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Exploring the History of USS Enterprise (CV-6) The Most Decorated Ship in US Naval History

The USS Enterprise (CV-6) has earned its place in history as one of the most renowned ships in the United States Navy. With a legacy that spans over 30 years, this aircraft carrier played a crucial role in World War II and became known as the “Big E” due to its impressive size and accomplishments. From its construction to its battles and campaigns, the USS Enterprise has a rich and fascinating history that deserves to be explored. In this blog post, we will dive into the story of the USS Enterprise (CV-6), its notable crew members, its legacy, and its impact on popular culture.

Exploring the History of USS Enterprise (CV-6) The Most Decorated Ship in US Naval History

History of USS Enterprise (CV-6)

The USS Enterprise (CV-6) was the second aircraft carrier to be named after the famous Revolutionary War ship, the first being the USS Enterprise (CV-1). Construction of the USS Enterprise began on July 16, 1934, at Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in Virginia. It was launched on October 3, 1936, and commissioned on May 12, 1938, with Captain Newton H. White as its first commanding officer.

At the time of its launch, the USS Enterprise was the largest and fastest aircraft carrier in the world, measuring 827 feet long and capable of reaching speeds of up to 32 knots. It had a complement of over 2,200 officers and men and could carry up to 90 aircraft. Its power came from its eight Babcock Wilcox boilers and four Parsons steam turbines, which provided a total of 120,000 horsepower.

Construction and Design of USS Enterprise (CV-6)

The design of the USS Enterprise (CV-6) was based on the Yorktown-class aircraft carriers, but it had some significant improvements. One of the most notable features was its hangar deck, which was extended over two-thirds of the ship’s length. This allowed for more aircraft to be carried and increased the efficiency of flight operations.

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The USS Enterprise also had a unique island structure, known as the “island castle,” which housed the ship’s bridge and navigation facilities. This design became a signature feature of subsequent American aircraft carriers.

Exploring the History of USS Enterprise (CV-6) The Most Decorated Ship in US Naval History

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Battles and Campaigns of USS Enterprise (CV-6)

During its service in World War II, the USS Enterprise participated in numerous battles and campaigns, earning it the title of the most decorated ship in US naval history. It played a crucial role in the Pacific Theater, where it was involved in some of the most significant naval battles of the war.

One of the most notable battles that the USS Enterprise was a part of was the Battle of Midway in June 1942. In this battle, the USS Enterprise, along with the USS Hornet and USS Yorktown, successfully ambushed and sank four Japanese aircraft carriers, effectively turning the tide of the war in the Pacific in favor of the Allies.

Throughout the war, the USS Enterprise also participated in other major battles, including the Battles of Guadalcanal, Santa Cruz, and Leyte Gulf. It was also involved in air raids on Japanese positions in the Marshall and Gilbert Islands, as well as the Philippines and the Caroline Islands.

Exploring the History of USS Enterprise (CV-6) The Most Decorated Ship in US Naval History

Notable Crew Members of USS Enterprise (CV-6)

The USS Enterprise was not just a remarkable ship; it was also home to many exceptional crew members who helped make its legacy what it is today. One of the most notable crew members was Lieutenant Commander Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare, who became the Navy’s first flying ace when he shot down five Japanese bombers in a single mission.

Another notable crew member was Lieutenant Richard Halsey Best, who led the squadron of dive bombers that attacked and sank three Japanese aircraft carriers during the Battle of Midway. His heroic actions earned him the Navy Cross and made him one of the most celebrated pilots of the war.

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Legacy of USS Enterprise (CV-6)

The legacy of the USS Enterprise is one that has been revered by many, including the United States Navy. After its decommissioning in 1947, the ship was sold for scrap, but a movement to preserve it as a museum ship gained traction in the 1960s. Despite these efforts, the USS Enterprise was ultimately dismantled and sold for scrap in 1958.

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However, the legacy of the “Big E” lived on through its successor, the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), which was commissioned in 1961. The USS Enterprise (CVN-65) went on to serve for over 50 years and became the longest-serving nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in US naval history.

Exploring the History of USS Enterprise (CV-6) The Most Decorated Ship in US Naval History

USS Enterprise (CV-6) in World War II

The USS Enterprise had a remarkable track record during World War II, earning numerous awards and commendations for its service. Some of the most notable accolades include 20 Battle Stars, Presidential Unit Citations, and the Navy Unit Commendation. Its impressive accomplishments in battle also earned it the nickname “The Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast.”

Despite sustaining significant damage in various battles, the USS Enterprise never had to return to the United States for repairs, a testament to its resilience and the dedication of its crew.

USS Enterprise (CV-6) vs. Other Aircraft Carriers

Although the USS Enterprise (CV-6) was not the only aircraft carrier serving in the Pacific Theater during World War II, it distinguished itself from others in many ways. First and foremost, it was the only US Navy carrier to be present at the decisive battles of Midway, Santa Cruz, and Leyte Gulf. Its contributions in these battles were crucial to the overall outcome of the war.

In terms of size and speed, the USS Enterprise also surpassed its contemporaries and was considered a “supercarrier” at the time. Its advanced design and technology set it apart from other carriers and made it a formidable force in battle.

Exploring the History of USS Enterprise (CV-6) The Most Decorated Ship in US Naval History

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USS Enterprise (CV-6) in Popular Culture

The USS Enterprise has been depicted in various forms of media, including film, television, and literature. In the 1942 movie “Dive Bomber,” the aircraft carrier was featured along with its crew members who played themselves in the film.

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It was also referenced in popular books such as “The Big E: The Story of the USS Enterprise” by Edward P. Stafford and “The First Team: Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway” by John B. Lundstrom. Its legacy has also been immortalized in video games such as “World of Warships.”

USS Enterprise (CV-6) Memorials and Commemorations

Despite being dismantled and sold for scrap, the legacy of the USS Enterprise lives on through various memorials and commemorations. The most notable of these is the USS Enterprise Memorial Plaza, located at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This memorial pays tribute to all the ships that have carried the name Enterprise and honors their service and sacrifice.

There are also several monuments and plaques dedicated to the USS Enterprise and its crew members around the United States, including in San Francisco, California, and Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Exploring the History of USS Enterprise (CV-6) The Most Decorated Ship in US Naval History

USS Enterprise (CV-6) Today

While the original USS Enterprise (CV-6) no longer exists, its memory continues to be honored by the US Navy and those who appreciate its significant contributions during World War II. The USS Enterprise (CVN-65) may have been decommissioned in 2017, but the name lives on through the future USS Enterprise (CVN-80), which is set to be commissioned in the mid-2020s.

The legacy of the USS Enterprise (CV-6) also lives on through its crew members and their families. The annual reunion of the USS Enterprise Association brings together past and present crew members and their loved ones to honor the ship’s memory and celebrate its achievements.

Exploring the History of USS Enterprise (CV-6) The Most Decorated Ship in US Naval History


The USS Enterprise (CV-6) was not just a ship; it was a symbol of American strength, perseverance, and sacrifice during World War II. Its contributions to the war effort were immeasurable and played a crucial role in securing victory for the Allies. The ship and its crew members will always hold a special place in history, and their legacy will continue to inspire future generations. As we explore the history of the USS Enterprise (CV-6), it becomes clear that this ship truly earned its title as the most decorated ship in US naval history.

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