USS TORTUGA is the sixth Dock Landing Ship in the WHIDBEY ISLAND class and the third ship in that class built by Avondale in New Orleans. In April 2006, the TORTUGA replaced the USS FORT McHENRY (LSD 43) as a forward deployed naval unit in Sasebo, Japan. The hull swap was part of the Navy's long-range plan to routinely replace older ships assigned to the Navy's Forward Deployed Naval Force with newer or more capable ships. The TORTUGA was previously homeported in Little Creek, Va. In August 2013, the TORTUGA was replaced again in Japan by sistership USS ASHLAND (LSD 48) and changed her homeport to Little Creek again.
|General Characteristics:||Keel laid: March 23, 1987|
|Christened: November 19, 1988|
|Commissioned: September 7, 1990|
|Builder: Avondale Shipyards, New Orleans, La.|
|Propulsion system: four Colt Industries 16 Cylinder Diesels|
|Length: 610 feet (186 meters)|
|Beam: 84 feet (25.6 meters)|
|Draft: 21 feet (6.4 meters)|
|Displacement: approx. 16,000 tons full load|
|Speed: 22 knots|
|Well deck capacity: four LCAC or 21 LCM-6 (on deck: one LCM-6, two LCPL and one LCVP)|
|Aircraft: none, but two landing spots allow for operation of aircraft as large as the |
|Crew: Ship: 20 Officers, 25 Chief Petty Officers, 302 Enlisted|
|Marine Detachment: approx. 400 + approx. 100 surge|
|Armament: two |
|Cost: $153 million|
|Homeport: Little Creek, Va.|
This section contains the names of sailors who served aboard USS TORTUGA. It is no official listing but contains the names of sailors who submitted their information.
USS TORTUGA Cruise Books:
About the Ship's Coat of Arms:
Dark blue and gold are traditional Navy colors and symbolize the sea and excellence. In honor of Ponce de Leon, the Spanish explorer who discovered the Dry Tortugas in 1513, the colors red and yellow are adopted from the national flag of Spain. Red is also the color of valor and is symbolic of the proud history of amphibious warfare. The angular configuration simulating Fort Jefferson appears as a spearhead and represents the shipís primary mission of amphibious assault. The gold wings below the spearhead reflect the shipís capability of amphibious airlift. The crossed officerís sword and enlisted cutlass honor the spirit of leadership and teamwork between the shipís wardroom and crew. The supporters are rifled Parrott guns of the mid-19th century and are of the same design as those first installed at Fort Jefferson. They symbolize toughness and tenacity in battle.
The morion embellished with a lionís head commemorates Ponce de Leon. The wreath of palm refers to the tropical climate of Florida and the Dry Tortugas. The stars and spearheads surrounding the morion represent the five battle stars the first USS TORTUGA (LSD 26) earned for Korean service and the eight battle stars LSD 26 earned for service in Vietnam.
About the Construction of USS TORTUGA:
Construction of the TORTUGA began in September of 1986 at Avondale Shipyard in New Orleans. On 23 March 1987, the keel, or the backbone of the ship, was officially laid.
The next major construction milestone was the launching of the ship in November of 1988. However, the threat of Hurricane Gilbert in the Gulf of Mexico forced an early launching of the ship, as a precautionary measure, on 15 September 1988.
Steeped in tradition, the time of launching is also when the ship is christened. On 19 November 1988, Mrs. Rosemary Parker Schoultz, the sponsor of the TORTUGA, presided over the christening ceremony, breaking the traditional bottle of champagne over the bow of the ship.
Notable guests on hand for the christening ceremony included Vice Admiral Joseph Donnell, III, Commander Naval Surface Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, Vice Admiral Schoultz, USN Retired, and the Honorable J. Bennett Johnston, U.S. Senator.
On September 7, 1990, TORTUGA was officially commissioned and became an active part of the fleet after three years of construction.
Accidents aboard USS TORTUGA:
|June 6, 2002||1,000 yards off the North Carolina coast, near Morehead City|
While conducting operations in support of a routine exercise as part of the USS NASSAU (LHA 4) Amphibious Ready Group TORTUGA ran aground late at night. No one was injured, and there did not appear to be any significant damage.
TORTUGA was safely floated the next morning but remained at anchor while divers conducted an underwater inspection of the hull.
Following the grounding, USS TORTUGA's CO and the XO were relieved.
USS TORTUGA Image Gallery:
The photo below was taken by Stefan Karpinski and shows the TORTUGA in Kiel, Germany, for Exercise Strong Resolve in 2002.
The photos below were taken by me during TORTUGA's port visit to Kiel, Germany, June 17 - 20, 2005, after her participation in BALTOPS 2005.
The photo below was taken by Michael Jenning and shows the TORTUGA at Little Creek, Va., on May 8, 2014.
The photos below were taken by Michael Jenning and show the TORTUGA at Naval Station Mayport, Fla., on April 28, 2015.
The photos below were taken by Steven Collingwood and show the TORTUGA passing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel after departure from Naval Base Norfolk, Va., on July 27, 2015. USS TORTUGA is heading for Rockland, Maine, to participate in the annual Lobster Festival.
The photos below were taken by Michael Jenning and show the TORTUGA at Naval Base Norfolk, Va., on October 6, 2015.
The photos below were taken by Michael Jenning and show the TORTUGA at Naval Base Norfolk, Va., on April 13, 2016. Her Phalanx and RAM systems as well as some sensors have been removed in preparation for an upcoming shipyard period.
The photos below were taken by Michael Jenning and show the TORTUGA at BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair undergoing a Selected Restricted Availability (SRA) on October 12, 2016.
The photos below were taken by Michael Jenning and show the TORTUGA laid up at Naval Base Norfolk, Va., on October 4, 2017. As a cost saving measure, TORTUGA is presently in a lay up status and is only maintained by a small crew. The ship is scheduled to later undergo modernization and return to active status.
The photos below were taken by Michael Jenning and show the TORTUGA high and dry at BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair on September 21, 2018.
The photos below were taken by Michael Jenning and show the TORTUGA at BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair on December 26, 2021.
The photos below were taken by Michael Jenning and show the TORTUGA at Naval Base Norfolk, Va., on September 6, 2022.
The photos below were taken by Michael Jenning and show the TORTUGA at Naval Base Norfolk, Va., on October 9, 2023. TORTUGA is already laid up for almost 8 years now while the Navy has spent more than $200 million for the ship's maintenance and modernization because initial plans called for the return of TORTUGA to active service. In 2022, however, TORTUGA's name appeared on the Navy's annual inactivation schedule message to Congress for the first time, but Congress refused approval for the decommissioning of the ship. Judging from the fate of other US Navy ships in similar situations, it's unlikely that TORTUGA will ever return to sea under her own power. Instead, she will probably be decommissioned in the near future.