Frontier Former Editor

February 29, 2008

The real USS Enterprise (revised)

Filed under: Authentic Cold Warriors, Big E, carrier, history, naval aviation, Newport News, Star Trek, USS Enterprise — Frontier Former Editor @ 12:10 am

As big a fan of Star Trek as I may be, it’s really, only because Gene Roddenberry seemed to have captured something that was very real in the eyes of thousands of the breed known as Navy brats.

Being a Navy brat myself,  I got hit with a double whack of nostalgia this week, starting with this:

Impressive as it may be, the second and hardest whack came when I got a call at work and the discussion progressed to the caller’s mailing address: USS Enterprise CVN-65. We started swapping stories, since I spent a significant chunk of my childhood just across the inlet from his ship’s pier.


The Big E is less than a year older than me.  She is one of 14 supercarriers built just across from where I grew up. The father of one of my good friends sailed around the world on her in 1962 I didn’t get to see her physically until the early 1990’s, when she was finally homeported in Norfolk for the first time since the early 1960’s.

Three carriers suffered major onboard fires during Vietnam, including the Enterprise:

The fact she’s still in the fleet four decades later speaks as much to her crew as it does her construction

The sailor mentioned earlier was burtsing with pride as he told me that the Big E had been fitted with old destroyer screws instead of her standard speed propellers because her reactors were too powerful for her hull to stand the strain.

“She still outran our battle group,” he said.

“Not bad for a ship almost 50 years old,” I said.

“She’s still got the same reactors,” he added.

With that conversation rattling around in my head, I’ve got to wonder why American popular culture is so fixated on a fictional class of starships when there’s a whole series of Enterprises that somehow have eluded the grasp of at least two generations.

So, when the neighborhood geek starts prattling on about Enterprise A, Enterprise B, Enterprise C and so forth, gently shush the little twit and remind him that Enterprise H is alive and well and that her crew and generations of American carrier sailors made green, blue, red and yellow shirts fashionable long before Desilu Studios did.

Just for reference, here’s the real Enterprise A:


and Enterprise C:


And Enterprise G – the original Big E long before Elvis claimed the the initial:


and the Big E off the Solomons (the music isn’t quite appropriate, but the crew wasn’t shaking their own chairs and the director wasn’t shaking the camera to fake the action):

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