Posted by: Waring Hills | 4 February 2011

World’s First Nuclear Aircraft Carrier!


Enterprise during sea trials 1962.

The keel of the world’s first nuclear aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CVN-65) was laid 04 February 1958. She was commissioned on 25 November 1961 as a CVAN (Nuclear Attack Carrier, changed by the Navy to CVN later). Today the “Big E” (nickname)  is our oldest commissioned warship and even has her own Facebook Page.

She began flight operations on 17 January 1962, when a F8U “Crusader” became the first airplane to trap (land) and be catapulted from her giant flight deck.  On 20 February 1962,  Enterprise literally entered the space age when she acted as a tracking and measuring station for the first American orbital flight of Friendship 7 carrying Lieutenant Colonel John H. Glenn , Jr, USMC, around the earth three times before his splashdown in the Atlantic.

Along with glory comes heartbreak and on 14 January 1969 an accident occurred on Enterprise’s flight deck while operating in Hawaiian waters. A massive fire started when a Zuni rocket accidentally exploded under the wing of a F-4 Phantom.  There were an additional 18 explosions from 500-lb. bombs cooking off, leaving 20-foot holes in the armored flight deck into which poured burning jet fuel leading to more fires inside the ship. Personnel losses were a devastating 28 dead, 343 wounded, and 15 aircraft were destroyed.


USS Enterprise burning in Hawaiian waters after a Zuni rocket exploded.

Here is a video of some of the damage…

Enterprise will likely be decommissioned in the next few years and be replaced by the USS Gerald Ford (CVN-78) and the first of a new class of nuclear carriers.


The original "Big E" patch





%d bloggers like this: