The Big E: The Story Of The Uss Enterprise

  • Manufacturer: Us Naval Institute Press
A lasting memorial to the USS Enterprise, this classic tale of the carrier that contributed more than any other single warship to the naval victory in the Pacific has remained a favorite World War II story for more than twenty-five years. The Big E participated in nearly every major engagement of the war against Japan and earned a total of twenty battle stars. The Halsey-Doolittle Raid; the Battles of Midway, Santa Cruz, Guadalcanal, the Philippine Sea, and Leyte Gulf; and the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa are all faithfully recorded from the viewpoint of the men who served her so well. The author, a naval aviator, focuses on the exploits of the famous ship's air groups, capturing the reality of their encounters and provoking a range of emotions from readers.

This superb study of a great ship, her crew, and the action they saw has been called one of the finest pieces of naval writing to emerge from the war. What it is like inside the cockpit of a Dauntless dive bomber as it bores in on its target or the effort required to unstick the ship's huge rudder when damaged by a bomb are just two of the nuggets Edward Stafford mined from the mountain of research and lengthy interviews he conducted to write the book. Literate and scholarly as well as highly dramatic, the book will appeal to historians and the general public alike.

Customer Reviews

The Definitive Account, February 9, 2003
By Joel@AWS

First, I'll admit I'm not an unbiased reviewer. My dad served in Enterprise for three hard years ('42-45), and I've made my own efforts to tell her story. That said, "The Big E" is without peer, as both a history of the World War II-era carrier Enterprise, and as a record of what carrier warfare in the '40's was like. Stafford's prose is both elegant and -- given the records he had available in 1960 -- accurate. His descriptions are vivid: you can feel the decks whip violently at Santa Cruz, you can see the vibrant green of the Philippines at Leyte Gulf, you can sense the tension in the ready rooms at Midway. Her men are not just names on a page, but tangible characters: bold, fast-thinking, humble, optimistic, but sometimes very worried about their prospects. There are a couple points about the book which the prospective reader should be aware of. Stafford's focus is primarily on the ship's squadrons, and less so on efforts of her crew. Originally published over 40 years ago, some of the language is a bit dated, though, again, overall the writing is superb. The fact, however, that a 40-year old book about a ship that was decommissioned in 1947 is deemed fit to reprint in 2002 should tell you two things. The book is not a throwaway, but a genuine work of literature. And Enterprise was not just a warship, but a unique bonding of man and machine, that came through for her country when she was needed most.

Absolutely Magnificent, June 23, 2002
By Grant Waara

Thank heaven the Naval Institue Press has brought this classic back in print. Commander Stafford's book in an action packed account of the Navy's most decorated ship. The Enterprise's story is in many ways, the story of the Navy in the Pacific. She was there at Pearl Harbor (where her fliers eventually sunk a Japanese submarine) the early raids, Midway, Guadalcanal, Santa Cruz, the early drives in the central Pacific, the Phillipine Sea, Leyte Gulf, the early carrier raids on Japan and Okinawa. Commander Stafford's book is a perfect example of what good history is all about. It's gripping, easily read and best of all, always clear. You never have to reread passages to understand what he had written. To wrap this review up, if you're a World War II navy buff, you simply HAVE to read this book. You'll be glad you did.
One last thing. Commander Stafford also wrote Little Ship, Big War: the Saga of the U.S.S. Abercrombie DE343. This is a history/memoir of the destroyer he served on during the war. This too is recommended. He basically accomplished for the Navy what Stephen Ambrose did so admirably for the Army; he told the story of the average Citizen Sailor who rode the small ships to victory in the war.

2nd copy, December 12, 2002

I have had this book since it was first published and I can no longer keep the book together, so it is time to replace it. I'm was thriller to see it still in print.
My father was a plank owner of the BIG "E" and loved the ship with a special love that only someone who have faced death and servived can feel. It was a disgrace to have her scrapped and after readin Cdr Stafford's incredible story, I believe that everyone would agree she(and more importantly the men who seved on her) were and are national treasures

The Big E should be required reading in every high school!, September 2, 1999

This book tells the story of a ship that was in the second world war from it's beginning at Pearl Harbor until the final month of victory. It gives detailed accounts of the men who fought and died on her that are unparalleled in that or any other war, giving names of Americans whose heroic actions were commonplace in that war, expecting and asking for no thanks or praise, just doing their jobs. The writing is at times more like poetry than prose, the description's vivid and clear, something that anyone who served on ships at that time can recognize from their own experince. Stafford's work ranks with the best of historical novelists like Bruce Catton or Shelby Foote, who painted such clear pictures of the American Civil War. Every high school student would gain much for his understanding of life from knowing the deeds that those men and that ship performed. And they would see a clear example of what great writing and prose are meant to be.

The Ship With A Soul, November 4, 2002
By Richard J. Cahalane

This was the first book I read about World War II and it inspired me regarding the selfless way these men who fought put themselves on the line everyday for 4 years. Cmdr Stafford brought the ship to life. I lost this book over the years and the copy I have now is precious to me. The sacrifice of those on board cannot ever be discounted nor will it ever cease to inspire.

A execelent history., June 27, 1998

The book covers, in detail, the history of the Enterprise in World War II. I especially enjoy how personal comments and points of view were coveered. It was written almost like an historic novel, with detailed discription and accounts of the battles of Midway and Santa Cruz. The telling of the scene a Pearl Harbor is excelent. The heroism of the crrew is shown in many stories. This book is a must for all who love the history of WWII, It was well researched and very well written.

read this book, July 17, 2007
By Michael Batzel

This is one of the best books ever wrote on WWII. I wish it could have gone more into the actual deck operations but you cannot really fault the auther. What astonishes me most is the number of times pilots understood that they had no fuel and would have to ditch into the ocean but still pushed on watching there friends and squadron mates go down in battle. I recommend to everyone.

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