USS Enterprise Turns 49 Years Old Thanksgiving Day

Story Number: NNS101123-19Release Date: 11/23/2010 2:04:00 PM
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By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jared M. King

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- USS Enterprise (CVN 65) is scheduled to celebrate its 49th birthday in its homeport of Norfolk, Va. Nov. 25.

Big E's 49th birthday will take place as the crew celebrates Thanksgiving.

Enterprise is the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, and with the exception of USS Constitution, is the oldest commissioned warship in the Navy. CVN-65 is the eighth U.S. ship bearing the name Enterprise and was commissioned Nov. 25, 1961.

During the commissioning, then Secretary of the Navy John B. Connally Jr. called the ship a worthy successor to the seventh Enterprise (CV 6), which was the most decorated ship in World War II. In his remarks, Connally said Enterprise will reign for a long, long time as "queen of the seas."

Former Aviation Boatswain's Mate Airman Jack Kepics was there that historic day and remembers it vividly.

"There was a chilly breeze that blew through the hangar bay as about 3,000 of us stood in ranks shivering in our dress blues," said Kepics. "Despite the dreary weather, the atmosphere was very festive, and a sense of pride beamed from every Sailor and officer as we stood and listened to the commissioning speeches."

"Big E", as the crew affectionately named her, is the largest aircraft carrier to ever be built. One of a kind, Enterprise stretches 1,123 feet and weighs 73,858 tons. Enterprise is the only ship to ever house eight nuclear reactors.

"This is significant because we are still operating as efficiently as we did 49 years ago," said USS Enterprise Command Master Chief (AW/SW) Keith Oxley. "Roughly 250,000 Sailors have served aboard Enterprise in her 49-year tenure, and we are carrying on that legacy."

The ship's first mission was to track and measure the flight of Mercury 'Friendship 7'. Big E's efforts culminated May 5, 1962 when Cmdr. Alan B. Shepard, Jr., became the first American to break the barrier of the Earth's atmosphere and ascend 116.5 miles in the Mercury capsule.

Big E has played a role in almost every major conflict since her commissioning. From the Cuban Missile Crisis, through multiple tours off Yankee Station in the Vietnam conflict, cold war tensions, and culminating with it's rapid response on 9/11, Enterprise has been there to answer the nation's call time and again.

"I've been in the Navy for 25 years, and I cannot recall a ship that has been as active for this period of time," said Oxley. "I came to Enterprise for the sole reason of helping this fine ship to the very end of its life and also to be part of its history and heritage."

Throughout Enterprise's naval career, it has earned many accolades and distinguished itself honorably time and time again. Enterprise has played a vital role in establishing sea power for the U.S. in the past and, with its upcoming deployment, will continue to do so into the future.

This sentiment reaffirms the tradition and level of excellence that Enterprise Sailors have shown throughout the vessel's history. The legend will continue to grow as it looks forward to its 50th birthday next year.

Enterprise Carrier Strike Group consists of Enterprise, the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55), the guided-missile destroyers USS Bulkeley (DDG 84), USS Barry (DDG 52) and USS Mason (DDG 87), USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8), Carrier Air Wing 1 and Destroyer Squadron 2.

The strike group is currently in port undergoing preparations for an upcoming deployment. For more information about Enterprise, Carrier Strike Group 12 or Carrier Air Wing 1 visit,, and

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12/22/2010 3:48:00 PM
As a plank owner and ships company, I'm proud to have served aboard Enterprise prior to commissioning through 1964.

12/22/2010 2:33:00 PM
Big E, Happy Birthday! I remember when I saw the ship for the first time pulling up to the pier in Alameda, Calif. Awesome - it's greatest ship in the Navy! Served on board from 1977 to 1980, including a Western Pacific deployment in 1978. Great memories. Would like to go underway one more time aboard the ship! Haze gray underway, underway's the only way!

12/9/2010 10:57:00 PM
I am a proud plank owner and hope to be at the 50th birthday party for the great ship. I have many great memories of life aboard. One was the day the Italian square riger Amerigo Vespucci came along side for a photo op. I ran up from the engine room to see this old sailing ship tower over the biggest ship in the Navy. My happiest day was the day I finally got off. The ship never stoped, I think thay were trying to see how many miles it could go per year. Hsppy 49th Enterprise!

12/2/2010 8:57:00 PM
I wish the best for a great ship. It's hard to believe that I sailed on her way back in 1962 when I was serving with COMCRUDESFLOT-10 as a crew mamber of the flags barge. What impressed me the most about this ship was it size and speed. It took some muscle to climb up the long rope ladder to the boat beam when moored the barge .I would love to go aboard her for her 50th.

11/26/2010 10:39:00 PM
Alan Shepard flew Freedom 7 May 5, 1961, not 1962. John Glen flew Friendship 7 Feb. 20, 1962, which was the Big E's first task.....just to get the NASA connection straight; otherwise, very cool story about a very proud and historic ship.

11/26/2010 1:42:00 AM
To have served aboard the ship with the proudest history, I'm honored. I left her flight deck in the Indian Ocean, She catapulted me into the sky aboard the mail plane for my return home. I hope one day to stand again on deck of my old friend - the finest ship ever built, Enterprise.

11/25/2010 12:05:00 AM
The biggest and best ship in the Navy. Lets hope that when she is finally retired there will be another Enterprise commissioned to carry on the legacy. There must always be an Enterprise in the U.S. Navy!

11/24/2010 10:38:00 PM
I have more than 12 years stationed on board Enterprise. My wife always referred to her as my mistress. Congratulations on the celebrations. But do not forget, that besides the USS Constitution and USS Enterprise, there is an older commissioned vessel. The USS Pueblo (AGER-2) is a U.S. Navy technical research ship (Navy intelligence), boarded and captured by North Korea in 1968. She is currently still in commission even though she is moored on the Taedong River in North Korea.

11/24/2010 8:50:00 PM
USS Enterprise still leading the way, as always! What a magnificent carrier it truly is! To all aboard: I hope that your time spent on the Enterprise will be highly enjoyable as well as educational. What a highly gifted crew! Wish I were there ......I bet that the meals are awesome! I have read of many many Enterprise deployments over the years. Beam me up, Scotty....

11/24/2010 6:28:00 PM
Good day from "Down Under" - During the Vietnam War, I was on HMAS Sydney for a period of time and remember Enterprise visiting Sydney Harbor - our little aircraft carrier with 700 feet long flight deck looked like a tug boat alongside the Big E.

11/24/2010 5:47:00 PM
May God bless the crew and their families on this historic day. The entire world owes a debt of gratitude to crew of the Enterprise. I spent my Thanksgiving while deployed on the Big E many years ago. I would pay a million bucks to be deployed on the ship on her final cruise with all of you!

11/24/2010 2:25:00 PM
Happy birthday! This ship alone has raised two generations of my family while working on her in the yards. I really enjoyed going on sea trials on her after we refueled her in the mid-90s.It was really neat re-fueling the same reactor that my father helped build during the original construction in the late 50s. I still have the original keel-laying ceremony coin. Mark Wertz, Neport News Shipbuilder

11/24/2010 2:20:00 PM
Happy Birthday Big E! You bear the proudest name in naval history and have worn it with distinction. Godspeed to all who have, do and will sail her.

11/24/2010 2:12:00 PM
Proudest day of my life until then was when Capt. Petersen qualified me as officer of the deck (OOD) underway after an oral board with the department heads in his sea cabin. "Congratulations! Now go out and relieve the watch as OOD underway of the largest warship in the history of the world."

11/24/2010 2:00:00 PM
It looks as though there's some confusion over Project Mercury. Alan Shepard flew Freedom 7 May 5, 1961, before Enterprise was commissioned. John Glenn, not Shepard, flew Friendship 7 Feb 20, 1962, after Enterprise was commissioned and was the third American in space, but the first to orbit Earth.

11/24/2010 11:30:00 AM
As a 'plank-owner' on the Enterprise, it is with great pride that I recall my four years aboard. I have memories to last a life time of the places I've seen, the friends I've made and the pride of knowing I served my country.

11/24/2010 4:46:00 AM
Reading of the upcoming birthday I'm proud to be living in a nation that has such great technology and dedicated people. The Sailors, Airman, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and Soldiers are the best in the world. Thanks to all who are serving and who have served. May GOD bless you.

11/23/2010 7:16:00 PM
Wow, long may she reign! I served on her. Highlight of my career was the day I got off. Too much time at sea man!

11/23/2010 6:49:00 PM
Bravo Zulu, Enterprise. Congrats on 49 years of service to our country.

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The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) is underway in the Atlantic Ocean during a Composite Training Unit Exercise for Enterprise Carrier Strike Group.
101019-N-1324F-111 ATLANTIC OCEAN- (Oct. 19, 2010) The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) is underway in the Atlantic Ocean during a Composite Training Unit Exercise for Enterprise Carrier Strike Group. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Alex R. Forster/Released)
October 22, 2010
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