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.