51 years of service and 26 deployments after she was placed in commission the USS Enterprise, CVN-65 was decommissioned at Naval Station Norfolk. In a ceremony attended by 12,000-15,000 people, many former Sailors and Marines who served aboard her the ship was officially inactivated.
The inactivation is the first step in which the gigantic 1123 foot long 93,000 ton behemoth will have her 8 nuclear reactors, de-fueled and then removed prior to her being towed to Bremerton Washington where she is slated, along with other previous nuclear warships to be scrapped.
Enterprise spent the first half of her career in the Pacific until she returned to the East Coast in 1989 to have her nuclear reactors refueled after which she was home ported at Norfolk.
She served in action in the Vietnam War, during the Cold War, against the Iranians during the 1988-89 Tanker War, where her aircraft sank one Iranian Frigate and damaged a second, the 1998 Operation Desert Fox which attacked Iraqi military targets,. She also made deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In July 1964, she along with the USS Long Beach CGN-9 and USS Bainbridge DLGN-25 formed Task Force One, for Operation Sea Orbit, a 63 day voyage around the world.
She is a part of American popular culture. Named after the most combat decorated carrier of World War II she served as a symbol of American Naval Power and ingenuity. Her name was appropriated by Gene Roddenberry for use in the now legendary Star Trek television and movie franchise. She was also the setting for the films Top Gun, The Hunt for Red October and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, however since she was not available for filming her place was taken by the USS Ranger.
The name was used for the first Space Shuttle and will always be a part of American Naval lore and popular culture. Today on her decommissioning day the Navy announced that it will name the next carrier to be built after the new Gerald Ford CVN-78 class ships, USS Gerald R Ford and USS John F Kennedy will be the USS Enterprise CVN-80.
I saw the Enterprise for the first time as a teenager when she was stationed at NAS Alameda. She was so much larger than the other carriers at the pier it was a sight to see. I often saw her at Norfolk and I know as she is stripped down at Norfolk and Newport News that I will see her again.
As Captain Jean Luc Picard said in Star Trek the Next Generation “Let’s make sure history never forgets the name Enterprise.”