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USS Essex (LHD-2)
USS Essex (LHD-2)
Name: USS Essex
Namesake: Essex County, Massachusetts
Ordered: 10 September 1986
Builder: Ingalls Shipbuilding
Laid down: 20 March 1989
Launched: 23 February 1991
Commissioned: 17 October 1992
Homeport: Naval Base San Diego
Motto: Take Notice
Nickname: "The Iron Gator", "Steaming Deuce", "The Depressex", "The Black Pearl"
Status: in active service, as of 2022
Badge: USS Essex LHD-2 Crest.png
General characteristics
Class & type: Wasp-class amphibious assault ship
Displacement: 40,650 tons (full combat load)
Length: 844 ft (257 m)
Beam: 106 ft (32 m)
Draft: 28 ft (8.5 m) (full load)
Propulsion: Geared steam turbines
Speed: 24+ knots
Boats & landing
craft carried:
3 LCACs or 2 LCUs
Troops: 1,800
Complement: 73 officers, 1109 enlisted
Armament: RAM, NATO Sea Sparrow, Mk 15 CIWS, .50-caliber M2HB machine gun
Aircraft carried: up to 36, including: UH-1N Huey, AH-1W Cobra, CH-53 Super Stallion, CH-46 Sea Knight, MH-60 Seahawk, AV-8B Harrier

USS Essex (LHD-2) is a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship built at what is now Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and commissioned on 17 October 1992 while moored at North Island NAS beside the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63). It is the fifth ship named for Essex County, Massachusetts. Dick Cheney, then the Secretary of Defense in the first Bush Administration, spoke at the commissioning ceremony. Essex served as the command ship for Expeditionary Strike Group Seven until replaced by the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) on 23 April 2012.[1] The Essex collided with USNS Yukon (T-AO-202) in May 2012.[2]


The USS Essex performs a stern gate mating with Landing Craft Utility 1631, while back-loading elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.


Essex conducted an arduous and highly successful training program during the spring of 1993, and from 18 August until 23 November, was undergoing upgrades, during Post Shakedown Availability, in Long Beach harbor, while her crew was at 4 section duty.


The Essex's maiden deployment was in October 1994. With the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) embarked, Essex showcased her abilities on numerous occasions. The highlight of the deployment came in January 1995, when she left the Persian Gulf to prepare for the complex task of covering the withdrawal of United Nations multinational force from Somalia in Operation United Shield. Under fire from advancing Somalis, every member of the force was successfully extracted. Essex returned to San Diego on 25 April 1995.


After a short maintenance period, Essex embarked on a vigorous workup cycle, culminating in her participation in Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), a biennial, seven-nation naval exercise. On 10 October 1996, she embarked on her second Western Pacific deployment, with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (SOC) and Amphibious Squadron Five. During the deployment, Essex participated in multinational exercises with Qatar, Oman and Kuwait, as well as Exercise Tandem Thrust 1997, an American-Australian combined exercise with over 28,000 troops, 250 aircraft and 40 ships participating.


Upon her return in April 1997, Essex again went into a short maintenance period, followed by a shortened workup cycle. She then departed for her third Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf deployment on 22 June 1998 with the 15th MEU (SOC) and Amphibious Squadron Five.

Essex participated in Exercises Sea Soldier and Red Reef, and participated in Military SALT and Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations with the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait. Additionally, Essex supported Operation Southern Watch, enforcing the UN-mandated no-fly zone over southern Iraq.


On 26 July 2000, after successful completion of the largest crew swap in U.S. Navy history, Essex replaced USS Belleau Wood (LHA-3) and inherited the distinctive role as the Navy’s only permanently forward-deployed amphibious assault ship in United States Fleet Activities Sasebo, Japan.


In the role, Essex has participated in various humanitarian assistance/disaster relief operations including East Timor in October and November 2001 and Foal Eagle in Korea in 2002.

LCAC entering the stern of the USS Essex.


In 2004, Essex carried the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU) to Kuwait, along with USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49) and USS Juneau (LPD-10). Essex stayed in the Persian Gulf while the 31st MEU and the combat element 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines went into Iraq for the Battle of Fallujah. During that time, Essex went to aid in Operation Unified Assistance in Banda Aceh, Indonesia after the St. Stephen's Day 2004 Tsunami. She then returned to the Persian Gulf to embark the 31st MEU SOC and the combat element despite being in need of maintenance. After picking up the MEU and the Combat Element, the three ships returned to Okinawa, Japan. The ship had been at sea a total of 8 months.


During the 2008 Myanmar Cyclone Nargis crisis and the subsequent Operation Caring Response aid mission, the Essex and her carrier group (made up of the USS Juneau, the USS Harpers Ferry, and the USS Mustin) stood by off Burma from 13 May to 5 June, waiting for the Myanmar junta government to permit US aid to its citizens.[3] However, in early June, with permission still not forthcoming, it was decided to put the group back on its scheduled operations.[4]


Early in 2009, Essex completed a successful exercise Cobra Gold, which had been cut short the previous year. Essex followed this with exercise Balikatan with the Republic of the Philippines. Essex then got underway in support of exercise Talisman Saber 2009 and conducted various welldeck and flight deck evolutions in support of this joint bi-lateral exercise between the U.S. and Australian military forces.


During 21–23 October, the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group provided humanitarian assistance/disaster relief to the Philippines after the Super Typhoon Juan (international name Megi) caused extensive destruction to municipalities along the eastern coast of the Province of Isabela.[5] Despite the efforts of the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group, 31st MEU, and elements of the 3rd MEB and Marine Air Group 36, no Humanitarian Service Medal and/or Philippine Presidential Unit Citation were awarded.


On the request for assistance from the Japanese government, the Navy directed the Essex to be deployed off the northeastern coast of Honshu after the massive 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.[6] The ship was involved in relief activities in the Sea of Japan off Akita Prefecture.[7] Helicopters from the ship helped deliver relief supplies to quake and tsunami survivors along the northeast coast of Tohoku.[8]

The ship departed Sasebo in September 2011 for a patrol of the western Pacific. Accompanying the ship were the USS Germantown (LSD-42) and USS Denver (LPD-9).[9]

In November, Petty Officer 1st Class Regan Young was fatally injured on the Essex during a weapons systems test while the ship was off the coast of Bali.[10]


The Essex was scheduled to depart for Cobra Gold 2012, an annual exercise with Thailand. The mission was canceled, however, due to mechanical or maintenance issues.[11]

It was announced in January 2012 that Essex would be returning to its home port of San Diego, California.[12] This occurred with a hull swap with USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6). In a hull swap, respective crews change ships. Thus, the current Essex crew moved to the Bonhomme Richard and continued their deployment in Sasebo.

On 16 May 2012, the Essex suffered an apparent steering failure while approaching USNS Yukon for an underway replenishment. The two ships collided causing damage to both ships. There were no injuries and no loss of fuel was reported. Both ships were able to continue to San Diego under their own power.[2] On 19 June 2012 the Navy announced that the ship's commander, Captain Chuck Litchfield, had been relieved of command due to "loss of confidence in his ability to command."[13]

[dated info]The Essex is expected to participate in RIMPAC in Hawaii during June–July 2012 despite damage incurred during the collision.[13]

An investigation determined that the collision was avoidable and caused by improper supervision by Litchfield over his junior bridge crew. Although the Essex's bow had jammed, the investigation determined that better leadership by Litchfield could have prevented the collision. The investigation recommended administrative action against Essex’s executive officer, officer-of-the-deck, conning officer and helm safety officer.[14]

The Essex entered a 18-month maintenance and upgrade at Naval Station San Diego on September 18, 2012.[15][16]

Capt. Joker L. Jenkins, a Taiwan-born USN officer, was announced as the new captain in November 2012.[17]

Unit awards

Since her commissioning, Essex has received numerous awards, including all of the warfare excellence awards, seven Battle “E” awards (most recently in 2008),[18] the Golden Anchor Award for retention, the Ney Award for food service excellence, the Thompson Award for public affairs excellence, the Ogden Award for firefighting excellence, and the Chief of Naval Operations and Commander, Naval Surface Forces Pacific Safety Award.


  1. Burke, Matthew (23 April 2012). "Navy crews swap ships during Sasebo ceremony". Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Julie Watson (16 May 2012). "2 US Navy ships collide in Pacific; no injuries". Archived from the original on 2012-09-08. Retrieved 2012-05-17. 
  3. David Byers, Fay Schlesinger Updated 50 minutes ago (10 December 2007). "US threatens military aid drops as Burma leaders stall". Times Online. Retrieved 2012-05-02. 
  4. dead link[dead link]
  5. "31ST MEU and PHIBRON-11 provide assistance after Super Typhoon Juan". 21 October 2010. Retrieved 2012-05-02. 
  6. Rabiroff, John. . "U.S. military delivers 40 tons of supplies to hardest-hit areas," Stars and Stripes (US). 17 March 2011; Seawaves,"Warships Supporting Earthquake in Japan"
  7. "Japan-U.S. relief efforts expanding," The Daily Yomiuri (Japan). 20 March 2011; retrieved 29 March 2011; excerpt, "Essex with 2,200 members of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard ... involved in relief activities in the Sea of Japan off Akita Prefecture."
  8. Hansen, Liane, "U.S.S Essex Helps Delivers Aid To Japan", NPR Weekend Edition, 27 March 2011, 1 p.m.
  9. Stars and Stripes, "Essex Ready Group and 31st MEU underway for fall patrol", 26 September 2011.
  10. Matthew M. Burke. "Navy identifies sailor killed aboard USS Essex - Navy". Stripes. Retrieved 2012-05-02. 
  11. Matthew M. Burke. "USS Essex unable to fulfill mission for 2nd time in seven months". Retrieved 2012-05-02. 
  12. Communication, Mass. "Commander ESG 3 Visits Essex to Talk Hull Swap". Retrieved 2012-05-02. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Commanding officer of USS Essex relieved of command following collision with tanker at sea". Washington Post. 19 June 2012. Retrieved 2012-06-19. 
  14. Fuentes, Gidget, "Report reveals Essex chaos before collision", Military Times, 27 August 2012
  15. "USS Essex (LHD 2) Prepares For Dry-Dock Maintenance Availability". US Navy. 20 September 2012. Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  16. "Essex begins 18 months of maintenance, upgrades in San Diego". Stars and Stripes. 23 April 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  17. Taiwan-born captain named USS Essex captain - The China Post
  18. Ludwick, Paula M. "Surface Force Ships, Crews Earn Battle "E" (Story Number: NNS070219-04), US Navy. 19 February 2007; retrieved 29 Mar 2011.


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