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The Big E: The Story of the USS Enterprise (Bluejacket Books) Paperback – April 18, 2002

4.9 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

CDR. Edward Peary Stafford, USN (Ret.) (1918-2013) was a naval aviator. He wrote for Naval History and Proceedings, as well as for National Geographic. He is best known for The Big E and four other books on naval history: Subchaser; Little Ship, Big War; The Saga of DE-343, and The Far and the Deep.
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Product Details

  • Series: Bluejacket Books
  • Paperback: 616 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (April 18, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557509980
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557509987
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #627,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I got my first copy of this when I was just a lad and I must have read it five or six times. It fell apart and disappeared during the college years. Maybe 10 years ago I found it in paperback (just sitting in a bookstore!) and read it a couple of more times since then.
It is one of those rare works of history that manages to be factual, straightforward, and still read like a novel. The writing is crisp, the imagery moving, and the detail satisfying. I admit to being biased -- don't we all have fond memories of books read when we were young? -- but I cannot think of any flaws.
Here's a historical nugget I first recognized reading "The Big E." Only two US fleet carriers survived WWII. The first was the Saratoga, which survived by being heavily damaged seemingly everytime she left port, and spent the war safely in drydock being repaired. The second was the Enterprise, which was engaged in nearly every major battle in the Pacific, and was arguably the "luckiest" large ship in the Navy.
Given the resurgence of interest in WWII (see Stephen Ambrose and Tom Hanks) I cannot imagine why someone does not reprint this book. If you can find a copy, buy it. If you live in western Washington I might loan you my copy, but you have to promise to take good care of it and return it promptly.
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Format: Paperback
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
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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The Big E: The Story of the USS Enterprise (Bluejacket Books)
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