Today in Navy history: 'Big E' strikes back

n this handout picture from the U.S. Navy made available Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2001, afterburners create streaks of light Sunday, Oct. 7, 2001, during catapult launches from the flight deck aboard USS Enterprise as Navy fighter aircraft depart for strike missions over Afghanistan. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Todd A. Bent)

Afterburners create streaks of light Oct. 7, 2001, as jets launch from the deck of the aircraft carrier Enterprise for strike missions over Afghanistan. (Navy photo by Todd A. Bent via AP)

A history lesson from the pages of Navy Times:

“ABOARD THE USS ENTERPRISE IN THE ARABIAN SEA — Most Americans can only imagine striking back in anger after terrorist attacks 0n the United States on Sept. 11. But the 5,100 men and women aboard this — the Navy’s first nuclear aircraft carrier — were in position to respond when the word came to attack Oct. 7. They got the chance to exact a little vengeance.”

Then-staff writer William H. McMichael (Bill, for short) began his extensive coverage of the first shots fired in Operation Enduring Freedom with those words in the Oct. 22, 2001, edition. It would mark the first engagement for Enterprise in a conflict that would last longer than the carrier, which was inactivated late last year after its final deployment — in support of OEF.

The initial attacks targeted airports and terrorist training facilities. Cruise missiles and Navy jets joined Air Force bombers in the early hours of a conflict now entering its 13th year.

Many of the bombs carried messages like “FDNY & NYPD — This round’s on CVN-65 EOD,” McMichael reported. Quotes from “Big E” crew members had a clear message best summed up by a pilot who told McMichael: “I’m proud to be able to say I was a small part of America’s answer to what happened on September 11th.”

That pilot was identified only as “Lt. Chris H.” Why? McMichael explains in a prescient paragraph:

“There was a clear sense of pride at being able to strike a blow for the thousands killed in New York; Washington, D.C.; and Pennsylvania. But crew members also said they realize these were just the first — and perhaps easiest — blows in a campaign that promises to be long and difficult, against a ghostly threat whose global reach is so vast that the last names of those taking part in the attacks are being withheld for fear of retribution back home.”

The long, difficult campaign continues.


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