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USS Tarawa (LHA 1)

- decommissioned -

USS TARAWA was the lead ship of the Navy’s first class of amphibious assault ships able to incorporate the best design features and capabilities of several amphibious assault ships currently in service: the Amphibious Assault Ship (LPH), Amphibious Transport Dock (LPD), Amphibious Cargo Ship (LKA), and Dock Landing Ship (LSD). USS TARAWA held a decommissioning ceremony on December 4, 2008, and was decommissioned on March 31, 2009. The ship is presently laid-up at Pearl Harbor, Hi., awaiting final disposal.

General Characteristics:Awarded: May 1, 1969
Keel laid: November 15, 1971
Launched: December 1, 1973
Commissioned: May 29, 1976
Decommissioned: March 31, 2009
Builder: Ingalls Shipbuilding, West Bank, Pascagoula, Miss.
Propulsion system: two boilers, two geared steam turbines
Propellers: two
Aircraft elevators: two
Length: 833,34 feet (254 meters)
Flight Deck Width: 132,2 feet (40.3 meters)
Beam: 106,6 feet (32.5 meters)
Draft: 26,25 feet (8 meters)
Displacement: approx. 39,300 tons full load
Speed: 24 knots
Aircraft: (depends upon mission)
6 AV-8B Harrier attack planesor6 AV-8B Harrier attack planes
4 AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters12 CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters
12 CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters9 CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters
9 CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters
4 UH-1N Huey helicopters
Crew: Ship: 82 officers, 882 enlisted     Marine Detachment: 1,900+
Armament: two Rolling Airframe Missile Systems (RAM), four 25mm Mk 38 Gun Mounts, two Phalanx CIWS, five .50 Cal. Mounts

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Crew List:

This section contains the names of sailors who served aboard USS TARAWA. It is no official listing but contains the names of sailors who submitted their information.

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USS TARAWA Cruise Books:

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Accidents aboard USS TARAWA:

1998Naval Station San Diego, Ca., Pier 13
USS TARAWA overloaded pier cleats at NAVSTA San Diego Pier 13 due to overloading as the tide rose (also pier fittings were undersized). Damage was $200,000.
July 7, 2003560 miles northeast of Hawaii
A Marine assigned to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit is safely recovered by a CH-46 helicopter after falling overboard. The Marine had gone overboard at 11 p.m. (local time) and was rescued 75 minutes later.

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History of USS TARAWA:

USS TARAWA was built by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Division of the Litton Industries at Pascagoula, Mississippi, and commissioned May 29, 1976. TARAWA was the first in a new generation of multipurpose amphibious assault ships, a vital member of the Navy/Marine Corps team in the Pacific Fleet and a major factor in U.S. power projection overseas.

TARAWA's first deployment to the Western Pacific began in March 1979. In addition to an embarked helicopter squadron, the ship operated with temporarily assigned AV-8A "Harrier" jets in a successful experiment to determine feasibility of operating vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) aircraft from an amphibious assault ship. During this deployment, TARAWA rescued 400 Vietnamese refugees who were adrift in the South China Sea. Upon returning, TARAWA won her first Admiral James H. Flatley Memorial Award for Naval Aviation Safety.

The "Eagle of the Sea" began her second deployment in October, 1980, with a composite squadron of 29 helicopters and six AV-8As. The squadron was the first in Marine Corps aviation history to conduct integrated helicopter/fighter operations aboard an LHA for an extended deployment of more than five months.

TARAWA completed her third deployment to the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean in November, 1983. During this deployment, TARAWA was diverted to the troubled waters of the Eastern Mediterranean by order of President Ronald Reagan to support the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force in Beirut, Lebanon. After returning, TARAWA won her second Admiral Flatley Award.

Steaming out of San Diego in October, 1984, TARAWA began her fourth Western Pacific deployment during which the ship participated in joint military exercises with friends and allies in the region.

In June of 1986, TARAWA deployed for the fifth time to the Western Pacific, followed in May 1987 by a complex, one-year overhaul. During this time, TARAWA won the Admiral Flatley Award for the third time and by July of 1989 had rejoined the Pacific Fleet for her sixth operational deployment. She subsequently participated in joint military exercises with Thailand and Pacific Fleet Exercise (PACEX) '89, before returning to San Diego in December of 1989.

The following December brought the deployment to the Arabian Gulf as the flagship of a thirteen-ship amphibious task force in support of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation forces. It was the largest such deployment since the Vietnam conflict. Embarked were the Commander, Amphibious Group Three and the Fifth Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

TARAWA participated in the amphibious assault exercise Sea Soldier IV in January 1991, as a rehearsal for the proposed amphibious landing into Kuwait. The proposed operation was, in fact, a coalition force deception designed to keep the attention of the Iraqi military focused on potential assault from the sea instead of the real overland thrust. The deception was successful, playing a major role in keeping U.S. force casualties at an historic low for an engagement of that magnitude. On February 24, TARAWA landed elements of the Fifth Marine Expeditionary Brigade into Saudi Arabia just south of the Kuwaiti border; these forces later joined with the First Marine Expeditionary Force which entered and liberated Kuwait.

After the conclusion of Operation Desert Storm, TARAWA departed the Arabian Gulf in May of 1991 and was diverted to Bangladesh to render two weeks of humanitarian assistance to typhoon victims in Operation Sea Angel. Water purification equipment, medical aid and 2,000 tons of rice delivered by TARAWA's helicopters and landing craft helped more than 1.5 million inhabitants of Southeast Bangladesh survive the ravages of the storm's aftermath. TARAWA returned home to San Diego in July of 1991.

In May, 1992, TARAWA deployed for the eighth time to the Western Pacific, participating in Eager Mace '92-'93, a joint U.S./Kuwait exercise. The ship also supported the insertion of Pakistani troops into Somalia in support of U.N. humanitarian relief, and returned to San Diego in November of 1992. TARAWA was awarded her fourth Admiral Flatley Award and her first Commander, Seventh Fleet, Amphibious Warfare Excellence Award for the '92 deployment.

This deployment was followed by another complex overhaul at Long Beach Naval Shipyard. TARAWA departed San Diego in April 1996 for her ninth deployment to the Western Pacific/Arabian Gulf. Enroute to the Arabian Gulf, TARAWA participated in a joint U.S./Thailand amphibious training exercise in the Gulf of Thailand. TARAWA then proceeded to the Red Sea to participate in exercise Indigo Serpent with the Royal Saudi Arabian Navy and exercise Infinite Moonlight with the Royal Jordanian Navy, the first such exercise with the nation of Jordan. Upon the conclusion of the Red Sea exercises, TARAWA entered the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch, the enforcement of the "no-fly" zone over southern Iraq. TARAWA also participated in Operation Desert Strike to curb Iraqi aggression. Returning to San Diego in October 1996, TARAWA was awarded both the Federal Energy Conservation Award and the Secretary of the Navy Energy Conservation Award.

In January 1997, TARAWA entered an extensive overhaul. Four weeks after leaving the shipyard, TARAWA was the centerpiece for Kernel Blitz, the largest amphibious exercise in the Pacific Fleet in nearly 25 years and involving over 25 ships and 20,000 Sailors and Marines.

TARAWA departed on her tenth deployment in February, 1998. While participating in joint exercises with Jordanian armed forces, TARAWA was diverted to the Red Sea African nation of Eritrea to evacuate American citizens from the U.S. embassy there. During the Eritrean-Ethiopian hostilities, more than 200 Americans were safely rescued. TARAWA returned to San Diego in August, 1998 and was awarded her second Secretary of the Navy Energy Conservation Award.

TARAWA completed an extensive drydock overhaul period at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington in June 1999.

In August 2000, following the extensive dry dock overhaul period in Bremerton, Wash., TARAWA deployed for the eleventh time to the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf. This deployment included wreath-laying ceremonies at the World War II battle sites of Tarawa Atoll, Guadalcanal, and Iwo Jima. While deployed, TARAWA provided humanitarian relief supplies to the war-ravaged country of East Timor, and in October 2000, participated in Operation Determined Response, steaming to the Gulf of Aden in Yemen to provide USS COLE (DDG 67) and United States Government agencies on-site logistics, force protection, and evacuation support following the horrific terrorist attack on the COLE.

After returning to San Diego in February 2001, TARAWA entered a planned maintenance period in early September that lasted until April the following year. In June, TARAWA participated in Rim of the Pacific 2002 exercises with a multinational force off the coast of Hawaii. TARAWA departed San Diego for her twelfth Western Pacific deployment on Jan. 6, 2003 and returned July 16.

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Notes of Interest:

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USS TARAWA Patch Gallery:

WestPac 2003

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The photos below were taken by William Chiu when USS TARAWA visited Hong Kong on November 24, 1989.

The photos below were taken by Ian Johnson and show the TARAWA at Fremantle, Australia, on May 5, 2008, during her fifth and final visit to Fremantle.

The photo below was taken by Thomas Heinrich and shows the TARAWA at Naval Base San Diego, Calif., on March 21, 2009 - ten days before she was officially decommissioned.

The photos below were taken by me and show the TARAWA laid-up at Pearl Harbor, Hi., on March 20, 2010.

The photos below were taken by Sebastian Thoma and show the TARAWA laid-up in Middle Loch at Pearl Harbor, Hi., on March 18, 2022.

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