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 www.Enterprise.navy.mil, www.ccsg12.surfor.navy.mil, and www.cvw1.navy.mil.
For more news from USS Enterprise, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn65.
For more news from USS Enterprise (CVN 65), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn65/.