WWII Naval Warfare and Innovations

USS Enterprise / USS Lexington

A Couple Famous Aircraft Carriers

A Couple Famous Aircraft Carriers
  • The USS Enterprise (CV-6) was the most decorated U.S. ship of World War II. The show Star Trek named the Starship Enterprise after her. Enterprise Rent-A-Car founder had served on the Enterprise as a fighter pilot.
  • The USS Lexington (CV-16) participated in almost every major World War II naval campaign in the Pacific from 1943 to 1945. It had a service life longer than any other Essex-class ship.

Updated July 2024
Posted November 2023

WWII The Grey Ghost and the Blue Ghost
The Grey Ghost and the Blue Ghost
USS Enterprise (CV-6) and USS Lexington (CV-16)
The USS Enterprise (CV-6)
Known as "The Big E," predated WWII, having been commissioned in 1938.
  • She was at sea during the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
  • Three days later, she became the first US Navy warship to sink a Japanese warship, the submarine I-70.
  • The Enterprise was involved with more major Pacific operations than any other ship.
  • She was part of the Doolittle Raid on Japan, the Battle of Midway, the Guadalcanal Campaign, and the landing at Iwo Jima, among others.
  • The Enterprise was one of only three pre-WWII aircraft carriers to survive the war.
  • She returned to the United States with the distinction of being the most decorated Navy warship during the war, with 20 battle stars.
  • She downed 911 enemy planes and sank 71 ships.
  • So it is ironic the Japanese declared her sunk on three separate occasions.
  • "The Big E" was given a new moniker: "The Grey Ghost."
  • Her heroics would also inspire Gene Roddenberry to name his starship the Enterprise on Star Trek.

WWII The Grey Ghost and the Blue Ghost The USS Lexington (CV-16)
Received a similar nickname. She was an Essex Class aircraft carrier commissioned in 1943, and her 3000 crew members joined the Fifth Fleet.

  • In her 21 months in combat, she was involved in nearly every major operation in the Pacific Theater.
  • Her planes destroyed 372 enemy aircraft in flight and 475 on the ground, while the ship's guns downed twenty more.
  • The Japanese thought they had sunk the ship, painted dark blue, four separate times, leading Tokyo Rose to nickname her "The Blue Ghost."
    • On December 4, 1943 she was hit by a torpedo, knocking out her steering gear. An emergency hand-operated unit was quickly devised, and Lexington sailed to Pearl Harbor for repairs.
    • Japanese propaganda announced she sank a second time on April 28, 1944 after the Battle of Hollandia in Indonesia, even though she was actually untouched.
    • She fought off a fierce attack by Japanese torpedo planes during a surprise fighter strike on Saipan June 11-15, and the third report of her demise was also false.
    • The fourth came after the Battle for Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle of WWII, when a kamikaze landed near her and she was on fire, but she sailed to Ulithi for repairs.
  • She later hit airfields near Tokyo before the landings at Iwo Jima, and her planes flew precautionary patrols over occupied Japan.

USS Lexington Plank
Plank from Flight Deck
USS Lexington

USS Enterprise (CV-6)

WIKIPEDIAUSS Enterprise (CV-6)
Was a Yorktown-class carrier built for the United States Navy during the 1930s. It was the most decorated U.S. ship of World War II.

  • She was the seventh U.S. Navy vessel of that name.
  • Colloquially called "The Big E"
  • The sixth aircraft carrier of the United States Navy
  • Launched in 1936
  • One of only three American carriers commissioned before World War II to survive the war (the others being Saratoga and Ranger)
  • Participated in more major actions of the war against Japan than any other United States ship. These actions included
    • The attack on Pearl Harbor - 18 Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers of her air group arrived over the harbor during the attack; seven were shot down with eight airmen killed and two wounded, making her the only American aircraft carrier with men at Pearl Harbor during the attack and the first to sustain casualties during the Pacific War
    • The Battle of Midway
    • The Battle of the Eastern Solomons
    • The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands
    • Air-sea engagements during the Guadalcanal Campaign
    • The Battle of the Philippine Sea
    • The Battle of Leyte Gulf
  • Enterprise earned 20 battle stars, the most for any U.S. warship in World War II
  • The most decorated U.S. ship of World War II
  • The first American ship to sink a full-sized enemy warship after the Pacific War had been declared when her aircraft sank the Japanese submarine I-70 on 10 December 1941.
  • On three occasions during the war, the Japanese announced that she had been sunk in battle, inspiring her nickname "The Grey Ghost"
  • By the end of the war, her planes and guns had downed 911 enemy planes, sunk 71 ships, and damaged or destroyed 192 more.

Despite efforts made by the public after the war to turn Enterprise into a museum ship, Enterprise was ultimately scrapped from 1958 to 1960.


  • Star Trek
    Gene Roddenberry, creator of the television show, Star Trek, named the fictional Starship Enterprise in honor of CV-6 early on in the development of the show, because he was "particularly fascinated" by her war record, and had "always considered it a heroic ship".
  • Enterprise Rent-A-Car
    Jack C. Taylor, founder of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, had served on Enterprise as a fighter pilot during the war, and (re-)named his company in 1969 after the ship.

Other Wikipedia Citings

USS Lexington (CV-16)

CV-16, CVA-16, CVS-16, CVT-16, AVT-16
Essex-class aircraft carrier built during World War II for the United States Navy. Originally intended to be named Cabot, the new aircraft carrier was renamed while under construction to commemorate the recently-lost USS Lexington (CV-2), becoming the sixth U.S. Navy ship to bear the name in honor of the Battle of Lexington.

Lexington was commissioned in February 1943 and saw extensive service through the Pacific War.

  • For much of her service, she acted as the flagship for Admiral Marc Mitscher, and led the Fast Carrier Task Force through their battles across the Pacific.
  • She was the recipient of 11 battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation.
  • Following the war, Lexington was decommissioned, but was modernized and reactivated in the early 1950s, being reclassified as an attack carrier (CVA). Later, she was reclassified as an antisubmarine carrier (CVS).
  • In her second career, she operated both in the Atlantic/Mediterranean and the Pacific, but spent most of her time, nearly 30 years, in Pensacola, Florida, as a training carrier (CVT).

Lexington was decommissioned in 1991, with an active service life longer than any other Essex-class ship. Following her decommissioning, she was donated for use as a museum ship in Corpus Christi, Texas. In 2003, Lexington was designated a National Historic Landmark. Though her surviving sister ships Yorktown, Intrepid, and Hornet carry lower hull numbers, Lexington was laid down and commissioned earlier, making Lexington the oldest remaining fleet carrier in the world.

Other Wikipedia Citings