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USS Nassau (LHA 4)

- formerly BOXER, formerly LEYTE GULF -
- decommissioned -

USS NASSAU was the fourth ship in the TARAWA - class and like her sister ships, NASSAU integrated complex weapons systems, automated cargo handling, and state-of-the-art propulsion into a huge hull, forming a ship with a wide range of mission capabilities, including amphibious warfare, anti-surface warfare, anti-air warfare, and power projection ashore, utilizing helicopters and Very Short Take-Off and Landing (VSTOL) Aircraft. USS NASSAU was decommissioned on March 31, 2011, and subsequently towed to Beaumont, Tx., for lay-up. In April 2021, NASSAU departed Beaumont under tow for Brownsville, Tx., to be scrapped by Steel Coast Co.

General Characteristics:Keel Laid: August 13, 1973
Launched: January 21, 1978
Christened: January 28, 1978
Commissioned: July 28, 1979
Decommissioned: March 31, 2011
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 NASSAU. It is no official listing but contains the names of sailors who submitted their information.

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USS NASSAU Cruise Books:

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About the Ship’s Name:

NASSAU is named for the first-ever landing by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps on New Providence Island during the American Revolution.

Late in 1775, Captain Esek Hopkins set out to intercept British store ships. Heavy ice, foul weather and smallpox kept the American squadron from getting to sea until February 1776. Finding no worthwhile prizes at sea, Hopkins decided to sail for the Bahamas to capture "a large quantity of powder" reported to be on the Island of New Providence.

Hopkin's squadron arrived off the Bahamas on 1 March 1776. On 3 March, Hopkins ordered a landing designed to outflank the English defenses. Two hundred-thirty Marines and fifty seamen landed on the beach and captured nearby Fort Montague.

The Force advanced on Fort Nassau, which surrendered the following morning. Although most of the powder supply was no longer there, some powder, along with 103 cannon and mortars, still remained, enough to make the operation entirely worthwhile.

Thus, for the first time, American Sailors and Marines responded to the equivalent modern command to "Land the Landing Force."

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About the Ship's Coat of Arms:

USS NASSAU's crest symbolizes the ship's historic name and heritage, relationship with the Marine Corps, and unique capabilities.

The eagle and foul anchor design in the center is a reproduction of the design first used by Sailors and Marines during the American Revolution. The date "1776" on the anchor stock refers to the Battle of Nassau. The crimson banner contains five gold stars, commemorating the battle stars awarded to the first USS NASSAU (CVE 16). It also contains the Latin phrase "Prima Ab Mare" which means "First from the Sea" reflecting the significance of the Battle of Nassau, as well as the ship's modern capabilities and mission. The sea and sky represent the ship's ability to conduct surface and air operations. Finally, the anchor chain with the ship's name and hull number symbolize the unification of the Navy and Marine Corps team.

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History of USS NASSAU:

USS NASSAU (LHA 4) is the fourth of the Navy's TARAWA-class general purpose assault ships. Like her sister ships, NASSAU integrates complex weapons systems, automated cargo handling, and state-of-the-art propulsion into a huge hull, forming a ship with a wide range of mission capabilities, including amphibious warfare, anti-surface warfare, anti-air warfare, and power projection ashore, utilizing helicopters and Very Short Take-Off and Landing (VSTOL) Aircraft. NASSAU was commissioned at Pascagoula, Mississippi on 28 July 1979.

In October 1979, NASSAU deployed to reinforce the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and earned the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation just 70 days after commissioning.

In April 1981, NASSAU departed for a short-notice Mediterranean deployment, and was underway for 68 consecutive days, standing ready to effect the evacuation of U.S. citizens from Lebanon. In January 1982, NASSAU deployed to the Mediterranean Sea/Indian Ocean and participated in four amphibious operations. Returning to Norfolk in June, NASSAU departed in August to take part in NATO Exercises BOLD GUARD and NORTHERN WEDDING in Northern Europe.

In 1983, NASSAU participated in the annual amphibious Exercise SOLID SHIELD. Marine Corps OV-10 "Bronco" aircraft landed for the first time on the flight deck of a ship from the Atlantic Fleet. In August, NASSAU embarked Army personnel for transport to Central America for Exercise AHUAS TARA II (the "Big Pine"). The transit marked the first time the ship had transported Army units for military exercises.

In January 1984, NASSAU deployed to Northern Europe for TEAMWORK 84, before steaming to the Mediterranean for duties off the coast of Lebanon. NASSAU returned to Norfolk in August 1984, and completed an extensive ship repair availability.

In the spring of 1985, NASSAU served as flagship for Exercise UNIVERSAL TREK, highlighted by an amphibious landing in Honduras. NASSAU participated in her second SOLID SHIELD amphibious exercise that same year. NASSAU closed a busy year with participation in NATO Exercise OCEAN SAFARI 85 in the North Atlantic.

In February 1986, NASSAU entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, where she began a 10-month complex overhaul. During spring and summer, the ship and crew began an intensive series of repair availabilities and training periods, including flight deck qualifications for the AV-8B "Harrier" VSTOL jet aircraft. NASSAU then finished Refresher Training at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, three days ahead of schedule.

On 29 September 1987, NASSAU departed Norfolk as flagship of Marine Amphibious Readiness Group (MARG) 4-87. In the ensuing six months, NASSAU participated in five amphibious assaults, including Exercise AFRICAN EAGLE with U.S. Air Force and Royal Moroccan Forces.

NASSAU crew members also participated in numerous goodwill projects, including the repainting of nursing homes in Israel and France, replanting 7,000 trees on a fire-ravaged hillside in France, blood donations in Spain, and hosting orphan visits throughout the Mediterranean. NASSAU crew members appeared twice on the NBC "Today Show," featuring their goodwill efforts. NASSAU returned to home port after this highly-successful deployment on 29 March 1988.

NASSAU passed a vigorous INSURV inspection in June and, in August, she departed for TEAMWORK 88, acting as flagship for Commander, Amphibious Strike Force/Commander, Amphibious Group Two and Commander, Marine Striking Force Atlantic/4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

Returning from TEAMWORK in mid-October, NASSAU departed Norfolk in early November en route to Kingston, Jamaica, with 81,000 lbs. of relief supplies for victims of Hurricane Gilbert. During the transit, NASSAU rescued 172 Haitian nationals from an unseaworthy craft, and delivered them over to the Coast Guard for medical treatment.

As flagship of Marine Amphibious Ready Group 2-89 with Commander, Amphibious Squadron Eight embarked, NASSAU departed Norfolk on 30 May 1989, and arrived at Naval Base Rota, Spain on 12 June, and "assumed the watch" for the amphibious forces of the U.S. Sixth Fleet.

NASSAU departed Haifa, Israel in late July, only days after the Israeli abduction of Sheik Abdul Obeid from Lebanon, which would prove a catalyst for NASSAU and her crew. For the next 30 days, NASSAU and most of the U.S. Sixth Fleet stood ready for almost any contingency.

Early in the deployment, NASSAU became a focal point as Vice Admiral J. D. Williams, Commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet, frequently chose the amphibious assault ship as a meeting place for his afloat commanders in the battle force. NASSAU was also a clearing house for passengers, mail and cargo transiting to or from ships in the Eastern Mediterranean, at times more than tripling her normal workload in this vital support role.

As tensions in the Middle East resumed their status-quo, NASSAU became the host ship for Admiral J. T. Howe, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Forces Europe.

NASSAU then participated in Exercise DISPLAY DETERMINATION 89. After conducting amphibious training operations in the country of Turkey, NASSAU headed west and out of the Mediterranean. She arrived at Lisbon, Portugal for a brief repair period before taking part in the Portuguese Marine and Naval Exercise GALERA 89.

As a result of their successes throughout 1989, NASSAU was selected by Commander, Naval Surface Force, Atlantic as the top LHA for the Battle Efficiency competitive cycle, earning the ship her second Battle "E" in her ten years of commissioned service.

NASSAU was underway again in early February for operations in the Caribbean; operations which ultimately resulted in supporting a drug summit meeting between President Bush and the leaders of three South American countries to discuss the worldwide peril of international drug trafficking. For almost a month, NASSAU's Sailors and Marines supported elements of the White House staff. In a brief radio address, President Bush thanked NASSAU's crew for their untiring efforts, and commended them on a job well done.

"Thank you for what you're doing," he said. "Not just for this special mission that brought great comfort to all of us here, but what you do every single day in defense of the greatest country on the face of the earth. God bless you all!" Fitting testimony to the enduring professionalism of the ship that is "First From the Sea."

In support of Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM, NASSAU deployed for eight-and-a-half months to the Middle East on only eight days of notice. After mobilizing and onloading the 4th Marine Expeditionary Battalion in record time, NASSAU left the United States as flagship for the Commander of the Amphibious Task Force and the 4th MEB's Commanding General.

NASSAU was recognized for excellence when President George Bush selected the ship for a Thanksgiving Day service. With General Norman Schwarzkopf and several influential members of Congress, the President and Mrs. Bush celebrated Thanksgiving with NASSAU Sailors and Marines thousands of miles away from home.

NASSAU provided massive logistical and operational support during the Gulf War. As a logistics hub for incoming and outgoing mail, cargo and other supplies that were essential to the effort, NASSAU helped ensure that everyone in the amphibious task force received everything from needed parts and equipment to do their jobs, to morale-boosting letters from home.

NASSAU again demonstrated its capabilities during the NATO Exercise "TEAMWORK" in March 1992. NASSAU embarked more than 1000 Sailors and Marines and acted as the flagship for both COMPHIBGRU TWO and the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

NASSAU completed a twelve month $115 million Complex Overhaul in September 1993, which included the installation of the RAM missile system and major communication improvements.

During Operation SUPPORT DEMOCRACY, NASSAU served as flagship for Commander Joint Task Force-120. Within hours of notification, Marine troops, helicopters and landing craft from Marine Forces Caribbean embarked aboard NASSAU in order to support U.S. and U.N. policy toward Haiti.

In April 1994, NASSAU played a pivotal role in the largest joint exercise ever conducted by the Commander, U.S. Atlantic Command - Agile Provider '94.

While deployed to the Mediterranean from November 1994 to April 1995, NASSAU operated in the Adriatic Sea five times in support of Operation SHARP GUARD, DENY FLIGHT, and PROVIDE PROMISE as the Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) element. NASSAU also conducted bilateral and multilateral exercises with Spain, Morocco, Italy, France, Greece, and Israel in support of U.S. Foreign policy. Following the deployment as part of Mediterranean Amphibious Ready Group (MARG 95-1), NASSAU provided exceptional support to U.S. Navy public relations objectives.

In February 1996, NASSAU arrived in New Orleans to participate in the Mardi Gras celebration. While returning to Norfolk, NASSAU was diverted to waters off the Cuban coast in support of Operation SENTINAL LIFEGUARD to aid in search and rescue efforts for a civilian plane that was shot down in international waters.

In May 1996, NASSAU was a key player in the execution of the largest amphibious warfare exercise since World War II - - Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) Exercise PURPLE STAR. NASSAU participated in this exercise with units from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces as well as British ships and Marines.

In November 1996, NASSAU departed on Mediterranean Amphibious Ready Group (MARG 97-1) deployment. While deployed, NASSAU participated in Operation SILVER WAKE, the non-combatant evacuation of Albania. The NASSAU team evacuated over 800 personnel from 22 different countries. While off the coast of Albania, NASSAU rescued 85 refugees from two vessels in distress. While off station in Albania, NASSAU was ordered to redeploy to the coast of Zaire in support of Operation GUARDIAN RETRIEVAL, steaming the 5123 nm at a continuous 20 knots. NASSAU remained on station for approximately one month in support of this operation, returning to Norfolk in May 1997.

In July 1997, NASSAU was one of the four ships in Norfolk that hosted the fourth annual Joint Warrior Interoperability Demonstration (JWID) '97. JWID '97 was conducted at specific U.S. military, NATO and Allied nation sites throughout the world. It was an opportunity not only to test and display information technology demonstrations, but also proved the Navy and its ships as unique and effective players in the fast-growing world of Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) interoperability in a joint and coalition environment. The experience gained by NASSAU's crew provided the ability and knowledge to flex the C4I demonstrations to their full potential.

In June 1998, NASSAU was part of one the largest combined military exercises of this year. As a visiting force of Allied countries, Canada and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces, NASSAU conducted exercises focused on multi-national peace enforcement operations during Maritime Commanders Operational Training (MARCOT)/Unified Spirit '98.

In November 1998, NASSAU departed on Mediterranean Amphibious Ready Group (MARG 99-1) deployment.

NASSAU rang in the New Year in the port of Barcelona, Spain. After leaving Barcelona, NASSAU visited the neighboring Spanish city of Rota.

Once underway again from Rota, Marines from 24 Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) participated in Exercise Spanish PHIBLEX. These types of exercises are conducted to help strengthen foreign country relationships. After the completion of the successful exercise, NASSAU steamed towards the island of Crete. NASSAU pulled into Souda Bay, Crete. This would turn out to be the first of NASSAU visitto the small island.

Underway from Crete, NASSAU reached the halfway point of the cruise. Because of possible NATO intervention in the unstable province of Pristina, Kosovo, NASSAU was ordered to stay with in the operating area for further orders. After NATO talks were suspended, NASSAU stood on standby but allowed a port visit. On February 18 NASSAU visited the port of Souda Bay once again, but this time only for two days. On the 20th NASSAU got underway to resume its standby in the operating area off Kosovo.

While the talks were convening, Marines participated in Exercise Alexander the Great. After the backload of all the Marines NASSAU steamed towards the small island of Malta. Two Marine CH-46 Seaknight's launched from NASSAU's flight deck as the ship steamed toward the Maltese port of Valletta. Their mission, transport to NASSAU the President of Malta, Dr. Ugo Mifsud Bonnici, the American Ambassador to Malta, the Honorable Kathryn L. Proffitt, and members of the President's party for a brief visit before NASSAU pulled pierside. This was NASSAU's first visit to Malta since 1997.

Shortly after arrriving in Malta, NASSAU received orders to head to the Aegean Sea to help out during the NATO operation Allied Force. NASSAU's main mission switched from an amphibious assault to a Tactical Recovery of a downed Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP) mission. NASSAU got underway in seven hours and steamed from Malta to the Aegean Sea to standby as NATO forces conducted their first bombing campaign of the operation.

NASSAU arrived in Norfolk May 13 and wrapped up a very successful and eventful deployment. The crew enjoyed time with family and friends during post-deployment leave periods. On June 28th, the crew got underway again; this time for an ammunition offload in Earle, New Jersey. A few weeks later, on July 15th, NASSAU dead-stick moved down the Elizabeth River to Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a complex nine-month overhaul.

USS NASSAU completed the nine month complex overhaul at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in March 2000. Among the accomplishments of the overhaul were the upgrade of the Firemain and Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) systems with high-performance butterfly valves; the conversion of Fire Pumps 3 and 4 from steam turbine to electrical power; replacement of the ship's damage control console with the new damage control quarters (DCQ) system; replacement of the port propeller; and the complete overhaul of number one and two boilers. After a successful Light-Off Assessment, USS NASSAU completed Sea Trials from 17-20 March 2000.

On 26 April, USS NASSAU sailed to the South Puerto Rico Operating Area for a Missile Exercise. After successfully completing the exercise, NASSAU made a four day port visit to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to participate in the Fort Lauderdale Air and Sea Show on Saturday, 6 May and Sunday, 7 May. For Saturday's show, USS NASSAU anchored in the bay and hosted over 1,000 guests, who watched the show, which featured the Navy's Blue Angels from the ship's flight deck.

On Friday, 16 June, NASSAU anchored in Hampton Roads at the mouth of the Elizabeth River and hosted over 1,200 guests, who viewed the arrival of the tall ships of OPSAIL 2000 as they entered Norfolk Harbor. Over 150 ships and vessels from more than 60 nations paraded 30 miles from Fort Story to downtown Norfolk, Virginia. Among the 1,200 guests were the Commander in Chief, United States Atlantic Fleet Admiral Vernon Clark, Senators Warner and Robb of Virginia, Congressman Sisisky and Governor Gilmore.

In preparation for the ship's deployment, NASSAU completed a weapons onload at Naval Weapons Station Earle, N.J. from 26-30 June. Leaving NWS Earle, the ship proceeded to New York Harbor where she participated in the International Naval Review 2000. Among the highlights of the week-long visit, Captain Mauer reenlisted 13 NASSAU Sailors at the Statue of Liberty. On 4 July, the ship hosted 2,000 guests, including General James L. Jones, Commandant of the Marine Corps, who viewed the parade of tall ships of OPSAIL 2000 as they entered New York Harbor. From 5-8 July, USS NASSAU moored at the former Staten Island Naval Station, where the crew hosted over 12,000 visitors.

On 10 July, Commodore William J. Luti, Commander Amphibious Squadron TWO, embarked on board. From 13-21 July, PHIBRON TWO, USS NASSAU and 22nd MEU participated in the PHIBRON/MEU Integration Exercise (PMINT) in preparation for the scheduled deployment to the Mediterranean Sea. During this exercise, NASSAU onloaded over 1200 Marines and 52 vehicles. From 5-14 September, they performed underway operations to further hone the skills necessary to successfully complete the deployment.

From 9-28 October, USS NASSAU participated in a Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) requiring the operating units of the NASSAU Amphibious Readiness Group (NASARG) to conduct live amphibious assault exercises on the island of Vieques, the first use of Vieques after the island was reopened for Navy training exercises. The NASARG then joined the units of the USS TRUMAN (CVN 75) Battle Group for additional training exercises. From 18-20 October, NASSAU conducted an entire equipment washdown at Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, Puerto Rico.

After completing a Pre-Overseas Movement Period (POM) from 28 October-27 November, NASSAU and other ships within the NASARG departed Norfolk Naval Base for a six-month Mediterranean deployment. The NASARG transited to Camp LeJeune to onload the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit. On 1 December the NASARG commenced transiting the Atlantic Ocean arriving at Rota, Spain on 11 December. Departing Rota on 14 December, the NASSAU participated in an Amphibious Excercise with the Spanish Fleet prior to transiting the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean.

At approximately 0300 on the morning of 20 December, USS NASSAU discovered a small boat adrift and sinking. The boat, meant to carry only seven passengers, held 30 men. The Officer of the Deck maneuvered the ship close enough that the small craft could be brought along side. Crewmembers were able to rescue 29 of the 30 passengers from the overloaded boat.

NASSAU was in port in Brindisi, Italy, from 23 December through 4 January 2001. Crewmembers celebrated Christmas Eve Mass with the Pope in Rome and rang in the New Year with a number of activities held on board the ship throughout the evening.

NASSAU's next port of call was Valletta, Malta from 8-11 January. The highlight of the visit was the reception for the American Ambassador to Malta, Kathryn Proffitt, hosted by NASSAU's crew. NASSAU's next steamed to Palma, Spain, anchoring there from 16-21 January, followed by Cartegena, Spain from 25-29 January. NASSAU next visited Toulon, France, from 2-5 February, where the ship completed its mid-deployment maintenance period. Leaving Toulon, France, the crew of USS NASSAU and the Marines of 22 Marine Expeditionary Unit participated in the Capo Teulando Training Exercise off the coast of Sardinia. Following the busy work schedule in Toulon and during the training exercise, NASSAU enjoyed a port visit in Taranto, Italy, from 28 February to 5 March. This was followed by a second visit to Valletta, Malta, from 13-16 March.

Leaving Malta, NASSAU participated in the Atlas Hinge Training Exercise, off the coast of North Africa from 17 March until 9 April. Completing the exercise, NASSAU returned to the Adriatic Sea. While the Marines of 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) participated in Slunj 2001, a training exercise in Croatia. NASSAU enjoyed visiting the port of Rijeka, Croatia. One of the highlights of the visit was on 20 April when NASSAU hosted a reception for the American Ambassador to Croatia, Ambassador Lawrence Rossin.

After the Marines returned, NASSAU sailed west, leaving the Mediterranean. The ship's last port visit was a return to Rota, Spain from 3 to 8 May, where the NASSAU Amphibious Ready Group completed its turnover with the USS KEARSARGE (LHD 3) Amphibious Ready Group.

NASSAU then out-chopped from the Sixth Fleet and began the voyage back across the Atlantic toward home. The ship arrived at Onslow Bay on 21 May, where the Marines of 22nd MEU (Special Operations Capable) were off-loaded. After off-loading the Marines, NASSAU crewmembers were met by family members and friends on 23 May for an overnight Tiger Cruise, as the ship sailed from Onslow Bay to Norfolk, Virginia, where the ship arrived on 24 May.

After a much needed standdown period, NASSAU transited to Earle Naval Weapons Station, N.J., on 23 June to offload ordnance in preparation for entering Metro Machine Shipyard on 30 July for a four-month planned maintenance availability period. While at Metro Machine Shipyard, NASSAU's engineering plants were overhauled and ship's berthing and workspaces received renovations such as new PRC decks. NASSAU completed a successful Light Off Assessment on 29 October and an Initial Assessment on 16 November.

Upon completion of the ship's Holiday Standdown on 8 January 2002, NASSAU's deployment dates were uncertain due to world events. NASSAU successfully completed an accelerated schedule for all certification exercises to be ready to deploy early if necessary to support Operation Enduring Freedom.

The ship completed a Weapons Onload at Earle Naval Weapons Station, N.J. from 24-27 February 2002, returning to Norfolk for only one week, before getting underway again for the Puerto Rican operating area to complete their missile exercise. Taking a break during the busy underway period, the crew enjoyed three days visiting the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

After returning to Norfolk, NASSAU's crew completed and passed their Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) Inspection from 1-4 April 2002. After only a few days in port, the crew of USS NASSAU was once again underway from 16-24 April to complete their PHIBRON/MEU Integration (PMINT) exercise. This exercise was followed by a Marine Expeditionary Unit/Amphibious Readiness Group Exercise (MEU/ARGEX) from 3-12 June 2002 and a Special Operations Capability Exercise (SOCEX) from 19-27 June 2002. NASSAU returned to port, enabling part of the crew to take leave during the ship's first Pre-Overseas Movement (POM) period from 3-18 July 2002. Before the second POM period, NASSAU spent four days underway once again, serving as a platform for Marine pilot qualifications. Returning to port on the evening of 25 July 2002, NASSAU was once again underway early the following morning for a Family Day Cruise. After returning to port, the ship completed its second POM period from 26 July to 8 August 2002.

USS NASSAU departed Norfolk to begin the Mediterranean Amphibious Readiness Group (MARG) 03-02 Deployment on Monday, 26 August 2002. The other ships making up the NASSAU Amphibious Readiness Group were USS AUSTIN (LPD 4) and USS TORTUGA (LSD 46). From Norfolk, the ships transited to Onslow Bay, N.C., to onload the Marines of 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) from 26-28 August. On 29 August, the ships of the NASSAU Amphibious Readiness Group departed Onslow Bay and began the transit across the Atlantic Ocean. Arriving in Rota, Spain, on 7 September 2002, the ships inchopped into Sixth Fleet. Due to the unavailability of pier space because of the number of ships from the Spanish fleet currently inport, USS NASSAU remained at anchor throughout inport period.

Getting underway on the evening of 9 September 2002, USS NASSAU transited the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea enroute to Thessaloniki, Greece. Arriving in Greece on 16 September, NASSAU offloaded the Marines 24th MEU (SOC) in preparation for their participation in Dynamic Response, a training exercise in Kosovo. After completing the offload, USS NASSAU transited into the Adriatic Sea for a port visit to Rijeka, Croatia, from 27-30 September 2002. Among the highlights of the visit was a reception held onboard hosted by the American Ambassador to Croatia, Ambassador H. E. Lawrence G. Rossin on 28 September 2002.

Leaving Rijeka, USS NASSAU participated in a training exercise, Croatian PHIBLEX, with the Croatian military from 1-4 October. After completing the exercise, the ship transited to Marmaris, Turkey, for the ship's second port visit from 11-14 October 2002.

From Marmaris, USS NASSAU transited back to Thessaloniki, Greece, where the Marines of 24th MEU (SOC) rejoined the ship. The onload took place from 20-22 October 2002 in preparation for the ship's transit through the Suez Canal. USS NASSAU inchopped to Fifth Fleet on 26 October 2002 and proceeded to transit the Suez Canal to begin its tour of duty as part of US Central Command. During the months of November and December, USS NASSAU remained on station in the Gulf of Oman off the coast of Horn of Africa. The Marines of the 24th MEU (SOC) went ashore in Djibouti to participate in two exercises, Image Nautilus from 7-16 November 2002 and Edged Mallet from 27 November to 11 December.

On 26 December 2002, NASSAU transited the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf, enroute to Manama, Bahrain, where the ship's crew rang in the New Year during a well-deserved port visit from 28 December 2002 to 1 January 2003. On 2 January, the ship again got underway to continue her eventual and busy deployment in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The Sailors and Marines of USS NASSAU and 24th MEU (SOC) Unit transited from Bahrain south to the United Arab Emirates, where they participated in Operation Iron Magic with the military forces of that country from 4-24 January.

After completing the training exercise, the ship remained underway in the Persian Gulf until 2 February, when she returned to Manama, Bahrain, for a second port visit to the island nation from 2-4 February. Departing Bahrain, the ship transited the Strait of Hormuz on 6 February and returned to conducting operations in the Gulf of Aden, as she had in November and December 2002.

After departing Bahrain, USS NASSAU hosted Commander, Task Force FIVE ONE, RADM W. C. Marsh, who embarked onboard from 6-8 February. USS NASSAU also received a visit from Commander, Amphibious Group TWO, FDM M. P. Nowakowski, on 12 February.

Originally scheduled to return to Norfolk in March, USS NASSAU received word in mid-February that the deployment would be extended an additional six weeks until 30 April, as tensions between the United States and Saddam Hussein's government in Iraqi continued to escalate. USS NASSAU continued to operate in the Gulf of Aden until receiving operational orders to again transit the Strait of Hormuz into the Southern Persian Gulf on 10 March.

On 20 March, US Forces, joined by British troops began military operations in Iraq in an effort to end the regime of Saddam Hussein. Two days before USS NASSAU was to begin her return transit, the ship received word of a second, indefinite extension. Instead of beginning the transit home, she was ordered to proceed north to Kuwait City where the Marines of 24th MEU (SOC) were off-loaded enroute to join US and Coalition Forces already fighting in Iraq. The pilots of 24th MEU's Air Combat Element also contributed to the combat operations by flying Harrier missions over Iraq. The Marines remained in Iraq for one month before receiving orders to return to the ship. As the Marines prepared their equipment for onload, USS NASSAU made her third and final port visit to Manama, Bahrain, from 19-23 April. The Marines all safely returned to USS NASSAU from 24-29 April and on 30 April, with the onload of the Marines complete, USS NASSAU got underway to begin the long awaited transit back to home port.

The ship transited the Strait of Hormuz for the final time on 2 May, making her way through the Gulf of Oman and the Red Sea to the Suez Canal by 11 May. Transiting the canal into the Mediterranean Sea, the ship inchopped to the US Sixth Fleet, after serving over six-months as part of US Fifth Fleet in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. USS NASSAU continued through the Mediterranean Sea without delay, transiting the Strait of Gibraltar on 17 May. The ship's transit across the Atlantic Ocean was marked by the tragic loss of two crewmembers. On Friday, 23 May, a NASSAU crewmember was lost when he fell overboard. Enjoying a break topside on a "no fly" day, ABF3 Dwane Williams fell over the side while chasing a football. The ship immediately reversed course in an effort to save him, but despite an extensive search by small boats, other ships in company and the ship's Search and Rescue helicopters which lasted until almost dark, he was never found. Two days later, HM1 Shaun Dale was reported missing after he failed to report for a departmental muster. The ship reversed course to retrace her route, from the time Petty Officer Dale was last seen earlier that morning until the time he was reported missing. Several space-by-space searches of the ship were also conducted throughout the day, but he was never found.

Despite the tragic loss of two crewmates, USS NASSAU still received a triumphant welcome upon their arrival on 26 May to Morehead City, NC. After completing the Marine offload, USS NASSAU greeted family and friends aboard on 25 May, during the ship's Tiger Cruise. Family members joined the Sailors of USS NASSAU for the overnight transit from Morehead City to the ship's homeport of Norfolk. The guests joined their crewmembers topside on 29 May as the ship made its triumphant return to homeport. Having been underway for a total of 277 days, USS NASSAU earned the right to display a Homeward Bound Pennant upon entering port. The three ships of the NASSAU Amphibious Ready Group were the only East Coast ships to be deployed from homeport longer than 270 days since the first Persian Gulf War. USS NASSAU's red, white and blue pennant measured 400 feet long. In keeping with tradition, the pennant was cut into pieces after begin displayed. The blue field with its one white star was presented to the ship's Commanding Officer, CAPT R. P. Tjepkema, and each crewmember that completed the entire deployment was presented with a section of the pennant's red and white stripes.

After completing the ship's long and eventful deployment, the crew began a much-needed month-long post deployment leave period from 29 May until 29 June. Once this short break was over, the crew again returned to work to prepare for the ship's drydocking availability.

NASSAU transited on 10 July 2003 from Norfolk Naval Station to Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va. The ship entered Drydock Number 8 on the same day, commencing an eight-month Drydocking Planned Maintenance Availability (DPMA).

Hurricane Isabel came through the region 18 September. USS NASSAU was able to secure the ship and suffered no damage as a result of the hurricane. The DPMA end date was extended two weeks as a result of the interruption in work caused by hurricane preparations and clean-up. NASSAU put to sea again in early April 2004 for sea trials and the remainder of the year was spent with local operation off the East Coast.

NASSAU began 2005 preparing for her November 2005 deployment. From January through March, NASSAU's schedule focused on material repair, strike group integration and unit level training. The availabilities proved challenging in prioritizing the much needed repair of multiple equipment deficiencies in a limited time period. Strike Group Warfare Commanders and Commanding Officers also spent early 2005 developing and testing tactics, techniques and procedures for Strike Group Operations during upcoming exercises and deployment. Multiple conferences and inport training provided the foundation for NASSAU Expeditionary Strike Group's (NASESG) tactical and technical procedures. In addition to Strike Group planning NASSAU completed multiple shipboard exercises and assessments including AV-8B Harrier training to maintain and/or refresh crew proficiency.

As the year continued, NASESG conducted its first Group sail to exercise interoperability and multi-ship training. This event provided time to validate the procedures developed during the previous Warfare Commanders conference. In May NASSAU played a key role in transporting 85 Construction Battalion sailors and Marines from Haiti to the US. The backload provided time for sustained underway training and the first extended wet well operations in many months.

In late September, NASESG participated in a Certification Exercise (CERTEX) in which the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (22nd MEU) earned its Special Operations Capable (SOC) certification.

On 7 November, NASSAU deployed to support the Global War on Terrorism and Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. After 22nd MEU(SOC) onload, NASSAU transited from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arabian Gulf. During the deployment NASSAU conducted maritime security operations in the 5th Fleet area of operations. Port visits included Rota, Spain; Kuwait; Mina Sulman, Bahrain; Djibuti; and Palma de Majorca, Spain. USS NASSAU returned home to Norfolk on 4 May 2006.

After a standdown and leave period, NASSAU resumed local training off the East Coast interrupted by a six-week surge deployment to the Mediterranean March - May 2007 during which the ship participated in Exercise Phoenix Express, a multi-national exercise with North African and European forces.

In late 2007 the NASESG conducted its COMPTUEX before deploying to the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operations on 20 February 2008. After calling at Rota, Spain; Malta; and Naples, Italy, the ESG participated in exercise Phoenix Express 2008 in April. In May and June, NASSAU operated in the Persian Gulf and finally returned to Norfolk on 11 July 2008.

On 3 December NASSAU entered the BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair Facility for a planned maintenance availability and remained there well into 2009. After sea trials in May, NASSAU began initial integration exercises with the 24th MEU in August, followed by the NASESG's COMPTUEX in late October.

On 18 January 2010 NASSAU departed Norfolk on her final deployment to the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operations. However, on 20 January the ESG was diverted to Haiti for relief operations in the aftermath of an earthquake there. After supporting Operation Unified Response, NASSAU departed Haiti and resumed her original schedule heading for the Mediterranean.

NASSAU's last homecoming took place on 15 August 2010 when she returned to Norfolk. In September, she offloaded her ammunition at Naval Weapons Station Earle, NJ., before getting underway on her final sea period in mid-November.

USS NASSAU was decommissioned at her homeport of Norfolk, Va., on 31 March 2011.

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Accidents aboard USS NASSAU:

January 1996Naval Station Norfolk, Va.
NASSAU broke away from a pier mooring at Naval Station Norfolk in a wind gust front of approx. 73 knots and struck Pier Charlie and a civilian tugboat. No information about the damage.
April 1, 2003Persian Gulf
A U.S. Marine Corps aviator, conducting a routine night training mission, ejected from his AV-8B Harrier at 7:40 p.m. local time (11:40 a.m. EST) while attempting to land on the USS NASSAU. The aircraft plunged into the water as the pilot ejected. A search and rescue helicopter from NASSAU recovered the pilot, who was in fair condition.
May 23, 2003900 miles off Virginia
Dwayne Williams, a 23-year old petty officer third class from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was chasing a football Friday morning when he tripped and fell over the side of the ship, plunging 70 feet into the Atlantic.

Within 5 minutes a RHIB was dispatched from USS NASSAU and within 10 minutes a helicopter arrived on scene to take part in the search.

The search was terminated after 9 hours when it became to dark to keep trying. A memorial service for Williams was held the next morning aboard USS NASSAU.
May 25, 2003off the US East Coast
HM1 Shaun Dale is reported missing after he fails to report for a departmental muster. The ship reverses course to retrace her route, from the time Petty Officer Dale was last seen earlier that morning until the time he was reported missing. Several space-by-space searches of the ship were also conducted throughout the day, but he was never found.

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Notes of Interest:

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The photos below were taken by Stefan Karpinski during NASSAU's 2003 deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The photos below were taken by me and show the NASSAU at Naval Base Norfolk, Va., on November 9, 2008.

The photos below were taken by me and show the NASSAU at BAE Ship Systems at Norfolk, Va. The photos were taken on February 3, 2009.

The photos below were taken by me and show the NASSAU passing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel on her way to Naval Base Norfolk, Va., on October 29, 2010. The last three photos show the NASSAU a few hours later at the Naval Base still having two tugs alongside.

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