The Empress of the Pacific

The name U.S.S. Enterprise has adorned the hulls of some of the greatest American ships. The revered name is ranked along the greatest in history; The Constellation and Constitution. The Air Craft Carrier U.S.S. Enterprise, commissioned May, 12 1938, was the most decorated ship in World War Two and all history. The most crucial ship in the Pacific Theater, the ship and her complement sunk a over an eighth of the Japanese fleet, the Enterprise was a dominant fighting force. With her steadfast crew of tempered American strength, the Big ‘E’ powered through enemy lines as the only operational air craft carrier for a portion of the war, keeping the Navy alive. She drove through enemy lines fighting in over twenty major Pacific Battles ending her career as the most prestigious ship in history. Each confrontation gained the ship more prestige and experience, it terrified the Japanese, a true titan on the water. The massive floating city of steel was why America won the War in the Pacific.

The morning of December 7th, 1941 the U.S.S. Enterprise was a maiden ship, pristine, all in order, well maintained. She was returning from a training mission transporting a navy squadron to Wake Island (Battle). As she steamed towards her home port a call came over the radio at 7:48 am. Pearl Harbor was under attack. Racing at her top speed of 32.5 knots (37.5Mph) she arrived to see the fleet in flames, the Japanese Zero fighters pulling away. Managing to knock one out of the sky the only full strength vessel in the harbor, after refueling, pursued the retreating planes(Battle). On December 10th off the port side, the Japanese submarine I-70 is spotted. Tense minutes went by as the two vessels danced in the Pacific water. Lt. E.L. Anderson dropped a 1000 pound bomb on the submarine, it remains at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean where it was struck (Anderson). The Enterprise had had its first taste of blood, the first taste of revenge. The enterprise was the power of the waters and she would not let the day be given to infamy.

During the war the Enterprise was tasked with raiding island facilities, ports, and supply ships. The Enterprise’s first raid was the raid on the Marshall Islands February 7, 1942. The targets were Kwahalen and Wotje, Japanese naval installments on the island. Four squadrons of aircraft composed of FD bombers, VD bombers, Wildcat fighter planes, and SBD’s made raids that day. The raids were an incredible success, the only losses were one man who was hit by shrapnel from a 500 pound bomb dropped from a Japanese plane that fell to the port side, and one SBD plane that never made it back. In total, fifty planes raided the Marshall Islands, they sunk a light cruiser, a large transport ship, several auxiliary supply ships and two other vessels were beached due to the injuries sustained by the raids (Commanding, Report).  The Japanese managed to attack with two bombing and torpedo raids but none of their bombs scored a hit. Eight attacking Japanese planes were shot down during the raid (Commanding, Report).  The Enterprise steamed away from the Marshall Islands with her complement of cruisers and destroyers twenty three hours after the beginning of the raid (Commanding, Report).

After the Marshall Island Raid the Enterprise received orders from Admiral Halsey that she and her complement would raid Wake and Marcus Islands. On February 12th the ship was in sight of Wake Island. The Commander of the Enterprise air group sent three divisions of six planes each on a dive bombing attack on a Japanese airfield installation and on the Peal Island radio tower(Hollingsworth). The raid went off without a hitch the raid found no resistance except for minimal machine gun fire , the Japanese anti-aircraft fire was “generally erratic and showed no evidence of director control.” according to the official action report(Hollingsworth). Eighteen 500 lb bombs and 36 100 lb bombs devastated the air field while Cruiser Fire slaughtered the ground forces. Within a day, the Enterprise was steaming to its next target, Marcus Island (Hollingsworth). The raid began March 4 at 6:40 a.m. With a three division seventeen plane force ordered in a bombing attack on “aircraft on the field, with secondary objective being any installations sighted, with particular regard for radio station, fuel tanks, hangars, and AA batteries.” so stated in the Action Report (Hollingsworth). The raid received nominal anti-aircraft fire and no other resistance. The Wildcat fighters left Marcus Island in flames, while no damage was sustained by American ships or personnel. For the next three months, no significant confrontation occurred between the Enterprise and Japanese forces, until orders came out from the Admiral in charge of the fleet that a massive Japanese Fleet was going to attack Midway Island. The Enterprise steamed at her top speed of 32.5 knots toward the island to meet with the rest of the fleet.

The battle at Midway Island was one of the most critical battles of the Pacific Theater for both the Enterprise and for the United states. The country achieved a monumental logistical and territorial gain against the empire of Japan and the fleet made a crippling blow against the Japanese fleet.

On the evening of June 3rd the American Task-force had assembled at Point Luck, 350 miles from Midway Island (Murray).  The Task-force split into two smaller task-forces centered around the Yorktown Class Aircraft Carriers. The first task-force centered around the U.S.S. Yorktown, the Second around U.S.S. Enterprise (Battle). The Task-force commander received word that Midway Island was under attack at 8pm and that the full Japanese Armada was bearing down on it (Murray).  Midway Island was a crucial territory that needed to be won in order for control of the Pacific. At 9:06 a.m. On June 4th the fleet engaged the Japanese. Admiral Yamamoto of the Japanese Fleet had two goals of the day. One, to take Midway Island, and two, to sink the three remaining American Aircraft Carriers that survived Pearl Harbor, the attack he himself had planned (Battle).

As the battle drew out it was clear that Yamamoto’s plan had failed at Midway, the Japanese fleet outnumbered the American fleet three to one, but as the fighting went on the Enterprise, her planes, and her supporting submarines,sister ships, destroyers, and battleships sunk four of the Japanese carriers, (the Akagi, Kaga,Hioryu, and Siryu sank by Enterprise) and one heavy cruiser (Battle). The bravery and the mettle of the American spirit shone through on that day taking several hits from bombs dropped by the Japanese the Enterprise received and endured her baptism of fire. However, the Japanese failed to destroy all of the carriers.  They only sunk the Yorktown. The battle lasted for three days during which the Enterprise lost thirty planes, but took over sixty Japanese aircraft (Murray). The American Fleet held the Island but lost the Commander of the Task-force who stayed on the Yorktown as it sank.

After Midway, Enterprise worked on repairs until it was ordered to assist in the invasion of Guadalcanal. The objective was to capture Henderson field, the main island, and several smaller islands surrounding the crucial “Iron-bottom Sound (Battle).”    The Enterprise landed fifty of her aircraft on the field that day. The Invasion of Guadalcanal was the largest American attack to the date with the carriers, The U.S.S. Wasp, the U.S.S. Saratoga, and the U.S.S. Enterprise, the Battleship U.S.S. Carolina, and twenty four support and transport ships. The Navy and Marines had a relatively easy time capturing the Island, however most of the Japanese force had retreated to the jungle earlier and caused nonstop fighting for six months (The Battle of Henderson Field) until the Battle of Guadalcanal. This was the beginning of the Guadalcanal campaign that the enterprise would not return to until February 1943, a year and six months later. As the Enterprise steamed away from what would be the most egregious naval battle known to man, she entered waters surrounding the Japanese controlled Solomon Islands.

The Battle of the Eastern Solomons began on August 24, 1942 at 9:45 a.m., 38 Japanese Torpedo bombers with a proportional amount of Zero fighters appeared in the skies above the Enterprise and Saratoga (Davis).  The enterprise was dive bombed by close to thirty planes and only sustained a hit from three (Davis).  The only bomb that did significant damage took out a front elevator and blew the a hole in the flight deck, killing 74 men and wounding 95 on the surrounding decks. Of the thirty estimated dive bombers the crew of the enterprise claims to have shot down 28 of them. The rest of the ships shot down 42 others, severely hurting the Japanese fleet. In the official Action Report. The Commanding Officer of the Ship, A.C. Davis wrote:

“The conduct of ENTERPRISE personnel was superb. Not a single instance of panic or fear was observed. The coolness, initiative, and devotion to duty displayed by all hands were in keeping with the highest naval traditions. There were numerous cases in which individuals performed their duties in an exceptional manner.” (Davis)

The Enterprise received the main enemy attack on August 24, 1942. The Saratoga remained out of action 100 miles away from the battle until the end of the battle one day later.

The Battle of Santa Cruz was one of the most massive Naval Battles fought in the Pacific Theater. The battle hardened sister ships U.S.S. Enterprise and U.S.S. Hornet squared off against the Japanese Carriers Zuiho, Chikuma, Shokako, and Junyo (Battle).   On that day, raids between the two fleets occurred 300 miles apart. While no direct contact with the ships occurred the fighting was crucial to the outcome of the war. Over 100 Japanese planes were obliterated by the fleet, but at a high cost. The Enterprise received two hits that caused widespread fires in the ships, however the crew persevered and continued to fight. The U.S.S. Hornet made the ultimate sacrifice during the battle. It sunk as a result of a raid by fighters of the Shokako, but it didn’t sink before the Shokako was out of the war (Battle).   The Hornet Stayed behind and allowed the badly damage overladen Enterprise to return to port carrying the planes from Hornet on her deck (Hardison, Battle).  The remaining planes of the American fleet disabled and took the Zuiho and the Chikuma out of commission. The Japanese attack had culminated in a loss. The Japanese exchanged the destruction of one American Carriers for the Destruction/disabling of three of their own. However the Enterprise was now the only operational aircraft carrier in the Pacific (Battle).  The Wasp had perished under the torpedo of a Japanese submarine, and the Saratoga had retreated to the United States for Repairs. On October 27,1942 the Enterprise was on its way to New Caledonia for repairs after its two day nightmare (Hardison, Battle).

The Enterprise returned to Guadalcanal for the Naval Battle of Iron Bottom after a hasty two week repair. The Enterprise had returned from New Caledonia patched up and without the use of its forward elevator. This meant that the ship could not land planes, only launch them. At the time the Enterprise was the only American Carrier in the Pacific (Battle).  The orders from Admiral “Bull” Halsey were that the Task Force 16 (Enterprise’s task force) could not allow the 7 Japanese Transport ships to reach and supply Guadalcanal. Enterprise, still badly damaged launched its planes 200 miles from Henderson field, the center of the fighting (Davis).  The planes, after their raids, would land at the airfield and regroup after the battle. The battle painted the Sound red. The American forces lost four vessels but the Japanese lost all of its transport ships, sunk over twelve vessels, and badly damaged fifteen others (Davis).  The hulls of over 20 warships and the corpses of over 2,000 Japanese men littered the bottom of the sound, giving it its name (Battle).   The battle was the last Japanese attempt to take Henderson field and Guadalcanal, meaning that the Americans had won a significant advantage. After the battle the Enterprise headed to port for a refit and repairs. The battle was November 13-15 of 1943 and it was clear that the Empire of Japan had been fought to a standstill (Shepherd, And). While there was still conflict the tail-end of 1943 was a regrouping year for the war in the Pacific.

1943 was a slow year for the Enterprise. It assisted in the landings of troops on Rennel Island in the Battle of Rennel Island, and on Makin Island during the Gilbert Islands Occupation. The Enterprise was never alone for the duration of the war and the release of the New Essex-class carriers gave the Big ‘E’ time for an Overhaul at Pearl Harbor and a visit back to the United States (Shepherd, If). The Enterprise and task-force 58 “We are Task Group 58.1 consisting of Enterprise, Yorktown, Belleau Wood, Santa Fe, Biloxi, Mobile, Oakland, and 9 destroyers (Hardison, Action).”  steamed out of Pearl Harbor on January 22, 1944. The World knew that the war must be won or lost this year and so the American Navy enacted Plan Orange (Shepherd, If).  It would be one constant continuous drive to the Philippines in order to prevent a Japanese attack or to liberate the Philippine Sea. Plan Orange was made of two task forces that would converge North and South on the Phillipene sea. Plan Orange began with a Minor Skirmish in the Marshall Islands that the Enterprise did not participate in (Shepherd, If).  However, on February 16th the overhauled, new and improved Enterprise got its first taste of Plan Orange in the Truk Atoll raids.

The Commander of Task-force 50 commanded the Navy Strike against Truk Atol (Gardner). The mission was to destroy enemy aircraft, shipping and aircraft installations, and destroy enemy shipping in the region(Gardner). The mission was a success and the New B-24 Bomber planes performed remarkably well. The Japanese were decimated in the area. However task-force 58 could not wait, it steamed on to the Philippine Sea making raids and destroying Japanese craft whenever possible. By  June 11 the Task-force was in the Phillipene Sea and the Last Great Carrier Battle of the War had begun.

The Bombardment and Invasion of Saipan was the first phase of the Battle of Philippine Sea. From June 11to 17 the Enterprise assisted the Task-force in the invasion giving air cover and support for the ground troops. The Enterprise successfully fended off torpedo raids on it and shot down eight planes during the invasion (Commanding, Operations).   The Engagement with the Japanese Fleet was the Second phase of the Battle. Japan was desperate not to let Guam and the Pagan Islands fall into the U.S.’s hands. They launched several dive bombing attacks on the task-force but the task-force held off. The Enterprise shot down 19 enemy planes and provided crucial scouting missions and reconnaissance during the fighting on June 17th and 18 (Commanding, Operations).   On June Twentieth the largest carrier battle occurred. The Enterprise scored hits and sank the Hiyo, while the task-force assisted, damaged, and sank the ZuiKaku, Junyo, and Chiyoda (Shepherd, Hit).  The Japanese force was sloppy. It was dubbed the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot, over 600 Japanese aircraft were shot down (USS).  The battle of Philippine Sea eliminated the Japanese use of Carriers for a strategic advantage. The Task-force continued to plow its way into the Leyte Gulf.

The battle of Leyte Gulf was the largest sea battle in history (USS).  The true American Advance into the Philippines led to the liberation of the land by General Douglass Mac Arthurl Enterprise was assigned to Task-force 38 for the battle. Three other task groups of equal size stormed into the Leyte Gulf. The composition of Task Group 38.4 was as follows:

“FRANKLIN (F);ENTERPRISE;SAN JACINTO;BELLEAU WOOD;NEW ORLEANS;WICHITA;DesRon-6;DesRon-24.  At 0725, 23 October, WASHINGTON, ALABAMA and DesDiv-100 joined this Task Group. (Vice Admiral Willis A. LEE, USN, ComBatPac, embarked in WASHINGTON).At 0255, 25 October, WASHINGTON, ALABAMA, NEW ORLEANS, WICHITA, DesDiv-100, PATTERSON, BAGLEY and HELM detached this Task Group to Task Force 34.At 0950, 26 October, NEW ORLEANS, WICHITA and BAGLEY rejoined this Task Group.”  (Commanding, Phillippene)

The massive amounts of naval vessels in the gulf was astounding. For the Japanese it was a slaughter. 800 American ships decimated the 67 Japanese ships (Commanding, Phillippene).   The Japanese Navy was dealt a crippling blow and left with a crippling limp back home. The Battle of Leyte Gulf was the first battle where kamikaze fighters were used by Japan (Shepherd, Hit).  The Enterprise herself did not play a critical role in the ship on ship fighting, but her new outfit of Hellcat fighters provided an unbeatable aerial opponent. The Battle of Leyte Gulf took away Japan’s last island territory.

The war pushed into 1945, the Enterprise was crucial in night time bombings, combat air patrols, and perimeter protection due to her Hellcat fighter’s radar capabilities, allowing the Enterprise to operate at 100% capacity around the clock(Shepherd, You’re).  The ship participated in the Luzon Invasion, the Battle of Hong Kong and Canto Formosa , and the Tokyo Raids. The Enterprise launched bombing raids on the coast of China and the massive task-force of 800 naval bombers leveled a much of Tokyo in the Tokyo raids. Enterprise and her Hellcats fighters were crucial in the Battle of Iwo Jima (Shepherd, Iwo).  They helped to control the airspace and defend the U.S. Ground troops. As the war reached six months into 1945 the war was drawing to a close. The Enterprise was doing around the clock raids on Japanese installments and providing its support when needed (Shepherd, You’re).  

May 14 1945, doom was spelled out for Enterprise (Shepherd, Damage).  During air combat a kamikaze pilot in a Zeke fighter plane crashed into the flight deck of the Enterprise dealing catastrophic damage to the ship. The official action report states “The explosion of the bomb was complete and damage extensive. The forward airplane elevator was demolished, and a large section (about one-third) was blown 400 feet in the air (Commanding, Okinawa).”   Fires brokn out all over the deck and engulfed the ship. The ship started to take on water at the point of explosion of the craft and ship had a great deal of flooding before the hole could be mended. For two days the Enterprise continued along its course to support its task-force and never let up speed. However she withdrew from combat on may 16th (Shepherd, Damage).

The Enterprise rusted for 12 years in Bayone after the war ended(Shepherd, “…One).   In 1947 she was decommissioned and left to rot as a reserve ship. Several Associations tried to preserve the ship but they ultimately failed. On July 1, 1958 the U.S.S. Enterprise was sold for scrap(Shepherd, “…One).  Alvin Kernan, a sailor on the Enterprise said

“…I couldn’t bear to think of her sitting around in some backwater, being exploited in unworthy ways, invaded by hordes of tourists with no sense of her greatness. Better by far, I thought, to leave her to memory of those who had served on her when she was fully alive, vibrating under full steam at thirty-two knots, the aircraft turning up, guns firing, heeling over so sharply that the hangar deck took on water to avoid the bombs.”(Shepherd, “…the) 

There was nothing left by 1960.

The U.S.S. Enterprise was the greatest ship in American History. It turned the tide of World War II wherever it went. It supported the Navy and the entire American fighting force in the Pacific theater. The Enterprise was more than steel, rivets, and wood. Those are things a ship needs. But what a ship is….is so much more. The Enterprise was the hope for a Nation that needed it. It was freedom and liberation to those oppressed by the empire of the red sun. The Enterprise was the living, breathing, feeling, manifestation of the American Enterprise, the pursuit of happiness, democracy, goodwill, and justice for all men.

Works Cited

Anderson, E.L.. Contact with Enemy Subrmarine, 10, December 1941.  U.S.S.       Enterprise. CV-6.  1941.  USS ENTERPRISE CV-6.  Web. 23 Nov.

Battle 360°. Louis Tarantino and Charles Nordlander.  2008.  DVD.

The Commanding Officer.   Action Report – Fleet Action and Operations Against the        Philippine Islands Area,   from 22 to 31 October 1944.  U.S.S. Enterprise.        1944.  USS ENTERPRISE CV-6.  Web.  23 Nov.

The Commanding Officer.  Action Report of U.S.S. Enterprise (CV6) in connection with   operations in support of amphibious landings at Okinawa 3 May to 16 May 1945 –          Phase III.  U.S.S. Enterprise.  CV-6.  1945.  USS ENTERPRISE CV-6.  Web.  23 Nov.

The Commanding Officer.  Operations as a Unit of Task Group 58.3 from June 6 to June 29 1944 – Report of.  U.S.S. Enterprise.  CV-6.  1944.  USS ENTERPRISE           CV-6.  Web.  23 Nov.

The Commanding Officer. Report of action on February 1, 1942 against Marshall Island Group. U.S.S. Enterprise.  CV-6.  1942.  USS ENTERPRISE CV-6.  Web.  23       Nov.

Davis, A.C.  Operations in support of Occupation of ulagi – Guadalcanal, August 7-8,      1942 – Report of.  U.S.S Enterprise.  Cv-6.  USS ENTERPRISE CV-6.  Web. 25          Nov.

Gardner M.B..  Operations as a Unit of Task Group 50.2 from 10 November to 27 November 1943 – Report of.              U.S.S. Enterprise.  CV-6.  1943.  USS            ENTERPRISE CV-6.  Web.  23 Nov.

Hardison O.B..  Action against Japanese Air             Forces attacking Task Force Eighteen off      Rennel Island.  U.S.S. Enterprise.  CV-6  1943.  USS ENTERPRISE CV-6.            Web. 23 Nov.

Hardison O.B..  Battle of Santa          Cruz, October 26, 1942 – Report of.  U.S.S.   Enterprise.  CV-6.  1942.  USS ENTERPRISE CV-6.  Web. 23 Nov.

Hollingsworth W.R..  Attack on          Wake Island, February 24, 1942. U.S.S.Enterprise.  CV-6.  1942.  USS ENTERPRISE CV-6.  Web.  23 Nov.

Murray, G.D..  Battle of Midway Island, June 4-6, 1942- Report of. U.S.S.Enterprise.        CV-6.  1942.  USS ENTERPRISE CV-6.  Web. 23 Nov.

Shepherd, Joel.  “…And Then There Was One Patched-Up Carrier.”  USS ENTERPRISE CV-6.  N.p.  Web.  25 November 2014. 

Shepherd, Joel.  Damage Report – Kyushu.  USS ENTERPRISE CV-6.  N.p.  2003.             Web. 25 November 2014.

Shepherd, Joel.  “Hit Hard, Hit Fast, Hit Often.”  USS ENTERPRISE CV-6.  N.p.              Web.  25 November 2014. 

Shepherd, Joel. “If the Enterprise is Ready to Fight, so am I.”  USS ENTERPRISE            CV-6.  N.p.  Web.  25 November 2014. 

Shepherd, Joel.  Iwo Jima.  USS ENTERPRISE CV-6.  N.p.  2003.  Web.  25          November 2014.

Shepherd, Joel.   “One Ship that Most Nearly Symbolizes the History of the Navy in This War.”  USS ENTERPRISE CV-6.  N.p.  Web.  25 November 2014. 

Shepherd, Joel.  “You’re Scared and No Denying It.”  USS ENTERPRISE CV-6.  N.p.       Web.  25 November 2014. 

USS Enterprise (CV-6, later CVA-6 and CVS-6), 1938-1958.  Naval History and   Heritage Command.  US Navy.  n.d.  Web.  25 November 2014.