If you look at the great  warships of the United States Navy, two stand at the pinnacle of history, one from the age of sail and one from the age of steam. The heavy frigate USS Constitution proved that the fledgling US Navy could defeat frigates of the Royal Navy. When it comes to steam warships, the USS Enterprise CV-6 is without peer. The Big E was in the Pacific from the start to the finish and fought more actions than ay other aircraft carrier. For a time in late 1942 the Enterprise was the only carrier available to take on the Japanese Navy. It truly was a crime when politicians allowed the Big E to go to the breakers. 


The Enterprise Shrine
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When you visit the the National Museum of Naval Aviation, you'll see many models of aircraft carriers of the US Navy. They are scattered throughout the museum encased in Plexiglas and yet one truly stands out, the 1:72 scale model of USS Enterprise CV-6. Fittingly enough, this incredible model of Enterprise is enclosed in its own shrine because there are photographs and fittings from the great ship. Items include the ships silver and other items but most strikingly, there is the flag flown by Enterprise at the Battle of Santa Cruz on October 26, 1942 in the middle of the Guadalcanal campaign. However, in the center of the exhibit is the huge model of Enterprise as she was near the end of the war with blisters and equipped to carry night fighters.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to get good photographs. Taking photographs through Plexiglas is tricky. You can't use a flash, as it will reflect off of the glass. Even so, the lighting can create a glare on the Plexiglas. Some of these photos are not very good but they were included to show the incredible detail of this model.


The Bow
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The model features a flight deck full of planes and a full crew. In fact the exhibit challenges you to find vignettes scattered throughout the ship. Can you find the mess cooks peeling potatoes; or the sailor heaving over the side; the photographer in a Chicago Cubs hat, which is not surprising since Illinois and Wisconsin clubs built the model; where are the card players; or the fire fighters; the black gun crews; the marine feeding a canine mascot; or the pilot photographing a marine.


The Island
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The model definitely has a Chicago connection, with a number of those who built the model from the Windy City. The numerous crew figures were done by the Military Miniature Society of Illinois and the air group from the Richard I. Bong chapter of IPMS Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In addition to the figure vignettes mentioned above, there are many more little interesting figure scenes, such as the two officers chewing out the marine or the guy reclining on the lawn chair. 


The Stern
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Make sure you have plenty of time to visit not only the Enterprise exhibit, but the entire museum. If you are in the Pensacola, Florida area, you must see the National Museum of Naval Aviation. It is located on Pensacola Naval Aviation Station, just west of the city. Yes, you can get on the base to go to it. There is no entrance charge and the word "Free" is good in anyone's book. Forget budgeting hours in your visit, you can easily spend days looking at all that is there. Send mom (or dad) and the "yunguns" to the beautiful white sand beaches that run from Gulf Shores, Alabama eastward beyond Pensacola, and be prepared for an unbridled day of intense emersion in naval history. You won't regret it. By all means bring multiple rechargeable batteries and multiple memory cards for you digital camera. 


The Air Group
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Builders models can be found in many museums. They are normally large pristine, exceptionally well built models, almost invariably in full hull form. The 1:72 scale USS Enterprise at the National Museum of Naval Aviation is different. It is in waterline format, cruising through the blue Pacific. It is weathered, it is dirty, but is teeming with vibrant life. Crewmen are all over, as the ship wakens to the rhythm of a new day of flight operations. 

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