‘We are legend’: Navy bids farewell to ‘unmatched’ Enterprise

The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) is anchored off the coast of Naples, Italy, for its final scheduled port visit before the ships upcoming decommissioning. Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman)

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — The U.S. Navy on Friday said farewell to the USS Enterprise (CVN 65), after more than five decades, in a decommissioning ceremony at Newport News Shipbuilding.

The ceremony was held on a cold and overcast day in February, one day before the 59th anniversary of the ship’s keel being laid.

It was a small and humble ceremony — compared to the larger one in 2012 when the Enterprise was made inactive — that was focused on the “Enterprise Family.”

“It’s sad to see the last day of a ship that was unmatched in her lifetime,” Adm. James Caldwell said, speaking at Friday’s ceremony. “Today is a good time to reflect on what Enterprise accomplished.”

The Enterprise first entered the service 56 years ago, and according to the U.S. Navy, this is the eighth ship to carry the name.

She was the second in this line of ships to be given the nickname “Big E.”

There is along and rich history associated with the name Enterprise.

According to the Navy, Enterprise did not originally belong to the United States — instead, that was Great Britain. Enterprise was bought in 1776 by the Committee of Secret Correspondence of the Continental Congress.

This version of the “Big E” was the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The Navy says the Enterprise was dispatched to its first international crisis in October of 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

“During the Cuban Missile Crisis, she operated with USS Independence, another carrier,” Caldwell noted. “During the 40 days of operations, I’m told Independence burned 5.5 million gallons of oil.”

The Enterprise, by comparison, had “gone further, faster and burned none,” Caldwell said.

The “Big E” would go on to serve a big role in the Navy’s international response over five decades, including a deployment following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Crew aboard the Enterprise launched some of the first airstrikes against al Qaeda following the 2001 terror attacks.

CVN 65 was also the aircraft carrier that recovered astronaut John Glenn following his historic orbital space flight around the Earth.

The Enterprise was inactivated Dec. 1, 2012, and has been at Newport News Shipbuilding ahead of her scheduled decommissioning.

10 On Your Side spoke with a retired sailor who was aboard the “Big E” during her first years of service. Ray Godfrey traveled to Hampton Roads from Montana especially for Friday’s ceremony.

“I think she did a great job, and I’m just real happy that she’s getting the treatment that she’s getting,” Godfrey said.

After the final watch team matched into place Friday, the Enterprise was officially stricken from the Navy’s registry and custody was handed over to Newport News Shipbuilding.

There have been questions as to what would happen to the Enterprise upon its decommissioning — with some wondering if it would be turned into a museum. That last part is not currently part of the Navy’s plan.

Some of the steel from CVN 65 was turned into an “E” plaque, which will be hung inside the ninth Enterprise — CVN 80. A keel laying for the ninth Enterprise is expected to happen in the spring of 2021.

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