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Friday, 05 August 2011

The Sinking of the Enterprise

By Nancy Leitz

USS Enterprise (CVN-65), formerly CVA(N)-65, is the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and the eighth US naval vessel to bear the name.

Like her predecessor of World War II fame, she is nicknamed the "Big E". At 1,123 ft (342 m)[3], she is the longest naval vessel in the world. Her 93,284 long tons (94,781 t)[2] displacement ranks her as the 11th-heaviest supercarrier, after the 10 carriers of the Nimitz class.

Our family has always felt a great closeness to the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, The Enterprise. She was built at the Newport News, Virginia, shipyard and based at Norfolk Naval Base.

In 1962, we were also in the Newport News/Norfolk area (in Hampton) and often had the opportunity to see the Big E as she made her way to sea or came home through the waters of Hampton Roads.

It was during the Cuban missile Crisis of October 1962, that the Enterprise was called to sea duty to help form a blockade of Cuba. This was ordered by President John F. Kennedy to prevent the Soviet Union from establishing nuclear weapons of the island of Cuba, which was under the dictatorship of Fidel Castro.

As an aside, Cuba in 2010 as I write this is still under the dictatorship of Fidel Castro.

On a beautiful October morning, Jerry and I went to the Chamberlain Hotel grounds at Fort Monroe (all of the other children were in school) and we waited for Roy to join us because we knew the Big E was leaving and we wanted to see her off.

So, the three of us settled down to wait for our favorite ship. Then, there she was. Big and beautiful with all hands on deck smiling and waving back at the people on the hotel grounds and at Fort Monroe who were also there to see the Enterprise off.

Luckily, the Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved diplomatically by President Kennedy and the Big E soon returned to her home in Norfolk and our family was again part of the “Welcome Home” party that crowded the shore of Hampton Roads. She was a sight to behold as she streamed so gracefully past our group of admirers.

The next year (1963) when it was time for Christmas shopping, I saw a model of the Enterprise in the Hobby Shop and thought that would be a wonderful gift for Steve. He was just the right age (10) to assemble this beautiful ship with his dad’s help.

It had hundreds of pieces and decals and we knew it would take months to put it all together but it was a task that Roy and Steve would enjoy doing.

They worked all winter on the model and by that summer the Enterprise was finished and being prepared for her shake-down cruise on the Perkiomen Creek. We still had our summer cottage there in Pennsylvania and came up from Virginia as often as we could to visit friends and family. The Big E would have her maiden voyage there.

The big day arrived and Steve put the Enterprise in the water and she was “ship shape.” The whole family was there to see her take her first cruise down the Perk and we all gave her a big salute as she sailed away from our pier.

Steve and the other boys sailed the Enterprise up and down the Perk every day. Even in that little stream it was a something to see. It was all decked out with the number 65 in huge numbers on her deck and her flag was flying and the planes on her deck were all fitted out with Navy decals. She was a beauty and we all loved that ship.

Steve sailed the Big E every summer for the next 4 years. When he was 15 he decided it was time to retire her but that was a problem. How do you retire a ship you had built with your own hands and had sailed for many years?

He spent a lot of time that summer figuring out the best way to retire the Enterprise. Finally, he had his plan but would not tell us what he planned to do. We would just have to wait until he was ready.

He went to the Hobby Store and bought some supplies but again, we were not let in on his plan. He worked on the ship in secret and then, one day he announced that it was time to reveal his intentions regarding the beloved Enterprise.

He told us only that he was going to shoot it out of the water with his BB gun. We were SHOCKED! Blow his ship out of the water! Unbelievable - but he said it was true and to come to the water at 2PM and the sinking would begin.

He had the Enterprise all covered over and with his BB gun in his hand he approached the water’s edge. He put the ship in the water and removed the cover.

IT WAS NO LONGER THE ENTERPRISE! It had been repainted and decal-ed with rising suns and was now called the Shokaku Aircraft Carrier of the Japanese Fleet.

The planes on her deck were B5N torpedo bombers exactly like those that took off from the real Shokaku on December 7, 1941, to bomb Pearl Harbor.

We all stood back as Steve took careful aim at the carrier and with BBs flying he blew the aircraft carrier out of the water. It took a lot of shots to sink her and the other kids each took a turn with the gun.

Nobody was surprised that Steve could not shoot up the Enterprise. He loved that ship and we all thought his solution was ingenious and fun!

The real USS Enterprise is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2014. I seriously doubt the Navy will be asking for Steve’s advice on procedure.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Great story, Nancy!! (as usual)
Have I told you that we lived in Norfolk near that time? I moved there in 1963 and we left in 1969.

I don't know a sailor that wouldn't love this story. And, as usual, you told it very well. Always overjoyed to read any of your stories.

Great story, Nancy! That was very inventive way for Steve to dispose of 'the Enterprise'!

I loved this story, Nancy, because my brother and my son served on Navy ships.

My son was on several aircraft carriers like the Enterprise (I think one was the U.S.S. Independence)as a member of the Navy band. I asked him where his battle station was and he said "My rack." I guess the musicians were to just get the H--- out of the way during a battle.

Judy: Yes, I did know that you and I were in the Hampton Roads area at the same time. We were at NASA in Langley Air Force Base.A very exciting time when everyone had "Moon Fever".

Annie: I hope all the sailors who read this love it,too. We really admired the Officers and Men of the Enterprise and thanks for reading the story.

Grannymar: We were truly shocked when Steve took the cover off of that ship and it was no longer the Enterprise!
I have never forgotten that moment...Steve is a Grandfather now and will soon be taking those two little girls to play in the Perkiomen.

Darlene: I know you must be proud of your brother and son for their service in the Navy. My Brother (The Pope) was on a Destroyer Escort in the battle of the Coral Sea and loved to tell us about his adventures.

Nancy - I often regret the disappearance of many of my childhood toys - some for nostalgic reasons, others ecause they have become collectibles. I have no idea where they all went, but I am fairly sure I didn't blow them up!

Great story! - Sandy

Hi Sandy,

I know what you mean about wondering what became of some of your childhood toys.

I wish I had a few of mine back..Like the Shirley Temple doll...or the Dionne Quintuplets Paper Dolls....

AND, there were some That I wish I HAD blown up, like the Orphan Annie Secret Code Ring that I saved up for and could not wait to get..Then, when I got it, the secret code spelled out DRINK OVALTINE.

Did boys go through this,too?

Nancy - We sure did!

My Captain Midnight secret code badges required a label from a jar of Ovaltine. My mother purchased the jar on condition that I drink it - and she followed up and made me do so!

Yuk! - Sandy

Hey Sandy,

Do you suppose that drinking Ovaltine in our youth is the reson we are still alive and kicking about it now?

Between the Ovaltine and the Cod Liver Oil,it's a wonder any of us lived to tell the tale...

Nancy - No way! I nearly threw up every time I swallowed! - Sandy

Yes, Sandy, but you are still alive to tell us about it!

My brother loved Captain America and always told me that the show predicted that the Japanese would attack us.

His favorites were Fury Shark,daughter of the villainous Ivan Shark.Do you remember them?

Steve's plan was perfect! What a clever guy. This was such a sweet and touching story Nancy. My dad was in the Navy on these kind of ships. My BIL use to love to make model ships and airplanes...and had quite a large collection of them.

Nancy - Despite my mother's diligence, very little of my Ovaltine ended up inside of me. A lot of the powder was put in my pockets for future disposal, and a good deal of the liquid was sneakily poured into the flower pot holding a large camellia plant in the dining room.

Come to think of it, that camellia today still thrives to this day in our Salem home!

Hmmm! - Sandy

Joy: Thanks for reading the story and for your nice comment.

With all the rain and flooding you have been having I guess you feel like you could use the Navy to get around.


I got a huge laugh at your confession regarding where the Ovaltine ended up.

At least you and the camellia plant are still living and flourishing...

I am probably more in awe of the fact that your son built one of those models. My brother got a model kit once, as a gift from a relative. He took one look at all the miniscule parts and the closely printed directions and put everything back in the box. I think we regifted it at a kid party or to a Not Forgotten Box sometime later. (Not a Patient Lot, our family!)


Roy and our boys loved to build models. The more complicated the better.

They built HO model trains for years and some of the parts were almost microscopic.

One time they dropped a small spring from a locomotive and about 5 of us were crawling around on the kitchen floor looking for it when a neighbor walked in and thought we were all crazy.Especially since we were all shouting at him "Don't walk in here!"

We found it when the cat batted it across the kitchen floor with his paw.Good kitty!

Speaking of "regifting" we always opened birthday party gifts very carefully so the box was still nice when we gave it to the next kid at HIS party.

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