More than half a century ago, a sailor named Dave Williams boarded Enterprise (CVN 65), the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, as a member of the original crew.
He was onboard when the ship responded to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Later, Williams left the Navy and came to work at Newport News Shipbuilding. But he maintained a relationship with his beloved ship. He worked on CVN 65 various times as shipbuilder, sometimes when it was docked in Norfolk, other times flying across the country or halfway around the world to give it needed attention.
Today, as a new Enterprise (CVN 80) comes to life at NNS, the Williams family is as involved as ever.
Dave’s son, Mike “Chilly” Williams (X36), is among thousands of shipbuilders working on the third Gerald R. Ford-class carrier. Given his family ties, this is much more than a job.
“It’s kind of like a full circle,” said Williams, a lead crane rigger. “That’s how my dad’s career started. He finished up his career at NNS on CVN 65. I’ve already been here 33 years, and toward the end of my career, I’ll be on CVN 80.”
Mike Williams was familiar with Enterprise lore at an early age. His father had a nautical-themed room and photos of CVN 65 on the wall.
“The Enterprise was always an important part of his life, so it was an important part of our lives because of that,” he said.
Dave Williams put aside active-duty service in the Navy to raise his family, but his love for the Navy never waned. In the late 1970s, he enlisted in the Naval Reserve and later retired as a chief petty officer.
When he did his two weeks of active duty at Naval Station Norfolk close to where CVN 65 was docked, while his crew was working on the ship, they got to see their boss in his sailor whites. It earned him the nickname “Sailor Bob.”
Mike Williams came to the shipyard in 1989 and dad, an X11 supervisor, didn’t retire until 2010. He has since passed away, but they managed to work together on the waterfront at times, including when CVN 65 returned to NNS at various times.
Because Mike Williams works in new carrier construction, CVN 80 is now part of his responsibility. “I’m just in the right place,” he said.
You can read more stories like this in NNS Currents.