The US Navy’s most combat decorated ship of WWII
By John Dudek @ The Wargamer
Enterprise and her aircraft carrier kith and kin were still considered something of a revolutionary anomaly when she first entered the waters of the Newport News Shipyard and Dry Dock Company on an October Saturday in 1936. Theodore Mason in his book “Battleship Sailor” later observed. “If some seer had told me then that the Enterprise would steam to glory on one of the most brilliant combat records of any ship in the history of the US Navy, I would have given him the pitying smile one normally reserves for fools.” She was christened Enterprise, the seventh ship so named to serve the United States Navy. The aircraft carrier was then one of two ships in the Yorktown Class of warships. She was 824 feet in length and 114 feet wide. She was powered by 9 x Babcock & Wilcox boilers with 4 x Parsons geared turbines that generated 120,000 ship horsepower to her four huge bronze propellers, giving her a top speed of 32.5 knots. Enterprise had a range of 12,500 nautical miles at a moderate cruising speed of 15 knots. The crew compliment she took into battle in 1941 was some 2,217 officers and men. Her defensive armament consisted of 8 x single 5in/38 caliber guns, 4.x quad 1.1″ flak guns and 24 x .50 caliber water cooled machine guns. This armament would be changed and greatly augmented many times over in the coming months, especially after the ship’s first taste of battle against enemy aircraft. Enterprise’s primary offensive and defensive punch lay in the 90 fighter planes, torpedo planes and dive bombers carried in her hangar deck below. To warn of incoming enemy aircraft, the aircraft carrier carried a CXAM-1 RADAR atop her main mast that enabled them to see the approach of planes at a range of 70 miles or more.