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Halsey And The "Big E"

NEW YORK, Aug. 28 - Sometimes the personality of a man and the personality of a ship become so intertwined that it is difficult to think of one without thinking of the other. For many of the men of the Pacific Fleet, who held the line against the Japanese in that bluest and biggest of oceans during the first years of the war, that is true of Admiral William F. Halsey Jr. and the aircraft carrier Enterprise, now at Bremerton, Wash., for repair of battle damage.

The "Big E" was Halsey's flagship when the first retaliatory blow was struck against the Japanese in the Marshall and Gilbert Islands on Feb. 1, 1942. From her flag bridge he directed the following raids against Wake and Marcus Islands. He took her within 500 miles of Tokyo as escort for the carrier Hornet for the Doolittle raid on the enemy's capital on April 18 of that first year of war. He took her back to Pearl Harbor at high speed after the Battle of the Coral Sea in May to send her out as one of three to strike the flank of the Japanese carrier force north of Midway on June 4. Illness prevented him from riding her himself for that historic battle. Later she operated under his orders in the great sea fights around the Solomons in the fall of 1942 and the winter of 1942-43, although his responsibilities kept him back at headquarters instead of on her bridge as he probably wanted to be.

Because of the curtain of anonymity that censorship held in front of the Pacific Fleet in the early days, the names of Halsey and the Enterprise were never impressed on the consciousness of the public. They were, however, impressed on that of the men of the fleet. Whenever the blue-gray hulk of the big carrier, that had been built on President Roosevelt's order with National Recovery Act funds, was seen standing out to sea from Pearl Harbor in the early days everyone watching from the shore would say, "There go Halsey and the 'Big E' to give the Japs some more what-for."

The Enterprise has had many admirals and many captains since Admiral Halsey and Captain (now Rear Admiral) George D. Murray sailed her and fought her through those early engagements. Her early exploits have been overshadowed by those of newer and bigger carriers in the great battles of the last two years. But none of them played a more vital part than did she and her men and her air groups in those early, desperate days. All but the Saratoga of the carriers of those early days are gone - the Lexington, the Yorktown, the Wasp, and the Hornet. The Sara, because of two torpedoings the first year - in January and September, 1942 - was prevented from playing the part that did the Enterprise. The latter stands alone in her glory.

It would have been simple justice to have Halsey lead the fleet into Tokyo Bay aboard her battered decks. Her own misfortune made that impossible. But if there is any sentiment left in the Navy, the Enterprise should have a leading role in whatever victory parade is held after the business of occupying Japan, which American troops began yesterday, is under control. That great fighting team - Halsey and the "Big E" - should be reunited now, if only for one day.

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