• Benji Sills

USS Enterprise Stern Plate

We’d just had lunch at a local garlic knot themed restaurant (read more about that here) and were approached by some local youth, curious about our photography equipment. In a brief chat with them it was revealed that their area was famous for only two things: having a Wendy’s and being a hotspot for kidnapping. Determined that the town must have more than these two dismal qualities, we set out on a quest to find a third sight. What we discovered was a fascinating historic relic laying unnoticed aside the township library.

Behind the River Vale Public Library is a small park, dedicated to war veterans from the area. This display includes many of the standards of such a memorial, including a carved stone with the names of those who passed in battle and a tall billowing flag. The less conventional addition is the entire stern plate of the USS Enterprise, a World War II aircraft carrier.

One of the few aircraft carriers commissioned at the time, it quickly became the most decorated ship of the war, earning more medals than any other US ship. It was part of battles so famous that even the least attentive history student must have caught them between daydreams and naps, including the Battle of Midway. By 1945 however, ships were getting bigger and the Enterprise became obsolete.

A plaque explains how the ship was dismantled over two years, starting in 1958, by an engineer named Henry Hoffmann. Engineer seems somewhat generous as he seems to have mostly just stripped off different pieces and binned them, but regardless he did have the foresight to save the stern plate. Thanks to him, we all have the benefit of being able to do the third most interesting thing in town.

The stern plate is visible just behind the River Vale Library, which is at 412 Rivervale Road, River Vale, NJ 07675.

Admission is free.

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