Farewell: USS Enterprise Starred In History And Film
Sailors, veterans and their families are saying goodbye in Norfolk, Va., on Saturday to the USS Enterprise, which was the largest ship in the world and the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier when it was commissioned in 1961.
In its illustrious history, the Enterprise served at the center of international events for a half-century — from the Cuban missile crisis to Vietnam to the Iraq War.
And it had a distinguished Hollywood career as well, playing a leading role in the 1986 film Top Gun, which starred Tom Cruise as a young naval aviator.
When the Enterprise slipped into the waters off Norfolk for the first time, it was a modern marvel, more than 1,000 feet long. "She was certainly the largest warship built by any nation up to that time," says naval expert Norman Polmar.
It was literally a floating metropolis, a home to 5,000 sailors and the most cutting-edge engine of the day, powered by eight nuclear reactors. Polmar says sailors didn't fear radioactive leaks or explosions.
"No problems at all with the nuclear plant, absolutely none," he says. "Most of the people that I've spoken with who served in early nuclear ships thought it was just fantastic to be assigned to them."
"These were the fastest, the largest, the neatest ships in the world," he adds.
Farewell: USS Enterprise Starred In History And Film : NPR