Enterprise VIII (CVAN-65)
Boldness, energy, and invention in practical affairs.
Between 9-12 January 1971, Enterprise carried out a fast cruise while moored at her builders and again, from the 15th-16th, while anchored at X-Ray Anchorage, Norfolk. Sea trials with her newly designed nuclear reactor cores, containing enough energy to power her for the next ten years, ensued under the direct observation of Vice Admiral Rickover himself off the Virginia capes (17-19 January). Enterprise then returned to Pier 12, Norfolk (20 January-3 February), for supplies before beginning her return voyage.
The next day (4 February 1971) Enterprise sailed for the west coast, conducting flight refresher training en route for 26 embarked aircraft from CVW-14. Enterprise crossed the equator on 12 February, initiating 2,021 new shellbacks. Three days later the carrier entered Rio de Janeiro, 1520 February. During the visit, her 10 operable boats transported 36,320 visitors out to the ship and back. In addition, Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., the Chief of Naval Operations, visited the ship, on the 17th.
Rounding Cape Horn on 25 February 1971, Enterprise thus experienced the unique opportunity of crossing the equator twice, off the east and west coasts of the Americas respectively. In addition, she conducted extensive refresher training period in preparation for her next ORI. Enterprise passed up the west coast of South America, ultimately mooring at North Island on 7 March 1971.
Enterprise completed refresher training and her ORI in the southern California operating area (9-17 March 1971), returning to her home port of Alameda (which had, administratively, become effective on 15 September 1970), the next day, the crew spelling out "E Is Home" on her flight deck as she passed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge.
Enterprise conducted additional air operations in the southern California operating area, (1320 April 1971), and again 26 April-7 May, in preparation for the upcoming WestPac deployment. The next day 4,000 dependents came on board for a short cruise, following which the ship again steamed in the southern California operating area for refresher training, 11-20 May, also embarking Navy League members at North Island for a one-day cruise, on the 13th.
Enterprise sailed from Alameda for her fifth WestPac deployment on 11 June 1971, with CVW-14 (Tail Code NK) embarked, comprising VF-142 and VF-143 (F-4Js), VA-27, VA-97 (A-7Es) and VA-196 (A-6Bs and KA-6Ds), RVAH-5, VAW-113, VAW-130 Det 4, and HC-1 Det 4. On the morning of the 13th, she rendezvoused with destroyers Rupertus (DD-851) and Wilson (DD-847). The task group arrived in the Hawaii operating area on 16 June, beginning five days of air operations in preparation for an operational readiness exercise (ORE). Putting into Pearl Harbor on the 21st, Enterprise then completed her ORE, 2223 June, before returning to Pearl, 2425 June.
Clearing Pearl the next day, the ships completed a largely uneventful transit, one punctuated by Enterprise airlifting eight EOD divers to Rupertus while the latter lay at Midway, enabling the destroyer to complete underwater repairs to continue her voyage. Chopping to Com7thFlt on the morning of 2 July 1971 they were designated TG 77.5, with Enterprise as the flagship. The carrier arrived at Leyte Pier, Cubi Point, on the 7th. The next day Rear Admiral Damon W. Cooper, triple-hatted as ComCarDiv-5, Commander, TF 71 and Commander, TF 77, began moving on board with this staff, remaining with the ship until January 1972.
Through the end of July 1971, Enterprise served intermittently off Vietnam, together with Midway (CVA-41) and Oriskany (CVA-34), the three carriers launching a total of 2,001 strike sorties during 22 two-carrier days and nine single-carrier days, operations interrupted by typhoons Harriet, Kim and Jean, that each swept across the South China Sea. Each storm forced the ships to shift station to evade it. Nonetheless, the month entailed a slight increase in strikes flown over South Vietnam, due primarily to missions against enemy troop positions and supporting U.S. helo operations.
Underway on 12 July 1971, Enterprise arrived on Yankee Station for her first line period, 1530 July. She flew strikes in both the Steel Tiger Area in the eastern Laos Panhandle, and in Military Region I of South Vietnam, her planes pounding infiltration and logistic targets both day and night. As a matter of course, flight operations proved perilous and uncomfortable for sailors regardless of work assignment. Of the 15 men in each catapult crew, for example, some were stationed below decks in spaces where the temperatures seldom dropped below 100º F., in what they referred to as steam-conditioned spaces.
The first underway replenishment and vertical replenishment conducted during this period, with fast combat support ship Sacramento (AOE-1) and combat stores ship Niagara Falls (AFS-3), involved a complex night vertical replenishment utilizing four CH-46s, on 20 July 1971. The transfer involved a complete variety of stores and a full ordnance rearmament, Sacramento also refueling Enterprise for the latters aircraft, and for the carrier to refuel escorts as needed.
Five days later Sacramento completed a second VertRep with the Big E with a then unprecedented aerial transfer rate of 90 tons per hour. During this line period, Enterprise was visited by Rear Admiral S.H. Kinney, ComCruDesPac, Rear Admiral R.C. Robinson, ComCruDesFlot-11 and industrialist H. Ross Perot. Coming about on 31 July 1971, the ship arrived at Subic on 2 August.
During the following month, dual-carrier operations off of Vietnam were conducted only during the first week; and as of 16 August 1971, Enterprise filled in the remainder of the month as the sole carrier on station. The strike mix was almost completely reversed from the previous month as a result; with a total of eight two-carrier days and 23 single-carrier days producing 1,915 strike sorties.
Enterprise cleared Subic Bay on 13 August 1971, and reached Yankee Station three days later. During her second line period she was visited by Vice Admiral W.P. Mack, Com7thFlt, Rear Admiral J.D. Ramage, ComCarDiv-7, U.S. Deputy Ambassador to South Vietnam S.D. Berger, and Major General G.M. Dolvin, U.S.A., Commander, XXIV Corps. Coming about on 4 September, she moored at Cubi Point two days later.
Remaining on station through the first four days of September 1971, Enterprise was relieved by Oriskany during the middle of the month, she in turn being relieved by Midway, which flew the final four days of strikes for the month. A total of 1,243 strike sorties rounded out the month.
In company with Bainbridge, Enterprise stood out of Subic on 11 September 1971, the carrier being visited by Dr. Goh K. Swee, Singapores Minister of Defense, and U.S. Ambassador to Singapore Charles T. Cross, on the 13th. Shipping traffic to the port and the nearby Malacca Strait, always extremely heavy, often required the ship to make numerous course changes to avoid such in the narrow confines In addition, the ship eventually discovered that her arrival time needed to be programmed for slack water, to avoid having the pilot guide her to a holding anchorage to await such, causing delays.
Following the visit to Singapore, 14-20 September 1971, Enterprise and her consort transited the Malacca Strait and entered the Indian Ocean, forming TG 77.5. They collected hydrographic and meteorological data and demonstrated the quick response of nuclear vessels. On 25 September, the ships crossed the equator, Enterprise initiating 847 lowly pollywogs. They then made a wide loop to the south, skirting the Bay of Bengal and then coming about, again entering Indonesian waters, where they transited the Sunda Strait, and then crossed the Java Sea northbound toward the Philippines, mooring at Cubi Point on the morning of 2 October 1971.
Enterprise stood out for a day to avoid Tropical Storm Faye, on 4 October 1971. Faye swept across the Philippines through Subic and out into the South China Sea, and then reversed course to pass back over the Philippines, before dissipating in the Pacific. Returning to Subic Bay until 9 October, Enterprise sailed for her third line period of the deployment (11 October-2 November 1971), one characterized by continued poor flying weather resulting in reduced sorties as the monsoonal pattern over Southeast Asia began to change from Southwest to Northeast. This proved especially true of Tropical Storm Hester in late October, that approached Palawan from the east at 11 knots, but which accelerated rapidly, intensifying into typhoon force as it crossed the South China Sea to slam into the South Vietnamese coast south of the DMZ.
Targets were again located almost exclusively in the Steel Tiger East portion of the Laotian Panhandle. Enterprise and her screen departed Yankee Station on 3 November 1971, steaming toward Singapore, where Dr. Swee and Ambassador Cross again visited the ship on the 5th, before she visited the city the next morning. While there Rear Admiral W.H. Bagley, Assistant Chief of Naval Personnel, Rear Admiral Ramage, and Major General Tawit Bunyawat, Commander, Thai Forces, South Vietnam, were on board. During their visit to Singapore, 615 November, the men of Enterprise experienced a special treat when a chartered planeload of their wives flew into the city from Oakland, Calif., to visit their husbands; the aircraft flying some of the men back home on leave.
Clearing Singapore on 16 November 1971, Enterprise arrived back on Yankee Station on the morning of 19 November, relieving Midway and immediately beginning strikes into Steel Tiger East. This line period was similar to the first three, except that the weather was beginning to improve, with a corresponding rise in sorties flown and target results noted.
Joined by Oriskany on the last day of November 1971, the three carriers recorded 1,024 ordnance-delivering strike sorties, 30 of them in South Vietnam and the remainder in Laos during the month. The air warfare posture changed on the 20th when six MiGs, however, two each at Vinh, Quan Lang and Bai Thuong, were deployed south of 20ºN.
Normally, planners found it necessary to put two KA-3/KA-6 tankers aloft per cycle, dispensing maximum fuel to launching Phantom IIs, then consolidating the two tankers; one then landed, short cycling, and the other full cycled. While C-1A COD support from Da Nang proved reliable, a ship the size of Enterprise required threefour daily trips. In addition, 300,000 lb of mail was carried by HC-1 Det 4 during this WestPac, requiring 920 transfers, as well as 3,210 passengers.
While on her fourth line period of the cruise, Rear Admiral R.E. Riera, Commander, Fleet Air, WestPac (ComFairWestPac) and U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam Ellsworth Bunker visited Enterprise.
During December 1971, Laser Guided Bombs (LGBs) were introduced to Enterprise, Constellation and Coral Sea (CVA-43). Some 16 trial LGB drops were made against communist roads, subsequently also targeting AAA sites. During 1972, LGBs would more than prove their worth by working as advertised in a most effective manner against heretofore seemingly indestructible targets, such as heavy steel bridge structures built into solid rock. However, the initial lack of Navy Illuminators as an integral part of air wings was noted as a drawback requiring correction.
Wars and rumors of wars continued unabated. The Indo-Pakistani War began on 3 December 1971. On the 7th, the head of the United Nations relief mission in East Pakistan (subsequently renamed Bangladesh) indicated that due to the spread and scope of the fighting, evacuation of Western nationals from the country might become necessary. Enterprise received orders to proceed immediately to that theater.
Responding to the crisis with no advanced warning, Enterprise came about from Yankee Station, proceeding toward the Malacca Strait, on the morning of 10 December 1971. Combining with other elements of TF 74, including an amphibious ready group, to form the 7th Fleets Contingency Force, Enterprise was designated flagship of TF 74 (Rear Admiral Cooper). The carrier and her escorts arrived at a holding area northeast of Singapore on Sunday, 12 December.
Against the backdrop of these contingency operations, at 0844 on 12 December 1971, a COD flight, Grumman C-2A Greyhound (BuNo 152793), Lieutenant Vetal C. LaMountain, Jr., pilot, and Lieutenant (jg) Gale V. Woolsey, Jr., co-pilot, VRC-50 Det Cubi Point, took off from Cubi Point, bound for Enterprise, routed via Tan Son Nhut, for a logistic support mission. Two other crewmembers, Airman James M. Van Buswum, plane captain, and ABH3 Richard C. Gaynor, load master; together with six passengers, Petty Officer 1st Class D.E. Dickerson, CTR1 W.R. Woods, CTM2 G.K. Zeller, CTO3 J.M. Coon, CTISN J.M. Deremigio and Seaman S.H. Elliott, were also on board. Flying across the South China Sea on Airway R68 the Greyhound reported in at 0927, having reached Coral Intersection, at approximately 13º07N, 117º00E. From 0941, however, nothing further was heard from the C-2A.
When the COD flight failed to report its next scheduled position 29 minutes later, Tan Son Nhut became concerned, the C-2A passing its zero fuel time at 1330. Not until 1650, however, did the squadrons detachment at Cubi Point receive notification from base operations that the flight was overdue. During the course of these communications, the 13th Air Force Joint Rescue Command Center, Clark AB, Philippines, launched a SAR. A ramp check of available airfields in the South China Sea area, done in the event that the flight might divert to another field due to an emergency, turned out negative. At 0730 the following day, 13 December 1971, Coral Sea and her escorting destroyers, Chevalier (DD-805) and Epperson (DD-719), reported spotting the Greyhounds debris, including an empty life raft, in an area about 200 miles southwest of Subic. None of the 10 men on board survived.
Enterprise and her screen, meanwhile, remained within the holding area while the force assembled, the 10 ships departing two days later to transit the strait, entering the Indian Ocean on the 15th. Coral Sea relieved Enterprise and Constellation on Yankee Station on that date, ensuring that the tempo of strikes continued through December, 2,462 ordnance-bearing strike sorties being flown by all three carriers through the end of the month.
Freed temporarily from the fighting, the Contingency Force, with Enterprise as flagship, sailed for the Indian Ocean. Planning was conducted en route for an operation to fly into Dacca, the capital, bringing out not only Americans trapped by the fighting, but also a variety of other nationals. Over 2,000 evacuees could be accommodated in her hanger deck if necessary, and hundreds more temporarily.
After one day of operations at Point Alpha, west of the Andaman Sea, TF 74 moved to Point Charlie, off the southern tip of India, to await instructions from higher authority. While at Charlie, guided missile destroyer Decatur (DDG-31), guided missile frigate King (DLG-10), and destroyers McKean (DD-784) and Orleck (DD-886) operated with Enterprise.
In the interim, however, the on 12 December 1971, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) evacuated westerner nationals from East Pakistan, eliminating the requirement for a U.S. effort. Nonetheless, TF 74 entered the Indian Ocean on the 15th as a show of force, monitoring both Indian and Pakistani operations and maritime and air traffic on the one hand, and the increasing numbers of Soviet aircraft and vessels on the other.
Operations in the Indian Ocean during this cruise were devoted to contingency planning, surface surveillance and reporting. Throughout most of the crisis, at least one or more vessels of the Soviet Indian Ocean Force were in company with the task force. Thus operations at Point Charlie consisted of aerial reconnaissance, both visual and photographic, of Soviet naval forces in proximity, updating intelligence holdings regarding East Bloc operations in the Indian Ocean littoral. However, a limit of 12 jets of all types per flight cycle was established, due to the lack of bingo (emergency divert) fields. A problem of major proportions occurred, however, when supplies of key charts required for the Indian Ocean became exhausted, and the network of forward U.S. bases proved unable to provide enough for the ships of TF-74. As a result, Enterprise entered the chart reproduction business to support the ships of the task force. Subsequently, Enterprise's Captain Ernest E. Tissot, Jr., recommended that carriers deploying to the 7th Fleet depart the U.S. with two complete portfolios of Indian Ocean charts, and that inventories of such items among escorts and support ships be checked and filled before departing the South China Sea while COD service from Cubi Point was still available.
Further navigational hazards flourishing in the waters surrounding and between the six straits and passages: Singapore, Malacca, Sunda, Gaspar, San Bernadino and Palawan, transited during this WestPac deployment included oil rigs, many not noted on charts. In addition, navigation lights were often erroneously marked on charts or missing altogether, small unlighted vessels also becoming quite numerous. Extreme vigilance at night in these waters, Captain Tissot advised, is mandatory.
Enterprise received orders on 7 January 1972 to cease operations in the Indian Ocean. Coming about the next morning, she transited the Malacca Strait, arriving at Cubi Point, at 0800 on 12 January, following 58 continuous days at sea, 34 in the Indian Ocean. The crew missed mail between 11-24 December, but during an underway replenishment on Christmas Eve received the welcome addition of 46,000 lb of backlogged letters and parcels.
However, January witnessed further weather interference in the form of Tropical Storm Kit, which moved into the eastern Philippines very rapidly, stopped, and then turned northeastward into the Pacific, giving the crew some tense moments. Nonetheless, on the morning of the 17th, Enterprise stood out from Subic Bay, arriving at Yankee Station on the morning of 19 January.
Rendezvousing with Constellation, the Big E debarked Rear Admiral Cooper and his staff, 1920 January 1972. Also on the 20th, the ship hosted Canadian Brigadier General Robert T. Bennett, Senior Military Representative, International Control Commission.
Enterprise then began strikes, but while eager to return home, her men were still fully aware that there was no margin for error and no room for complacency. However, the ongoing withdrawal of American troops from the theater, combined with relatively limited troop contacts, lowered the air tempo considerably, aircrews dropping only 944 tons of bombs on the enemy during her fifth line period of the deployment. Just eight Navy tactical air sorties were flown over South Vietnam during the entire month of January 1972, and very little attack effort was made against the north, with the exception of some proactive reaction strikes. Enterprise served intermittently on station with Constellation and Coral Sea throughout the month.
Recovering her last strike on 24 January 1972, the ship turned due east, entering Subic Bay on the afternoon of the 25th. On the morning of 27 January, she stood out with guided missile frigate Fox (DLG-33) and destroyer Epperson (DD-719). Chopping to Com1stFlt on 2 February, the ships were overflown the next day by Soviet bombers. Intercepted by F-4Js from Enterprise, the Russians demonstrated no hostile intent while conducting surveillance of the task group, waving, smiling and gesturing to the aircrews more than once to be able to take pictures.
Refueling both her escorts on 4 February 1972, Enterprise and her consorts then visited Pearl Harbor, 67 February. With Epperson detached to her home port, Pearl, and after leaving Hawaiian waters en route to California, Fox detached to her home port of San Diego, Enterprise flew most of the aircraft in her wing off on the 11th.
Thus, on a cold foggy morning Enterprise slipped beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, her crew manning the rail in blues, greeted by a sign welcoming the Big E held by wives on the bridge. The sun finally broke through as the ship moored to Pier 3, Alameda, during the afternoon watch on 12 February 1972.
Following standdown, Enterprise crossed to San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard, Hunters Point, on 15 March 1972, beginning a 60-day selected restricted availability (SRA). While there the ship conducted a fast cruise, 67 May. On the 8th, she was underway for sea trials in the northern California operating area.
Enterprise returned to NAS Alameda on 16 May 1972. She was again at sea for additional training off the coast of northern California between 23 and 27 May. Standing out of Alameda on the morning of the 30th, Enterprise completed refresher training and ORI in the southern California operating area through 15 June, mooring at North Island overnight on the 31st, 34 June, 10th-11th and 17th-18th. Vice Admiral Thomas J. Walker, AirPac, embarked during her return to Alameda.
The ship was underway for an inspection by the Board of Inspection and Survey, 1920 June 1972. Escorted by ocean escorts Brooke (DEG-1) and Bradley (DE-1041) the carrier conducted Carrier qualifications in NoCal, 26-30 June. The crew then celebrated Independence Day weekend in port, hosting several thousand dependents for a day cruise, on the 5th, though enduring inclement weather.
Enterprise again completed carrier qualifications, in company with Bradley, 6-11 July 1972, but the ships remaining time at home was not without tragedy. On 7 July 1972, an F-4 Phantom II from VF-121 was lost on a catapult shot. The pilot was killed, though his RIO, Lieutenant Commander Samuel N. Hallmark, was rescued by the plane guard helo (Lieutenant Russell L. Hallauer), HS-2 Det 1.
On 14 July 1972, VA-196 embarked on board Enterprise at Alameda for carrier qualifications, ORI and a weapons training exercise. During this period, an A-6B Intruder (Lieutenant Commander Richard J. Toft and Lieutenant (jg) John D. Austin, Jr.), experienced control difficulties barely five minutes into its flight to Miramar, Calif. Both men ejected successfully. An SH-3G (Lieutenant Commander Roger P. Murray, officer in charge of HS-2s Det 1), rushed to the point where the ships radar last held the Intruder, but it was almost 30 miles away from the actual impact area. Undaunted, Murray and his crew worked out the navigation problem, steering straight to the downed aviators. The helos swimmers assisted the survivors in disentangling themselves from their parachutes and within scant minutes, the survivors were en route to the Naval Medical Center, San Diego, near Balboa, Calif., Toft sustaining injuries requiring extensive treatment.
Anchoring in San Francisco Bay for an ammunition onload on 12 July 1972, Enterprise spent the weekend at Alameda before returning to sea for carrier qualifications, this time with Fox, 17-21 July. Accompanied then by Bainbridge, she conducted qualifications off the southern California operating area between 25 July4 August, one of these exercises including being overflown by a P-3 as practice for Soviet overflights. The carrier then made a brief stop at North Island (28-29 July).
While egressing from North Island, on 29 July 1972, Enterprise collided with VI Pak, an Albatross-built, 23-foot wooden sailboat. On board the latter were Anthony C. Miller, her owner, a local citizen from San Diego, and two other men. The busy harbor was packed with small craft and Coast Guard cutter 40580, Enterprises escort, that preceded the ship, attempting to clear vessels from ahead of the carrier. The Coast Guardsmen approached the sailboat, which was on the right edge of San Diego Harbor Channel between Buoys 17 and 19, instructing Miller and his passengers by hand signals to come about and leave the channel. Although her mainsail was hoisted, VI Pak lost the wind and was drifting on the carriers starboard bow. At 11-31, VI Pak was barely 100 feet forward of the carrier, collision imminent. Captain Tissot ordered three blasts on the ships horn. Only one of the sailboats crew allegedly attempted to paddle backward out of the way, the remainder appearing unconcerned, but the existing wind caused her to drift further into the channel and across Enterprises bow, becalming the tiny boat almost dead center in the channel, with the carrier bearing down upon her. Fortuitously, the wake from the Coast Guard cutter positioned the sailboat parallel to Enterprises hull and preventing a broadside collision. VI Pak passed along the carriers port side, Enterprises bow wave seeming to push the sailboat to one side. The sailboats mast cracked and she slid past under the catwalks, striking the carrier several times in succession. At this point, Enterprise's speed was approximately three knots. As the boat approached abeam of Hanger #1 on the island at 1140, the Coast Guardsmen caught up with her, passing those on board a line and towing the boat about 250 feet toward shore, letting go the line once Miller and his companions, who escaped without injuries, were safe. Meanwhile, Enterprise went to starboard ahead 2/3 at 1132, followed a minute later by all ahead 2/3, proceeding on her way and clearing the channel without further mishap. 40580 went to the Commercial Basin at about 1215, where her coxswain, Engineman 3rd Class Gary R. Priester, boarded VI Pak and cited her for negligent operation, before the cutter returned to North Island, mooring at 1315.
Returning to Alameda, 56 August 1972, Enterprise stood out for a cruise hosting several hundred under-privileged children from the San Francisco Bay area, together with wives and children of men held as POWs or listed as MIAs in Southeast Asia, on the 7th.
Enterprise then accomplished night operations with CVW-14 off the southern California coast, escorted by Bainbridge, 810 August 1972, followed by an ORI and a weapons training exercise, from the 12th16th, before she returned to Alameda.
Although anti-war demonstrators attempted to interfere with her departure, Enterprise deployed as scheduled during the morning watch on 12 September 1972, again embarking CVW-14, comprising VFs-142 and 143 (F-4Js), VAs-27 and 97 (A-7Es) and 196 (A-6Bs and KA-6Ds), RVAH-13 and HS-2 Det 1 (SH-3Gs).
Unusually, Enterprise and Bainbridge did not pause at Pearl, but continued their high speed westward transit, crossing the IDL on 18 September 1972, and chopping to Com7thFlt on the 20th, becoming TG 77.5. The ships were forced to alter course during their westward transit to avoid Typhoon Ida, nonetheless completing their transit in the relatively rapid time of only 10 days, a tribute to the men of their engineering and reactor departments, arriving in Subic on the afternoon of the 24th.
Increased violence in the Philippines, however, caused by Communist insurgents, led to the implementation of martial law, the first time that the men of Enterprise were faced with a strictly enforced curfew in that country. The possibility of sailors ashore being mistakenly shot by Filipino troops was very real, aggravating security concerns. The situation also resulted in what appeared to be a steady decline in the availability of both hard narcotics and marijuana in Olongapo. Since alternate sources, especially of heroin of lethal purity, were available in Hong Kong and Singapore, however, the ship exercised greater care searching packages of crewmembers returning from liberty.
Getting underway on the morning of 28 September 1972 for type training off Subic Bay through 1 October, Enterprise and Bainbridge then shaped course for Vietnamese waters, arriving on Yankee Station on the 3rd.
Enterprise devoted her first line period during this WestPac tour to strikes against known enemy troop locations, supplies, LOCs and logistics bases in both Laos and South Vietnam, utilizing those strikes as a warm-up for the more demanding air operations over North Vietnam soon to come. Commander James O. Harmon, CO, VAQ-131, launched from the deck of Enterprise and flew the first Grumman EA-6B Prowler combat support mission, in a squadron Prowler, on 3 October 1972. Although VAH-4 Det M was embarked on board the carrier during her 1965-66 WestPac, this was also the first deployment of the entire squadron on board the carrier since the squadrons redesignation on 1 November 1968.
On 8 October 1972, strikes north of the DMZ began, hitting bridges, truck parks, storage areas and other logistics support facilities used by the Communists to support their massive invasion of South Vietnam.
The next day, 9 October 1972, Enterprise moved north to Yankee Station, shortly after launching an Alpha strike comprising A-6s, A-7s, EA-6s, E-2Cs, an A-5 and F-4s, against the Mi Lai petroleum storage compound. VF-143 took this opportunity to engage its first MiG CAP about 25 miles inland over North Vietnam. While flying this protective position northwest of the target area, the Phantom IIs operated in the envelopes of several SAM installations and received response from the enemy AAA batteries. However, the enemy elected to remain on the ground, unwilling to put MiGs in the air with the Navy F-4s in the area.
The U.S. imposed a further halt upon bombing above the 20th parallel in North Vietnam, concluding Linebacker I operations on 23 October 1972, a goodwill gesture toward Hanoi intending to promote North Vietnamese cooperation during the Paris peace talks. On that date, Vice Admiral Cooper shifted his flag from Kitty Hawk to Enterprise. By the time the strikes ended aircrews from Enterprise dropped 2,000 tons of bombs on the enemy. Linebacker I had proved partially successful by seriously disrupting the flow of supplies from North Vietnam to communist forces in the south. From May-October 1972, the Navy flew a total of 23,652 tactical air attack sorties into North Vietnam.
While there were no MiG kills or losses sustained during this period, Enterprise alternated with America, Constellation, Coral Sea, Hancock, Kitty Hawk, Midway, Oriskany, Ranger and Saratoga on Yankee Station during these months, continuing to fly reconnaissance and training flights, with the usual dangers inherent with such operations, maintaining a carrier presence at all times.
Following President Richard M. Nixons confirmation of the bombing halt order, the tempo of activities gradually declined, though losses continued, albeit reduced from previous levels.
Both fighter and attack aircrews were now trained in the delivery of MK 82 and 83 LGBs, both embarked fighter squadrons also utilizing hand-held light-weight laser designators. Two such designators were available to CVW-14, and the weapons performed so well that their primary limiting factor continued to be weather. A secondary factor was the reflective quality of available targets, which, outside of North Vietnam, continued to be very low.
The aircrews nevertheless obtained highly effective results, particularly against bridges, when weather and operating authorities permitted, as the men of the ship were still fighting the war with extensive politically imposed limitations. Weather inhibited the deployment of Walleye IIs as well, also in limited supply due to their cost and phase of development. However, in good weather, they proved to be devastating weapons against specific, high priority targets. Walleye IIs were almost immediately recognized as having the accuracy and penetrating power required to completely destroy a heavily constructed railway bridge.
On 24 October 1972, Enterprise came about for Cubi Point, arriving the next day. Accompanied by Bainbridge, the ship then stood out from Subic Bay on Halloween, spending the entire month of November along with the first nine days of December, on Yankee Station. The ship repeated her previous schedule, devoting the first several days to strikes south of the DMZ and in Laos, before hammering North Vietnam. During this second line period, CVW-14 aircraft dropped 3,400 tons of bombs on the enemy.
Aircraft operating from Enterprise flew two reconnaissance missions against the airfield at Vinh during November. AAA gunners gave the pilots a warm reception and on both missions escort aircraft dropped ordnance in a protective reaction role against the gunners, and executed other reaction strikes.
Constellation, Enterprise and Oriskany alternated on Yankee Station during November 1972, fulfilling their missions with a total of 22 two-carrier days on the line, 12 into North Vietnam and nine into South Vietnam, operating 1,766 ordnance-bearing strike sorties. The number of SAMs fired at U.S. aircraft increased dramatically and, in combination with bold incursions by North Vietnamese MiGs into Laos, prompted both the Air Force and the Navy to develop new proactive tactics to counter the threat.
While in the Gulf of Tonkin for her second line period, Enterprise was caught in the path of Typhoon Lorna, encountering high winds, heavy seas and much rain. The crew secured Enterprise as well as possible, riding out the typhoon within the skin of the ship, although the stability and sea keeping qualities provided by the carrier were put to the test, many of her crewmembers getting the chance to gain their sea legs.
Agreement signals arranged with the Russians were found to be very successful in dealing with AGIs, appearing to assist in the prevention of dangerous situations during maneuvers for flight operations. However, the ship was under light to moderate enemy radar surveillance from shore, over 170 emissions being intercepted, primarily Chinese communist Crosslots from North Vietnam and Hainan Island.
Enterprise rendezvoused with submarine Gudgeon (SS-567), the sub surfacing to enable a helo from HS-2 Det 1 to evacuate two seriously ill crewmen from Gudgeon, on 1 November. A little over a fortnight later, on 16 November 1972, Enterprise and Bainbridge rendezvoused with Long Beach and Truxtun, the first time that all four nuclear-powered ships operated together.
On 25 November 1972, Enterprise's crew (including six plank owners who were on board when she was commissioned) celebrated the eleventh anniversary of the ships commissioning, attended by Vice Admiral Holloway, Com7thFlt. Her third skipper, Admiral Holloway had had the honor of taking the Big E into harms way for her first combat deployment in December 1965, and helped the crew celebrate their second consecutive Thanksgiving at sea. It is good to see how much progress the ship has contributed to nuclear power in the Navy, Holloway told the crew, There is no doubt in my mind, or in the Secretary of the Navys or the CNOs minds that Enterprises performance in combat was the clincher which convinced Congress to appropriate more funds for the nuclear power program.
During the latter part of November and early December 1972, the North Vietnamese stymied peace talks at Paris, taking advantage of the lull afforded to repair damage from previous strikes and to transport supplies and equipment by rail from China. Against that ominous backdrop, Enterprise came away from Yankee Station on 10 December for a visit to Hong Kong (11-17 December), a port call made even more enjoyable for the married men on board by the arrival of 250 wives who came to spend the week with their husbands. During that time, however, North Vietnamese intransigence had found ultimate expression in their breaking-off negotiations on 13 December.
Sailing from the British colony on the 18th, Enterprise returned to Yankee Station on the 19th, one day after the commencement of Operation Linebacker II, a more intensified version of Linebacker I and a resumption of the strikes above the 20th parallel, launched on 18 December 1972 in a final attempt to bring the communists back to the bargaining table. A comprehensive strategic air campaign against the most heavily defended targets of the entire Vietnam War, including hitherto restricted areas near heavily populated Hanoi and Haiphong, the tip of the spear for Linebacker II would be strikes by USAF Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses, naval aircraft being required to supplement these raids with a variety of missions, including suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD).
Enterprise joined her planes with those from America, Midway, Oriskany, Ranger and Saratoga i1 days of some of the most intense bombing of the war. Naval tactical air sorties focused upon targets in the Hanoi and Haiphong areas, including SAM and AAA sites, army barracks, POL storage areas, railroad and truck stations and Haiphong naval and shipyard areas, missile equipped patrol craft and vehicle support facilities. In addition, minefields were reseeded.
Between 18-22 December 1972, the Navy flew 119 strikes in North Vietnam in support of Linebacker II, with a total of 505 sorties in this area during the operation. Enemy opposition proved fierce, however, with the primary limiting factor upon operations being inclement weather. On 19 December, A-6s and A-7s from Enterprise attacked three North Vietnamese Komar-class missile boats, sinking one and damaging the other two.
While on a strike over North Vietnam during the night of 2021 December 1972, a VA-196 A-6A (BuNo 155594) Commander Gordon R. Nakagawa, pilot, and Lieutenant Kenneth H. Higdon, bombardier/navigator, took AAA fire. Other aircraft in the area heard Nakagawa cry out that their Intruder was hit on the left wing and that they were bailing out at 0056. Other listeners heard a call sign, tentatively identified as Milestone 511 or 51, then silence. No emergency beepers were received, but a last tenuous voice contact was made with the downed crew at 0115, prior to both men being captured. Fortunately, Higdon was able to return home on 12 February 1973, and Nakagawa on the last flight of repatriated POWs, on 29 March 1973, and thence to his ship.
By Christmas of 1972, 420 B-52 raids pounded the enemy, with no less than 122 strikes on the 18th, the highest number of any day. Aircraft from CVW-14 flew around the clock sorties during these raids, alternately blasting and confounding North Vietnamese AD systems.
Following an air recess over Christmas Day, with the ship being honored by a visit from Secretary of the Navy John W. Warner, Admiral Bernard J. Clarey, CinCPac, and Vice Admiral Holloway, attacks resumed on the 26th, with 113 B-52 raids, the next highest sortie count, heavily supported by naval aircraft, including those from Enterprise. Targets encompassed airfields, missile assembly points, railroads and marshalling yards, fuel reserves, command and control stations and powerhouses. By the end of the next day, intercepted enemy messages indicated that the strikes were so effective that the North Vietnamese were losing their SAM potential, as new missiles could no longer be moved from assembly points to the launchers.
Many days during these strikes, VF-143 had 10 of 12 aircraft in the air simultaneously. This type of exhausting tempo paid off for the ships Phantom II aircrews on 28 December 1972, as an F-4J, Lieutenant (jg) Scott H. Davis, pilot and Lieutenant (jg) Geoffrey H. Ulrich, RIO, of VF-142, downed a North Vietnamese MiG-21 Fishbed with an AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile. Wildly maneuvering between altitudes of 507,000 feet, Davis and Ulrich made their kill approximately five miles to the south of the outskirts of Hanoi. The 24th MiG downed by Navy and Marine Corps pilots that year, it was also the first and only one for Enterprise during her Vietnam tours. Both men were later awarded Silver Stars for their exploit, while Commander Donald E. Riggs and Lieutenant Steven P. Crall each received the Distinguished Flying Cross for their tactical efforts in assisting Davis and Ulrich.
However, Flint River 603, an RA-5C (BuNo 156633), Lieutenant Commander Alfred H. Agnew, pilot, and Lieutenant Michael F. Haifley, bombardier/navigator, RVAH-13, was heading approximately south after completing a pre-strike photographic mission, on 28 December 1972. Both 603 and its escort, Taproom 102, had just gone feet wet, at 1230, when 102 sighted a MiG at his 8 Oclock position heading north, vectoring 603 to the right and turning to engage the MiG. No further contact with Flint River 603 could be established. Agnew was captured by the communists, returning home on 29 March 1973, but Haifley did not survive; his remains were returned to the U.S. on 14 August 1985, and identified on 7 October of that year.
Linebacker II ended on 29 December 1972, with the resumption of peace talks in Paris, the bombing considered a major impetus for North Vietnamese willingness to continue discussions. Heavy raids around Hanoi ceased, the last of over 700 B-52 sorties. The following day the U.S. called another bombing halt over North Vietnam, the Navy ending all tactical air sorties above the 20th parallel. A total of 15 Stratofortress, 2% of all B-52s flown during the entire period were lost, with none shot down on 2829 December, demonstrating the almost complete disruption of the North Vietnamese air defense network. This virtual paralysis of the system was accomplished in large part due to naval air operations, CVW-14 flying a daily effort of as many as 120 strikes in a 150 sortie day. Keeping Enterprise at sea taxed men and ships alike, the ship accomplishing no less than 64 underway replenishments during 1972.
From 112 January 1973, Enterprise concluded the second half of her third line period of the deployment at Yankee Station. Unlike the previous month of high tempo operations against the Hanoi/Haiphong industrial complex, however, she now confined her air operations below North Vietnams 20th Parallel. On the 12th, Vice Admiral Cooper, TF 77, recognized the ship and CVW-14 as the last carrier aircrews to fly combat sorties against targets in the north. Completing strikes against enemy troops, supplies, LOCs and logistic bases in northern routes in South Vietnam, she came about the next day for the Philippines, arriving on the 14th.
On 23 January 1973, Enterprise stood out from Subic Bay, rendezvousing at Yankee Station the next day with ocean escort Lang (DE-1060) as her plane guard. Shadowed by a Soviet Kusan-class intelligence vessel, Enterprise began her fourth line period of the WestPac, but at a reduced tempo, flying combat missions into Laos only.
On 27 January 1973, the Vietnam cease-fire, announced four days earlier, came into effect and all four carriers operating on Yankee Station, Enterprise, America, Oriskany and Ranger, cancelled combat sorties for the remainder of that day. During the intervening period the Big E flew some of the last naval air strikes over South Vietnam.
However, while making a bombing run under control of Covey 115, a FAC, Taproom 113, an F-4J (BuNo 155768), Commander Harley H. Hall, pilot, and Lieutenant Commander Philip A. Kientzler, RIO, VF-143, was shot down near Quang Tri, South Vietnam, at 1720 on the 27th, just 11 hours prior to the beginning of the ceasefire. During his parachute descent, Kientzler made one guard transmission on his PRC-90, but nothing further was heard from the two men until some beepers were overheard after parachutes were seen on the ground on an island. It is believed that Taproom 113 was struck by an SA-7. Nail 89, another F-4, was also shot down by an SA-7 in the same vicinity, reporting over the radio he was about to be captured. Taproom 113 bore the sad distinction of being the last naval aircraft lost before the end of the conflict. Kientzler was captured, but subsequently released, returning home on 27 March 1973. Hall did not survive, however, though Kientzler noted that he was still alive when he hit the ground after his ejection, and Halls remains were not to return to the U.S. until 25 January 1993, being identified on 6 September 1994.
The crew welcomed Sunday 28 January 1973, not only because it established a cease fire in Vietnam but because it meant the return of American Prisoners of War, some of them friends and shipmates of the men of the Big E. At 0800 most men off watch assembled on the flight deck to join with millions of Americans in a memorial and thanksgiving service marking the cease-fire, Enterprise is led by Captain Frank R. Morton, the ships senior chaplain.
However, the very next day aircraft from Enterprise joined those of Rangers in lines-of-communications strikes in Laos. A total of 81 sorties were flown, following an overflight corridor between Hué and Da Nang, South Vietnam. The Laotian government requested the support, which was not related to the Vietnam cease-fire.
Vice Admiral Holloway was the main speaker as Rear Admiral William R. McClendon relieved Vice Admiral Cooper as Commander, Carrier Striking Force 7th Fleet (ComCarStrFor7thFlt), presenting Cooper the Distinguished Service Medal, on 27 February.
February 1973 became an active month for Enterprise as she shifted emphasis from strikes to supporting mine countermeasures (MCM) forces in Operation End Sweep.
Much of the military equipment required by the North Vietnamese had arrived by Eastern Bloc ships, and Operation Pocket Money had been developed to cut that flow of supplies. Beginning Pocket Money, three A-6As and six A-7Es from Coral Sea, supported by an EKA-3B, laid a total of 36 MK 52-2 mines in the outer approaches to Haiphong harbor on 9 May 1972. Their mission initiated a campaign that ultimately sowed 108 special MK 52-2s and more than 11,000 MK 36 type destructor mines over the next eight months. The mining proved to be one of the most successful naval operations of the war, closing the port of Haiphong for upward of 10 months.
With the ceasefire, however, arrangements were made with the Communists, in part to ease the return of POWs and MIAs. Operation Endsweep was one of the resulting U.S. concessions, designed to clear North Vietnamese waters of mines, beginning with the activation of TF 78, on 27 January 1973.
On 5 February 1973, Commander, TF 78, supported by other naval mine demolition experts, met with North Vietnamese leaders in Haiphong to discuss the operation. A detachment formed around a helicopter and 10 men from Enterprises HS-2 Det 1 flew several flights daily from guided missile frigate Worden to Cat Bi airfield, near Haiphong, transporting U.S. and North Vietnamese negotiators to meetings to initiate the operation (420 February 1973). The next day the force began preliminary minesweeping to prepare an anchorage for command and supply ships providing on-scene support, in deep water off the approaches to Haiphong harbor. Airborne mine countermeasures began on 27 February, the first such operations ever accomplished with live mines. Despite interruptions caused by North Vietnamese intransigence and petty ploys, the operation proved successful, clearing North Vietnams waters of mines.
Both aircraft and ships, including Enterprise, Coral Sea, Oriskany and Ranger, supporting mine countermeasures forces at various times from the Mine Logistics Carrier Station, Gulf of Tonkin, participated in the operation, including an Air Mobile Mine Countermeasures Command. The latter at various times comprised Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM)-12, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH)-463 and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM)-165. The squadrons were normally organized into four operating elements, AlphaDelta, each consisting of an airborne mine countermeasures planning, command and control, aircraft and material element. Dangerous work, aircrews endured hazardous flying operations, both surface and aircrews facing errant mines and weather interference. Operation End Sweep ultimately concluded on 27 July 1973 and TF 78 was disbanded, but during its six months of operations, the airborne element made 3,554 minesweeping runs totaling 1,134.7 sweeping hours in 623 sorties. Surface elements made 208 sweeping runs of 308.8 hours. Three helicopters were lost during the operation, all due to operational accidents.
Enterprise also continued launching unrelenting CAS and interdiction missions. On 14 February 1973, the Pentagon announced an increase of strikes in Laos from 280 to 380 daily. On that date aircraft from Enterprise and Oriskany flew about 160 of these sorties into Laos. During the last two days of this line period, Enterprise began operating under what was almost a peacetime environment. Except for photographic reconnaissance, force defense and similar missions, tasking focused upon training. Among her visitors was General Frederick C. Weyand, U.S.A., Commander, MACV, on 22 February. On the 24th she came about for Cubi Point, staying there from 2527 February, before getting underway again for Singapore, in company with destroyer McCaffery (DD-860).
While visiting Singapore, 310 March 1973, the crew received word of their award of the Battle Efficiency E for attack carriers of the Pacific Fleet, the Engineering/Reactor and Supply Departments, the latter its first such award, also receiving Es, as did two of CVW-14s squadrons with similar Es in their respective communities. In Singapore a chartered flight with some of their wives from Oakland, Calif., gave some families a brief reunion, the same plane also taking back some of the crew on leave. The crew also hosted almost 1,000 visitors.
Enterprise and McCaffery returned to Yankee Station on 12 March 1973, where the carrier continued her support of Operation End Sweep. On the 20th, TF 77 transferred to Constellation (Captain J.D. Ward) after 151 days on board Enterprise. With the exception of embassy and similar people, the last U.S. combat forces in South Vietnam were withdrawn on 29 March, with the disbandment of MACV and with them, the need for maintaining carriers on Yankee and Dixie Stations gradually diminished.
While strikes ceased against North Vietnam, operations continued for sometime over Laos and Cambodia. Aircraft from Enterprise were in action over both countries during this period, joining USAF aircraft, including B-52s, in strikes against the Pathet Lao and Khmer Rouge, the latter besieging the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. Facing virtual starvation, people trapped within the city were desperate, Phnom Penhs only lifeline to the outside world being the Mekong River, the Khmer Rouge ambushing shipping along the crucial waterway. Aircrews from Enterprise supported USAF aircraft flying from Thailand in blasting Khmer Rouge positions along the river and the surrounding countryside, eliciting protests from the communist negotiators in Paris over this apparent violation of the peace accords. The U.S. responded by momentarily suspending End Sweep operations, making the point loud and clear with Hanoi.
While steaming toward Cubi Point on 6 April 1973, Enterprise was involved in an exhaustive all day SAR effort, when a man fell overboard from the carrier. Three of the four Sea Kings from HS-2 Det 1, together with one E-2 Hawkeye, one Grumman C-1A Greyhound and one Lockheed C-130 Hercules donated by the Air Force, combed the seas, searching from dawn to dusk, but in vain, as the sailor was never found.
Leaving the Philippines in company with destroyer Corry (DD-817), on 15 April 1973, Enterprise began air operations upon her arrival at Yankee Station the next day.
On 26 April 1973, an F-4 Phantom II from VF-142 exploded about ½ mile aft of the ship. Both the pilot and his RIO were rescued by an HS-2 Sea King crew, the survivors brought on board in barely 11 minutes. Early in May 1973, another pilot and his RIO from VF-142 were forced to ditch, when their Phantom II suffered a control failure. The men were quickly rescued, again by the Golden Falcons.
Operation Blue Sky was an exercise with the Nationalist Chinese, 8 May 1973. Aircrews from Enterprise flew simulated strikes testing Taiwanese defenses, who reciprocated with practice bombing and strafing runs against the ships bombing spar. Observers included General Chen I-Fan, CinC, Chinese Nationalist Air Force, and Vice Admiral Philip A. Beshany, Commander, U.S. Taiwan Defense Command.
Returning to Subic Bay on 10 May 1973, Enterprise and her crew spent ten days of rest and relaxation, before returning to her seventh and final line period of this deployment, in the South China Sea, on 20 May. However, operations began to wind down as Congress debated continued U.S. involvement, eventually ordering the cessation of all combat operations in Southeast Asia by 15 August, on 20 June. Usually on the receiving end of underway replenishments, Enterprise reciprocated by replenishing destroyer Turner Joy on the 22nd.
On the evening of 27 May 1973, Enterprise turned due east, arriving at Cubi Point on the morning of the 29th, the ship staying for a single day before standing out the next morning for the U.S., unaccompanied.
Enterprises solo return from WestPac proved eventful. While Enterprise was inchopping to Com3rdFlt on 34 June 1973, the men of a Lockheed EP-3B Orion from VQ-1, conducting Kennel Post operations from NAS Agana, Guam, detected four Soviet Bear Ds attempting to overfly the ship. A tense situation ensued, but the Russians disengaged, coming about and avoiding the ship at the last moment. The Soviet aircrews appeared friendly, however, several times waving to escorting F-4Js.
The next day the carriers crew rescued 31 crewmen and one woman, Georgette Galiatsatos, the wife of Charalabos Galiatsatos, the 2nd officer, from the Liberian registry freighter St. Constantine. Chartered by Barber Lines (Norway). St. Constantine was en route to Savannah, Ga., from Yokohama, Japan, with general cargo, when a half hour before the mid watch on 31 May 1973, an oil line had ruptured in her engine room, allowing fluid to spray onto the exhaust manifold of the ships diesels. The resulting fire quickly engulfed the machinery space and defied the efforts of the crew to contain it. Captain Apollon Alexakis, her master, quickly ordered the Radio Officer to send out a distress signal. The ship had no sooner begun transmitting an S.O.S. when the ships electrical power failed, and before emergency power could be brought on line, the fire destroyed all of the ships communications equipment, as well as disabled her engines. Unable to send distress signals or to maneuver the gutted and smoldering vessel, the crew drifted with her at the mercy of the sea.
By 1100 on the 5th, St. Constantine had reached a point approximately 1,290 miles west-northwest of Honolulu, about 510 miles northeast of Wake Island. Heat from the fires and heavy seas forced them into a lifeboat, to drift alongside the ship. Commercial aircraft flew overhead more than once but ignored the survivors, who had reached the limit of their endurance when an EP-3B flew nearby, dropping down to a lower altitude for a closer look. The survivors fired red distress flares, which were spotted by the men of the Orion. The EP-3B immediately notified Enterprise, the closest known ship, about 153 NM to the south. Turning toward the reported position of the crippled merchantman, the carrier launched two HS-2 Sea Kings and a reconnaissance aircraft when 100 NM away, at 1245.
As Enterprise was still some distance away, however, the Orion crew circled their aircraft low over St. Constantine to assure the crew that they were seen, then searched the immediate area for other ships to aid in the rescue. When no other ships were located, the EP-3B returned to the location of the freighter, orbiting overhead until the helos arrived.
Meanwhile, the helicopters from Enterprise raced to the scene, arriving at approximately 1336, by which time the carrier was within 82 miles of the stricken vessel. The first Sea King overhead, 004 (Lieutenant Commander Frank W. Butler), picked up 13 people. When 004 completed packing survivors on board, 001 (Lieutenant Paul A. Alfieri), moved in and beginning at 1351, hoisted aloft 11 more into the hovering helo. A third helo, 002 (Lieutenant Commander Roger P. Murray), was launched at 1412, and brought back the remaining eight survivors.
Prior to leaving the foundering ship, the master of St. Constantine had requested that containership Sea Train Louisiana, arriving within the vicinity to supplement the SAR, remain by the distressed ship until a decision was made on the disposition of St. Constantine, although Sea Train Louisiana left the derelict still burning and adrift the next day.
Arriving on board Enterprise, the survivors were rushed to the ships medical facilities, where doctors and medical people examined each in turn, providing treatment to those requiring it, though only the stricken vessels first officer, Nick Vlachos, sustained serious injuries, suffering burns. The survivors were debarked in Hawaii, in good health, good spirits, and very, very thankful for the presence of the U.S. Navy and HS-2 Det ONE.
Meanwhile, Operation Homecoming, the release of 591 American POWs by the North Vietnamese, 566 of whom were military personnel, including 144 naval pilots and aircrewmen, had occurred. The final group of 148 POWs was released by Hanoi on 29 March 1973. Enterprise moored at Pearl Harbor, 78 June 1973, and embarked five former POWs for the homeward voyage: Rear Admiral James B. Stockdale, Commander Gordon R. Nakagawa, Commander John D. Burns, Lieutenant Commander Philip A. Kientzler and Lieutenant Joseph S. Mobley, together with 105 sons of crewmembers, many of the latter POWs and MIAs.
The morning of Enterprise's return to San Francisco dawned cold, damp and overcast, but the weather did not prevent fireboats from welcoming the ship with cascading plumes of water or numerous vessels from maneuvering around her. At about 1100 on 12 June 1973, she moored at Alameda. During her cruise, Enterprise had catapulted 14,481 aircraft and recorded 14,889 arrested landings.
Following a brief period of leave and upkeep, Enterprise offloaded her ammunition at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, 2627 July 1973, standing out for Operation Northwest Passage, the voyage to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Wash., on the 30th. On board for the transit were 200 dependents; the ship arrived at Bremerton, on 12 August.
Among projects completed during her extended selected restricted availability (ESRA) were repairs and alterations to enable the ship operate Grumman F-14A Tomcats and Lockheed S-3A Vikings. Equipped with AIM-54A Phoenix air-to-air missiles, Tomcats could engage targets up to 100 miles out, the merger of the two systems considered to be one of the most capable air superiority platforms ever developed. This was the first fleet deployment of the aircraft.
Enterprises aircraft intermediate maintenance department (AIMD) introduced maintenance equipment designed for Tomcats, known as the versatile avionics ship test (VAST) #12. VAST was supplemented by the inertial platform test atation, weapons equipment storage and handling facilities, a modified jet engine test facility and a completely converted airborne fire control avionics ship #3. Two magazines were modified to facilitate storage for Phoenixes.
Additional projects included the conversion and update of CIC, modernizing the carrier air traffic control center (CATCC) by replacing the AN/SPN-12 with the AN/SP-44 range-rate radar, the modification/redesignation of the AN/WSC-1 to the AN/WSC-5 for the Naval Communication Satellite, the cleaning of the bottom, rudder shaft and screw repair, extensive engineering refurbishments, the scaling to bare metal and recoating with Mare Island Epoxy of all propulsion plant bilges, and overhauls of pumps and most engineering systems.
The Combat Information System was modernized with an updated generation of NTDS, comprising computers, programming and equipment interfacing, replacing the previous installation. The update provided Enterprise with a two-way data link between CIC and embarked F-14s. The Electronic Evaluation Station acquired software allowing it to process intelligence tapes from Grumman EA-6B Prowlers as well as RA-5Cs. One of the valuable features of the NTDS upgrade was the ability of air intercept controllers to receive F-14 track information on their NTDS/Intercept Control scopes to augment the ships air search radar presentation.
In addition, with the changeover of HS-2 into the wing on 6 August 1973, Enterprise began transitioning from the concept of a CVAN to that of a CVN, slated to be effective on 1 July 1975. VFs-142 and 143 were replaced by VF-1 and VF-2 on 1 September. VAQ-137 (EA-6Bs) would replace VAQ-131 on 4 December.
Enterprise was refloated from drydock shortly after Thanksgiving of 1973, completing her shipyard work by January 1974. She was originally scheduled for sea trials during the third week of January, planning to sail for her return to Alameda on 2 February 1974. Later in the month she completed two days of dock trials pierside, before getting underway for sea trials, 2124 January, returning to Puget Sound.
On 30 January 1974, Enterprise crewmembers began loading personal effects on board for Operation Golden Gate, the transfer of the ship back to her home port of Alameda. On board for the move, made from 24 February, were 615 dependents, 100 pets, 1091 cars, 90 motorcycles, 45 pickups and campers, 12 boats and several tons of household goods.
Vehicles and goods crowded the 4.47-acre flight deck, leaving little room for the crew and their passengers topside, although children were kept entertained in a nursery run from 08301930 daily. The voyage was not without incident, however, as choppy seas encountered as the ship passed the northern California area caused seasickness among many dependents who had never before been to sea. In addition, as she was approaching the entrance to San Francisco Bay, Enterprise was informed that fog had much of the area socked in, forcing her to delay arrival until mid-afternoon of 4 February 1974.
Getting underway for training between 1219 February 1974, Enterprises ships company focused upon battle damage procedures, ship handling, communications and radar procedures. Back at Alameda, Enterprise also began taking on board the first of 1,500 tons of ammunition she would load by the end of the year. Rear Admiral Robert S. Smith, Director, Combat Systems Division, visited the ship on 1 March.
Enterprise sailed for workups and refresher training, 428 March 1974, the first portion of which was spent in the workups, with the weekends of 910, 1617 and 2324 March, being spent in San Diego. During this period the ship was also used by a number of different squadrons for carrier qualifications, as well as a test platform for both F-14As and S-3As. During that time, Lieutenant Commander Grover Giles, pilot, and Lieutenant Commander Roger McFillen, RIO, VF-1, made the maiden F-14A Tomcat landing on board Enterprise on 14 March 1974. Later that day, Giles and McFillen were joined by a pair of Tomcats from the Naval Air Test Center (NATC) Patuxent River, Maryland.
Enterprise spent the remainder of March through midApril 1974 conducting a Readiness Improvement Training Period, followed by further carrier qualifications for both CVW-14 and other unattached squadrons. The ship anchored in San Francisco Bay, 29 March5 April, mooring at Alameda, 6th17th. Following this period she stood out again off the southern California operating area, 1826 April, 715 May, 413 June, 2128 June and 1625 July, returning to Alameda between each period, with the exception of 29 June3 July, when she again anchored in San Francisco Bay.
Taking advantage of these carquals were VAs-104, 122, 125, 127 and 128; VFs-101 and 121; Marine Composite Reconnaissance Squadron (VMCJ)-3; Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX)-4; VFP-63 and the training command. In addition, VAQ-128 conducted last minute carrier qualifications in July. As an example of the hectic pace, during the seven days of carquals in May, the ship recorded 1,177 arrested landings.
Other significant events occurred during this period. On 9 April 1974, Captain Carol C. Smith, Jr., relieved Rear Admiral Tissot, who had been promoted while serving as commanding officer. During the ceremony, Vice Admiral Robert B. Baldwin presented the ship and her crew with the Navy Unit Commendation:
On 18 April 1974, Enterprise hosted Lieutenant Governor Henry A. Boucher of Alaska, who had served on board the seventh Enterprise (CV-6) during WWII, and who presented to Captain Smith and his crew an ensign that had flown on board that carrier on 14 May 1945 when a Japanese kamikaze crashed into her No. 1 elevator, off Honshu, Japan. Boucher told the crew that since WWII he had been holding the flag in trust until the opportunity occurred when he could return it to its rightful place.
In June 1974, Enterprise again tested her BPDMS, firing four NATO Sea Sparrows at maneuvering MQM-74A target drones. During July, CVW-14 reported on board, comprising VFs-1 and 2 (F-14As), VA-27 and VA-97 (A-7Es) and VA-196 (nine A-6As and five KA-6Ds), VAW-113 (E-2Bs), VAQ-137, HS-2 (SH-3Gs) and RVAH-12. Arriving on board later for the WestPac deployment was VQ-1s EA-3B det.
At sea during 1625 July 1974, Enterprise completed exercises of increasing complexity. KomarEx pitted the ship and her aircraft against simulated attacks by Soviet Komar-class missile boats. The ship also launched two mini-Alfa strikes and conducted two ReadiExes, the latter consisting of nuclear weapons loading exercises designed to test command and control, intelligence, operations, air operations, and weapons in addition to other functions. General quarters sounded for real on the night of 2425 July 1974, when damage control parties battled a serious fire in the newly-installed VAST spaces. The skill and proficiency of the fire-fighters quelled the blaze, and although the damage to the system and its sensitive electronic equipment proved extensive and required considerable repairs, a crash program involving both sailors and civilians enabled VAST to be operational again within two weeks.
In preparation for her ORI, Enterprise participated in a weapons training exercise, 716 August 1974, after which she returned to San Diego. On the morning of the 19th, she began her ORI with an opposed transit from San Diego Bay, the operation evolving into a ReadiEx. Over the next three days, Enterprise took part in BellCam, an exercise involving attacks by simulated enemy ships, including hydrofoils Flagstaff (PGH-1) and High Point (PCH-1), together with CVW-14 aircraft, supported by USMC McDonnell Douglas AV-8A Harriers, returning to Alameda on 27 August.
Enterprise deployed to the western Pacific on 17 September 1974. Her transit was literally quiet, in that the ship made most of it under electronic emissions control (EmCon) restrictions, enabling her to avoid many Soviet forces attempting to intercept and track her. Training continued throughout the passage, and on 22 September, Enterprise conducted a BearEx when a P-3B simulated a Soviet bomber in order to test the ships ability to detect and intercept hostile aircraft. The next day (23 September) the ship pulled into Pearl for a full day of meetings, resupply operations and recreation.
Underway again the next day, however, Enterprise conducted training exercises and daily flight operations near the Hawaiian Islands. ComTuEx 8-74 consisted of a week of flight operations, 24-29 September, including the second Sea Sparrow launch of the year, on the 25th, observed by Vice Admiral James H. Doyle, Jr., Com3rdFlt. Also during that period, at 1230 on 27 September, Admiral Weisner, CinCPac, participated in Enterprises 147,000th arrested landing, in a Tomcat piloted by Lieutenant John O. Creighton, VF-2, following a 45 minute demonstration flight. Enterprise returned to Pearl on 29 September.
The Big E slipped from her berth on the morning of 2 October 1974, leaving Pearl behind as she steamed west. The next day the Secretary of the Navy visited the ship. En route to Asian waters, the crew participated in a cookout and musical show, a boxing smoker, and a Captains Cup sports tournament, the latter including an arduous three mile run on a very hot flight deck.
As Enterprise neared the Philippines on 16 October 1974, her arrival proved a stormy one, as she encountered heavy seas from Typhoon Carmen in transiting Mindoro Strait. The next day she moored to Leyte Pier, Cubi Point.
While many Enterprise men enjoyed liberty ashore, CVW-14 conducted flight operations from the nearby facilities, the ship pulling back out on the 21st to enable the wing to do so from her flight deck. The additional training was considered necessary in order to build aircrew proficiency following their transit, which had offered few flying hours. The end of October 1974 also marked a year of accident-free flying for CVW-14, a very uncommon milestone among air wings at that time.
Secretary of the Navy Middendorf again visited the ship, in company with Vice Admiral William D. Houser, Deputy CNO (Air Warfare), 31 October-1 November 1974, upon his arrival presenting Commander Gordon R. Nakagawa, CO, VA-196, with three medals, including the Bronze Star, a Gold Star in lieu of a second Bronze Star, and a Gold Star in lieu of a second Navy Commendation Medal. The awards recognized and honored Nakagawas Heroic endeavors, exceptional skill, and devotion to duty while a POW.
After pausing at Cubi Point (2-5 November 1974), Enterprise stood out over the 6th-7th to avoid Typhoon Gloria, which was sweeping toward Subic Bay with winds of over 100 mph. Narrowly escaping Gloria, the ship headed south just as the typhoon passed on a northerly course, coming back in, 810 November. MultiPlex 2-75, 1117 November, was an underway exercise involving a variety of methods to test the ships ability to respond to different level of conflict, consisting of counterinsurgency, general naval war and all-out nuclear war. With the conclusion of MultiPlex, she dropped anchor at Hong Kong on the morning of the 18th.
Just as Enterprise was getting underway from the Crown Colony, Commander, British Forces, Hong Kong, visited the ship, the air wing putting on a brief flight demonstration in his honor, on 24 November 1974. Returning to Philippine waters, the ship participated in MablEx/Bayanihan, the latter a Filipino expression meaning working together, 46 December, a joint U.S.-Filipino amphibious exercise, Enterprise providing air cover for the landing force. Visitors to the ship at the start of that evolution on 4 December 1974 included U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines William H. Sullivan, Chief, Joint Military Assistance Group, Rear Admiral Hilario Ruiz, Flag Officer in Command, Philippine Navy, and Deputy Commanding General, Philippine Air Force.
With many of the crew looking forward to spending Christmas in the Philippines following the conclusion of Bayanihan, Enterprise was directed by the JCS, 9-10 December 1974 to proceed to the Gulf of Tonkin to conduct cyclic air operations off the coast of South Vietnam. These operations, often hampered by the very poor weather conditions, were accomplished under very close air control.
Coming about on 24 December 1974, Enterprise reached Cubi Point in time for Christmas Eve. VQ-1 Det 65 immediately departed for NAS Agana, Guam, but although many men were able to go ashore, ominous message traffic indicated that Enterprise would have to begin preparing for an extended deployment to the Indian Ocean. Preparations began for a cruise far removed from established channels of support. Extensive work lay ahead. The deck department worked 12-hour days repainting the hull, special flights from the U.S. brought in critical aviation repair parts and the ship took on a large quantity of aviation fuel, as well as supplies, including over 10,000 pounds of charts.
Two days into the New Year 1975, the ship lost an F-14A (BuNo 158982), NK 107, Lieutenant Commander Giles, pilot, and Lieutenant Commander McFillen, RIO, VF-1. The Tomcat was on a training mission from Cubi Point when a loud thump was heard, followed by a fire, the men losing control of the aircraft. Both men ejected approximately 15 seconds later and survived.
On 7 January 1975, the Big E began her second month-long underway part of the cruise, sailing from Cubi Point for the Indian Ocean. Early in this underway period, VF-1 Tomcats engaged in maneuvers with AV-8A Harriers from VMA-513.
Although South Vietnamese diplomatic sources had intimated that a U.S. task force led by Enterprise was coming to their aid, the ship nonetheless proceeded toward the Indian Ocean. She entered the Malacca Strait on 11 January 1975, spotting more than 60 ships during her one-day transit. Two days later, VAQ-137 lost an EA-6B Prowler (BuNo 158812) which splashed barely 15 seconds after launch when it flamed out. Two of the four crewmembers were unharmed, but Lieutenant Jack L. Pedersen perished in the mishap and another crewmember escaped with back injuries. Captain Smith later eulogized Pedersen as an officer who reflected the Navys highest levels of professionalism, whose death serves as a continuing reminder that our calling is a dangerous one, whether it be conducted in peace or in war.
Another mishap, the second involving a Tomcat within a fortnight, occurred the following day (14 January 1975) when an F-14A (BuNo 159001), NK 112, Lieutenant Commander David G. Bjerke, pilot, and Lieutenant Gerald W. Kowlok, RIO, VF-1, flamed out while conducting a VFR intercept mission. Again, the men heard a loud bang, experiencing aircraft vibration, and observed flames and smoke, followed by an uncontrollable yaw, forcing them to eject. Although both men were recovered by helo and survived unharmed, all F-14s on board were grounded, pending a comprehensive investigation into the two Tomcat losses. After extensive analysis, investigators attributed both accidents to catastrophic failure in the compressor sections of their TF30-P412A engines. The investigation and modifications reduced flying time for the remainder of the month.
Enterprise crossed the equator, the first of four crossings during the cruise, at 84º30E, on 15 January 1975. A general standdown accompanied King Neptunes arrival, and 3,872 slimy pollywogs became shellbacks. Subsequently, Enterprise continued her Captains Cup tournaments, hosting track and field, a rope-climb, tug-of-war, weight-lifting, arm wrestling, a boxing smoker, and pinochle and cribbage events. Meanwhile, the wing conducted flight operations during 24 of the 32 days in the Indian Ocean, averaging 60 fixed wing sorties daily.
Enterprise continually received supplies from her escorts in order to sustain this level of activity, and all ships replenished via COD airlift from Singapore, Bandar Abbas, Iran, UTapao, Thailand, Mauritius and Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), collecting tons of accumulated mail that arrived at the latter place. RVAH-12 flew photographic mapping missions over Diego Garcia, which proved vital during subsequent construction efforts there. These fields were also designated as potential divert areas in the event of emergencies, though Enterprise flight controllers maintained an aggressive no-divert spirit.
While Enterprise was heading for Mombasa, Kenya, a Tomcat experienced a flame out on 27 January 1975, but the pilot was able to restart an engine and reach the ship without further incident. On 2 February, another emergency situation arose when an F-14A was forced to make a barricade landing, resulting in minor damage to the plane.
A party of dignitaries, including U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Anthony J. Marshall, Philip Gitonga, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defense, Kenya, Lieutenant Colonel James Kimaro and Colonel Dedan N. Gichura, the commanders of that nations Navy and Air Force, respectively, arrived on board two days later (4 February 1975), being treated to an aerial demonstration.
On the morning of 5 February 1975, Enterprise anchored four miles outside of Mombasa, while guided missile destroyer Benjamin Stoddert (DDG-22) and ocean escort Rathburne (DE-1057) moored to buoys. Initially, the Enterprise liberty party was restricted to 1,500 men per day, a number to be reduced due to high afternoon winds known to occur in the area. However, liberty coordinators were delighted to learn that the port could accommodate larger parties, even with British liner Queen Elizabeth II in port, and the crew received additional time ashore, some taking advantage of safari tours to Mount Kilimanjaro and visiting Nairobi, the capital. Two days later, Rear Admiral William L. Harris, Jr., relieved Rear Admiral Owen H. Oberg, as Commander, Carrier Group Seven.
On 6 February 1975, however, Cyclone Gervaise struck Mauritius, causing damage estimated in millions of dollars as the worse storm to hit [the area] since 1956 destroying or seriously damaging thousands of homes; nine people perished. Prime Minister Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolan accepted U.S. offers of aid. Enterprise got underway on 9 February 1975, under orders to proceed and render assistance to the beleaguered island nation taking advantage of her nuclear propulsion to cover the 1,600 miles at an average speed of nearly 30 knots. She was to join Long Beach and fast combat support ship Camden (AOE-2), together with French and Soviet forces, to provide disaster relief. En route, Enterprise prepared for a variety of contingencies, organizing work parties of six-ten men each, some groups with specific skills and some for general cleanup. In addition, combat stores ship Mars (AFS-1) received orders to join the operation; since she could not match the Big Es speed, however, she cross-decked C-3 Det 104 to Enterprise, enabling heavy loads, like large sections of water pipes, to be transported into remote areas otherwise inaccessible for heavy gear on the ground.
Arriving off Mauritius on the afternoon of 11 February 1975, Enterprise dropped anchor at Port Louis the next day. Her teams sprang into action, spending more than 10,000 man-hours restoring water, power and telephone systems, and repairing a hospitals roof and air conditioning plant. Enterprise provided medical aid, food, 60,000 gallons of potable water and 10,000 pounds of dried milk, and helicopter transportation, helos proved instrumental in surveying the damage to Mauritius sugar cane fields, the main source of income for the islanders. An Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team from Enterprise cleared trees from roads and buildings. Men from the ship removed literally tons of debris, but volunteers far exceeded available openings for work parties, so approximately 300 men went ashore each day, some of which visited French carrier Clemenceau, which arrived on the 10th to render assistance, too. Commander Thomas W. Turner, Enterprises medical officer, supervised the examinations of islanders, including the sores of children at an orphanage, for infections.
U.S. Ambassador to Mauritius Phillip W. Manhand visited Enterprise at the culmination of the relief efforts, personally thanking the crew, after which she sailed on 15 February 1975, passing arriving Soviet cruiser Dmitri Pozharski as she did so. En route to Singapore, Enterprise neared Diego Garcia and picked up mail and supplies, but a group of media representatives in chartered Australian yacht Billie Blue, protesting her deployment to the Indian Ocean, resulted in a curtailment of photomapping operations.
Enterprise paused at Singapore (22-25 February 1975), after which she proceeded on to the Philippines. She reached Cubi Point, mooring on 4 March. During the 5th-11th, Enterprise participated in Prime Rate, a JCS nuclear command and control exercise. Her next at-sea period (12-20 March) saw her conducting refresher landings for VRC-50s C-1s and C-2s, as well as USMC Phantom IIs, and a mining exercise by Intruders and Corsair IIs. Enterprise also began the underway offloading of all but 1,000 tons of ammunition in preparation for her return home, as well as loading on board 11 dud aircraft, beginning on the afternoon of the 21st, with her return to Cubi Point.
Enterprise received an urgent message just after midnight on 28 March 1975, however, postponing her scheduled return home that morning, and the sudden change of events forced the rapid offloading of her aircraft, for Enterprise had returned from the Indian Ocean as South Vietnam, struck by a massive communist offensive, began to disintegrate, imperiling Americans trapped within the chaos. Responding to the crisis, carriers Coral Sea, Enterprise, Hancock, and Midway and the amphibious assault ship Okinawa (LPH-3) received orders to proceed to Vietnamese waters for contingency operations. Enterprise was also potentially needed for Operation Talon Vise, the extraction of Americans and allied Cambodians from that embattled country. The ship had to double her onboard stores and ordnance, an exhausting effort for her crew. Additionally, while at sea between 28 March9 April, much of the time was devoted to standing by, and to providing airborne and deck aircraft.
While that alert requirement resulted in only minimal flight operations, Enterprise served as a forward logistics staging area for amphibious TF 76. Carrier-capable aircraft ferrying personnel and/or supplies landed on board Enterprise to refuel and/or turn the cargo over for other modes of transportation to the amphibious forces. Midway relieved the Big E on the latters 12th day on the line, so that she could return to Cubi Point for four days, where she remained on 12-hour standby status. While in port, Enterprise hosted CVW-21 from Hancock, enabling Hannah to serve as a helicopter platform for the evacuations. As an example of displacement experienced by Enterprise, three VF-2 Tomcats and crews remained at Cubi Point when she got underway again.
On the morning of 18 April 1975, Enterprise entered Manila Bay. Although her alert status had dropped to four hours, that was not to last, as no sooner had she dropped anchor then Enterprise received a message ordering her to proceed at 25 knots to a holding area 150 NM from Vung Tau, South Vietnam. Upon arrival at her new position, however, the next 14 days proved uneventful.
Hanoi criticized the presence of the U.S. ships, calling the operations a brazen challenge to the 1973 Paris Peace Accords. With South Vietnamese troops and refugees pouring down choked roads, barely ahead of North Vietnamese tanks, the outcome was not in doubt. The situation required desperate measures to avert the possible massacre of Americans still within the country, including Ambassador Graham A. Martin, his family and staff.
The enemy was shelling Saigon as they closed in upon the city, North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong mortar and rocket salvoes closing Tan Son Nhut Air Base to normal airborne traffic. The situation deteriorated quickly and on 29 April 1975, Enterprise received orders to execute Operation Order 2-75, Operation Frequent Wind. Together with Coral Sea, the two carriers covered evacuation helos for 18 hours, a short, but busy day, the Big E steaming about 90 miles from the South Vietnamese coast, well outside that countrys territorial waters.
Due to previous delays at senior levels and the close envelopment of the city by enemy troops, closing waterways to heavy traffic, only helicopters were considered appropriate for slipping in past the constant bombardment. Communist treatment of South Vietnamese who cooperated with Americans left little doubt as to their fate if they should they fall into unfriendly hands, and some were also brought out at the behest of their U.S. friends. Marines from the 9th Amphibious Brigade were flown in to Tan Son Nhut and key points, securing a defensive perimeter.
The first section of Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallions from HMH-462 touched down to the cheers of people waiting to be evacuated at the Alamo, the HQ building, Defense Attaché Office (DAO)/Air America Complex, at 1506 on 29 April 1975, kicking off the evacuation. At 0458 the next day, 30 April 1975, Lady Ace 09, Captain Gerald L. Berry, USMC, pilot, lifted off from the helipad, carrying Ambassador Martin, subsequently transmitting Tiger is out, the prearranged signal for the ambassadors extraction. Dodging small arms fire and using riot control agents against people attempting to force their way to the rooftop, Major James H. Kean, USMC, OIC, Company C, Marine Security Guard Battalion, and 10 of his men, boarded Swift 2-2, an HMM-164 CH-46, departing from the embassy rooftop at 0752, the last helo to leave South Vietnam. The Marines behaved with exemplary discipline, Ambassador Martin afterward noting that the Marines refrained from employing firearms relying only on non-lethal deterrents to accomplish their mission.
A total of 395 Americans and 4,475 Vietnamese and third-country nationals were evacuated from the DAO/Air America Complex, and 978 Americans and 1,120 third-country nationals were brought out of the embassy. During the last two days of the evacuation, aircraft from Coral Sea and Enterprise flew 173 sorties providing air support, F-14s, A-6s and A-7s orbiting Saigon, and USMC UH-1Es and AH-1Js provided low-level escort and evacuation runs, supporting the larger helos, Boeing Vertol CH-46E Sea Knights and CH-53s, together with eight USAF CH-53Cs and two HH-53s embarked in Midway. Planes from Enterprise flew 95 sorties: 20 F-14As, 44 A-7Es, four A-6As, 14 KA-6Ds, seven EA-6Bs, and six E-2Bs. No aircraft dropped ordnance, however, and the ship embarked no evacuees; an A-7E was lost, however, due to undetermined causes.
The ship received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (third star) for 2930 April 1975, together with a Meritorious Unit Commendation for 2230 April.
Upon completion of the evacuation, the ship came about for a last weekend at Cubi Point. Before beginning the 7,000 NM transit back to Alameda, on 5 May 1975, a USMC CH-53 squadron and its 290-man contingent embarked on board. While outchopping from WestPac, Enterprise received a message from Vice Admiral Steele, Com7thFlt, saying in part that her operations have been characterized by standard setting prowess
One hour into the forenoon watch on 14 May 1975, Enterprise moored at Pearl Harbor, but received word of another crisis that could require her presence in Southeast Asia.
A Khmer Rouge gunboat had seized the U.S. containership Mayaguez in international waters during the afternoon watch on 12 May. Soon thereafter, however, the men of Enterprise learned that American forces in the Cambodian area had recovered Mayaguez and her crew, and the carrier was able to continue home, embarking 150 sons of crewmembers in Hawaii as part of Operation Tiger, on the 15th. Enterprise arrived at Alameda, on 20 May 1975.
During the cruise, Enterprise had steamed over 60,000 miles, and over 1,100 major F-14 avionics components were tested by VAST, almost 1,000 being returned ready for installation. Fifty-seven flight crewmembers became Centurions, each logging over 100 or more arresting landings. The ship commenced a well earned 30 day standdown, followed by a four month selected restricted availability (SRA), during which time she accomplished repairs and structural changes.
On 1 July 1975, the aircraft carrier designation CVA was replaced with CV for all such ships still so designated, including Enterprise. This redesignation was made to improve the accuracy of ship designations reflecting their roles in modern warfare. By removing the letter A, describing attack, the new designation of CV could indicate a multi-role ship capable of air, surface and ASW roles, depending upon the types of aircraft embarked and missions assigned. On board Enterprise this was principally accomplished by the introduction of a true ASW capability, including the acquisition and testing of an ASW tactical support center (TSC), allowing her to process sensor information obtained from S-3As. Additional system installations during this period added the SLQ-17 ECM deception repeater, and a new NTDS program, enabling TSC/CIC interfacing.
The AN/SSR-1 satellite receiver and associated antennae was installed in anticipation of the Fleet Satellite Broadcast Systems inauguration. A joint Anglo-American agreement made possible the installation of SCOT-1, a British satellite terminal, for a two-year evaluation. A U.S. master oscillator was added to SCOT-1, facilitating variable, continuous tuning to allow access to any super high frequency satellites, via 15 channel operation. SCOT-1 provided communications in areas hitherto inaccessible or suffering interference over conventional systems, such as the Indian Ocean, and her deck edge antenna layout was modified by adding a 35 foot trussed whip, one fiberglass whip and two UHF antennae.
The air wing composition changed mid-way through 1975, with VAQ-134 and RVAH-1 replacing VAQ-137 and RVAH-12 respectively, while an additional squadron, VS-29, also reported on board with 10 S-3As, recording 97 arresting landings between 7 and 9 December 1975.
Admiral Holloway, the ships third commanding officer and the then-current Chief of Naval Operations, visited the ship with Robert J. Walker, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON), on 3 October 1975. Subsequently, Enterprise conducted an in-port fast cruise (2829 October) and sea trials at months end, that ensured accurate evaluation of the SRA, which ended on 7 November. She utilized the two remaining underway periods in 1975 for additional familiarization training, during which she exercised her BPDMS twice. British Rear Admiral John D. Fieldhouse, Flag Officer, Second Flotilla, RN, visited Enterprise, 13 December, and the ship returned to Alameda on 15 December, holding a Training Readiness Inspection on the 16th, before initiating a holiday standdown.
09 September 2005