Carrier Enterprise makes a sentimental journey

By Mike Hixenbaugh
The Virginian-Pilot
© October 19, 2012


A young sailor looked out through a smudged window while steering the world’s oldest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier toward a pastel orange sunrise on the Mediterranean Sea.

Down below, hundreds of sailors and Marines gathered on the flight deck as the Enterprise steamed past tiny seaside villas perched among the foothills of the Apennine Mountains. Some snapped photos of a school of dolphins; others posed for group shots in front of a nearby volcano.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Stallcup turned the helm, and the hulking vessel’s course shifted slowly to starboard as the Enterprise maneuvered into the Strait of Messina for the last time.

The significance wasn’t lost on the 21-year-old navigator. From this vantage point on the bridge, sailors like Stallcup have, for more than five decades, watched world history unfold on the open seas. The ship that joined the naval blockade during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 was also the first carrier to launch combat flights over Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

After nearly 51 years in service – more than twice its planned lifespan – “The Big E” is wrapping up its 25th and final deployment. Continue reading “Carrier Enterprise makes a sentimental journey”