbot, Com6thFlt, led a NATO entourage on board, at the beginning of the
ship’s participation in Operation Decisive Endeavour, 16–22 July. Coming
about from the Adriatic, she pulled into Palma de Mallorca, Spain, 25–29
July. Lieutenant General Liener, Chief of Staff of the Swiss Army, visited
the ship, on 2 August.
Upon entering Cannes, 5–9 August 1996, Enterprise’s “anchoring skills were
put to the test,” as the depth was four times deeper than that previously
experienced by this crew, requiring “an extremely vigilant anchor watch,” the
anchor holding “firm.” Her sailors and marines discovered that things had
changed since the ship’s last visit to Soudha Bay, and “much preparation went
into this overnight stay.” Limited Greek services for so large a ship meant
that she required the assistance of extra tugs from Piraeus for the visit,
Clearing Soudha Bay, Enterprise then participated in Juniper Hawk, a 6th
Fleet exercise, from 22-29 August 1996. While in the Med, Enterprise was
responsible for maintaining the “entire Med sub-surface picture” for the
battle group staff. Additional communications systems installed, including
Linked Operations Centers Europe (LOCE) and Global Broadcast System (GBS),
enabled communication with other European Command (EuCom) assets. In
particular, this deployment validated two systems: JMCIS, considered to be
the “most useful systems tool,” and Joint Service Imagery Processing
System-Navy (JSIPS-N), which “revolutionized afloat imagery processing
procedures.” JSIPS-N was “so significant” that Enterprise became the national
imagery processing facility for shore facilities, later including Naval
Command, Central Command (NavCent), lacking this capability, enabling images
formerly not available for days to be processed in hours. She also obtained
battle force e-mail capabilities by the installation of a server and two
client computer systems in Radio Central and Flag Operations. And while
steaming in the Med, she completed a “colossal” underway replenishment of
over 300 pallets. Many crewmembers in this deployment participated in
community outreach projects ashore through Enterprise’s “attitude of
gratitude,” sponsored by her Religious Ministries Department.
Supply Department’s Advanced Beach Detachment flew into Haifa, Israel, prior
to Enterprise’s visit. However, the carrier’s intended anchorage was already
occupied by another ship, imposing unnecessary delays, Enterprise anchoring
three times before “settling” on the final position almost three miles from
shore. Running the liberty boats ashore through the unprotected anchorage in
what was often heavy surf proved a challenge for her coxwains, but as they
gained handling experience, “less damage was inflicted on the boats.” Prime
Minister and Mrs. Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel visited Enterprise, on 26
Clearing Haifa, Enterprise came about for a visit to Ródhos, 30 August–4
September 1996, then steamed into the Adriatic to again support the “No-Fly
Zone” over Bosnia-Herzegovina. With increasing tensions in the Persian Gulf,
however, due to repeated Iraqi violations of UN sanctions, Enterprise
received word of her deployment to the north Arabian Sea a month ahead of her
intended schedule. Consequently, the onloaded over 200 tons of material and
mail as logistics flights increased while clearing out supplies at Sigonella,
accomplishing their “biggest” underway replenishment of the deployment --
over 450 pallets.
Enterprise then “sprinted” from the Adriatic Sea, 12–19 September 1996. With
her Advanced Beach Det stopping in Hurgada, Egypt, to facilitate logistics,
the ship transited the Suez Canal on the 15th, continuing at an SOA of 30
knots through the Red Sea and into the Indian Ocean.
Upon entering the Arabian Gulf, Enterprise integrated into the 5th Fleet,
providing “real-time targeting coordination and traffic deconfliction in
support of all warfare commanders.” In addition, all “non-organic assets”
within the vicinity of the Enterprise CVBG were identified and monitored.
Vice Admiral Fargo, Com5thFlt, came on board the ship on the 5th as she
participated for the first time in Operation Southern Watch (OSW), since she
had been in overhaul during the first several years of the operation.
While in the Indian Ocean, ice usage “skyrocketed,” forcing Enterprise to
institute a conservation program for that cold commodity. The “monotony of
patrol” was broken by a visit to Sitrah Anchorage, Bahrain, where the anchor
dragged “for a while before it buried in the sand” in the shallow anchorage,
7–11 October 1996. Enterprise claimed this to be the first visit by a nuclear
powered carrier to that port, and despite “calm seas,” boating proved
difficult due to the 5,000 yards that lay between the ship and Mina’ Salman
pier. Former Secretary of State James Baker and his wife, accompanying the
Crown Prince of Bahrain, visited the ship on the 9th during her stay. Sadly,
by month’s end tragedy visited the ship, when a helo from HS-15 was lost at
sea, with the loss of the three-man crew, on 25 October.
Mooring at Jebel Ali, U.A.E. (4–8 November 1996) proved not as rewarding for
many crewmembers as other ports had been, in that though her Beach Detachment
had made every effort to transform the shore compound into “a social area,”
the crew found themselves restricted to the base complex. While there, the
ship was visited by the Crown Prince of Jebel Ali.
After participating in Multi-national GulfEx 97-1 (10-12 November 1996),
Enterprise headed toward the Med; her transit of the Suez Canal proved
“uneventful,” on 25 November, and she anchored Thanksgiving Day at Naples,
where she was visited by General Shalikashvili, Chairman of of the JCS, and
his wife. Inclement weather and “rough seas,” however, forced boating to be
cancelled for the first three days, providing the ship’s food service
division with the unexpected dilemma of serving double the number of expected
Thanksgiving meals with only two hours notice, requiring 4,500 “rations.”
Despite the weather, however, a daily average of six logistics helos
maintained enabled the ship to maintain a posture of readiness.
Enterprise sailed for home on 5 December 1996, embarking 676 Tigers at
Bermuda for their cruise, (18–20 December), ultimately returning to Norfolk
five days before Christmas of 1996, welcomed back by Secretary of the Navy
John Dalton. Over 8,000 aircraft sorties had been flown from Enterprise
during the deployment. The ship had steamed over 50,000 NM, holding 29 sea
details while visiting 14 ports. The ship’s power plants team issued 57
aircraft engines and completed 21 engine cannibalizations, including the
first time that the F404-GE-400 and F110-GE-400 engines were run on the test
cell. As such, the team also mounted a GTC-100 Air Turbine Starting Unit in
the cell, the “prototype installation” for all other carriers in the Fleet.
Concerns over A-6E and EA-6B rudder actuators meant that all 18 Intruders and
Prowlers on board were tested accordingly. In addition, for the first time,
“repair capabilities” for fixed wing Night Vision Goggle (NVG) Sensors and
Helicopter Aviators’ Night Imaging System (ANVIS) were established. A total
of 13,837 sorties were flown from Enterprise in 1996, culminating in 25,060
flight hours, and 13,198 traps, 8,150 day and 5,048 night, with one
barricade, were recorded, together with 14,104 catapult launches.
Approximately 30,700 visitors were on board during the year.
Following her post deployment standdown, Enterprise completed three days of
carrier qualifications in January 1997, logging over 200 launches and
recoveries. Despite inclement weather, Enterprise then offloaded all
remaining ordnance, including 1,179 tons of precision guided munitions
(PGMs), with Seattle (AOE-3) during “an intense” at sea transfer, 22–24
January. Following the offload, she spent most of the first half of 1997 in
an Extended Selective Restricted Availability (ESRA) at Newport News Naval
Shipyard, beginning on 28 February. An “aggressive” work package included a
complete renovation of all four catapults, the entire flight deck, including
replacing the non-skid, and overhauling all firefighting equipment. The VAST
system was offloaded and replaced by the Consolidated Automated Support
System (CASS) in seven CASS stations in two avionics shops. The MK 36 Decoy
Launching System was also removed. In one of the most important changes to
the composition of the ship’s company to date, the communications department
renovated 76 spaces, including five berthing compartments, to accommodate
female sailors of rates E-6 and below. In addition, they completed the
installation of the Digital Voice Recording System (DVRS) and Single Channel
Ground Airborne Radio System (SINGARS). The AN/SPN-43C Aircraft Marshalling
Radar was also installed.
In March 1997, the “opportunity presented itself” to replace her motor whale
boats with two Rigid-Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) and a slewing articulated
davit. Originally scheduled for FY 99, work began in May, retiring the whale
boats and ending a 34 year legacy on board Enterprise, but “significantly”
improving ready lifeboat capability. In the same general area, in early May,
Enterprise was notified of a need by Kearsarge, which was deploying in five
days but saddled with over 60 liferafts out of certification and needing
replacing. Enterprise provided 54 liferafts to Kearsarge, receiving her own
back from SIMA prior to sea trials.
Enterprise’s first sea detail since January consisted of a move to Norfolk in
July 1997. She then conducted sea trials and flight deck certification (11–20
August 1997). She conducted the evaluation and testing of the SPS-48E air
search radar, participated “in every available” SLAMEx, streaming Nixie, and
USW training. Additional underway steaming allowed for FRS carrier
qualifications, 11–19 September. Subsequently, during Advance Guard JRX 4-97,
22 September–1 October, Enterprise was tasked with ELINT data collection and
dissemination, assisting “the JRX players” in locating “hostile platforms.”
Some 1,200 Special Operations Force troops (SOF) were embarked on board,
including “augmentees” from the National Security Operations Center.
Enterprise put into Mayport, during which time 6,500 visitors trod her decks
(2–6 October 1997). She then continued south to participate in Broward County
Navy Days, entering Port Everglades (6-12 October). She spent the final four
days at Ft. Lauderdale at anchor, forcing the deck department to shift to
port and starboard duty sections to accommodate the large liberty parties. She
received 22,375 visitors during her stay, returning to Norfolk on the 16th.
Enterprise stood out for her Family and Friends Cruise on 18 October 1997,
hosting over 2,000 guests. She then accomplished additional FRS carrier
qualifications (23 October–3 November, and on Veteran’s Day hosted 3,300
Enterprise was underway for additional carrier qualifications (3–15 December
1997), on the last day of that period merging her communications and
information systems departments to form the information systems department
(ISD), whose primary mission was to support all exterior communications by
creating the fleet’s “first IT-21 capable aircraft carrier.” Enterprise
completed over 4,500 catapult launches and recoveries during 1997, including
1,455 sorties, 1,019 day and 336 night, 4,302 traps, 3,438 day and 864 night,
and over 700 shots and traps of student Naval Aviators. Carrier
qualifications supporting Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA) witnessed the
first launch of a Boeing T-45A Goshawk from the “Big E” and the first
expendable bridle launches of TA-4F/J Skyhawks.
Enterprise’s first at-sea periods of the new year 1998 (22 January–2
February) found her off Jacksonville, 20 February–5 March off the Virginia
capes and 16–26 March, again off Jacksonville. During each period, she
steamed up and down the eastern seaboard of the U.S., conducting carrier
qualifications. In addition, at the beginning of the second period, the ship
rendezvoused with Nimitz, 750 NM into the Atlantic, as the latter was
returning from her world cruise, spending two days onloading ammunition,
followed by carrier qualifications into early April. From 16 April–1 May,
CVW-3 onloaded for work-ups, V-3 Division experiencing “packed bay
operations” with extensive maintenance requirements, the ship achieving
“skin-to-skin kills” of a pair of BQM-7E targets with a dual RIM-7P launch on
the 27th. Enterprise again stood out to sea for two days of steaming
alongside a carrier onloading ammunition, this time with George Washington
Prior to deployment, Enterprise also received and certified her new test cell
for the upgraded F110 engine, and installed the IT21 LAN system, one each for
classified (SIPRNET) and unclassified (NIPRNET) applications, providing all
hands with e-mail and web (internet) browsing. The Battle Group Information
Exchange System (BGXIS), high speed UHF satellite data communications between
attack submarines and Enterprise, was also installed. A recall of 80
liferafts due to defective inflation valves resulted in all being offloaded,
repaired and returned shortly before work ups and deployment. A second
accommodation ladder was installed on the fantail to expedite the offload of
In June 1998, Enterprise completed additional carquals off the Virginia capes,
Cherry Point and Jacksonville Operating Areas, from the 8th–18th. The
following month, Enterprise began Comprehensive Training Underway Exercise
(CompTuEx), 15 July–21 August. The “Big E” conducted a second live NATO Sea
Sparrow firing against a BQM-7E, on 26 July. On that date, all three of her
CIWS mounts blasted a TDU-34A target towed behind a Skyhawk. After
punctuating her busy training regimen with a visit to St. Thomas (2–6
August), during CompTuEx, she destroyed a BQM-74E drone with a direct hit by
her NATO Sea Sparrow, and a towed drone unit by mount No. 24 CIWS, before
returning to Norfolk.
Hurricane Bonnie’s visit to the eastern seaboard compelled an emergency
sortie on the night of 25 August 1998; with Com2ndFlt embarked, Enterprise
brought up the rear, the “last ship out” of the base that presented “an eerie
sight with all the piers empty,” subsequently experiencing 25 foot seas and
winds in excess of 80 knots while steaming off the Virginia capes. The
carrier then “led the fleet back in” on the 28th, returning to “a slightly
damaged, and very empty Naval Base.”
Enterprise was at sea off Cherry Point for three weeks completing Joint
Training Fleet Exercise (JTFEx) 98, off the North Carolina coast (18
September–5 October 1998). However, hurricanes were not finished with the
“Big E” for the year, as another one swept through Puerto Rico in late
September, postponing additional exercises in that area.
Enterprise deployed from Norfolk on 6 November 1998. Families endured the
cold as she slipped away from the pier to the sounds of “On the Road Again”
and the theme from the television show Star Trek: The Next Generation. The
ship spent the first four days of the deployment off the coast of Virginia,
receiving and qualifying the air wing.
During night carquals on 8 November 1998, however, an EA-6B and an S-3B
collided in the landing area, resulting in an immediate explosion and fire. A
man fell overboard, and four naval aviators were killed, Lieutenant Commander
Kurt W. Barich, and Lieutenant (jg)s Brendan J. Duffy, Charles E. Woodward
and Meredith Loughran. One of the Viking crewmembers became entangled in his
parachute in the island’s antennae. The ship sounded general quarters, the
crash and salvage team responding immediately and initiating the application
of fire extinguishing agent “within seconds” of the initial impact.
Nonetheless, although the fire required seven minutes to extinguish, the team
was able to limit damage to adjacent aircraft to those already ablaze, and no
flight deck sailors were injured. After the crew stood down, the forward
battle dressing station remained in operation as a “holding/treatment area”
for the “walking wounded.” Altogether, one man from the Prowler died and 15
from different commands were injured. The following day, the two injured
Viking crewmembers were transpoprted ashore to the Naval Medical Center,
Portsmouth, Va., for further treatment. The destroyed S-3B was subsequently
jettisoned. The crew held a memorial service for their fallen shipmates in
hangar bay 1 at 0800 on the 11th.
Two days later, Enterprise received orders to proceed at “best speed” to the
Arabian Gulf in response to a burgeoning crisis with the Iraqis. Crossing the
Atlantic in four days at an SOA in excess of 30 knots, she transited the Strait
of Gibraltar on 14 November 1998, anchoring at Port Said, on the 18th, after
a “whirlwind” passage of the Med. Navigating through the Suez Canal the next
day, she entered the Red Sea, then transited the Bab al Mandeb on the 21st.
Crossing the Gulf of Aden, she ultimately entered the Strait of Hormuz on 23
November, relieving Dwight D. Eisenhower. During her passage, Enterprise’s
sailors kept “outages to required circuits” down to less than 24 hours, a
signal achievement considering the ship’s “shifting communications between
three theaters in only ten days.”
Following her high speed transit to the Arabian Gulf, Enterprise participated
in Operation Southern Watch, mooring at Jebel Ali, 4–9 December 1998. While
there she hosted a reception for former President George H.W. Bush and
“numerous dignitaries” in the hangar bay that Saturday, the 5th. On the 11th,
General Anthony C. “Tony” Zinni, USMC, CentCom, visited the ship.
Operation Desert Fox, a four-day Coalition air campaign against Iraq in
response to that country’s failure to cooperate with UN resolutions (16–20
December 1998) began when U.S. and British air and naval forces attacked 50
separate Iraqi military targets, from 0100–0430 on 16 December. “Cruise
missiles were lighting the horizon” as vessels launched over 200 Raytheon
R/UGM-109 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, with conventional, unitary warheads
(TLAM-Cs, hereinafter referred to as TLAMs) against Iraqi military targets.
Enterprise launched over 70 USN and USMC strike and strike support aircraft,
the first involving a 33 aircraft launch sequence plan. Experiencing “limited
sea space, light winds, and large recoveries with low fuel state aircraft,
the night was long” for her crew, as Enterprise “walked the line in avoiding
Iranian territorial waters.” These “numerous” low fuel status aircraft
required 26 tanking evolutions with “multiple tanking evolutions conducted
concurrently.” Aircraft and TLAMs struck weapons of mass destruction (WMD)
sites, security sites and forces, integrated air defense and airfields, and
Iraqi command and control infrastructure. Direct hits ripped apart an Iraqi
military intelligence center, and four of the five barracks housing a
Republican Guard H.Q. were demolished, the heavy pounding they received
reducing “both facilities to rubble.” There was no opposition from Iraqi
Enterprise launched and recovered 297 combat sorties during 70 hours of
operations, with CVW-3 aircraft dropping nearly 692,000 lb of ordnance,
including 200 precision guided bombs, over 30 free-fall weapons and more than
80 anti-radiation missiles. AIMD support to the wing resulted in 85% mission
capable aircraft flying 792.2 hours. The strikes posed unique operational
challenges, such as “unexpended ordnance on recovery and large, non-coincident
launch evolutions,” but the ship completed 100% of all planned sorties. In
addition, the ship provided continuous monitoring of “an extremely difficult
and dynamic target” for all strike forces, accomplishing the first
“short-fused” planning and execution of a TLAM mission on board Enterprise.
Ensuring maintenance of a cohesive data link and air picture of the Arabian
Gulf and Iraq, her strike controllers also provided an accurate check of
“Mode IV’s” IFF used to identify aircraft as friendly. The tempo was brisk,
V-3 Division alone performing 95 aircraft moves and 43 elevator runs, and V-4
Division pumping 530,000 gallons of JP-5 into jets launched during the
fighting. The crew soon learned to reverse routines, taking what little sleep
they could during the day and “coming alive at sunset” to work through the
night. Media coverage proved extensive, Enterprise’s Photo Lab providing over
200 photographs, and together with countless interviews, the ship found
herself “at the center of the world stage for nearly four days, not a bad run
by any standard.”
Carl Vinson arrived on station on the last night of the strikes, adding her
muscle to the American response. After several days “to allow things to cool
down” and to ensure that her relief became familiarized with the area,
Enterprise received orders back to the Med. Coming about at the conclusion of
the strikes on the 19th–20th, Enterprise hosted a daylight embark on the 23rd
by Secretary of Defense William Cohen, Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii,
Congressman John Murtha, and entertainers Mary Chapin Carpenter, Carole King
and David Ball. Enterprise then transited the Strait of Hormuz on Christmas
Eve, passed through the Bab al Mandeb on the 28th, and entered the Red Sea
the following day.
Enterprise began the New Year 1999 by transiting the Suez Canal. During her
passage, her intelligence specialists began researching potential Serbian
targets, as the ship’s commitment to operations in that theater was likely.
Entering the Med, she visited Soudha Bay, 4–7 January 1999. Following Crete,
the ship operated in the Aegean and then steamed to Antalya, Turkey, for a
brief visit, 14–17 January. On 19 February, she received orders to proceed to
the Adriatic Sea in support of Operation Deliberate Forge, NATO operations in
support of Stablization Force (SFOR), established in response to the fighting
in Kosovo, former Yugoslavia.
“Skills honed in the warmer waters of the Arabian Gulf,” one observer in
Enterprise wrote, “were put to the test in the frigid conditions of the
Adriatic in January.” In spite of the heat of the catapults, snow accumulated
on the flight deck and weather decks, “deep enough to make a snow man.”
Enterprise’s Combat Direction Center devised an innovative concept of
operations (CONOPs) in support of 24 hour maritime surveillance in the
vicinity of the Yugoslav coastline. This CONOPs “fused” the Enterprise CVBG,
LAMPS and shore based maritime patrol assets provided by TF 67 in a
“comprehensive and coordinated effort.” This featured Enterprise’s first
operations with P-3C ASUW Improvement Program aircraft and its imagery, JMCIS
and enhanced weapons capabilities, and RQ-2A Pioneer unmanned aerial vehicle
(UAV) video ground station on board the carrier to download “real time”
imagery of the coastline. Her first line period in Deliberate Forge occurred
between 20–24 January, after which time she paid a port visit to Livorno,
Italy, 27 January–4 February, followed by an underway replenishment with
cruiser Philippine Sea (CG-58) and then InvitEx Plus 99, an AAW, ASW and ASUW
exercise with French, Italians and Dutch forces in the Ionian and Tyrrhenian
Seas, from the 5th–8th. In addition, a TDU trailed from a contract Lear Jet
took a direct hit by CIWS Mount 24 during a practice shoot east of Sardinia,
on 13 February.
Enterprise steamed westward for the French Riviera and the next liberty port,
Cannes. However, as the crew streamed ashore just before lunchtime on 20
February 1999, they were “well aware of the deteriorating situation in
Kosovo,” their fears confirmed barely three hours later when they beheld the
emergency recall signal. The breakdown of the Ramboulliet Peace Talks and the
approaching NATO ultimatum regarding Serbian withdrawal of their forces from
Kosovo necessitated her immediate return. Early the next day the ship slipped
her lines and began a full speed “run” toward the Adriatic.
Arriving on station Enterprise brought her aircraft “to bear” on the
deteriorating situation on the ground in Kosovo for her second line period
there, 22–26 February 1999. Again her CONOPs “coordinated surveillance and
defensive efforts” between TF 60, the French Foch TF and NATO Standing Naval
Forces Med. Enterprise’s operations during these line periods were the
prelude for Operation Allied Force, beginning after her departure for
Southwest Asia. Following a week of operations, the ship visited Trieste,
Italy (27 February–2 March). An S-3B made an emergency landing at Ovda,
Israel, in early March, where the crash and salvage team configured the
Viking so that the damaged main mount could be repaired, installed, and “back
up flying again.” Enterprise then participated in Juniper Stallion, an
exercise with Israeli forces (7–12 March).
Coming about, Enterprise transited the Suez Canal on 14 March 1999, and
passed through the Bab al Mandeb into the Indian Ocean on 16 March. Sailing
through the Strait of Hormuz on the 19th, she entered the Arabian Gulf,
“dodging uncharted oil rigs” and taking station in support of Southern Watch
with Response Option strikes (19–24 March); during the latter part of that
time, destroyer Paul F. Foster (DD-964) lost her helo from HSL-43 Det 5, on
23 March. Though the crew escaped, the ship sent out a call for a chaplain
presence, and Enterprise launched her “Holy Helo,” taking the chaplain to the
destroyer to counsel and lead “worship celebrating with thanksgiving the
sacredness of life” for the survivors.
Enterprise visited Jebel Ali, where the deck department repainted the
exterior of the ship, (25–28 March 1999). Clearing that harbor, she conducted
flight operations supporting Southern Watch through 12 April.
The “Big E” came about from the Arabian Gulf, navigating the Strait of Hormuz
on 13 April, relieved by Kitty Hawk. Rounding the Arabian Peninsula and
transiting the Bab al Mandeb (named facetiously by her crew as the “Barbara
Mandrell Straits” after the singer) on 16 April, she passed through the Suez
Canal on the 19th, standing into the Med. To “everyone’s relief” the “Rock”
of Gibraltar came into view (25–26 April), and the ship entered the Atlantic
on the 26th. After dropping off CVW-3 and embarking Tigers at Mayport, and
pausing to assist in a Coast Guard SAR of a disabled civilian sailboat off
the coast of North Carolina, she reached Norfolk, on 6 May 1999.
During this deployment (1998–99), Catapult No. 1 made its 125,000th shot, and
Enterprise launched and recovered 6,087 sorties, 3,764 day and 2,323 night.
Enterprise launched and recovered over 13,400 fixed wing and some 1,415
rotary sorties. Over 2,000 aircraft launches were accomplished with live
ordnance in support of Southern Watch and Desert Fox. Enterprise was at sea
for 174 days, steaming over 50,000 NM, completing 22 moorings and 25
anchorages, and offloading 680,000 gallons of JP-5 to three of her escorts.
The ship completed 13 underway replenishments, including three refuelings to
destroyers Gonzales (DDG-66) and Nicholson (DD-982), 12 moorings and eight
During this cruise CVW-3 (Tail Code AC) comprised VF-32 (F-14Bs), VFAs-37 and
105 (F/A-18Cs), VMFA-312 Checkerboards (F/A-18Cs, original Tail Code DR),
VAQ-130 (EA-6Bs), VAW-126 (E-2Cs), VS-22 (S-3Bs), VQ-6 Det A (ES-3A), VRC-40
Det 4 (C-2A), and HS-7 (HH/SH-60F/Hs).
During the deployment, the AN/WSC-8(V) Challenge Athena Satellite antenna
experienced loss of “modem synch” at high speeds. “Extensive troubleshooting”
determined that the platform and sponson were vibrating at resonant
frequencies equal to the ship’s blade rate at high speeds. Thanks to the
ingenuity of the sailors responsible, a replacement was installed early in
2000. This was also the first deployment for the crew utilizing IT21
technology, including e-mail and internet access, both NIPRNET and SIPRNET,
together with NetMeeting tools.
From 20 June–31 December 1999, Enterprise completed ESRA 99, at Norfolk Naval
Shipyard and then from 13 August, at her builders’ yard, returning to Norfolk
on 18 December. One of the objectives of ESRA 99 was implementation of Y2K,
“compliance of all critical systems,” to ensure their operation into the 21st
Century. Additionally, following its deployment with Theodore Roosevelt to
the 6th Fleet, including participation in Operation Allied Force, where it
was the first air wing to deploy the AGM-154A Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) in
combat in the Med, CVW-8 (Tail Code AJ), was reassigned to Enterprise, on 1
Operating out of Norfolk, Enterprise conducted flight deck certification for
CVW-8 off the Virginia capes (9-18 February 2000), and carried out an
independent steaming exercise in those waters that spring (12-20 April). The
ship punctuated upkeep, training, and local operations with a visit to
Pensacola, Florida (9-13 June), during which time 32,365 people trod her
decks. Enterprise operated CVW-8 again during TSTA II/III/FEP evolutions off
the Virginia capes (18 September-5 October). Later, in those same waters,
Enterprise worked with CVW-8 in a second stint of flight deck certification (30
Enterprise completed CompTuEx A, operating with USMC AV-8B Harrier IIs, off
the Virginia capes, 17–31 January 2001. Additional training, including
aircrews working with SOF simulating CAS runs, followed in CompTuEx B and
JTFEx, both also off the Virginia capes, 27 February–25 March, training that
“would pay off later in the year in the skies over Afghanistan.”
Enterprise deployed on 25 April 2001, initially steaming some 100 miles off
the Virginia capes to embark CVW-8 -- VF-14 and VF-41 (F-14Bs), VFA-15 and
VFA- 87 (F/A-18Cs), VAQ-141 (EA-6Bs), VAW-124 (E-2Cs), VS-24 (S-3Bs), VRC-40
Detachment 5 (C-2As), and HS-3 (SH-60F/HH-60Hs). The “Big E” first turned
southward, conducting brief carrier qualifications and exercises off Puerto
Rico, including the range at Vieques, before proceeding across the Atlantic
and through the Strait of Gibraltar “within a week.” Following two weeks of
“non-stop flight operations,” the ship reached Palma de Mallorca, Spain.
During this period, Enterprise also sent two mixed aviation detachments
ashore. Manar 01-2 det operated from Sidi Ahmed AB, Bizerte, Tunisia, 14–21
May 2001. The pilots of the wing were able to test their mettle against
Tunisian F-5 Tiger pilots, as well as sharpening their air-to-ground skills
on target ranges in the surrounding desert. After recovering the detachment,
Enterprise visited Cannes.
Trident Door, a NATO exercise in the western Med, 21–31 May 2001, found an
Enterprise detachment flying out of Solenzara, Corsica, as guests of the
French Air Force. Spanish AV-8B Harrier IIs, Italian F-104 Starfighters and
French Super Etendards, the last-named planes flying from the nuclear-powered
carrier Charles de Gaulle, “proved to be worthy rivals” for Enterprise and
her embarked pilots. Lieutenant Tyler Sherwin and Lieutenant John Kelly,
VF-41, meanwhile, had the unique experience of sinking an unmanned French
destroyer, stricken from that nation’s service and used for the exercise,
with direct hits by a pair of MK 82 general purpose bombs. The “Big E” then
steamed into the central Med to enable her aircrews to practice on an
Albanian target range, before visiting Naples, after which time she transited
the Strait of Gibraltar, exited the Med and turned toward the U.K., for a
visit to Portsmouth.
Following her visit to that English seaport, Enterprise steamed north with
cruiser Philippine Sea, destroyer McFaul (DDG-74), attack submarine Hampton
(SSN-767) and fast combat support ship Arctic (AOE-8) to participate in Joint
Maritime Course 2001–2 (JMC 01–2), a multi-national joint and combined
warfare training exercise, 18–29 June 2001. Forty-six ships, including
British carrier HMS Illustrious, five submarines, 1,400 marines and over 100
aircraft were involved in the massive exercise, held off the coast of
northern Scotland. Aircrews from Enterprise “enjoyed some magnificent flying”
during JMC 01-2, including low level runs over “fog shrouded lochs and
crags,” polishing their ACM skills against British Tornadoes and Harriers, as
well as French Super Etendards. For its part, HS-3 welcomed the opportunity
to track Swedish diesel submarines. The wing’s pilots dropped MK 82s on
“tactically realistic targets,” the British Special Air Service (SAS)
providing “superb” all weather FACs. NVRs proved “useless” in these extreme
northern latitudes, “as the sun simply did not set.” And with the temperature
of the North Atlantic usually a “bone chilling” 50º F. or lower, aircrews
were required to wear survival drysuits.
Upon completion of JMC 01–2, Enterprise sailed southward, spending
Independence Day weekend in Lisbon, Portugal, before continuing on across the
Med. While crossing the eastern Med, a VS-24 maintainer was blown overboard
by jet blast. Troubleshooter 615, an SH-60F manned by Lieutenant Commander
“Puck” Esposito, pilot, Lieutenant Ryan Keys, co-pilot, Aviation Warfare
Systems Operator 1st Class Mike Thayer and Aviation Warfare Systems Operator
1st Class Ron Jankowski, HS-3, already airborne, recovered the “wet, but
otherwise unharmed” sailor in less than six minutes.
Subsequently, Enterprise participated in Juniper Hawk with Israeli forces,
her aircrews matching their skills against Israeli F-15 Eagles and F-16
Fighting Falcons (12–19 July 2001); this exercise also included basing a
detachment ashore at Nevatim, Israel. After a short visit to Ródhos,
Enterprise transited the Suez Canal, with a pair of HH-60Hs standing
“immediate action alerts,” crossing the Red Sea and into the Indian Ocean.
During the evening of 2 August, she transited the Strait of Hormuz, entering
the Arabian Gulf and subsequently relieving Constellation for Operation
Maritime Interception Operations (MIOs) were coalition efforts to enforce UN
Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) imposed against Iraq following the
Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. The UN prohibited cargo originating
from Iraq and any imports not accompanied by a UN authorization letter,
though the food for oil agreement permitted the Iraqis to sell oil and import
approved goods. While operating in support of Southern Watch, the ship and
her aircraft tracked all merchant shipping in the region, the results making
August one of the most successful months ever recorded to date for
interceptions of Iraqi smugglers, as well as executing numerous interdiction
and counter air missions over southern Iraq. In addition to the ever present
danger from the Iraqis, the sailors and marines on board Enterprise
constantly struggled with the “oppressive heat.”
The Black Aces planned and led the ship’s first Response Option strike into
Iraq, subsequently planning and leading 10 other missions over a six-week
period. The squadron flew 63 sorties against the Iraqis, during two “highly
successful” strikes dropping four GBU-16s and three GBU-12s on three different
Commander, Joint Task Force, Southwest Asia (CJTF-SWA) adopted the squadron’s
tactics as the standard Southern Watch Response Option strike package for
that period. In addition, Surveillance System Upgrade (SSU) S-3Bs were
integrated into the wing, proving tactically viable in a “permissive littoral
environment.” Planes from Enterprise dropped Joint Direct Attack Munitions
(JDAMs) and JSOW-As upon Iraqi SAM sites.
Enterprise continued to remain on station supporting Southern Watch, visiting
both Jebel Ali and Dubai later in the month; limited liberty options at the
latter place caused some sailors to spend their off hours in the pierside
recreation dubbed “The Sandbox.” Ultimately, the final Southern Watch strike
of 2001 was planned and executed on 9 September. By the time she came about
immediately afterward, CVW-8 had dropped over 29,000 lb of ordnance “against
a variety of Iraqi targets.”
On Tuesday, 11 September 2001 however, the United States was attacked by al
Qaeda terrorists. Four airliners, American Airlines Flight 11 and United 175,
both Boeing B-767s, and American 77 and United 93, B-757s, were hijacked
shortly after take off. American 11 and United 175 were both flown into the
World Trade Center towers, New York City, and American 77 was flown into the
Pentagon. During an apparent struggle with the terrorists when the hostages
heroically attempted to regain control of the B-757, United 175 crashed about
80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Altogether, the terrorist
atrocities, eventually referred to as “9/11,” murdered upward of 3,000 people
from as many as 86 nations.
Enterprise had just departed from the Arabian Gulf, transiting the Strait of
Hormuz, and was steaming off the southern coast of Yemen. The ship was en
route to Capetown, South Africa, for an exercise with the South African Navy,
prior to her return to the U.S. Coming about, she charged north, later taking
station 100 miles south of Pakistan.
U.S. and allied intelligence soon learned that the Islamic extremist Taliban
regime in Afghanistan was harboring bin Laden and his terrorists, and the
Coalition’s first retaliatory responses in the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT)
were directed accordingly.
The crew began approaching training with deadly earnestness and at 1407
during the afternoon watch on 1 October, commenced CIWS and small arms
practice shoots, securing at 1748.
Following an additional underway replenishment with Sacramento the previous
day to top off ordnance and fuel, Enterprise steamed ready for action at 0859
on 4 October 2001. VFA-15 began flying CAP over Pakistan, and HS-3 and HS-6
also stood up the Navy’s CSAR alert package for the northern Arabian Sea, the
Tridents maintaining two alert helos accordingly, with the Navy initially
responsible for all CSARs in Pakistan south of 28º N and all SARs over water.
Enterprise conducted one more underway replenishment before striking back
against the terrorists deep with their Afghan lairs, coming alongside of
Arctic, and performing the usual emergency breakaway drill, 0700–0953, Sunday
7 October 2001. Steaming in company with Enterprise on that fateful night
were destroyer McFaul (DDG-74), attack submarine Providence (SSN-719) and
Arctic. Nearby were Philippine Sea and destroyer Nicholson (DD-982), the latter
joining Enterprise by the mid watch on the 8th. Before the first wave
launched, Captain “Sandy” Winnefeld addressed the crew over the 1MC,
recalling that the previous carrier named Enterprise (CV-6) had participated
in the first retaliatory raids against the Japanese in early 1942, and that
this latest Enterprise, like her predecessor, was avenging a “treacherous
attack on our homeland.”
John Paul Jones claimed the credit for the first surface TLAM launches
against al Qaeda and Taliban terrorist and military targets within
Afghanistan, shortly after dusk, around 1800, on 7 October, followed at 1819
by McFaul and other vessels. “JPJ” fired multiple salvoes, launching so many
TLAMs during the initial strikes that it would require several working
parties for her crew to scrub away the dense black soot seared into her deck
from the missiles, even utilizing high-pressure fire hoses. Her TLAMs hit
every assigned target, principally SAMs and associated radar, communication
and command and control systems, paving the way for the air strikes. A total
of 78 TLAMs were launched by U.S. and British ships and submarines.
The first strikes launched from the carriers at approximately 1830, reaching
their targets around 2230. Approximately 25 aircraft from Enterprise and Carl
Vinson, supported by about 15 USAF bombers, including Boeing, North America
B-1B Lancers, six Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirits and Boeing B-52H
Stratofortresses, hit al Qaeda and Taliban military targets in staggered
flights with a variety of ordnance. Navy fighters escorted Air Force bombers
until air supremacy was established.
At 2213 Enterprise announced Green Deck, commencing combat flight operations
in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the designation for operations in
the GWOT outside of the U.S., also energizing Blue Stern. She launched her
first aircraft of the strike two minutes later, while steaming 300º at five
knots, increasing to 16 knots at 2220, some 12 aircraft streaking aloft
during this cycle.
Among these first aircraft was a pair of heavily laden VF-41 Tomcats. Within
an hour, they were “feet dry” and “joining” on their first mission tanker,
prior to flying several hundred miles north into Afghanistan. Upon reaching
their target areas, the aircrews trained their LANTIRN (Low-Altitude
Navigation and Targeting Infrared System (Night) pods toward the pre-briefed
aimpoints, successfully guiding PGMs directly onto their targets in the war’s
first time sensitive strike mission.
During the first 24 hours, Enterprise launched a further 36 and recovered 33
aircraft, each strike package assigned specific targets. Overnight into 8
October 2001 she launched five aircraft and recovered five, 0145–0221;
launched two and recovered six, 0557–0608; launched seven and recovered six,
0718–0752; launched five and recovered five, 0848–0920; launched three and
recovered six, 1018–1044; launched two and recovered four, 1148–1216;
launched one and recovered one, 1651–1702; and launched 11, 2220–2306.
As these flight cycles demonstrate, planes from the carriers hit their
objectives in waves, striking 31 targets, including aircraft, airfields, SAM
and AAA sites and terrorist training camps. Three targets lay close to Kabul,
the capital, four were near to other cities and 23 were in rural areas. All
three Coalition waves blasted al Qaeda and Taliban positions in and around
Kabul. Among key targets hit around the capital were Kabul International
Airport, the Ministry of Defense, Royal Palace, Television Tower and Radio
Afghanistan, all being utilized by the regime for military command and
control, and the jihadi (Muslim volunteers) complex at Rishkoor, on the
southern edge of Kabul.
Besides Kabul, the first wave hit targets in and around airfields at Bagram,
Bamiyan, Farah, Herat, one of the better airfields, where a nearby oil depot
was reportedly hit, triggering a huge explosion, Jalalabad, Kandahar and
Mazar-e-Sharif. The airfield at Shindand was also struck, as were Taliban
troop positions at Herat, Jalalabad, Kunduz and Mazar-e-Sharif. The first and
second waves struck al Qaeda terrorist compounds at Jalalabad, the jihadi
complex at Farmada, 12 miles south of Jalalabad, and Kandahar. Kandahar
International Airport was bombed, destroying the Taliban command center
there, and the control tower and radar facilities were also struck. The
airport also included approximately 300 houses built to house al Qaeda
terrorists and jihadis, and was considered a hotbed of terrorism.
The Taliban national H.Q., located nine miles outside of Kandahar was hit,
the city’s primary power supply was knocked out, and ordnance slammed into
the nearby compound of Mullah (mawlā or mullā, master) Mohammed
Akhund Omar, the professed Taliban head of state. Also hit on the first day
was a SAM site near Kandahar, and the terrorist training camp at Garmabak
Ghar. Although both bin Laden and Omar escaped, the attacks devastated the al
Qaeda and Taliban chain of command and infrastructure, striking a heavy blow
against the terrorists and their supporters.
Coalition aircrews flew just under 200 sorties on these first strikes with a
100% completion rate. No aircraft were lost and none diverted ashore. During
the first 24 hours of Enduring Freedom combat operations, CVW-8 dropped 14
GBU CCGs, 12 MK 82s, two MK 84s, four BLU-109s, 12 GBU-12 AFGs, two GBU-24
AFGs and four JDAM kit BLU-109s. Refueling was critical to coalition success,
as strike aircraft averaged 5.5 hours per mission, and double that for
targets in northern Afghanistan. Most such missions required aircraft to be
refueled on both their inbound and outbound flights, an exhausting process
for the crews. On this night, seven VS-24 S-3Bs flew ahead of the strikes,
loitering above Pakistan to rendezvous with strike aircraft. As Enduring
Freedom continued, USAF Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers augmented the Vikings.
Prowlers from the Shadowhawks combined with other EA-6Bs to complete their
core mission of Taliban and al Qaeda electronic suppression. Within 72 hours,
Rear Admiral John P. Cryer, III, Commander, Naval Network and Space
Operations Command, later observed, there “was not a single [radar] emitter
emitting in Afghanistan.” Once the comparatively primitive al Qaeda and
Taliban systems were neutralized, the Prowlers switched over to jamming enemy
ground communications, enabling coalition forces to localize their
The Tophatters (VF-14) from Enterprise led the first Navy strike into Kabul,
destroying its early warning facility. A “resounding military and
psychological success,” the aircrews also noted the locations of several SAM
and AAA sites, passing on the information to following strike packages.
Throughout those raids, F-14B Tomcats identified and passed on precision
targeting coordinates to strike aircraft utilizing tactical targeting of
LANTIRN pods. In addition, TARPS was instrumental in distinguishing and
tracking the enemy. VF-41, the other embarked Tomcat squadron on board
Enterprise, acted as FACs, providing “buddy lasing” for F/A-18C Hornets.
Despite appalling difficulties imposed by dogged enemy resistance, grueling weather,
inhospitable terrain and vast distances, VF-41 posted an 82.4% success rate
with GBU-10, 12, 16 and 24 series LGBs, as well as guiding 26 AGM-65E
Mavericks and eight GBU-16s from other wing aircraft.
Enterprise focused upon night operations, and Carl Vinson daytime, with
reveille for the crew of the “Big E” at 1800 and taps at 1000. This was a
difficult adjustment for her crew, but it kept the pressure on the enemy
around the clock.
As the mid watch assumed the watch at 2346 on 9 October 2001, they proudly
noted the ship’s deck log: “Steaming in the Arabian Sea operating in support
of Operation Enduring Freedom,” Enterprise’s first such entry.
Also on the 9th, the Tophatters led an astonishing long-range tactical air
strike, flying over 1,700 miles round trip. Two F-14Bs were diverted from an
assigned Defensive Counter Air (DCA) mission, utilizing “meticulous”
in-flight planning and time sensitive targeting to destroy three MiG-21
Fishbeds and two transport planes on the ground, “while fending off multiple”
AAA and ManPad launches. In addition, during a separate strike, VF-14 planes
destroyed a pair of revetted transports at an airfield “near Kabul.”
The squadron maximized forward air control flexibility by configuring five
F-14Bs as “quad bombers.” Each carried four GBU-12 LGBs as marks, the
remaining Tomcats being configured as “dual bombers,” each with two GBU-16s,
the media dubbing these aircraft “Bombcats.” VF-14 provided only 7% of U.S.
naval strike assets, but was responsible for the assessed destruction of 12%
of all targets hit in Afghanistan.
During the mid watch on 9 October 2001, Enterprise became enshrouded in fog,
jeopardizing both crewmembers and aircraft. But Enduring Freedom was in full
swing, and an S-3B Viking from VS-24 recovered, immediately followed by the
launch of an F-14B. Operations continued to increase in ferocity and tempo,
and two days later, the first aircraft, an F-14B Tomcat, of the 17 aircraft
of the first wave, launched for the night’s strike on Afghanistan.
Such pilots as the Taliban had refused to give battle in the air, compelling
Hornets and Tomcats to strike enemy aircraft on the ground. In an interview
on board Enterprise on 11 October, Captain David J.Mercer, Commander, CVW-8,
described the arduous four–to–six hour missions as longer than any he had
flown during the first Gulf War or the Kosovo crisis. That day, Enterprise
set the low visibility detail with the exception of fog signals, at 0335,
commencing fog signals at 0357, securing from the low visibility detail at
1749 the next day, a long period of watchfulness for the crew. That night she
also launched 20 aircraft in a single cycle, her most to date in any cycle in
Enduring Freedom, 2220–2310.
During these crucial operations, Enterprise produced and disseminated both
the Maritime Air Tasking Order (ATO) and the Enduring Freedom ATO. In
addition, she was equipped with the newly installed Pioneer Video System,
enabling her to acquire real time, aircraft-to-ship video data capability.
The fluid situation in Afghanistan did not allow for analysis lag times, her
technicians adapting the system to allow the Carrier Intelligence Center to
monitor and record the downloaded intelligence more rapidly.
Low flying aircraft ran the risk of facing AAA and SA-7 Grail and FIM-92
Stinger SAMs. However, while there was little likelihood that many of the
vaunted Stingers, hundreds of which disappeared in the region following their
supply to the mujahadin (Afghan warriors) during the latter’s struggle
against the Marxists in the 1980s, were still operational, most aircrews were
not taking chances, flying above the “Stinger envelope.”
Crewmembers often commented upon the tremendous difference e-mail made upon
morale, enabling sailors and Marines to stay in contact with loved ones at
home. Another way they made their feelings felt was through “Decorating” in
the “bomb farm,” chalking ordnance “up extra nice for Osama bin Laden and his
Immediately after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, police officers from Arlington,
Virginia, raised an American flag over their command post beneath an overpass
on Interstate 395 in the south parking lot of the Pentagon. The flag, which
waved above the post throughout their relief efforts, was flown out to
Enterprise by permission of Captain Winnefeld. The crew honored the victims
of 9/11 by proudly breaking out the flag, 20–21 October 2001. However, any
further time aloft would damage Old Glory in the 30-knot winds, so they
lowered it until their return to Norfolk, when they again broke it out. The
skipper returned the flag to Arlington’s Chief of Police Edward A. Flynn on
At 1302 on 23 October 2001, an Iranian P-3F flew overhead, 24º49’2”N,
057º01’7”E, 31.8 NM distance from land, while Enterprise was heading 285º at 24
knots. Shortly afterward, General Tommy R. Franks, U.S.A., CentCom, visited
the ship, 1417–1459.
Prior to coming about from the Arabian Sea, Enterprise unloaded most of her
remaining ordnance to her relief, Theodore Roosevelt, on 25 October 2001. At
2348 on the 24th, heading into the mid watch on the 25th, SOPA was
ComCarGru-3, embarked on board Enterprise. The next day the ship entered the
Gulf of Aden.
At 1037 on the 27th, the AN/SPS-48E mounted IFF Antenna broke off and
plummeted into the water, while Enterprise was in the Red Sea. The next day
she transited the Suez Canal, 0200–1727 on 28 October. En route her return to
the U.S., Enterprise moored at Soudha Bay (29–31 October).
At 0248 on 3 November 2001, lookouts spotted a welcome sight, a flashing
light bearing 329º, 24 NM, which proved to be Cabo de Gata, Spain, knowing
that once through the Strait of Gibraltar, the next stop was home. At 0445
they sighted the light on Isla de Alboran off the port side, 167º, 14 NM,
setting the Special Navigation Detail at 0800 while steering 275º at 28
knots, securing at 0944.
The ABC television program Good Morning America broadcast live from
Enterprise while she was still in the Atlantic, on 9 November 2001. Over two
weeks of preparations went into the show, featuring the Secretary of the Navy
and celebrities Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer. In addition to the Good
Morning America crew, over 20 national and local media were on board to cover
the carrier’s homecoming.
Enterprise returned to Norfolk on 10 November 2001. So eager was her crew to
greet their loved ones following Enduring Freedom that they set the Special
Sea and Anchor Detail during the mid watch, at 0350. CinCLantFlt and
Com2ndFlt both visited the carrier, 0652–0716, before returning to the cheering
crowd. During the 2001 deployment CVW-8 flew 680 combat sorties, both over
Iraq in support of Southern Watch and in Enduring Freedom, averaging 60–80
sorties a day during the 16 days of combat operations of the latter. The ship
launched combat operations 15 hours a day to cover the nighttime 12 hour
“vulnerability window,” then conducted underway replenishments during the
day. During October and November, aircraft from the ship flew around the
clock for 18 consecutive days, dropping over 829,150 lb of ordnance on al
Qaeda and the Taliban, 770,000 of it PGMs. Included were one AIM-9M
Sidewinder, one AIM-54C Phoenix, 68 AGM-65E/F Mavericks, seven GBU-10 LGBs,
266 GBU-12s, 272 GBU-16s, five GBU-24s, 75 Mk 84 GBU-31 JDAMs and 47 BLU-109
GBU-31 JDAMs. One squadron, VFA-15, flew 185 sorties for a total of 795
hours, dropping 232,000 lb of ordnance. The Enterprise CVBG contributed 29%
of all U.S. strike assets during its first Enduring Freedom deployment. The
ship completed 10,111 incident free launches and arrestments, catapult No. 1
reaching 135,000 lifetime shots. A total of 13,624 sorties, 8,182 day and
5,442 night, were flown from the deck of Enterprise in 2001, resulting in
28,262 flight hours, 17,495 day and 10,767 night. She steamed 90,426 NM,
conducting six moorings, 22 anchorages and 48 underway replenishments.
On Friday 7 December 2001, the crew experienced the honor of piping through
the ship: “United States Arriving.” During ceremonies held on board
Enterprise to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the
U.S. Pacific Fleet and air and military bases at Pearl Harbor, President
George W. Bush named the terrorists “the heirs of fascism.” The President
also remarked that they have “the same will to power, the same disdain for
the individual, the same mad global ambitions,” as the fascists, adding that
terrorists cannot be appeased, but “must be defeated.” Also on board were the
Secretary of the Navy, General William F. Kernan, U.S.A., Commander, Joint
Forces Command (JFC), Secretary of Veterans Affairs and ComLantFlt. The
President also met a number of sailors instrumental in the liberation of
Afghanistan, while on board the ship.
Enterprise stood out for an ammunition offload with George Washington and
ammunition ship Mount Baker (T-AE 34), 10–12 December 2001. Following her
holiday leave period, she ended the year preparing for her move down the
Elizabeth River to Norfolk Naval Shipyard, for a $191 million, 482 day ESDRA,
making the move on 15 January 2002. Enterprise shifted from the drydock to
the pier on 8 August, the crew moving back on board on 15 November, many
having attended schools and/or additional training.
New Year’s Day 2003 found Enterprise moored at Berth 42/43, Portsmouth Naval
Shipyard, completing EDSRA, with dock trials accomplished in January. During
EDSRA, VS-32 challenged V-3 Division to redesign the Maulers’ Ready Room,
culminating in a new Operations Center and Internet Café. Two CIWS systems,
four NATO Sea Sparrow directors and two missile launchers were all overhauled.
A number of crewmembers trained at sea on board George Washington.
Also in 2003, the Integrated Fresnel Lens Optical System (IFLOS) and the Long
Range Lineup Systems were both installed, “greatly enhancing” flight
operations. During Multi-National Maritime Exercise (MNME) and Battle Group
Sail (BG Sail), all ComCruDesGru-12 and DesRon-18 networks and communications
circuits were provided pierside, while in the shipyard, while the rest of the
Enterprise CVBG operated hundreds of miles out to sea.
Enterprise steamed out into the Atlantic for sea trials on 6 May 2003,
returning to Norfolk the next day. The return was “short-lived,” however, as
she stood out again on the 9th for flight deck certification and carrier
qualifications, also completing three underway replenishments before coming
back into port on 27 May. VFA-34 was embarked during these sea trials, with
Joker 204, an F/A-18C Hornet, Lieutenant Commander Doug Verissimo, pilot,
making the ship’s 1,000th trap since her return to sea.
From 18 June–2 July 2003, Enterprise operated in a succession of areas: off
the Virginia capes, off Cherry Point, and off Jacksonville for Total Ship
Training Assessment (TSTA) I and II and for air wing carrier qualifications.
She also visited Mayport, 25–26 June.
Within the span of 12 hours on 21 June 2003, SAR swimmers from HS-11,
embarked in Enterprise, recovered two injured men from two different fishing
vessels off the southeast coast of the U.S. The first occurred in the early
dawn hours as Satisfaction, a 44-foot vessel about 90 miles off Savannah,
Georgia, called for assistance for a 40-year old crewman suffering a fall
resulting in a punctured lung. Although the sea was calm when the
Dragonslayer HH-60H, Lieutenant William Hargreaves, pilot, Lieutenant John
Van Jaarsveld, co-pilot, Lieutenant Tracy Novosel, CVW-1 flight surgeon,
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class David Haven, and Aviation Warfare Systems
Operators 2nd Class Thomas Buford, crewchief, Joel Sizemore and Jeremy
Miller, launched shortly before 0200, by the time it arrived over the boat 28
miles away, eight-foot waves were tossing her “too much to lower anyone onto
Satisfaction.” Undaunted, Miller and Sizemore entered the water, enabling the
fisherman to be hoisted aloft to safety.
Returning to Enterprise at 1130, the helo received a second distress call,
from 34-foot fishing vessel Tail Chaser, who had a crewman whose leg was torn
up by the vessel’s propeller. Quickly refueling, the helo sprinted to the
boat, this time with Lieutenant Drake H. Tilley as the wing’s flight surgeon
and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Gabriel Ibarra on board. Arriving over Tail
Chaser 20 minutes later, the helo maintained “a steady hover” while Aviation
Warfare Systems Operator 3rd Class Charles R. Curry entered the water, making
the ship’s second rescue of the day.
The “Big E” departed Norfolk for the last time in 2003 on 29 August.
Completing the Inter-Deployment Training Cycle (IDTC), the crew was “well
aware” of the commencement of the cruise directly from the IDTC. Enterprise
conducted TSTA III and the final evaluation problem on 9 September,
commencing CompTuEx the next day.
Due in part to the Navy’s transfer of Vieques Inner Range, Puerto Rico, to
the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior on 1 May 2003, the group used
ranges at or near Townsend, Georgia; Pinecastle, Avon Park and Eglin Air
Force Base, Florida; and Piney Island and Dare County, North Carolina, the
first CSG utilizing these ranges as part of a “comprehensive strategy.” The
fleet had trained on Vieques since 1941, but after USMC aircraft accidentally
dropped two 500 lb bombs on an observation tower on 19 April 1999, killing
one person and injuring four others, protesters demanded an end to exercises
During the midst of CompTuEx, Hurricane Isabel, the “most intense hurricane
of the 2003 season,” threatened the Enterprise CSG. Her METOC Division
provided extended forecasts to exercise participants, enabling them to “make
the timely decision” of diverting the group into the Gulf of Mexico.
Following multi-ship exercises, including underway replenishments with two
ships in seven events, and daily flight operations, Enterprise turned east,
beginning her deployment on 1 October 2003. Embarked was CVW-1 (Tail Code
AB), comprising VF-211 (F-14As), VFA-82 and VFA-86 (F/A-18Cs), VMFA-312
(F/A-18As), VAW-123 (E-2Cs), VAQ-137 (EA-6Bs), VS-32 (S-3Bs), VRC-40 Det 2
(C-2As), and HS-11 (SH-60Fs/HH-60Hs). Also embarked were elements of
CruDesGru-12 and DesRon-18. And in an unusual twist, Argentinean destroyer Sarandi
(D-13) operated with the CSG during most of the deployment.
Driving onward through the next 22 days in “a high-speed, non-stop transit,”
Enterprise completed five underway replenishment with three ships. Transiting
the Strait of Gibraltar on 8 October 2003, and the Suez Canal on the 13th,
she transferred ammunition with Detroit on the 15th, moving through the Bab
al Mandeb on the 17th, and the Strait of Hormuz, on 22 October. Upon arriving
in Carrier Operating Area (CVOA) 4 in the northern Arabian Gulf, Enterprise
immediately began launching aircraft supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom Phase
I. Vice Admiral David C. Nichols, Jr., ComNavCent, welcomed the ship and her
crew, on 26 October.
Enterprise operated a “theater wide” C4I architecture “seamlessly” covering
millions of square miles, stretching from the northern Arabian Gulf to the
Gulf of Oman and deep inland over Afghanistan. This included “time-critical,
focused and actionable intelligence support” to 15 different commands and
task forces, aircraft from Enterprise flying over targets as far afield from
each other as Iraq, Afghanistan and HOA.
At one point Enterprise had aircraft operating concurrently at opposite ends
of the 5th Fleet’s AOR, with Hornets and Tomcats flying over Iraq, and two
HH-60Hs from HS-11 Det X simultaneously operating with SOF of the Joint
Special Warfare Det, off the deck of amphibious transport dock Ogden (LPD-5),
almost 2,000 miles away. Operating primarily out of Djibouti, the latter was
steaming off HOA as an Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB), the Dragonslayers
completing 60 sorties and 150 flight hours as a quick reaction force, and
providing CAS and logistical support during their 60 day det. Standing CSAR
alerts and conducting training missions at ranges in Djibouti, Oman and
Kuwait, the det worked with “Operators from every branch of the U.S.
The ship operated in CVOA 4 until Halloween, then putting into Jebel Ali.
However, after only 46 hours her visit there was unexpectedly cut short by
the requirement for an emergency sortie to support OEF, on 3 November 2003,
HS-11 providing armed escort ensuring safe passage out of that port.
Transiting the Strait of Hormuz eastbound on 3–4 November 2003, the ship
rendezvoused with oiler Pecos (T-AO-197) for an underway replenishment on the
4th, before beginning her support of Operation Mountain Resolve, designed to
destroy anti-coalition militant (ACM) organizations and their infrastructure
before they could disappear into winter quarters, while steaming in the northern
Arabian Sea, 5–15 November.
Soldiers of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry, Warrior Brigade, 10th
Mountain Division, began Mountain Resolve by air assaulting into farm fields
on the outskirts of Namgalam, a village in the eastern province of Nuristan,
shortly after nightfall on 6 November 2003. Aircrews from Enterprise were
among the aircraft supporting the operation, flying “around the clock” CAS,
reconnaissance and interdiction missions for five days, with HS-11 providing
SAR support. VAW-123 also detached two E-2Cs in early November to Bagram,
Afghanistan. VAQ-137 also deployed a detachment to Bagram, detaching as many
as three EA-6Bs from Enterprise for upward of a year, both detachments
enduring harassment from al Qaeda and the Taliban, combined with temperature
extremes ranging from 50º–20º day–night.
During a combat sortie over Afghanistan, an F-14A from VF-211 diverted due to
fuel transfer problems, landing at Pasni, Pakistan, without warning or
support personnel. An HH-60H and an SH-60F, HS-11, were “off the deck and
headed for Pasni within one hour of notification,” the Tomcat back on board
the carrier within two days.
Coming about, Enterprise transited the Strait of Hormuz westbound on 16th,
returning to CVOA 4, 17 November–4 December 2003, to participate in Operation
Iron Hammer, an preemptive attack on Iraqi insurgents before the latter could
strike Coalition forces. Iron Hammer began partially in response to an
insurgent ambush on a U.S. supply convoy north of Samara, Iraq. Terrorist gunmen
also assassinated Hmud Kadhim, director general of the Education Ministry,
Diwaniyah province, in the southern town of Diwaniyah. In addition,
assailants wounded a pair of policemen by tossing a grenade at a police
station in Mosul, and in al Basrah a roadside improvised explosive device
(IED), exploded when a British civilian convoy was passing by, damaging a
Planes from Enterprise were among those retaliating against the insurgents.
At camps suspected of making IEDs, near Baqouba, 30 miles northeast of
Baghdad, aircraft dropped a pair of 2,000 lb JDAMs, with more 1,000 pounders
dropped on terrorist targets near Kirkuk. During a planned attack in the
Battle of Samara “scores of Fedayeen-like troops were routed or destroyed.”
This was reported as “the largest post-Saddam Hussein engagement” to date for
Coalition forces. During one strike, a VF-211 F-14A suffered a “catastrophic
hydraulic failure,” forcing the crew to divert to Ali Al Saleem, Kuwait,
requiring three days of logistics missions flown by the Dragonslayers to
support the recovery of the Tomcat.
Enterprise replenished again from Pecos, on 19 November 2003. During strikes
against insurgents on 23 November, the ship’s Tactical Flag Communications
Center monitored her aircraft, linking data with H.Q., 5th Fleet, and
Combined Forces Air Component Commander, Qatar, in “real time,” providing
“unparalleled” tactical advantages.
On 1 December 2003, Enterprise and her group participated in a unique
experiment when Gettysburg launched and recovered Spartan Scout, a 23-foot
RHIB unmanned surface vehicle (USV). Enterprise would normally dispatch helos
to investigate potential threat returns from radar, but the cruiser utilized
the USV’s camera and sensor gear during the three-hour mission to transmit
data back to the flagship.
Subsequently, Enterprise visited Jebel Ali, 5–12 December 2003. Standing out
on the 13th, she then operated in the northern Arabian Gulf, participating in
a maritime interception orchestrated by Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 1,
based upon amphibious assault ship Peleliu (LHA-5) and Coalition allies. The
merger of ESG-1 and the Enterprise CSG “demonstrated two hallmarks of 21st
century fighting–versatility and flexibility,” evidenced by the interception
and seizure in three separate interceptions of three dhows and their 33
crewmen engaged in smuggling drugs, 15–20 December.
Making the first interception -- of a 40-foot dhow -- at approximately 1100
on 15 December 2003, the boarding party from guided missile destroyer Decatur
(DDG-73), ESG-1, determined that the 12 crewmembers lacked “proper
documentation of its nationality or cargo.” Upon further inspection, the
boarders discovered 54 70 lb bags of hashish, valued at almost $10 million,
the initial investigation uncovering “clear ties” between the smugglers and
al Qaeda. “This capture,” noted Rear Admiral James G. Stavridis, Commander,
Enterprise CSG, indicates “the need for continuing maritime patrol of the
Gulf in order to stop the movement of terrorists, drugs and weapons.”
Coordinating the boarding was ComDesRon-18, embarked in the “Big E.”
Three days later, on 18 December 2003, a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K
located two dhows suspected of smuggling, combining with Australian, British
and U.S. aircraft to track them over the following 48 hours in the north
Arabian Sea. At dawn on 20 December 2003, Philippine Sea, part of the
carrier’s screen, intercepted the dhows, supported by a British Hawker
Siddeley Nimrod MR2 deployed from Kinloss, Scotland. Boarding the first dhow
search teams found about 150 lb of methamphetamines, apprehending her 14
crewmen. Meanwhile, the second dhow attempted to escape, but Philippine Sea
intercepted her, the cruiser’s boarding team discovering a 50 lb and 35 lb
bag of heroin, seizing her seven crewmen. Video footage from a P-3C from
VP-47 was also utilized to verify the smugglers and their illicit activities,
including recording the crew of the second dhow throwing approximately 200
bags overboard while fleeing.
Enterprise “played a critical role” in supporting embarked staffs,
particularly in the “communications and maritime picture realm,” instrumental
in the two “takedowns.” The crew’s efforts were primarily responsible for
coordinating the various commands identifying, tracking and seizing the
smugglers and their cargoes. Two HH-60Hs from HS-11 on board the carrier were
tasked “on short notice” to transport prisoners and security personnel from
the intercepting ESG-1 ship to an aircraft for transportation to a detention
facility. Profits from the smugglers’ drugs, estimated as over $800 million,
were suspected of financing al Qaeda terrorists, the interceptions cutting
off a major source of funding for the terrorists, and eroding their support
among Muslims. Captain John Locklear, Enterprise’s operations officer,
referred to the interceptions as “a whole new attack in the war on terror.”
Rear Admiral Kenneth W. Deutsch, Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Force,
5th Fleet, added “The success of this operation is a true testament to the
strength of coalition teamwork in the global war on terrorism.”
After a brief holiday visit to Bahrain (21–26 December 2003), Enterprise
participated in Operation Sea Saber, with 12 other Coalition forces, designed
to track and board vessels suspected of carrying WMD, in the northern Arabian
Sea. A day after completion of that evolution, at 0527 on 26 December 2003,
an earthquake (6.6 on the Richter Scale) struck southeastern Iran’s Kerman
Province, the epicenter near the city of Bam. As many as 31,000 people
perished, and tens of thousands were injured or lost their homes. The U.S.
joined dozens of countries rendering assistance, with the USAF flying seven
C-130s and two C-17s filled with supplies, as well as relief teams, into the
region. HS-11 from Enterprise provided SAR.
At about 1930 on 2 January 2004, guided missile cruiser Gettysburg (CG-64)
received a distress call from an Iraqi freighter, requesting aid for a pair
of crewmen injured when a cable parted while towing another vessel. Two
Dragonslayer helos responded immediately from Enterprise, with an SH-60F
Seahawk, Lieutenant Commander Manuel Picon, Lieutenant Van Jaarsveld and
Aviation Warfare Systems Operators’ 2nd Class Lance Crego and Curry, rescuing
the pair, who received medical assistance. One of them, Atif Youssif, 36, was
evacuated to the “Big E” with a fractured arm and severe chest bruises
requiring additional attention, before being returned to al Basrah.
Completing two weeks of flight operations in the northern Arabian Gulf,
including a mission where a pair of F/A-18C Hornets each dropped a JDAM on an
Iraqi insurgent mortar position near Balad on 9 January 2004, Enterprise put
into Jebel Ali, 14–18 January, followed by additional operations off Iraq
through the 26th. Daily flight schedules averaged over 100 day and night
sorties over 12–14 hour cycles, complicated by winter weather, thunderstorms,
and sandstorms. Coming about to transit the Strait of Hormuz, the ship
skirted the Omani and Yemeni coasts, affecting the passage of the Bab al
Mandeb on 31 January. A few days later, a pair of F-14As from VF-211 collided
in mid-air while maneuvering over the Red Sea on 2 February 2004. One Tomcat
sustained minor damage to its right wingtip, and the other’s right vertical
stabilizer was nearly sheared off. Both crews recovered safely without
Transiting the Suez Canal on 5 February 2004, Enterprise subsequently passed
through the Strait of Messina to anchor off Naples, 8–12 February. The ship
made an additional call before leaving the Med, at Cartagena, Spain, 14–17
February, before sailing through the Strait of Gibraltar on the 18th. She
reached Mayport on 27 February 2004.
With approximately 1,500 Tigers embarked, Enterprise stood out that same day
(27 February 2004) for Norfolk, arriving home on 29 February. During the
recently concluded deployment, aircrews from CVW-1 had flown 8,020 sorties,
including more than 6,033 aircraft launches and recoveries in support of OEF
and OIF II, maintaining an 86% mission capable rate.
From 18–25 April 2004, Enterprise conducted successive carquals off the
Virginia capes, Cherry Point, and Jacksonville, principally for VFA-106 and
VAW-120. During those evolutions, on the 23rd, Dragonslayer 614 rescued a
Cuban migrant floating on two inner tubes approximately 50 miles off the east
coast of Cape Lookout, North Carolina. Suffering from exposure and
dehydration the man was so weak that he would otherwise “surely have
perished.” During Fleetweek 2004, approximately 4,000 guests thronged the
ship while she visited Port Everglades (26–30 April), Enterprise returning to
Norfolk on 3 May. Additional carquals off the Virginia and North Carolina
coasts followed (18–25 May).
Enterprise commenced Summer Pulse 04 with an eastbound transit of the
Atlantic, 3–11 June 2004, rescuing two injured Portuguese crewmen from their
ship while en route, evacuating them to a medical facility. Over 65
high-level civilian and military leaders from the Joint Civilian Orientation
Conference visited the ship on the 11th.
During Neo Tapon, a Spanish-hosted NATO exercise off western Europe and in
the eastern Atlantic, 11–14 June 2004, the “Big E” operated as the
communications control ship. Supported by Gettysburg, guided missile
destroyer Ramage (DDG-61) and Detroit, the carrier operated with British,
Dutch, French, Italian, Moroccan and Portuguese forces, as well as ships from
Standing Naval Forces Atlantic and Med, testing air and surface warfare and
strike mission capabilities.
Steaming northward, she participated with as many as 50 ships from “multiple
nations” in JMC 04-2, 19–30 June 2004, transiting The Minch off western
Scotland, completing the exercise with a visit to Portsmouth, 2–6 July.
Leaving British waters, Enterprise wrapped up Summer Pulse 04 off the west
coast of Morocco with a pair of exercises, 10–16 July, Med Shark and Majestic
Eagle, the latter orchestrated by Strike Force NATO and hosted by the
Moroccans, comprising more than 20 ships and submarines from ten countries.
Aircraft from the ship operated with Italian and Spanish aircraft and those
from CVW-3, embarked in Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), validating Capdra Range,
Morocco, for bombing training for future deployments.
Enterprise returned to Norfolk on 23 July 2004. After her return, the ship
hosted visits by over 50 National Defense University International Fellows,
followed a few days later by 75 veterans of Operation Sea Orbit. Enterprise
began an ESRA on 14 August 2004, mooring to Double Pier No. 6, Naval Station,
Norfolk, on 2 September, the first such mooring at non-carrier piers there,
corroborating pier installation of shipboard services and providing port
operations flexibility in mooring larger deep draft vessels. She then
proceeded to Outfitting Berth No. 1, Northrop Grumman Newport News Shipyard,
commencing primary work on the 7th. During ESRA the installation fore and aft
of the RIM-116A Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) System, a lightweight
quick-reaction “fire-and-forget” missile designed to counter anti-ship
missiles attacking in waves or streams, was the biggest “event.” Additional
ship combat systems upgrades included the Automated Digital Network System
and the Extremely High Frequency Follow-on Terminal. Many changes in manning
and watchstanding procedures for the Navigation Department resulted from the
disestablishment of the Signalman (SM) rating, including reducing the
department from 39 sailors in 2003 to 17 in 2004. Transitioning from a
chemical-base film processing system to a digital imagery acquisition system,
the photo lab produced nearly half of all photographs with a chemical-free
process by year’s end.
Enterprise steamed over 50,000 NM during 2004, completing 10 underway
replenishments. During the year, CVW-1 sent detachments ashore to Ireland and
the Canary Islands. And demonstrating the unique contributions of the
electronic medium, over 4,000,000 e-mails were sent by Enterprise crewmembers
and 4,000,000 received during the year.
History: 2005-2012 and
2005 saw the ship in for another routine
shipyard overhaul at Newport News Shipyard in Newport News Virginia.
Departing the dock after this yard period Enterprise ran through a sand bar
causing all 8 reactors to shutdown, leaving the ship adrift on emergency
power for nearly 3 hours before she was tugged back to her pier at Norfolk
Naval Base. It took approximately 3 days for the ships nuclear machinsts to
clear her condensors of river mud.
In May 2006, Enterprise departed for a six-month deployment, operating in the
6th, 5th and 7th Fleet areas, and supported both Operations Iraqi and
Enduring Freedom. She returned to Norfolk 18 November 2006.
On 19 December 2007, the carrier returned home after a six-month deployment
in the Persian Gulf.
In April 2008, Enterprise entered the Northrop-Grumman Newport News shipyard
for a scheduled 18 month Extended Docking Selected Restricted Availability,
with a projected completion date of September 2009. As maintenance was
performed, costs continued to rise above projections and the completion date
repeatedly slid. Enterprise, the oldest active combat vessel in the Navy, was
scheduled to be decommissioned as late as 2014. On 6 April 2009, Admiral Gary
Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations, stated that he was seeking a
congressional dispensation to speed up the process to decommission
Enterprise. Under this new timetable, the ship would complete one final
deployment before being decommissioned in late 2012 or early 2013. This would
temporarily reduce the U.S. Navy to having only ten active aircraft carriers
through the launch of the Gerald R. Ford in 2015. In October 2009, the House
and Senate Armed Services Committees agreed with the recommendation,
approving the decommissioning of Enterprise in 2013 after 51 years of
In April 2010, the Navy announced that the cost of refurbishing the carrier
had risen to $655 million and was scheduled to be completed the same month.
On 19 April 2010, Enterprise left the Northrop Grumman shipyard to conduct
sea trials in preparation for return to the fleet. The total cost of
refurbishing the carrier was $662 million, which was 46% over budget. Also,
it took eight months longer than scheduled. The Navy said it planned to use
the carrier for two six-month deployments before her scheduled 2013
On 1 January 2011, the Virginian-Pilot leaked highlights from the final video
of a set entitled "XO Movie Night" that was filmed on Enterprise
and aired via closed circuit television on select Saturday evenings. The
videos, which were not meant for release outside the command, were produced
by Capt. Owen Honors when he was executive officer (XO) of the ship in the
2006–7 timeframe and included profanity, anti-gay slurs, and sexually
suggestive scenes. Capt. Honors received public support from Navy personnel,
but on 4 January 2011, Adm. John C. Harvey Jr., the commander of the United
States Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk removed Honors for demonstrating poor
judgment. Capt. Dee Mewbourne was appointed as replacement commander. Forty
officers and enlisted sailors, including six flag officers, were later
disciplined to varying extents over the incident.
The carrier and her strike group deployed on 13 January 2011. Accompanying
the carrier on the cruise to the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean were Carrier
Air Wing One, guided missile cruiser Leyte Gulf, and guided missile
destroyers Barry, Bulkeley, and Mason. In February 2011 the Enterprise was
involved in an incident with Somali pirates, an event that ended in the
deaths of four American citizens and four pirates.
The carrier returned to Norfolk on 15 July 2011. During its deployment, it
had participated in operations that captured 75 Somali pirates and its strike
group made missile strikes against the Libyan government.
On 9 April 2012, the Navy announced that the Enterprise and her group,
Carrier Strike Group Twelve, would be assigned to join the USS Abraham
Lincoln (CVN-72) in the Persian Gulf. The mission was described as routine,
not a response to a specific threat. Upon completion of this mission, the
Enterprise is scheduled to be deactivated (Fall 2012).
On November 5, 2012, the Enterprise returned her homeport at Naval Station
Norfolk, VA, for the last time. She arrived under her own power and is ending
a storied era of service at sea in all the nation’s wars and conflicts since
the Cuban Missile Crisis 50 years ago. While on her last journey, the
Enterprise cruised nearly 81,000 miles in a 238-day deployment to the Persian
Gulf and her aircraft flew more than 2,000 sorties in support of Operation Enduring
Freedom in Afghanistan.
Deactivation / Decommissioning:
Enterprise was inactivated on 1 December 2012 at Norfolk Naval Station,
Virginia, with her decommissioning scheduled no later than 15 March 2013. The
deactivation of the Enterprise will result in a one-time increase of
approximately $857.3 million in depot maintenance costs for the U.S. Navy's
operation and maintenance budget for Fiscal Year 2013.
Enterprise will be the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to be
decommissioned. Naval enthusiasts have requested that the Enterprise is
converted into a museum. While the costs of doing so regarding her nuclear
reactors has yet to be calculated by the United States Department of Defense,
by 2012 they had been deemed too expensive to make such an effort practical.
A petition had also been set up for the next carrier (CVN-80) to be named as
the ninth USS Enterprise. At her inactivation ceremony, Secretary of the
Navy, the Honorable Ray Mabus announced in his taped message that the next
Ford Class Carrier, CVN-80 would indeed be named "Enterprise".
Speaking at the ceremony was Chaplain John Owen, CAPT William C. Hamilton Jr.
(CO), VADM David H. Buss (Commander, Naval Air Force Pacific), ADM John
Richardson (Director, Naval Reactors), Matt Mulherin (President, Newport News
Shipbuilding), ADM Jonathan W. Greenert (Chief of Naval Operations), a video
speech from Honorable Ray Mabus (Secretary of the Navy), and the M.C. was the
ship's Executive Officer. SECNAV had to deliver his speech via taped video as
he was in China at the time. VIPs present for the ceremony included several
former Commanding Officers, a grand daughter of the ship's sponsor, and a
former A-6 pilot who had been captured in North Vietnam returning to the ship
for the first time that day since he launched. He received a standing ovation
at his introduction. Actor William Shatner was scheduled to appear but
canceled. During the ceremony, the representative of the ship's sponsor
received a flag flown from the ship during it's last underway and a piece of
wooden railing leading to the CO's inport cabin. Also the CNO was presented
with a time capsule produced by ship's crew with artifacts and pieces of the
ship. Enterprise crew and visitors were encouraged to add the items or
messages the week before inactivation. While presenting the capsule,
Commanding Officer William C. "Boomer" Hamilton informed the CNO
that the only stipulation would be that the capsule could only be opened by
the crew of the next ship to be named Enterprise. When it was announced
shortly after that CVN-80 would be the 9th Navy vessel to carry the name
Enterprise, the entire crowd cheered and gave a standing ovation.
Newport News Shipbuilding will deactivate and de-fuel the ship, which will
then be formally decommissioned once all nuclear fuel has been removed. The
process is scheduled to begin in mid-2013 and be completed in 2015. Once the
Navy dismantles and recycles the ship's reactors, there will be very little
left to turn into a museum; virtually everything two decks below the hangar
bay would have to be cut apart. What remains of Enterprise following 2015 is
currently scheduled to be taken to Washington state for scrapping. It remains
possible the ship's island could be removed and used as a memorial.
from Navy News Service -
December 1, 2012
NORFOLK (NNS) -- Nearly 12,000 past and
current crewmembers, family and friends attended the inactivation of aircraft
carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Dec. 1, 2012, at Naval Station Norfolk, Va.
Enterprise, the world's first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, recently
completed its 25th and final deployment and returned to its homeport of Naval
Station Norfolk for a scheduled inactivation, held prior to the ship's
terminal offload program and subsequent decommissioning.
The inactivation ceremony was the last official public event for the ship,
and served as a celebration of life for the ship and the more than 100,000
Sailors who served aboard.
The Chief of Naval Operations, the Commander of United States Fleet Forces,
nine of twenty-three prior commanding officers, many decorated war heroes,
and thousands of Enterprise veterans attended the event.
"Enterprise is a special ship and crew, and it was special long before I
got here" said Captain William C. Hamilton, Jr., the twenty-third and
final commanding officer, during the ceremony.
"Before I took command of this ship, I learned the definition of
'enterprise', which is 'an especially daring and courageous undertaking
driven by a bold and adventurous spirit.' Fifty-one years ago, this ship was
every bit of that definition."
"Here we are 51 years later," he continued, "celebrating the
astonishing successes and accomplishments of this engineering marvel that has
roamed the seas for more than half the history of Naval Aviation. Daring,
courageous, bold, and adventurous indeed."
In honor of that spirit, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, in a video message
played at the ceremony, announced that the name Enterprise will live on as
the officially passed the name to CVN-80, the third Ford class carrier and
the ninth ship in the U.S. Navy to bear the name.
Commissioned on November 25, 1961, the eighth ship to bear the illustrious
name Enterprise, the "Big E" was the world's first nuclear-powered
A veteran of 25 deployments to the Mediterranean Sea, Pacific Ocean, and the
Middle East, Enterprise has served in nearly every major conflict to take
place during her history. From the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 to six
deployments in support of the Vietnam conflict through the Cold War and the
Gulf Wars, Enterprise was there. On September 11, 2001, Enterprise aborted
her transit home from a long deployment after the terrorist attacks, and
steamed overnight to the North Arabian Sea. Big 'E' once again took her place
in history when she launched the first strikes in direct support of Operation
More than 100,000 Sailors and Marines have served aboard Enterprise during
its lifetime, which has included every major conflict since the Cuban Missile
Crisis. It has been home ported in both Alameda, Calif., and Norfolk, Va.,
and has conducted operations in every region of the world.
03 AUG 62 - 11 OCT 62
06 FEB 63 - 04 SEP 63
08 FEB64 - 03 OCT 64
Med #3 /
Sea OrbitNuclear Task Group One -
Around the World
NOV 64 - JUN 65
NNS- First Refueling
26 OCT 65 - 21 JUN 66
Carib east to Westpac #1
02 DEC 65:
First combat ops-nuclear carrier
to Alameda, CA
19 NOV 66 - 06 JUL 67
03 JAN 68 - 18 JUL 68
14 JAN 69
Flight Deck Fire:
28 Hands Lost
05 MAR 69 - 02 JUL 69
05 MAR 69:
Hawaiian OpArea ORI fire
AUG 69 - JAN 71
to Norfolk, VA
to Alameda, CA
11 JUN 71 - 12 FEB 72
12 SEP 72 - 12 JUN 73
17 SEP 74 - 20 MAY 75
30 JUN 75:
CVAN ship classification changed to CVN
30 JUL 76 - 28 MAR 77
04 APR 78 - 30 OCT 78
JAN 79 - FEB 82
Complex overhaul, 'Beehive' removed
01 SEP 82 - 28 APR 83
30 MAY 84 - 20 DEC 84
12 JAN 86 - 12 AUG 86
29 APR 86:
1st Suez Canal transit
05 JAN 88 - 03 JUL 88
Earnest Will/Praying Mantis
17 SEP 89 - 16 MAR 90
to Norfolk, VA
OCT 90 - SEP 94
Complex overhaul, 3rd refueling
28 JUN 96 - 20 DEC 96
06 NOV 98 - 06 MAY 99
Desert Fox/Southern Watch
25 APR 01 - 10 NOV 01
Southern Watch/Enduring Freedom
01 OCT 03 - 29 FEB 04
03 JUN 04 - 23 JUL 04
Summer Pulse '04 - 7 CSG's surged forward
SEP 04 - OCT 05
02 MAY 06 - 18 NOV 06
07 JUL 07 - 19 DEC 07
APR 08 - APR 10
Extended Docking SRA
13 JAN 11 - 15 JUL 11
11 MAR 12 - 04 NOV 12
OVR = Overhaul
EXT = Extended selected restricted availability
CSG = Carrier Strike Group surge operation
NNS = Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Company (later Newport News
Shipbuilding, later Northrop Grumman Newport News, later Northrop Grumman
Shipbuilding, later Huntington Ingalls Industries), Newport News, VA
PSNSY = Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, WA
NNSY = Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, VA
IO = Indian Ocean
Med = Mediterranean Sea
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