What Does USS Actually Mean?

Giving space ships in “Star Trek” USS designations can likely be traced back to franchise creator Gene Roddenberry’s time enlisted in the United States military. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, where the likes of the USS Hornet and USS Yorktown aided the American effort. The USS Enterprise would be built in 1958 as the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, and that’s the name Roddenberry used to signal exploration of outer space in “Star Trek: The Original Series.”

While Roddenberry seemingly paid tribute to his naval roots, he did change the name so that USS didn’t stand for United States Ship. He actually put up a fight to executives to do so, as explained in the reference book, “The Making of Star Trek” by Stephen Whitfield. NBC executives reportedly wanted the Enterprise to be a “good, safe patriotic United States spaceship.” However, as “Star Trek” fans know all too well, the franchise envisions a future that goes beyond the traditional sense of statehood. Earth is a more united place, so making the spaceships specifically affiliated with the United States would’ve been uncharacteristically nationalistic. Roddenberry won in the end, creating a fleet of ships that belongs to everyone and not just one country. 

“Star Trek” has always maintained a diverse cast of characters, showcasing a future where earthlings don’t see race and nationality as much. Making Starfleet and all USS vessels a global initiative makes the franchise feel like everyone is welcome. 

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