The aircraft carriers of the US Navy: the USS Enterprise (CV-6)

(To Francesco Sisto)

The USS Enterprise (CV-6) was a carrier-class aircraft Yorktown – of the US Navy active in the Second World War. From Pearl Harbor to Okinawa, theEnterprise took part in almost all air and naval operations in the Pacific.

THEEnterprise she was the seventh ship to be christened with this name and the sixth aircraft carrier in the US Navy. Additionally, she was one of only 3 pre-war US aircraft carriers to survive the entire war period (the others were USS Saratoga and the USS Cleaning). He had several nicknames, and among them were The Big E e The Gray Ghost.

The USS Enterprise she was ordered in 1933, designed and engineered in 1934 at the Newport News Shipbuilding shipyard in Virginia and launched in 1936. She was delivered to the Navy on May 12, 1938.

It is good to remember the Enterprise she was sister ship to USS Yorktown (CV-5), the latter had entered service eight months earlier (September 1937). They can be considered the first large such units designed as "aircraft carriers". Indeed, the USS Langley (CV-1) came from the transformation of a coal mine; the USS Lexington (CV-2) and the USS Saratoga (CV-3) began as battlecruisers; the USS Cleaning (CV-4) instead was considered - according to the navy technicians - too "light".

THEEnterprise she was the warship of the US Navy that took part in the largest number of operations during the conflict. Her planes tried to intercept Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carriers after the attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941), and three days later an SBD-2 bomber Dauntless ofEnterprise managed to destroy the Japanese submarine I-70.

Participated in the Battle of Midway (June 4-7, 1942) together with her "colleagues" Yorktown e Hornet, and supported the landings – which began in August 1942 – at Guadalcanal and Tulagi.

THEEnterprise she was damaged at the Battle of the Eastern Solomons (August 24-25, 1942) - in which the United States won a victory - and at the Battle of Santa Cruz (October 25-27, 1942). In this last battle the Japanese achieved a tactical victory. However, the Japanese were not able to destroy the naval forces of the US Navy, as was their plan, but the aircraft carrier Hornet – the most recent of the US Navy – was lost. This loss was very serious for the United States: the US Navy was left with only theEnterpriseand moreover damaged.

The situation was quite critical, given that no new aircraft carriers were about to leave the shipyards and theEnterprise – in fact – it would remain the only combat aircraft carrier of the US Navy in war theaters for a long time to come. This episode inspired a whole literature – patriotic and fictional – which “attributed every American hope and fear to the very survival of theEnterprise. In spite of some journalistic exaggerations, quite natural after all, the thing remained sadly exact and, speaking of theEnterprise, Eugene Burns wrote: “If even one remains, it will be that one”.1

Later, theEnterprise took part in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign and supported the landings at Kwajalein (January 29-February 3, 1944); on 17 February 1944 she attacked Truk (Caroline Islands) and on 26 March she began a series of attacks against Yap, Ulithi, Woleai and Palau (Caroline Islands). In April you supported the landings in the Hollandia area (New Guinea) and on 15 June that of Saipan (Mariana Islands).

THEEnterprise participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea (June 19-20, 1944) and the Battle of Leyte Gulf (October 23-26, 1944).

In Okinawa, in the spring of 1945, the aircraft carrier was damaged twice by kamikaze attacks: the first on 11 April, while the second on 14 May. The latter attack resulted in 13 dead and more than 60 wounded.

At the end of the war, the air force and artillery of theEnterprise they had shot down more than 900 enemy aircraft, sunk 71 ships and damaged 192 others.

The ship was decommissioned in February 1947, and finally broken up from 1958 to 1960.

THEEnterprise she had a displacement of 19.800 tons (standard), 25.500 tons (full load). From October 1943: 21.000 tons (standard), 32.060 tons (full load). Her length was 232 m floating (252,2 m maximum); the width was 25,3 m (34,8 m maximum). Her height was 45 m, draft 7,9 m.

Speed ​​was 32,5 knots (60,2 km/h), range 12.500 miles at 15 knots (23.200 km at 28 km/h).

Motor apparatus: gear turbines on 4 axes, powered by 9 boilers Babcock & Wilcox, power 120.000 HP.

Armament consisted of 127mm guns, 28mm guns, cannons Oerlikon 20mm, cannons Bofors 40 mm and machine guns M2 Browning by 12,7 mm.

It could carry up to 96 aircraft (80/90 on board average); it had 3 elevators, 2 hydraulic catapults on the flight deck and 1 hydraulic catapult on the hangar deck.

1 B. Millot, The Pacific War 1941-1945. The largest air-naval conflict in history, BUR, Milan, 2019, p.383-84

Photo: US Navy / web