A ship like no other.
Enterprise won twenty battle stars in the Pacific, more than any other U.S. ship. There was widespread recognition of its service, and several efforts to preserve it as a monument. Despite the advocacy of retired Navy personnel, however, these efforts failed, and it was sold for scrap in 1958. This is now recognized by many as a tragic failure of the United States to properly maintain its military heritage; in the years after Enterprise’s scrapping, several other battleships and aircraft carriers were preserved.
In May 1938, the U.S. Navy commissioned the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, the seventh ship to bear the name in American service. The second of three sisters, Enterprise made a central—perhaps the central—contribution to the war effort in 1942. The U.S. Navy began 1942 with six fleet carriers (excluding the small Ranger, which served in the Atlantic). Over the course of the year, Japanese aircraft and submarines would sink four of those carriers and put a fifth (USS Saratoga) out of action for long periods of time. Enterprise fought with distinction in most of the major battles of 1942, and survived to contribute for the rest of the war.
In short, USS Enterprise (CV-6) was the finest ship ever to serve in the U.S. Navy.
Second ship of the Yorktown class, Enterprise was laid down in July 1934. The Yorktowns constituted the greater part of the second generation of U.S. fleet carriers, after the experimental ships and the conversions of the 1920s. Experience with USS Ranger and the Lexingtons indicated that large carriers had many advantages in serviceability and survivability over smaller ships, so the Navy decided to go large. Enterprise displaced twenty-five thousand tons, could make thirty-three knots and could comfortably carry around eighty combat aircraft. U.S. naval architects incorporated many of the lessons learned from the Lexington class into the Yorktowns, and they became the world’s most advanced, effective carriers when they entered service in the late 1930s. They would provide a template for the Essex-class aircraft carriers, which would begin joining the U.S. Navy in 1943.