By Debbie Gregory.
After 55 years of service, the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise, has been decommissioned.
Known as “Big E,” the warship has played a role in major world events from the 1962 Cuban missile crisis to the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The USS Enterprise has spent the past several years being defueled and dismantled at Newport News Shipbuilding, the shipyard where it was built and refueled.
The decommissioning ceremony, a long-honored naval tradition, retires a ship from service through a variety of ceremonial services, including lowering the ship’s commissioning pennant.
Capt. Todd Beltz, commanding officer of the Enterprise, addressed the ship’s company, former commanding officers and distinguished visitors and spoke of where the true spirit of the Big E comes from.
“For all that Enterprise represents to this nation, it’s the people that bring this ship to life,” said Beltz. “So as I stand in this ship that we all care so much about, I feel it’s appropriate to underscore the contributions of the thousands of Sailors and individuals that kept this ship alive and made its reputation. We are ‘The Big E.’”
The ship was christened Sep. 24, 1960, by Mrs. Bertha Irene Franke, wife of former Secretary of the Navy William B. Franke. It has an active veterans’ group dedicated to preserving its history, which includes launching the first aircraft strikes in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks on the U.S.
Enterprise was the eighth naval vessel to carry the name, dating back to the Revolutionary War.
The Navy has said a future Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier also will be called Enterprise. Sailors from the carrier’s final crew built a time capsule from parts of the ship and allowed former sailors to fill it with notes and mementos. The time capsule will be opened by the commanding officer of the next Enterprise.