for data and photos go to the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) main page
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 sweep.”
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 post-shakedown availability.
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 hand.”
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 and 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 turned back.”
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 endurance.
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 interest.
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 December.
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 weather.
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 Formentor.
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 excursions ashore.
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, 5–10 May.
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 power.”
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 H. Nitze.
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 Martin.
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 need it.”
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 bay.”
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 recovering safely.
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 maintained.”
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 advertised.”
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 overwhelming.”
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 leaving Pakistan.
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 down.
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 involved.
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 reactor operations.”
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 effort.”
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 October 1965.
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 flagship.
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 future.”
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 nationality.
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, 106º37’E.
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 tour.
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 target.
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 February 1973.
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 arrested landing.
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 sling.
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 of VF-92.
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 respect.”
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 replenishment.
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 1973.
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 the job.
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 incident.”
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 was initiated.
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 the crew.”
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 capabilities.
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 the ship.
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 since WWII.
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 dependents.
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 Vietnam.
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 three Seaprites.
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 weeks.
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 depth” campaign.
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 “lightly defended.”
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 sparks.”
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 troops.
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 visibility.
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” against barges.
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 areas.”
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 Cross.
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 Hoa.
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 sites”
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 launches.
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 pounders.
“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 5th.
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 Epes.
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 Unit Commendation.
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 18th.
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 aircraft.
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 conclusion.
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 artillery positions.
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 the span.
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 sites.
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 radar installation.
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 1973.
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 emerged uninjured.
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 dangerously so.
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 shore base.”
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 high levels.
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 endangered aircraft.
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 later.
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 million to restore her to “pre-fire conditions,” and replacement costs for the aircraft lost totaled ,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 F.
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 overhaul.
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 would follow.
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 March 1971.
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 13th.
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” spaces.
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 the DMZ.
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 leave.
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 December.
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 more temporarily.
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 Control Commission.
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 month.
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 1972.
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 area.
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 weather.
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 Alameda.
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 November 1968.
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 times.
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 strikes.
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 power program.”
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 were reseeded.
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 Vietnam cease-fire.
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 of mines.
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 (DD-860).
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 next day.
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 arrested landings.
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 aircraft.
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 Phoenixes.
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 engineering systems.
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 December.
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 1974.
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 Commendation:
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 det.
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 September.
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 flight deck.”
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 Force.
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 VMA-513.
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 demonstration.
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 Point.
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 aircraft.
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 “uneventful.”
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 territorial waters.
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 structural changes.
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 the mishap.
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 Enterprise.
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 Orange.
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 September 1976.
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 ,000 to local charity, sent to Lord Mayor Plaister.
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 Midway.
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 .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 September).
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 October.
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 projection missions.”
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 30 October.
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 1979).
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 assigned
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, Bremerton.
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 overhauled.
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 completion.
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 6 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 Alameda, respectively.
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 the 19th.
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 Hokkaido and Honshu, 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 the ship.
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 Arabian Gulf.
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 New Year.
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 mishap.
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, hazardous conditions.
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 October.
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 threat range.
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 535 night.
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 Alameda.
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 B. Puller.
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 flight deck.
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 country.
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 herself.
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 Suez.
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 22 years.
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 “uneventful landing.”
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 drill.”
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 2 September.
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 24th.
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 exercise.
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 drone.
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 King Neptune.
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 few hours.
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 the 8th.
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 Enterprise.
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 next day.
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 formation steaming.
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 Jask, 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 Bushehr, 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 Jask, 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 escorts.
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 Larak 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 28th.
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 June.
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 Japanese.
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 Hokkaido, 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 demonstration.
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 followed.
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 area.
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 the side.”
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 the area.
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, Puerto Rico.
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 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 later.
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 0,000. They also “rewired and overhauled” the flight deck lighting system on their own, saving over ,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 night.
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, 20–22 October.
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 shot.
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 cargo “concurrently.”
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, 13–14 August.
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 August 1996.
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 visitors.
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 (4–6 May).
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 liberty parties.
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 aircraft.
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 anchorages.
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 November 1999.
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 November-5 December).
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 Southern Watch.
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 DMPI’s.
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 (mawla or mulla, 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 adversaries.
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 Taliban cronies.”
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 20 November.
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 1 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 there.
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. military.”
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 vehicle.
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 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 0 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 injuries.
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 deactivation:
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 service.
In April 2010, the Navy announced that the cost of refurbishing the carrier had risen to 5 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 2 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 decommissioning date.
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 7.3 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 aircraft carrier.
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 Enduring Freedom.
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.
from Navy News Service - February 3, 2017
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- The aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CVN 65), was decommissioned during a ceremony held in the ship's hangar bay, Feb. 3.
The ceremony not only marked the end the ship's nearly 55-year career, it also served as the very first decommissioning of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
Capt. Todd Beltz, commanding officer of the Enterprise, addressed the ship's company, former commanding officers and distinguished visitors and spoke of where the true spirit of "The Big E" comes from.
"For all that Enterprise represents to this nation, it's the people that bring this ship to life," said Beltz. "So as I stand in this ship that we all care so much about, I feel it's appropriate to underscore the contributions of the thousands of Sailors and individuals that kept this ship alive and made its reputation. We are 'The Big E.'"
Enterprise was the eighth naval vessel to carry the name. It was built by the Newport News Shipbuilding Co. and was christened Sep. 24, 1960, by Mrs. Bertha Irene Franke, wife of former Secretary of the Navy William B. Franke. The ship was put to sea in 1961 and safely steamed more than 1 million nautical miles on nuclear power over its entire career of more than 50 years.
Key-note speaker Rear Adm. Bruce Lindsey, commander, Naval Air Force, Atlantic, used his own experiences aboard Enterprise to emphasize the unmatched adaptability and capability of not just this ship but of all nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.
"One cannot influence world events if you are not on station and stay on station; in other words: to be where it matters, when it matters," said Lindsey. "Nuclear carriers are tough and no other country can match us in this respect."
Though Enterprise's history is long and filled with numerous successful deployments, Beltz offered highlights from a letter written by Adm. James Holloway III, Enterprise's third commanding officer, which looked toward the future of the namesake in the proposed construction of the ninth Enterprise, CVN 80.
"As this ship retires," Beltz recited, "we know the memory will live beyond her and we--the Sailors, the shipbuilders, the supporters of Enterprise--we are that link to the next Enterprise.
for data and photos go to the