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Enterprise, Sole Survivor in Her Class, Wins New Laurels in Philippine Invasion

PEARL HARBOR, (A.P.) - The "Big E" turned her proud, tough, old nose into the wind at full throttle - she had come through the gray mist on time again, this time for the battle of Leyte Gulf.

The Japanese fleet had split and was trying to slip in from three directions against Douglas MacArthur's sitting convoy, and the four-day old invasion of the Philippines depended on the outcome.

To the U.S.S. Enterprise, sole survivor of her class and holder of a Presidential Unit Citation, it was an old story. She has a habit of casting a shadow across "the rising sun." Way back in '41, returning from Wake island where she had delivered some fighter planes, she ran smack into the Japanese sneak attack and hers were the only carrier-based aircraft in action that Dec. 7. Since then the 19,500-tonner's exploits have become a legend.

On a map, the trail of her persistent hunts for the enemy looks like the scribblings in a child's picture book, and takes in most of the major Pacific engagements.

She sallied deep into the Marshalls and Gilberts soon after Pearl Harbor for the first American blows against enemy territory.

She escorted the Hornet to within 800 miles of Tokyo for Jimmy Doolittle's daring air raid.

Carrier Often Hunts Alone

Often she hunted alone, for there was a time when Uncle Sam could muster no other carrier for the battle. When the sleek new carriers arrived, she refused to be benched.

She was in on the invasion of the Gilberts and Marshalls; at Truk, Palau, Yap, Woleai and Ulithi in the Carolines; Jaluit in the Marshalls; Emirau in the South Pacific; Hollandia in New Guinea; Saipan, Guam, the Bonins, the Ryukyus, Formosa and the Philippines.

In the Gilberts she pioneered with night combat fighters, losing one of her most famous fliers, Lt. Comdr. E. H. (Butch) O'Hare, but the venture saved the American fleet from the largest co-ordinated night air attack ever launched against it.

In the battle of the Philippines sea in June 1944, one of her planes was first to sight the enemy fleet, and she later damaged two enemy carriers there and got 32 planes.

At Santa Cruz she and the Hornet destroyed 135 enemy planes; damaged two carriers, two battleships and three cruisers before the Hornet was mortally hit.

At Truk her airmen sank 11 ships, damaged 21 others and destroyed more than 75 planes; at Palau, sank three ships and destroyed 11 planes.

Fliers Attack Battleship

Now in the battle for Leyte gulf she was turning her battle-wise snout into the breeze once again for blood. Her fliers swarmed off against a huge battleship, Japan's biggest and newest; another battlewagon of the older Kongo class, a Mogami heavy cruiser and seven or so destroyers.

With the "Big E" brood still 15 miles away, the Japanese were even firing their main batteries. Ack-ack explosions formed a cumulus-like cloud.

The giant battleship, the Musashi, was hit with 11 bombs and eight torpedoes and sank; a new type destroyer was set ablaze; the Mogami and another destroyer were left smoking.

Again next day the ack-ack was terrific. A large carrier was left afire, dead in the water; a battleship was hit; a light cruiser and a destroyer were plastered with rockets. Both the carrier and the cruiser later sank and pilots said the destroyer exploded amidship.

By then, in the words of the air group commander, the Japanese fleet "was spread over an area of many miles, was fleeing, a disorganized mob."

Before the day ended "Big E" planes sank a small carrier, damaged a light cruiser and a destroyer and, as a parting gesture, gave chase to the frantic enemy, planting five bombs on a light cruiser, leaving her burning furiously, and three more on a battleship.

The "Big E" is known as a lucky ship and for the spirit of her men.

There was Midway, teaming with the ill-fated Hornet and Yorktown, she had been combing the broad waters without success for the Japanese carrier force only 750 miles west of Pearl Harbor.

If they failed to find the enemy, it might give him the initiative and spell disaster. The "Big E's" air group commander, Lt. Comdr. Clarence Wade McClusky jr., decided to take one more look - this time much farther out. It was a weighty decision, for the planes were running low on fuel.

But they found the enemy, and history was made that day. Never again has the enemy dared such a thrust.

The spirit of the Enterprise is hard to describe. Comdr. Thomas J. Hamilton, of Columbus, O., her executive officer for 18 months, once tried it.

"You can't really feel it," he said, "unless you've ridden her. It's something that grips men so completely that they subordinate themselves to all else."

Adm. William F. (Bull) Halsey was carrying his flag on her when war broke. He rode her to the Marshalls. His heart still rides her. He told her so in congratulating her on the Presidential Citation.

The past skippers are Vice Adm. George D. Murray, of 3402 Q st., Washington; Rear Adms. Charles A. Powell[1], Tyrone, Pa.; Arthur C. Davis, Berching st., Worcester, Mass.; Osborne B. Hardison, Wadesboro, N. C.; Samuel P. Ginder, Altoona, Pa.; Matthias B. Gardner, State College, Pa., and Capt. Cato D. Glover.

Murray wrote her first battle order, after she had started for Wake with the marine fighter planes in December 1941[2].

In closing, Murray said:

"It is the tradition of our navy that when put to the test all hands keep cool, keep their heads, and fight. Steady nerves and stout hearts are needed now."

Sense Of Humor Good

The "Big E" sense of humor is good, too - like the time the young plane recognition officer, Lt. (jg) Gerald Flynn, of Batavia, N. Y., was called by Rear Adm. John W. Reeves jr., to identify a plane on the horizon. Flynn called it a B-25; Reeves thought it a B-26.

"I'll bet you a week's salary of mine against one of yours that it's a B-25," Flynn replied enthusiastically.

The admiral, mildly disturbed, said something about the ship's not being big enough for both of them.

When Reeves was leaving the ship later for a new assignment, Flynn was the toastmaster at his farewell party. He recalled how the admiral had once told him there wasn't room for both of them on the Enterprise, and jokingly concluded:

"We're mighty sorry to see the admiral leaving tomorrow."

Admiral Laughs

They say the admiral laughed the loudest.

The Enterprise never has been laid up in an operation by major engineering trouble; never has had to wait on the rearming crew for a strike. Her gunners have always bagged their share of enemy planes, as for instance, 30 in the battle of Santa Cruz alone.

She never has time for glory. There was her return to Bremerton, Wash., in July 1943 for overhauling after 26 months in the Pacific.

As the old lady poked her nose - little the worse for battle - into port there were only the guards to greet her. Officially she wasn't there. Her officers and crew understood.


These articles are property and copyright of their owners and are provided here for educational purposes only.

[1] Charles A. Pownall.

[2] Battle Order Number One was issued on November 28, 1941.

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