USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-65): A LOOK BACK

USS Enterprise (CVN-65)
USS Enterprise (CVN-65)
USS Enterprise SOAR patch
USS Enterprise SOAR patch

Most sailors get to see the world. I got to see a part of history in the making.

It was back in the early '90s that I was stationed aboard the United States aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CVN-65). We were in dry dock at the time at Newport News Shipbuilding And Drydock Company in Newport News, Virginia, and when I reported for duty I must say that what I walked upon took my breath away. Besides her sheer size, which was impressive enough on her own, the fact that she was literally out of the water, propped up on huge wooden blocks was an amazing site to behold. It's an image I will never forget.

And still in the building phase next door to us was the brand new USS George Washington. It too was a remarkable site. In the end, that together these two ships became whole nearly side by side at Newport News, it seemed only fitting that they would find themselves docked alongside each other when they finally arrived at their new home at Norfolk Naval Base. The Enterprise was at Pier 11 North. The Washington was at Pier 11 South. Even newer, farther down in the yards, was the USS John C. Stennis, then nothing more than a skeleton frame.

On its own, the shipbuilding process is something of an amazing feat. It really is a massive undertaking requiring years of intense, detail oriented work, and thousands of highly skilled men and women to transform piles of indiscernable, shapeless iron and steel into a mighty warship. Watching that transformation unfold first-hand, and being a part of that process is something that will forever give me great pride, and pause.

Enterprise entered the yards in 1991 after a successful world tour, having sailed nearly 43,000 miles, visiting ports in the Phillipine Islands, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, and she even made a brief stop in Ft.Lauderdale. Already a major fixture in American naval history, it was during her time in Newport News that she would make yet more history, as she would undergo what would become one of the largest, most complex overhauls ever to be attempted.

Onboard we called it SOAR, or ship's overhaul and rehabilitation. It was a part of SLEP, or the service life extension program. It was also known as RCOH, or refueling and complex overhaul.

Whatever the acronym, the USS Enterprise was set to get a makeover unlike any other. She'd have new radar systems, new weapons systems, and rebuilt catapult systems. For all practical purposes, the Enterprise would be stripped down nearly to her bare bones. All of the officer's staterooms, regular crew's berthing compartments, mess decks, and heads—everything was getting a facelift. Even her length would be increased from 1,101 ft. to 1,123 ft.

When all was said and done, Enterprise would be as long as four football fields, or nearly 1/4 of a mile from fore to stern.

Photo by Jim Bauer copyright 1994, USS Enterprise back in the water at Newport News, VA
Photo by Jim Bauer copyright 1994, USS Enterprise back in the water at Newport News, VA

Of course there was enormous cost attached to the entire project as well. Many times I can remember admirals charged with appropriations coming aboard who were there to determine that the money being spent was justified. At any time they could have pulled the plug on the entire operation if they came away with the idea that rebuilding the Enterprise was something of an impossible dream. After all, taxpayers were going to have to shell out billions of dollars more to rebuild the USS Enterprise than it would have ever cost to simply scrap her and build a new one. And certainly the process took longer, adding yet more cost. When her first beam of steel was laid in 1958 it only took around 2 1/2 years to build her. She would spend nearly four years in SLEP by the time she finally left for sea trials in 1994.

From purely an economic perspective, it would have made perfect sense to retire her. She's certainly the oldest ship still active in the entire fleet. Commissioned in November 1961, that makes The Big "E," as she is affectionately called, 49 years old. And over her long life she's already cost us a ton of money. If you count her initial construction cost adjusted for inflation, and the cost of a couple of re-fittings, she is perhaps, also the most expensive ship ever built. Even during her construction the Enterprise's price tag curtailed the building of five other naval ships at the time. The last life extension won't be paid off until around 2014, though ironically she is scheduled to be decommissioned in just 2013.

USS Enterprise (CVN-65) patch
USS Enterprise (CVN-65) patch

What keeps the Enterprise afloat now, and what kept its complex overhaul afloat then, is Enterprise's very place in historical chronicles spanning more than 100 years. There have been 8 naval vessels in U.S. Naval history to bear the name Enterprise. Even after the current Big E embarks on her final voyage, I have every reason to believe that she will not be the last to be so named. It is entirely possible, as well, that the next Enterprise could lead the way in a line of an entirely new class of aircraft carriers. In a way, It would seem rather fitting. After all, the current Enterprise has always been in a class of her own in size, and in hull design. She was the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to ever be built, and before the newer Nimitz-Class carriers, she was also the largest warship in the fleet.

Every sailor has a love for his ship. But no ship in the fleet is more endeared than the ones which have ever beared the name Enterprise.

The Big E
The Big E
US Navy Insignia
US Navy Insignia

I served in the United States Navy for only a short four years between 1992 and 1996. I was with the Enterprise through most of the SLEP, and went with her for sea trials and flight deck recertification after she left Newport News in '94.

As I said before, most sailors get to see the world. They get to travel to faraway, exotic places. And perhaps somewhere there is still a part of me that wants to have experienced such travels as well. I know it would have been fantastic. My father served in the navy for 23-years, and he always had a story to tell.

Still, I was a part of history. I was witness to the makings of a mighty vessel. I was part of a dedicated crew of United States Navy sailors who worked day and night alongside master shipbuilders to return to sea, and to return to the service of her country, one of the greatest, most historical warships ever to set sail in American naval history.

For that I have no regrets. I have only a profound sense of pride, and I wouldn't trade that for the world.

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Comments 43 comments

GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 6 years ago from USA

Springboard - Pride is good to have when what you are proud about is something for which pride is appropriate. A great article, this one. I worked for a year on TDY with a whole bunch of Navy guys who had pride in where they came from. It was the nuclear submarine school in Groton, CT, which they called, "Rickover's College of Knowledge." We had the same feelings at our USAF School of Aerospace Medicine. HmrJmr1 (a Hubber ) had it at FOB Hammer in Iraq. Happy New Year.

Gus :-)))


Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin Author

It is certainly a time in my life I will always have great appreciation for. Thanks for stopping by and sharing a comment.


Muderboy profile image

Muderboy 6 years ago from Glendale, AZ

I was in Viet Nam in '69 to '71, aboard the USS Dubuque, an LPD(Large Plastic Duck, we used to joke). LPD is for Landing Dock Platform - essentially an oversized LST. We used to pull Marines out of the bush, for reassignment and leave, or liberty. In '70, we anchored in Hong Kong harbor to help run liberty boats for the big "E", but I never got aboard. I did, however visit a friend aboard the USS Kitty Hawk, in San Diego, during my tour, and was amazed at the size of the thing. It's pretty much the same size as the big E, but not a nuke. If my friend hadn't been escorting me, I would have probably been lost forever. I don't talk about that war much, as it was a bad time in our nation's history, but I served with pride and have no regrets.


Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Funny you mention Kitty Hawk. Was certainly an amazing ship. My dad was actually stationed aboard her so I got to tool around her quite a bit when I was a kid. My first cruise on an aircraft carrier was in 1982 during a tiger cruise on the USS Ranger with my dad, then an operations specialist chief. I flew to Honolulu, then we sailed back to San Diego.

Small world. :)


Muderboy profile image

Muderboy 6 years ago from Glendale, AZ

I also remember one time when we were docked in Subic bay, in the Phillipenes. I was a Machinist's Mate 3rd and was dispatced to an older carrier - The USS Constitution, if memory serves - to get a salt water recirc pump repaired. This carrier was old, but huge, as well - but nowhere near the size of KH or Enterprise. This was before I went aboard Kitty Hawk, and it's size was truly amazing. You can't really tell people how big these ships truly are. They are much larger in real life, trust us on this...


maven101 profile image

maven101 6 years ago from Northern Arizona

I actually spent a night aboard Enterprise in 1967 or early 1968...The ship was in Dixie ( Southern Vietnam ) and was providing close air support for 1st Marine Div operations...I was a liaison officer attached to Division S-2 and was given a quick tour of this hugh ship....Being 6'5" I was very careful transversing the decks and entering spaces...What a treat...the first nuke carrier, with the most motivated crew I had ever encountered in the fleet...Needless to say, their support was OUTSTANDING...Larry


bearclawmedia profile image

bearclawmedia 6 years ago from Mining Planet Earth

Top hub mate! Loved the ship was airlifted to her once upon a time ago. What a site it was. Thanks for this a little piece of time. Oh ya why are all the star trek stories of her name sake.? Probably because she was the biggest and the best. Bearclaw


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

Hi, My mum and dad were in the forces and my uncle. My dad was in the army and my mum and uncle were in the airforce. But I always said If I could go into anything, it would be the Navy, but unfortunately I had asthma and didn't do it. You were very lucky. cheers Nell


Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Maven, what a small world. I was in S-3 division.

One thing I think would be interesting, and I'm sure they'll do it, is to have a reunion before she gets decommed. At least I hope so. It'd be nice to see her one last time.

Bearclaw—I agree with you wholeheartedly. :)

Thanks to everyone for sharing your comments.


maven101 profile image

maven101 6 years ago from Northern Arizona

Springboard...I was attached to S 2, 1st Mar. Div., not the ships' S 2...We were giving briefings to your air crew for direct air support of our operations...Larry


Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Ah. Okay, well then I'll just say it's a small world we both stood aboard her. :)


maven101 profile image

maven101 6 years ago from Northern Arizona

Springboard...Indeed, we shared time with a magnificent ship with a crew that was totally dedicated to the mission..the skipper in 68' was a tall man with a great sense of humor...all the crew spoke highly of this man and I could understand why...they were motivated by his enthusiasm and commitment to supporting my Marines ....This is really bringing back a lot of memories that I had buried from a time that was most unpleasant...Larry


zzron profile image

zzron 6 years ago from Houston, TX.

Nice hub, I was also in the Navy from 1980-1982 on the USS Wabash AOR-5. We refueled the Kitty Hawk and the Nimitz and I think the Enterprise maybe once. Thanks for your service.


e-lyl 6 years ago

I reported to the USS Ranger, CVA 61 in 1966. At the time she was in drydock at Bremerton, WA. I know what you mean by breathtaking.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

Those are great ship I had ever seen. US people must be proud have this heritage.


Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Very much so. Thanks for stopping by prasetio.


UltimateWealth360 6 years ago

Escorted the USS Enterprise to the Gulf abour USS Vincennes GC-49.

What a cruise...were you in operation Valiant Blitz when the Vincennes had a collision doing unrep operations?

FC2 Danny C. Denney

If you like to travel check this out! http://www.travel5starforless.com/allinclusivetrav...


Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin Author

No, sure wasn't, but that must have been an interesting event to be sure. :) I was aboard Enterprise between 1992-1996. Thanks for stopping by.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Great piece of Naval history here. Loved the pictures and the story. Yep I remember the smell of diesel fuel and iron and rust. Memories I'll always associate with a Navy yard.


Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Yes, there was always a distinct smell about the ship. I sort of miss that, actually. Thanks for reminding me of it. :)


MBA2010 profile image

MBA2010 6 years ago from North America

Thanks for the insight on my question a while back, I really liked the education about the USS Enterprise hope to follow you and learn more.


Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin Author

I'm always glad to try and offer something useful...now if I could just keep my wife convinced of my usefulness. ;)


OsteenWater 6 years ago

I was aboard the "Big E" from 91-95, I worked for the Transportation Div as part of OPS. We ran the buses for shuttling all the Sailors to and from work and providing shuttles throughout the shipyard. I went down in the drydock one day and was amazed at how big it was. I felt like the STAR WARS beginning where the ship came overhead.

OS2 SW/AW Scott


Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Small world. I was probably on your bus more than once. :) You probably knew OS2 Story as well. He stands out for me because he's usually the one who ran my watches when I had to do port aft lookout for low vis and entering/departing port before I made rank.

SH3 (SW) Jim Bauer


Cy V profile image

Cy V 6 years ago

Oh wow! You were aboard the "Big E!" Cool stuff.


Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Yes. It was a great experience I will never forget. I will be sad on the day she is decomissioned.


LCPL/IC3 Hahn,David Charles former USN/USMC 5 years ago

I am looking 4 a few friends. I was in the USN as well as the USMC. USN 1998-2002. Hector Perez the second Avaition/gear dog(Willis Texas)/ James Wagner the Second Toledo OHIO/ Bryan Byrnes Avaition Arizona. Deck dept. Pennington, Childers etc... I was in charge of females in Deck Dept (fine as women, I can say). Captain Chanick (1998-2002). God bless my friend MACKY who lost his life on the flight deck of the USS enterprise CVN-65. I am David Charles Hahn (THE RADIOACTIVE BOYSCOUT). I was onboard for Desert FOX and I had a chance to see George Bush SENIOR, in Dubai Saudia Arabia. I would love to find my friends in Deck Departiment BM1 PUENTA, and all my friends in DECK departiment, INTERIOR COMMUNICATIONS and NUKES (NUCLEAR DIVISION). God Bless U all (WHEREEVER YOU MAY BE).


Hahn, David Charles (THE RADIOACTIVE BOYSCOUT) 5 years ago

I am looking for friends when I was in the Marine Corps (Camp Lejeune) and Camp Hanson Oakinawa Japan. LCPL David Charles Hahn. Looking 4. LCPL Haber (Motor Transportation). (2003-2005 A.D.) Lance Corporal OLIVER, Sergeant Edwards, (FORT LEONardwood, MO. I David Charles Hahn (377-98-8312). was involved in a (spin-off) experiment following the Philidalephia experiment. I was stationed where the U.SS ELDRIDGE had been TELEPORTED into HYPERSPACE. Shortly my TEAM was dissolved in the United States Navy/ all of my team members were separated. After 4 honorable years in Norfolk, Virginia, I David C. Hahn had completed a science degree at Macomb Community College in Macomb County Michigan. Shortly after that I David C. Hahn had enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. Bythat time, my TEAM was completely dissolved and scattered, due to the high success rate of my time travel information transfer while dedicated and present within the United States Navy. Stolen TESLA documents were recovered MEMORIZED and destroyed from Russian Intellegence. The mission was to keep the United States Of America free "land of the free". There were many "global" leaders that had taken a stance to keep the United States from being Free. As far as the enclosed information goes, I am comminicating to you from the past. A system has been put in place to exchange information through time, itself. Many other countries have attempted to infiltrate this advanced form of communication through time but failes. I have done all that I can do ,at this time without causing many fluctuations or distortions throughout the time line. However, the time comphensation unit of matter/flux has taken quite a beeting due to a global race to send, distort and receive information, trough time, itself. At this time all governments have the equation to transfer information throughout time. I pray that the United States Of America has been pushed and coordinated into the best future reality possible. As it was told to me in the past. (TIME), it doesen"t work that way. I accepted that, however, there is still a way to manipulate time and transfer information in the form of blank to gain control and establish order and the best reality possible for the United States Of America. GOD bless us all. David Hahn THE RADIOACTIVE BOYSCOUT TESLA 3.


Springboard profile image

Springboard 5 years ago from Wisconsin Author

I wish you the best in finding your old shipmates. I've been rather curious whatever happened to many of the friends I served with as well, though I've run into at least 3 of them since I've been out. Small world.


James Wagner 5 years ago

I am looking for one David C. Hahn, if you find this, please contact me at 4cesmoker@gmail.com .

Also, I am looking for one Hector Perez, same as above, please contact.

God Bless the Sweeping Community

God Bless America

-The JEW


Springboard profile image

Springboard 5 years ago from Wisconsin Author

I hope you find who you are looking for. One thing is true, the Internet has a way of reconnecting people. Facebook is another great way to reconnect with old friends.


navee8or 5 years ago

It took a year and a half of training to fill my role as a crewman of this famous ship that such a famous liniage and a reputation to stand up to .After all ENTERPRISE was the mark that all others were compared to. As a nuclear plant operator, I took special pride because of the privilege I earned to work in the engineering spaces. God bless ENTERPRISE and all who sailed on her.


Springboard profile image

Springboard 5 years ago from Wisconsin Author

I'll second that. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to share your experience aboard her.


UNKNOWN 4 years ago

I served onboard U.S.S. Enterprise (CVN-65) 1998 to 2002. I am a vet (now) and have a question for my shipmates. I would like to know the reason while the entire aircraft carrier was turned around , while we were hours away from docking in England? On that trip, I believe that we visited turkey, spain (Madrid), Cannes , France, saudia Arabia st. Thomas islands. If you were there or possibly in intell, you would know what the F happened. It was as if some shipmates (??????), lives may have been in danger if we pulled into England! Look, if you served onboard during that time, you know this is valid stuff. Please contact me (even anomyous) if you have any information. This may have been the start of something serious (internationally). Please email me at Uranight@yahoo.com.


ANOMYOUS 4 years ago

Dear shipmates, it's been awhile. Some serious events occurred from 1998-2002, onboard. Childers, pennington , Hayden or girls (deck dept), please call me and let me knoe how things turned out. Any of my research team, please call me, as well and let me know how things are going. I would like to talk about the 'good days'. I guess 'we made the best attempt' to keep all countries from uniting! I am not sure exactly 'exactly what reality' we ended up in ,I just HOPE the struggle was worth it. Maby the entire ordeal was limited to a file ,somewhere. I guess manipulation of time and space is dangerous. Who knows, maby the current or future enterprise personell will be able to correct all the disasters we have encountered. If anyone asks you (no matter where you worked or who you are), just play stupid that's probably the safest bet.


David Hahn USN/USMC(RET) 4 years ago

Our scientific team is still looking for (1998-02) Hector Perez (Gear Dog) (Wills,TX), Bryan Byrnes (Arizona), Vieweg ( Supply dept)/ Pennington, childers, Hayden, Corbett, Deck dept shipmates, Sharp Jebbidiah? Intel, Denny (bird seed Denny, bird seed), . James it was good to tak to you. I am still looking for all the others. IT3 Santos, Booth Ahishville Pennsylvania /Deck Dept, Grigsby Deck Dept, Petty officer Tuck /Deck/ Thomas /Deck Dept, and all my friends Deck dept/ Engineering/ Gear dogs and nukes, hopefully we will see each other again. PJT:Montauk friends, T.T.I. instute friends, etc.. It was really good working with you all. I hope you all have bright futures. Since, Norfolk, I was based in Camp Lejeune, NC (03-05), Okinawa, Japan, Ft. Leonardwood, MO as well as the standard Turkey, Italy, Spain, Greece, St. Thomas islands, France, saudia arabia (Dubai, Jabalalee?).


David Hahn 4 years ago

DESEART FOX "It took 14 years to figure out what the heck was going om"!

Every good soldier 'follows orders'. However, a 'shipmate' 'soldier' etc spends most of (his or her) own time, to themselves. In my case, I carried on with 'near impossible/ research', during this conflict. I lost a lot of good friends and 'was kept in the dark'. I am greatful that I am starting to locate some of my old research associates, friends and aquaintainces. On a personal note, I still believe that the 'persons in charge of America), '1998-2002', made decisions that "ULTIMATLY" was best for America. Who knows how many 'possible/potential' future outcomes a single country may or (may not) have. Since 1998 A.D., it seems that America and "American's" are just not the same. It does not matter how much control or power 'a person has", it appears that the "Over-whelming situation (or conclusion) dictates the end of a justified (MEANS).


David Hahn 4 years ago

It was really cool to develop theories on time travel, electromagnetism (para/dia), gravatonic generators, photonic accelerators, positronic energy generation etc... .. It's really nice in theory. In reality , I am sure that all the potential experiments would be 'a far cry from cost effective'. Regardless, I believe that America is leading the scientific race, in international terms. Unfortunatly (and 4 a good reason/ scientific integrity ) we will never really know cause I am sure all that stuff is kept secret and'or heavily guarded.


David Hahn 4 years ago

I was a petty officer in Deck dept for a while. During this time I was in charge of a few females. It would be nice to talk to ya, all, sometime. Pennington, Hayden etcc.. It's a small world, Childers was also in deck dept(00-02).. I joined USMC, Lejeune,NC in 2004, a few months later, I was at Ft. :eonardwood (Army Base) for Motor0T (Truck driver). One night, I walked to the smoke deck (outside) between the CB's and Motor-T. Amazingly, Childers (from the USS Enterprise CVN-65 Deck dept, is sitting down there. I said "What the heck are you doing here? She seemed a little spaced out or something. She told me that she had re-enlisted and had to drive a bunch of marines somewhere. Antway, is anyone knows my old buddy "Neil Evans"DECK DEPT, tell him I am looking for him.


Carbon Lifeform 3 years ago

As a simplistic Carbon lifeform, I realize that my entire intellectual region of my brain, memories , emotions, estimation capability etc.. will "Ultimately" be converted into dust. I guess every life-form on earth is the equivalent of a pre- recyclable aluminum can. Nothing good, lasts "FOREVER", is that what they say? I have observed many angry, heteful, jealous, invy-ous and discriminatory people during my journey through life. I have had thou sands of people attempt to be-little me and place themselves in an "all knowing / all powerful" dominating position within my presence. I can only "PREY" that there is some sort of "HIGHER POWER" who, truly has some type/form of compassion for humans. their companions and all creatures on planet earth. There will probably be many )many) important "relevant experiments pertaining to the eternal spiritual existence of mankind" that may never occur. May never occur, due to the mis-guided orders that come from some unknown location. Keep in mind it is "extremely and highly probable that "ABSOLUTLY NOTHING HAS EVER EXISTED, WILL EXIST OR WILL EVER EXIST! However, matter and ("at least" Carbon life exists! So, at one time ( to be more specific from the beginning to the ending of one certain existence / very near are same space/ time coordinates) "ABSOLUTLY NOTHING EVER EXISTED"! How many more beginning of time and ending of time does it take before man learns how to convert himself to an eternal/ spiritual existence???????? ??? ??? ?????. The purpose, reason and or goal????? Who know how relevant that would be. Maby, to ensure mankind has a chance to see himself re-born in another existence, convert himself into an "everlasting being", or just possibly guard and "watch over" the endless beginnings and endings of time "itself" and possibly/potentially ensure that the " HIGHLY PROBABLE NOTHING THAT MAY EVENTUALLY/ETERNALLY WILL FORM DOES NOT DOMINATE AND SILENCE ALL". All the knowledge and power of our existence could be possible futile without application and experimentation. Some say knowledge is power! All the knowledge in the UNIVERSE is "ABSOLUTLY IRRELEVANT " UNTIL UTILIZED, APPLIED and PLACED IN A TANGIBLE - LIKE KINETIC MOTION, WITHIN OUR REALITY OF EXISTENCE OR DWELLING.


Hahn,D USN/USMC 3 years ago

98-02 Looks like some folks have been working really hard. Apearently, the Big E will be getting underway again,soon. Word out, is that super-computers like Titan 3 will be somewhat "self aware" in the next 10-30 years???? ?? ??


BM3 Charles Abbott 2 years ago

I am proud to say I got to spend four years aboard the Big E from 1973 to 1977 and went places done things most people only dream of. I got to stear the ship for over 2,000 hour's. I look at pictures and can still see me driving her. I'm still looking for old ship mates from 2nd Division, Deck Department. E-Mail me @ cabbott53@gmail to talk about the good old days.


DP2 Paul Brown 10 months ago

We also went to Rio De Janiero and St. Thomas on that round the world cruise...

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