USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea -- Aug. 3, marks the 50th anniversary of the first deployment of USS Enterprise (CVN 65), and historians recently discovered the actual number of deployments is higher than commonly reported.
Now as the Big E continues her final deployment, scores of Sailors and historians are reviewing and double checking all aspects of the carrier's storied career.
The number of arrested landings, historic milestones, major evolutions, and, yes, even number of deployments are being checked and double checked for accuracy. As the Navy entered into the digital age, many of the historical documents associated with the carrier were made available online.
Cases in point are the command history reports, which outline the milestones and accomplishments that occur over each calendar year. Research into these and other documents have led researchers to a startling new discovery.
Tracing the number of deployments that Enterprise has completed would seem like a relatively easy task - simply tally up the number from the command history reports. Unfortunately, a few format changes over the years made for a task a bit more challenging than expected.
According to retired Navy captain Todd Creekman, executive director of the Naval Historical Foundation in Washington D.C., researchers at the foundation have unearthed some surprising news.
"In reviewing Enterprise's operational history, we made an interesting discovery" Creekman said. "All the current reports say that the ship is on her 22nd deployment. Actually, it is on the 25th deployment."
Research from the Naval Historical and Heritage Command's (NHHC) online database and other reports reveal that the carrier has "been there, done that" more often than commonly thought.
"We've run it by NHHC historian Mark Evans and it matches his data," Creekman said.
As researchers worked to piece together what happened, it appeared that a focus on the ship's WestPac deployments led to the error.
In a number of accounts, including command history reports, a particular deployment would be listed, for example, as "the tenth WestPac deployment," which would be accurate counting from the ship's first 1965-66 epic "first nuclear carrier in combat" deployment to the Vietnam War.
The carrier completed its fourteenth and last sequential WestPac in 1990, before entering Newport News Shipyard in 1990 for the ship's third refueling.
Following the final refueling, Enterprise made Norfolk, Va., her homeport once again and only made deployments to the Mediterranean Sea, Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf.
"The problem began when later history reports used the same number sequence but dropped "WestPac" from the description," Evans explained. "The refueling reports failed to re-account for the three deployments Big E made to the Mediterranean Sea between 1962-1964."
One example is the command history report from the ship's historic 2001 deployment, which reads: "On April 25, the Enterprise Navigation Department set Special Sea and Anchor Detail to begin a historic 17th deployment for operations in the Mediterranean Sea, Arabian Gulf and North Arabian Sea."
This was, in fact, the ship's 20th deployment.
As the 51-year-old carrier steams along today on its 25th and final deployment, researchers continue to verify and cross reference important facts and milestones to ensure accuracy.
"It's already exciting to be a part of Enterprise's final deployment, but each day we are discovering more and more about the rich history of which we are a part," said Capt. William C. Hamilton, Enterprise's commanding officer. "We estimate over 200,000 Sailors and Marines have served aboard the Big E, and every one has helped in making her the legend we serve aboard today. We are a very, very proud crew."
The eighth ship to bear the name Enterprise is scheduled to inactivate from service on December 1, 2012, in a Ceremony in Norfolk, Va., in preparation for her defueling and decommissioning in 2016.