Easily the most distinguished carrier of the Pacific War, the 'Big E' played a major role in the US Navy's victory and epitomized the new type of warfare. The USS Enterprise (CV.6) was the second of the 'Yorktown' class, and joined the Pacific Fleet in 1938. Fortunately she and the other two carriers of the Pacific Fleet were away from Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 when the Japanese attacked. When they returned to Oahu they were immediately put into the front line, for the battle fleet no longer existed. Three days afterwards the Enterprise's aircraft sank the submarine I-170, the first Japanese submarine to be destroyed. The Enterprise escorted her sister Hornet on the Tokyo Raid in April 1942 but did not embark B-25 bombers as her aircraft were to be used to sink the Japanese early warning picket line.
Neither carrier was back in time for the Battle of the Coral Sea in the following month, but they joined the Yorktown in time for Midway in June. Here the Douglas SBD Dauntlesses from the Enterprise sank the carriers Kaga and Akagi, and Yorktown's Dauntlesses flying off Enterprise's deck joined the group which sank the Hiryu. Two days later the Enterprise's dive-bombers sank the heavy cruiser Mikuma and damaged the cruiser Mogami and two destroyers. The Enterprise covered the Guadalcanal landings in August 1942, and her aircraft shot down 17 Japanese aircraft in two days. During the Battle of the Eastern Solomons on 24 August she was hit by three bombs, and returned to Pearl Harbor for two months' repairs.
In the Battle of Santa Cruz on 26 October she once again took three hits, but was still able to operate her aircraft, and as she was now the only US carrier left she had to remain in the forward area. On 13 November her Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bombers finished off the damaged battleship Hiei, and next day devastated a troop convoy of 11 ships with no fewer than 26 bomb and'six torpedo hits, Enterprise was finally given lengthy repairs in the United States and did not return to the Pacific until mid-1943. On 25 November 1943 one of her Avengers achieved the world's first night 'kill' at sea, She took part in the massive strike on Truk in February 1944, and inthe famous 'Marianas Turkey Shoot' during the Battle of the Philippine Sea the following June. She continued in action into 1945, surviving two kamikaze attacks. A third kamikaze strike on 14 May finally brought her career to an end, for she had to return to the United States for major repairs. As the holder of 19 Battle Stars the 'Big E' was a candidate for preservation as a memorial, but efforts to save her came to nothing and in 1958 she was sold for scrap, releasing her name for the first nuclear carrier.
Specification USS Enterprise (CV.6)
Displacement: 19,800 tons standard, 25,500 tons full load
Dimensions: length 246.74m (809 ft 6 in); beam 34.75m (114 ft 0 in) over flight deck; draught 8.84 m (29 ft 0 in)
Machinery: 4-shaft geared steam turbines delivering 89520 KW (120,000 shp)
Speed: 33 knots
Armour: belt 102 mm (4 in); main deck 76 mm (3 in); lower deck 25-76 mm (1-3 in)
Armament: (1942) eight 127-mm (5-m) AA, four quadruple 27.94-mm (1.1-in) AA and 16 12.7mm (0.5-in) machineguns
Aircraft: (1942) 27 fighters, 37 divebombers and 15 torpedo-bombers
Complement: 2,919 officers and enlisted men