Today my dad's getting his gallbladder removed, which should go fairly easy-it did with my mom earlier this year-so part of my off day will be spent at the hospital. While I do that, I'll leave you all with this.
As this is written, a chapter in naval history is coming to a close.
The carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the world's first nuclear-powered naval vessel, is being prepared for what will most likely be her last deployment.
Here Enterprise is seen in 1961 as part of the first wholly nuclear-powered task force, along with cruisers Long Beach (center) and Bainbridge (top)...
...and in the mid 1990s, after several alterations and refits.
Enterprise will be 51 years old when she pulls into port for the last time and her colors are lowered for the last time. She will have served on all the oceans of the world and visited the ports of most of the nations that have a coastline.
But...as stated above, she is over a half-century old. Her systems are not the most modern available. She is propelled by eight older-model nuclear reactors, as compared to two in the Nimitz class and derivatives. Parts and components are getting difficult to find. Her design is not the most optimal for the aircraft used today. It's probably time for Enterprise's retirement. To rebuild her from the keel up would likely cost as much if not more than building a new ship.
A lot of sailors and ex-sailors in this country spent a stint on board a ship named Enterprise. This carrier is the sixth ship in the fleet to carry the name. The first was a schooner. She was famous for firing the first shots in the Barbary Wars against the city-states of Tripoli and Algiers in North Africa (ye gods, we've been fighting these people a long time!).
The second, third, and fourth Enterprises served in the mid-to-late 1800s, which was something of a low period for the US Navy. Generally the fleet was neglected in favor of the Army during the country's westward expansion, with the brief exception of the Civil War.
The fifth Enterprise (CV-6) was the carrier of World War II fame.
CV-6 served in the Pacific from the first day of the war right up to the surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay, fighting in most of the major campaigns along the way. The 'Big E' was the most decorated ship of the war, and possibly should have been preserved as a memorial instead of being scrapped in the late 1950s.
Which brings us to CVN-65 and her long service and retirement, and our Navy's policy of naming our carrier fleet. The latest carriers have been named for politicians, some of which deserve the honor, some of which...deserve a ship named after them, but not one of the carriers. Let's go through the list, shall we?
Nimitz. Commander of US Navy Forces in the Pacific during World War II. OK, I'm good with that.
Eisenhower. Commander US Forces Europe during World War II. 34th President. An Army General, but OK-worthy name.
Carl Vinson. Senator from Georgia in the 1930's. Instrumental in gearing up to bolster the fleet in the days before WWII. Worthy of a ship-but not a carrier.
Theodore Roosevelt. The first president of a 'world-power' United States. Sent the 'Great White Fleet' on a round-the-world showing of the flag. OK.
Abraham Lincoln. 16th President. President during the Civil War. Defeated the Confederate States and kept the Union together. No-brainer.
George Washington. Leader of the Continental Army in the Revolution and the first President of the United States. Definitely.
John C. Stennis. A long-serving senator from Mississippi. Not much to do with the Navy. I wouldn't have named a ship for him.
Harry S. Truman. 33rd President, in office at the end of WWII. President during Korean War. Had a reputation for being a no-nonsense guy. OK, though his Secretary of Defense, Louis Johnson, wanted to abolish Naval Aviation and put it in the hands of the Air Force.
Ronald Reagan. 40th President. Won the Cold War and probably responsible for the US resurgence of the late 20th Century. Advocate of a 600-ship Navy. OK.
George H.W. Bush. 41st President. President during First Gulf War. Naval Aviator during WWII aboard USS San Jacinto. Friend of the Navy, but really, probably a destroyer named after him would be more appropriate. We named destroyers/frigates for Winston Churchill and Harold Holt, after all, and I'm not sure Bush 41 did more than either one of them (certainly more than Holt and nowhere near as much as Churchill.).
Not a bad list with a couple of exceptions. However, the first of the new carrier class currently building is to be named (CVN-78) Gerald R. Ford.
Gerald R. Ford? I don't know about this. I think we're scraping here. Ford, like Bush 41, flew off a carrier during WWII (USS Monterey), and served as a long-time Congressman from Michigan. He was the 38th President, but only to finish Nixon's term, and was voted out in 1976. Destroyer for him too.
Who next? Millard Fillmore? Grover Cleveland? The senator who votes for the most money for naval appropriations in the defense budget?
I don't know. But I do know this. If/when we build CVN-79, it has to be named Enterprise. Traditions must be maintained, after all.
The possibility exists that the supercarrier may go the way of the battleship. The great expense to build them, along with the ability to field unmanned combat aerial vehicles and V/STOL manned craft (although I'll be extremely surprised if the F-35 does all the bullshit stuff they say it will) may render the big 1000 ft long ships obsolete and irrelevant.
The Navy is also investing in the America-class LHA (Landing Platform, Helicopter, Amphibious). This class is an offshoot of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, and although it's designed to carry a Marine batallion into harm's way, the Wasps and Americas can serve as a 'light' carrier if necessary ('light' being a relative term as they are nearly the size of a World War II-era fleet carrier).
The first ship will of course be named USS America (LHA-6). If the supercarrier becomes a relic along with the trireme and the ship of the line, I wouldn't have a problem with the next America class ship being USS Enterprise (LHA-7).
There are some famous names besides Enterprise available for our carrier fleet: Lexington, Hornet, Valley Forge, Coral Sea, Yorktown, Franklin, and Intrepid come to mind. Let's use those before someone decides we need to name the next symbol of American power and prestige USS William J. Clinton or USS Robert Byrd or USS (insert name of Senator who has a shipyard in his state but doesn't know a deck from a bulkhead).
Also, people a few centuries from now will be counting on us to keep the name Enterprise alive:
No bloody -A, -B,-C, or -D!