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USS Fort McHenry (LSD-43)
USS Fort McHenry (LSD-43) conducting helicopter operations off the coast of Sumatra, (2005).
Namesake: Fort McHenry, in Baltimore, Maryland
Ordered: 11 December 1985
Builder: Lockheed Shipbuilding
Laid down: 10 June 1983
Launched: 1 February 1986
Sponsored by: Helen D. Bentley
Commissioned: 8 August 1987
Homeport: NAB Little Creek, Virginia
Motto: Domus Fortium
Status: in active service, as of 2022
Badge: USS Fort McHenry LSD-43 Crest.png
General characteristics
Displacement: 16,261 long tons (16,522 t) (full)
11,325 long tons (11,507 t) (light)
Length: 610 ft (190 m)
Beam: 84 ft (26 m)
Draft: 21 ft (6.4 m)
Propulsion: 4 Colt Industries, 16-cylinder diesel engines, 2 shafts, 33,000 shp (25 MW)
Speed: 20+ knots (37+ km/h)
Boats & landing
craft carried:
4 LCACs or 21 LCM-6s
Troops: Marine detachment: 402 + 102 surge
Complement: 22 officers, 391 enlisted
Armament: 2 × 25 mm Mk 38 cannons
2 × 20 mm Phalanx CIWS mounts
2 × Rolling Airframe Missile
6 × .50 caliber M2HB machine guns

USS Fort McHenry (LSD-43) is a Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship of the United States Navy. She was named for Fort McHenry, in Baltimore, Maryland, the 1814 defense of which inspired The Star-Spangled Banner.

USS Fort McHenry (LSD-43) was laid down on 10 June 1983 by Lockheed Shipbuilding in Seattle, Washington. She was launched on 1 February 1986 (sponsored by The Honorable Helen D. Bentley), and commissioned on 8 August 1987 in Seattle, Commander George S. "Dusty" Rhodes in command.


1988 – 1995

Fort McHenry's maiden deployment was from June 1988 to December 1988 to the Western Pacific. Following her return, Fort McHenry participated in the cleanup of the Exxon Valdez oil spill from 28 April – 22 June 1989. In recognition of the crew's effectiveness during the cleanup operation, Fort McHenry was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation and the Coast Guard Special Operations Service Ribbon.

On 20 June 1990, Fort McHenry began her second deployment and spent 10 months in the Persian Gulf for Desert Shield/Desert Storm. When she returned to her homeport of San Diego on 17 April 1991, Fort McHenry received the Navy Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia), Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait) and the Combat Action Ribbon.

Eight months later, Fort McHenry deployed to the Western Pacific on 6 January 1992. After several successful multinational exercises and port visits, Fort McHenry returned to San Diego on 6 July 1992.

Following an extensive overhaul period, Fort McHenry began the training cycle to prepare for her next deployment. While in the training cycle, Fort McHenry transited to the East Coast through the Panama Canal to pick up five new LCACs from Panama City, Florida. At the completion of the training cycle, Fort McHenry embarked on her fourth deployment from 9 June – 9 December 1994. While deployed, Fort McHenry participated in Operation Restore Hope. The ship also participated in Operation Vigilant Warrior. Following the deployment, Fort McHenry was awarded her second Navy Unit Commendation and Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and also received her fourth Battle Efficiency Award.

1995 – 2000

On 1 September 1995, Fort McHenry departed San Diego to become one of the units forward-deployed to Sasebo, Japan.

Since her arrival to Japan, Fort McHenry has participated in training exercises and multi-national exercises such as exercise Tandem Thrust and Crocodile in Australia, Cobra Gold in Thailand, and Foal Eagle in South Korea. She visited ports during those exercises including Shanghai, China, and Kure, Japan.

During May 1998, Fort McHenry participated on Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT 98), which includes visits and exercises with countries in the Western Pacific such as Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. In addition to her involvement in CARAT 98, Fort McHenry received the Commander, Naval Surface Pacific Fleet Wellness Unit Award for 1997 and the Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award for 1997 on 1 June 1998.

After spending January 1999 in Hong Kong, Fort McHenry entered the competitive phase of her training cycle. In April 1999, Fort McHenry participated in exercise Tandem Thrust 99 in Guam. Fort McHenry was also named a repeat winner of the Commander, Naval Surface Pacific Fleet Wellness Unit Award. Finally, during June 1999, Fort McHenry underwent two Total Ship Training Assessments (TSTA), which confirmed the ship's training progress during the 1999 competitive cycle.

A live fire exercise featuring a 25 mm Mk 38 automatic cannon aboard the USS Fort McHenry.

In 2000, Fort McHenry participated in exercise Balikatan 2000 with the Philippine Armed Forces. The ship was named a repeat winner of the Battle Efficiency Award, Command Excellence Awards for Maritime Warfare, Engineering/Survivability, Command and Control, and Logistics Management for her achievements during the 1999 fiscal year. After Balikatan 2000 was completed, Fort McHenry continued her hectic schedule by participating in Exercise Cobra Gold 2000, during May 2000, with the navies of Thailand and Singapore. The busy schedule continued in October 2000, when Fort McHenry participated in Exercise Neptune Thunder 00 with US Army forces stationed in South Korea. From 27 October to 3 November, Fort McHenry concluded the year, and the millennium, with her participation in Exercise Foal Eagle which took placed in South Korea.

2001 – 2006

Fort McHenry spent the first half of 2001 in a lengthy Ship Required Availability period. During this period the ship acquired two new weapon systems, Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Launcher and Ship's Self Defense System (SSDS), both would greatly increased the ship's defensive capabilities.

After returning to sea in June 2001, Fort McHenry entered the middle of her training cycle. The ship completed a port visit to Kagoshima, Japan in August 2001, where approximately seven thousand residents of Kagoshima toured Fort McHenry.

In 2004, Fort McHenry was commanded by Commander Mark E. Weber, USN, forward deployed at FA Sasebo, Japan, and assigned to Amphibious Group 1. In May 2004, Fort McHenry departed for a three-month deployment along with several ships including USCGC Mellon (WHEC-717), USS Salvor (ARS-52), USS Russell (DDG-59) and USS McCampbell (DDG-85). The deployment was centered around an annual exercise called Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2004. Following a two and a half month SAR period, Fort McHenry was once again put into action as she was emergency deployed to the Philippines after several typhoons hit the country during November 2004. It provided a platform for U.S. Air Force helicopters to bring much-needed fuel into the Philippines. In 2005 Fort McHenry participated in tsunami relief in the Asian Tsunami Crisis. It provided a platform for six CH-46s helicopters and LCACs to bring much-needed supplies into Banda Aceh, Indonesia. During Operation Unified Assistance, Fort McHenry was joined by many USN ships including the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) and USNS Mercy (T-AH-19). Following this tasking, Fort McHenry immediately went to the island of Iwo Jima to join American & Japanese veterans for the 60th commemoration of the Battle of Iwo Jima. CDR Mike Talaga took command of Fort McHenry in May 2005. Soon after the change of command, Fort McHenry deployed for the first half of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2005. This deployment was completed by the USS Boxer (LHD-4) and USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49).

On 31 March 2006, USS Tortuga (LSD-46) arrived in Sasebo to replace Fort McHenry. The crews of the two ships swapped hulls, after which, on 13 April Tortuga's old crew took Fort McHenry back to NAB Little Creek, Virginia, where she is now homeported. As of January 2007 she is undergoing a major maintenance overhaul at Naval Station Norfolk.


The United States Department of Defense stated on 15 October 2007 that the Fort McHenry was slated to leave Little Creek, Virginia, 16 October 2007 for a seven-month deployment to the Gulf of Guinea that the chief of U.S. Africa Command said will exemplify how his new command will operate. The amphibious dock landing ship served as a platform for the Africa Partnership Station Initiative, which aims to work cooperatively with U.S. and international partners in promoting maritime security in Western Africa.

The ship sailed to Spain to take on officers for the internal APS staff from several European partners — Spain, the United Kingdom, Portugal and Germany, among them — before heading to the Gulf of Guinea.

Her full complement included representatives of U.S. and partner nations' government agencies and non-governmental organizations, all working together to help African nations increase their ability to provide maritime security. In addition to the U.S. military, U.S. agencies that participated were the State Department, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Agency for International Development, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Coast Guard.

High Speed Vessel Swift joined Fort McHenry in the Gulf of Guinea, where it transported students as well as trainers during visits to Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe.


On 1 January 2008, the U.S. Navy announced that two U.S. Navy sailors from the Fort McHenry were found dead in a hotel room in the West African nation of Ghana.

They were found dead in their room at a hotel in Tema, where they had taken time off during the APS mission, the Navy said in a statement. "The cause of death is unknown and is being investigated by host nation authorities in cooperation with U.S. Navy," the statement said, giving no other details.[1] They had checked into the La Palm Royal Beach Hotel on New Year's Eve and have been identified.

Confirming some details to the Daily Graphic in Accra, the Director-General of the CID, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCOP) Frank Adu-Poku, said information available to the police indicated that some other colleagues of the deceased were with them but they left the hotel for the ship, which was anchored off the Ghanaian coast. DCOP Adu-Poku said the police were trying to secure entry visas for the detectives and a pathologist to accompany the bodies to Germany for the post-mortem. After a final APS port visit in Dakar, Senegal, to coincide with the Maritime Safety and Security Seminar co-hosted by the Armed Forces of Senegal and the Commander of the US Naval Forces Europe, the Fort McHenry made stops in Madeira (Portugal) and Rota (Spain) before returning to her homeport of Norfolk on 4 May 2008.


On 13 May 2009 the Fort McHenry left her homeport at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base for a regularly scheduled deployment as part of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (BATARG) and 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (22 MEU), including more than 4,000 sailors and marines. The BATARG/22 MEU will support maritime security operations, provide crisis response capability and increase theater security cooperation and forward naval presence in the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation.

BATARG is composed of USS Fort McHenry, the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, and the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce. The 22 MEU includes a battalion landing team from 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, an aviation combat team composed of elements from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263; elements of Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and the MEU's command section.

In December 2009 the ship's skipper, Commander Christopher M. Stopyra, was relieved of duty as a result of a fraternization investigation. The ship's executive officer, Lieutenant Commander Brian P. Goldschmidt, was also relieved. Stopyra was replaced by Captain Skip Shaw, the ship's previous CO.[2]


On 13 January 2010, the Fort McHenry was ordered to assist in the relief efforts following the 2010 Haiti earthquake.[3]


The ship is scheduled to dock in Dublin port, Ireland on 31 August for the American football game "The Emerald Classic" between Notre Dame University's "Fighting Irish" and the US Naval Academy. On board will be a crew of 350 sailors and 400 marines.


  1. "Alcohol poisoning suspected in U.S. sailors' deaths in Africa". Archived from the original on 3 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-02. 
  2. Lessig, Hugh, "Norfolk-Based Skipper And Executive Officer Relieved After Reports Of Fraternization", Newport News Daily Press, 12 December 2009.
  3. Bacon, Lance M. (13 January 2010). "Carl Vinson, 6 Other Ships Headed to Haiti". Navy Times. Retrieved 2010-01-13. 

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