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Enterprise, Still Fightingest Carrier, Damaged At Okinawa

WASHINGTON, Aug. 27 (AP) - Damaged 15 times in four years of war and "sunk" six time in Japanese propaganda, the aircraft carrier Enterprise still is "the fightingest carrier of the fleet."

The Navy said so today in detailing experiences of the "Big E" - the only surviving U. S. carrier in the South Pacific in 1942.

The Enterprise "held the line" despite scars from grievous wounds she received in the battles of the Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz.

Her latest and most serious brush with disaster came on the morning of last May 14 when a bomb-laden Japanese suicide plane crashed into the flight deck. The explosion blasted the forward elevator more than 400 feet into the air, killed 13 and injured another 67.

Aboard the Enterprise at the time was Vice Adm. Marc A. Mitscher, then commanding the legendary Task Force 58.

The attack occurred as the Enterprise, part of Task Force 58, was helping protect troops on the beach at Okinawa from Japanese air attack. Twice before, during the two months she spent on that mission, the carrier had been forced to withdraw briefly for temporary repairs at a nearby base. The May 14 attack put her out of action.

In her four years of war, the Enterprise's planes and guns shot down 911 Japanese aircraft. Her pilots sank 71 enemy ships and damaged or probably sank another 192. While covering 275,000 miles, she accumulated 18 of 22 possible comb at stars for carriers in the Pacific.

On December 7, 1941, and for several months thereafter she was the flagship of Adm. William F. Halsey Jr., then Vice Admiral, who dubbed her "The Galloping Ghost of the Oahu Coast." Halsey took her on forays into the Marshalls, against Wake and Marcus and finally an escort for the Hornet carrying Lt. Gen. Jimmy Doolittle's Tokyo raiders.

Carrier Enterprise Hit, Navy Reveals

Mitscher Kept Busy Moving

WASHINGTON, Aug. 27 - (UP) - The Navy revealed today that the aircraft carrier Enterprise, damaged 15 times by enemy hits and near misses, was hit by a Japanese suicide plane last May 14.

The last action forced Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher, then commander of Task Force 58, to move his staff a second time inside of a few days.

His first flagship, the Bunker Hill, was damaged just before the Enterprise received the hit that sent her back for repairs.

The attack killed 13 crew members and wounded another 67.

The skipper of the ship, Capt. G. B. H. Hall, of Annapolis, Md., said the ship could have stayed and operated at 80 per cent efficiency, but "we were due for overhaul and the fleet didn't need us, so we came back."

The attack took place during a raid on Kyushu, Japanese home island, the morning of May 14. The ship had suffered several near misses in the previous days' attacks, and she had shot down three would-be suiciders.

Then a fourth Japanese plane came out of the clouds into the teeth of the America guns.

It appeared certain that the Japanese would miss his mark when he flipped his plane over on its back and plunged into the forward part of the flight deck. His bomb exploded under the forward elevator, sending it flying 400 feet into the air.

Fires immediately reared through the forward part of the Enterprise but were brought under control in 17 minutes and completely extinguished in half an hour.

The ship that was once the only American aircraft carrier in the Pacific served faithfully throughout the entire war. She accounted for 911 Japanese aircraft shot down by her planes and guns, 71 Japanese ships sunk by her pilots and another 192 damaged or probably sunk.

Gallant Enterprise Haunted Japs' Fleet

When a Jap suicide plane hit the "Big E" for the third time on the morning of last May 14 off Okinawa, she should have been "out" by all the rules.

But the U. S. S. Enterprise, "fightingest carrier in the fleet," lived to fight again. And how she did it under the colorful soubriquet of "Galloping Ghost of the Oahu Coast" is another one of the famous Navy "now-it-can-be-told" stories. The pseudonym was bestowed upon her by Adm. William F. Halsey Jr. She was his flagship on fateful Pearl Harbor Day and for many months thereafter.

But to the men who served aboard her she was the "Big E," eventually. First they called her the "Lucky E." The Navy "E" stands for excellence. You can figure out for yourself why the change from just "Lucky E" to "Big E."

Kamikaze planes tried for the "Big E" many times. Twice they hit her and forced her out of service temporarily for repairs. Then on that May 14 morning one of them hit the jackpot. He deck-crashed his bomb-laden plane near the "Big E's" forward elevator blowing it over 400 feet skyward.

Beaten to her knees, she retired to Bremerton, Wash., for repairs and came back to fight again. At Bremerton Navy Yard planes from Air Group Six swooped low along her sides so the crew could read signs painted on the planes. They read "For Carrier Champ Take Enterprise." Air Group Six knew the "Big E" ... they had flown from her giant flight deck.

Herewith are printed stories by Harry Mayo, Post city editor, and Erwin Below, Post staff writer. Mayo saw the crippled Enterprise first hand at Bremerton. Below has interviewed a member of her crew.

But of all the tributes paid her by the Navy or by the press it remained for a Seaman, Second Class, to give her the payoff. Said he: "I wouldn't take any other ship in the fleet. The Enterprise has a soul."

Suicide Plane Hits Ship Of Former WCPO Newscaster

The Jap "Kamikaze" pilot barreled along in a low cloud cover above the U. S. S. Enterprise and watched the smoke curl up from the watery graves of nine brethren recently departed for ancestor-land.

He had been waiting his turn over an hour. And when the time was ripe, he plummeted down out of the sky, flipped over in a neat roll and hurtled his "Zeke" fighter into the veteran aircraft carrier.

Watching from a vantage point on the fighter pilots' ready room catwalk was Lt. (jg) Al Stephan, 29, former WCPO newscaster. He was home in Cincinnati recently with the first eyewitness account of the fate that befell that "fighting lady" May 14 off Okinawa.

The plane crashed with its bomb in the pit of the forward flight deck elevator and the explosion blew the 15-ton elevator 450 feet into the air, he related.

Saw Jap Dive

"When we saw the Jap diving in, we hit the deck in the ready room and not a minute too soon for the blast sheared off an armor plate from a nearby gun and it whistled through the room over our heads," the flight intelligence officer said.

He recalled how the partition between the flight officers' cabins disintegrated, leaving a large rubble-strewn area the size of a ballroom; how the concussion blew a buckle five feet high in the flight deck and demolished all the parked aircraft.

Only because the ship was "buttoned up tight" - men at battle stations, watertight fire doors closed, fire-fighting equipment in readiness - was the loss of life held to a minimum, Lt. Stephan explained. All fires were localized in 17 minutes and under control two hours later.

Admiral Observes Work

In fact, no less a distinguished passenger than Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher, himself "suicided" off his flagship, the Bunker Hill, three days before, called the fire fighting the best seen in the Pacific, he proudly observed.

The Enterprise was in the act of shepherding the stricken Bunker Hill, he said, when it "took on" the Kamikaze.

Other Greater Cincinnatians aboard the ill-fated vessel were Everett Gruelle, radioman third class, whose parents now live in Honolulu, and Lt. John Woolford, of Hamilton, O.

Bombed Twice Before

But it takes more than a Jap pilot's yen for doom to put the battle-toughened old flattop out of action for long. During her record as the only prewar ship of her class to serve in every major Pacific engagement, she was bombed and "suicided" twice before[1].

Each time she patched up her wounds in a forward area and returned to battle without respite for the crew. She set a record for having planes in the air continuously for 185 hours in one engagement.

Like his ship, Lt. Stephan is in dry dock for a while at his home, at 3421 Trimble Avenue. And, being no "salt," he has seen water enough for a while. So much, he even hates to take a bath, he says.

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

[1] "bombed ... twice before": This refers to 1945 alone. During the war, Enterprise was damaged by enemy action in six separate engagements.

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