Naval History and Heritage Command

National Museum of the U.S. Navy

USS Enterprise (CVN-65, later CVAN-65 and CVN-65), 1961-2017

Commissioned at Newport News, Virginia, on November 25, 1961, USS Enterprise (CVN-65) was the world's first nuclear aircraft carrier.  Ordered to assist the Project Mercury Program in February 1962, she tracked and measured the flight of the first American orbital spaceflight, Friendship 7.   During the Cuban Missile Crisis that October, Enterprise participated in the blockade of Cuba.  Along with USS Bainbridge (DLGN-25) and USS Long Beach (CGN-9), she was part of the nuclear-task force, Operation Sea Orbit, from May to October 1964, circumnavigating the globe without refueling.  Following this cruise, Enterprise was redesginated CVAN-65 and was deployed in November 1965 for service in the Vietnam War, becoming the first nuclear-powered ship to engage in combat by utilzing her aircraft against the Viet Cong.   On January 14, 1969, an accident involving an F-4 "Phantom" on her flight deck resulted on 27 Sailors killed and 314 injured.  After repairs, Enterprise continued to serve off Vietnam until 1973 and assisted in Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of Saigon, in April 1975.    She was redesignated back to CVN-65 the following year.   Deployed mainly in the Pacific and Indian oceans during the late 1970s and early 1980s, she entered the Mediterranean in April 1986 to assist in Operation El Dorado Canyon, the bombing of Libya.   Two years later, she was assigned to Operation Earnest Will, escorting merchant Kuwaiti tankers in the Persian Gulf.   Following a lenghty overhaul, Enterprise returned to sea duty in September 1994 and enforced no-fly zones in Operation Joint Endeavor off Bosnia and Operation Southern Watch over Iraq.   In 1998, she successfully attacked Iraqi targets in Operation Desert Fox.  To assist in the war against terrorism, she participated, beginning in 2001, in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and underwent further refurbishments and deployments until deactived in 2012.  Enterprise was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on February 3, 2017, and is currently awaiting nuclear recycling. 

To read more about USS Enterprise at NHHC, please click here.

A model of Enterprise can be found in the America's Wars in Vietnam section at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy (Cold War Gallery).  

Image:  428-GX-USN-1156107:   USS Enterprise (CVAN-65), 1973.  "Serving the Nation" spelled out on the flight deck, May 19, 1973.   Official U.S. Navy Photograph now in the collections of the National Archives.