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World War II: USS Enterprise (CV-6)


World War II: USS Enterprise (CV-6)

USS Enterprise (CV-6), 1943

Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command

USS Enterprise (CV-6) - Overview:

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Aircraft Carrier
  • Shipyard: Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Company
  • Laid Down: July 16, 1934
  • Launched: October 3, 1936
  • Commissioned: May 12, 1938
  • Fate: Scrapped in 1958

USS Enterprise - Specifications

  • Displacement: 25,500 tons
  • Length: 824 ft., 9 in.
  • Beam: 109 ft., 6 in.
  • Draft: 25 ft., 11.5 in.
  • Propulsion: 4 × Parsons geared steam turbines, 9 × Babcock & Wilcox boilers, 4 × shafts
  • Speed: 32.5 knots
  • Range: 14,380 nautical miles at 15 knots
  • Complement: 2,217 men

USS Enterprise (CV-6) - Armament (as built):

  • 8 × single 5 in. guns
  • 4 × quad 1.1 in. guns
  • 24 × .50 caliber machine guns


  • 90 aircraft
  • USS Enterprise (CV-6) - Construction:

    Ordered by the US Navy in 1933, USS Enterprise was the second of three Yorktown-class aircraft carriers. Laid down on July 16, 1934 at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, work moved forward on the carrier's hull. On October 3, 1936, Enterprise was launched with Lulie Swanson, wife of Secretary of the Navy Claude Swanson, serving as sponsor. Over the next two years, workers completed the vessel and on May 12, 1938 it was commissioned with Captain N.H. White in command. Capable of carrying 90 aircraft, Enterprise possessed an armament centered on eight 5" guns and four 1.1" quad guns. This defensive armament would be enlarged and enhanced several times during the carrier's long career.

    USS Enterprise (CV-6) - Prewar Operations:

    Departing the Chesapeake Bay, Enterprise embarked on a shakedown cruise in the Atlantic which saw it make port at Rio de Janreiro, Brazil. Returning north, it later conducted operations in the Caribbean and off the East Coast. In April 1939, Enterprise received orders to join the US Pacific fleet at San Diego. Transiting the Panama Canal, it soon reached its new home port. In May 1940, with tensions with Japan rising, Enterprise and the fleet moved to their forward base at Pearl Harbor, HI. Over the next year, the carrier conducted training operations and transported aircraft to US bases around the Pacific. On November 28, 1941, it sailed for Wake Island to deliver aircraft to the island's garrison.

    USS Enterprise (CV-6) - Pearl Harbor:

    Near Hawaii on December 7, Enterprise launched 18 SBD Dauntless dive bombers and sent them to Pearl Harbor. These arrived over Pearl Harbor as the Japanese were conducting their surprise attack against the US fleet. Enterprise's aircraft immediately joined in the defense of the base and many were lost. Later in the day, the carrier launched a flight of six F4F Wildcat fighters. These arrived over Pearl Harbor and four were lost to friendly anti-aircraft fire. After a fruitless search for the Japanese fleet, Enterprise entered Pearl Harbor on December 8. Sailing the next morning, it patrolled west of Hawaii and its aircraft sank the Japanese submarine I-70.

    USS Enterprise (CV-6) - Early War Operations:

    In late December, Enterprise continued patrols near Hawaii while other US carriers unsuccessfully attempted to relieve Wake Island. In early 1942, the carrier escorted convoys to Samoa as well as conducted raids against the Marshall and Marcus Islands. Joining with USS Hornet in April, Enterprise provided cover for the other carrier as it carried Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle's force of B-25 Mitchell bombers towards Japan. Launched on April 18, the Doolittle Raid saw the American planes strike targets in Japan before proceeding west to China. Steaming east, the two carriers arrived back at Pearl Harbor later that month. On April 30, Enterprise sailed to reinforce the carriers USS Yorktown and USS Lexington in the Coral Sea. This mission was aborted as the Battle of the Coral Sea was fought before Enterprise arrived.

    USS Enterprise (CV-6) - Battle of Midway:

    Returning to Pearl Harbor on May 26 after a feint towards Nauru and Banaba, Enterprise was quickly readied to block an anticipated enemy attack on Midway. Serving as Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance's flagship, Enterprise sailed with Hornet on May 28. Taking a position near Midway, the carriers were soon joined by Yorktown. At the Battle of Midway on June 4, aircraft from Enterprise sank the Japanese carriers Akagi and Kaga. They later contributed to the sinking of the carrier Hiryu. A stunning American victory, Midway saw the Japanese lose four carriers in exchange for Yorktown which was badly damaged in the fighting and later lost to a submarine attack. Arriving at Pearl Harbor on June 13, Enterprise began a month-long overhaul.

    USS Enterprise (CV-6) - Southwest Pacific:

    Sailing on July 15, Enterprise joined Allied forces to support the invasion of Guadalcanal in early August. After covering the landings, Enterprise, along with USS Saratoga, took part in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons on August 24-25. Though the light Japanese carrier Ryujo was sunk, Enterprise took three bomb hits and was severely damaged. Returning to Pearl Harbor for repairs, the carrier was ready for sea by mid-October. Rejoining operations around the Solomons, Enterprise participated in the Battle of Santa Cruz on October 25-27. Despite taking two bomb hits, Enterprise remained operational and took aboard many of Hornet's aircraft after that carrier was sunk. Making repairs while underway, Enterprise remained in the region and its aircraft took part in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in November and the Battle of Rennell Island in January 1943. After operating from Espiritu Santo in the spring of 1943, Enterprise steamed for Pearl Harbor.

    USS Enterprise (CV-6) - Raiding:

    Arriving in port, Enterprise was presented with the Presidential Unit Citation by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. Proceeding to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, the carrier began an extensive overhaul which enhanced its defensive armament and saw the addition of an anti-torpedo blister to the hull. Joining the carriers of Task Force 58 that November, Enterprise took part in raids across the Pacific as well as introduced carrier-based night fighters to the Pacific. In February 1944, TF58 mounted as series of devastating attacks against Japanese warships and merchant vessels at Truk. Raiding through the spring, Enterprise provided air support for Allied landings at Hollandia, New Guinea in mid-April. Two months later, the carrier aided in attacks against the Marianas and covered the invasion of Saipan.

    USS Enterprise (CV-6) - Philippine Sea & Leyte Gulf:

    Responding to the American landings in the Marianas, the Japanese dispatched a large force of five fleet and four light carriers to turn back the enemy. Taking part in the resulting Battle of the Philippine Sea on June 19-20, Enterprise's aircraft aided in destroying over 600 Japanese aircraft and sinking three enemy carriers. Due to the lateness of the American attacks on the Japanese fleet, many aircraft returned home in darkness which greatly complicated their recovery. Remaining in the area until July 5, Enterprise aided operations ashore. After a brief overhaul at Pearl Harbor, the carrier commenced raids against the Volcano and Bonin Islands, as well as Yap, Ulithi, and Palau in late August and early September.

    The following month saw Enterprise's aircraft hitting targets in Okinawa, Formosa, and the Philippines. After providing cover for General Douglas MacArthur's landings on Leyte on October 20, Enterprise sailed for Ulithi but was recalled by Admiral William "Bull" Halsey due to reports that the Japanese were approaching. During the subsequent Battle of Leyte Gulf on October 23-26, planes from Enterprise attacked each of the three main Japanese naval forces. Following the Allied victory, the carrier conducted raids in the area before returning to Pearl Harbor in early December.

    USS Enterprise (CV-6) - Later Operations

    Putting to sea on Christmas Eve, Enterprise carried the fleet's only air group that was capable of night operations. As a result, the carrier's designation was changed to CV(N)-6. After operating in the South China Sea, Enterprise joined TF58 in February 1945 and took part in attacks around Tokyo. Moving south, the carrier used its day-night capability to provide support for the US Marines during the Battle of Iwo Jima. Returning to the Japanese coast in mid-March, Enterprise's aircraft attacked targets on Honshu, Kyushu, and in the Inland Sea. Arriving off Okinawa on April 5, it began air support operations for Allied forces fighting ashore. While off Okinawa, Enterprise was hit by two kamikazes, one on April 11 and the other on May 14. While the damage from first could be repaired at Ulithi, the damage from the second destroyed the carrier's forward elevator and required a return to Puget Sound.

    Entering the yard on June 7, Enterprise was still there when the war ended in August. Fully repaired, the carrier sailed for Pearl Harbor that fall and returned to the US with 1,100 servicemen. Ordered to the Atlantic, Enterprise put into New York before proceeding to Boston to have additional berthing installed. Taking part in Operation Magic Carpet, Enterprise commenced a series of voyages to Europe to bring home American forces. At the conclusion of these activities, Enterprise had transported over 10,000 men back to the United States. As the carrier was smaller and dated relative to its newer consorts, it was deactivated at New York on January 18, 1946 and fully decommissioned the following year. Over the next decade, attempts were made to preserve the "Big E" as a museum ship or memorial. Unfortunately, these efforts failed to raise enough money to buy the vessel from the US Navy and in 1958 it was sold for scrap. For its service in World War II, Enterprise received twenty battles stars, more than any other US warship. Its name was revived in 1961 with the commissioning of USS Enterprise (CVN-65).

    Selected Sources

  • DANFS: USS Enterprise (CV-6)
  • CV-6.org
  • USS Enterprise
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