The aircraft carrier Enterprise was launched in 1936, but as a result of various mechanical problems she was not completed until late 1938. Her displacement was 19,900 tons, length overall 810 feet and beam 83 feet. She was armed with eight 5-inch guns, 16 1.1-inch anti-aircraft machine guns and 16 smaller machine guns. She usually carried between 81 and 85 aircraft, but was capable of taking 100. Her complement was 2,072 men, including flying personnel.
In the closing months of 1941 the probability of war with Japan led to the decision by Admiral Husband E. Kimmel (Kimmel, Husband E.) to reinforce two American bases closer to Japan than Pearl Harbor, Midway, where Lexington was sent, and Wake, where Vice Admiral William F. Halsey (Halsey, William F.) was sent in command of a task force of which Enterprise was the flagship. She sailed on 28 November with escorting vessels, three cruisers and eight destroyers, and carrying marine fighters to strengthen Wake's defences. Having made the delivery, Enterprise was returning, intending to dock at about 0730 on 7 December, but adverse weather and refueling difficulties delayed her. At 0615, while still some 150 miles away, she launched 18 SBD2 Dauntless dive bombers to scout towards Oahu and to land at Ford Island. A two-plane flight left commanded by Commander Howard L. Young (Young, Howard L.) and carrying Lieutenant Commander Bromfield Nichol who was to report to Admiral Kimmel on the Wake mission as Halsey was preserving radio silence. The rest of the aircraft were under the command of Lieutenant Commander Halsted Hopping (Hopping, Halsted) of Scouting Squadron Six.
Young was passing Barbers Point, south west Oahu, at 0822 hours. Both he and Hopping succeeded in landing at Ford Island, but eight other aircraft from Enterprise crashed or went missing, most of them fired on by their own side. Others, to their surprise, encountered the Japanese attack. An SBD crewed by Ensign J. H. L. Vogt, Jr and Radioman 3rd Class Pierce Sidney collided with a Val in a dogfight; both planes were destroyed. Six SBDs landed at Ewa Marine Air Corps Station at 0900, but the four that made the landing unscathed took off once more to avoid being strafed on the ground.
Once Halsey became aware of the attack on Pearl Harbor he sent aircraft up to seek the Japanese. At 1020 15 scout bombers and at 1345 another nine were searching south and south-west of Oahu. They retuned in the gathering darkness at the end of the day, the torpedo bombers to put down on the carrier but six fighters led by Lieutenant Francis Hebel were sent to Oahu where only two, of whom Ensign James Daniels (Daniels, James) was one, succeeded in evading their countrymen's fire.
The only relevant sighting of the day was made by two Seagull scout aircraft from the cruiser Northampton, but as radio silence had been ordered it was not reported in time to be of use.
Like Lexington and Saratoga, which was undergoing repairs on the mainland, Enterprise was not damaged in the attack on Pearl Harbor and was thus able to support Hornet's B-25 attack on Tokyo in April 1942, play a key role in the Battle of Midway (Midway, Battle of) in June, including the attacks on Akagi, Kaga and Soryu, and go on to fight in the East Solomons, at Guadalcanal, at Truk in 1944 and Okinawa in 1945.