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USS Okinawa (LPH-3)
USS Okinawa (LPH-3) off Vietnam 1975
USS Okinawa (LPH-3) off Vietnam in 1975
Ordered: 24 October 1958
Builder: Philadelphia Naval Shipyard
Laid down: 1 April 1960
Launched: 19 August 1961
Commissioned: 14 April 1962
Decommissioned: 17 December 1992
Struck: 17 December 1992
Fate: Expended as a target,
6 June 2002
General characteristics
Class & type: Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship
Displacement: 11,000 tons
Length: 592 ft (180 m)
Beam: 84 ft (26 m)
Draft: 27 ft (8.2 m)
Propulsion: 2 × 600 psi (4.1 MPa) boilers,
one geared steam turbine,
one shaft,
22,000 shaft horsepower
(16 MW)
Speed: 22 knots (41 km/h)
Complement: 667
Armament: 4 × 3 in (76 mm) / 50 caliber AA guns, (modifications)
2 × Phalanx CIWS added
Aircraft carried: 25 helicopters

USS Okinawa (LPH–3) was the second Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship of the United States Navy. She was the second Navy ship assigned the name "Okinawa", in honor of the World War II Battle of Okinawa.

Okinawa was laid down on 1 April 1960 (15th anniversary of the invasion of Okinawa) by the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; launched on 19 August 1961; sponsored by Mrs. John L. McClellan, wife of Arkansas Senator John L. McClellan; and commissioned on 14 April 1962, Captain William E. Lemos in command.


Following commissioning and sea trials, Okinawa departed Philadelphia on 20 June 1962 for her homeport, Norfolk, Va., where she spent a month fitting out. After a six-week shakedown cruise out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and another month in Norfolk, the amphibious assault ship began participation in her first fleet exercise in the Caribbean, 15 October. Shortly thereafter the Cuban missile crisis arose and Okinawa remained in the area, lending force to the United States’ stand, until 3 December, when she returned to Norfolk.

The first half of 1963 was spent in availability at the Philadelphia and Norfolk Naval Shipyards and further trial operations in the Caribbean and out of Norfolk. On 9 July, Okinawa began her first formal Caribbean deployment, returning to Norfolk on 1 October and spending the remainder of that year and the first part of the next in that area. Directed to provide support for the "Dominican Crisis", she departed Onslow Beach, North Carolina with HMM-263 (Reinf) and the 1st Bn., 2d Marines on 2 May 1965. The mission concluded on 29 May. During June 1964, she sailed to Newport, Rhode Island and New York for the World's Fair. On 7 October, she left on her first trip to European waters, for operation “Steel Pike I,” an amphibious exercise off the coast of Spain. After a stop in France and a goodwill visit to Plymouth, England, Okinawa arrived back in Norfolk at the end of November.

In April 1965, while participating in an exercise off Puerto Rico, Okinawa was alerted and sent to an area off the Dominican Republic to act as medical evacuation ship with her marines as a floating reserve during the crisis in that troubled country. Then, following the end of her deployment, she proceeded via Norfolk to Philadelphia for overhaul. The following April she returned to Norfolk and began her third Caribbean deployment on 13 June. Okinawa was transferred to the Pacific Fleet; she set sail for the West Coast on 24 January 1967 and arrived at San Diego, her new home port, on 8 February.

Okinawa left on 10 March for her first deployment off Vietnam. On 13 April, while sailing from Okinawa to Taiwan, the ship was diverted by a distress call, and the next day rescued all 38 persons from the grounded Panamanian vessel Silver Peak near the Sento Shosho Islands. While off Vietnam, Okinawa was a mobile base from which a well-equipped force of marines could quickly strike via helicopters at the Communist insurgents. She returned to San Diego on 5 December.

On 4 April 1968, after an intensive period of special training, Okinawa recovered the unmanned Apollo 6 space capsule 380 miles north of Kauai, Hawaii. With further exercises and upkeep, she conducted her second Westpac deployment from 2 November to 26 June 1969, when she arrived in San Diego for leave and upkeep.

In 1970, Okinawa delivered ten A-4K Skyhawk single-seaters, and four TA-4K two-seaters to New Zealand, after their purchase for the Royal New Zealand Air Force.[1]

On 7 August 1971, Okinawa was the recovery ship for Apollo 15.

In April 1975, Okinawa participated in Operation Eagle Pull, the evacuation of Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of Saigon, Vietnam[2]

From 7 October 1987 to 7 April 1988, Okinawa was deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of mine sweeping operations and MAGTF 1-88. She began her deployment heading West and continued West, circumnavigating the world.

Okinawa was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 17 December 1992. She was transferred to MARAD and laid up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet, in Suisun Bay, Benicia, Calif.

The ship was sunk as a target in a COMSUBPAC ship sinking exercise (SINKEX) on 6 June 2002, off the coast of Southern California, in 2,020 fathoms (3,700 m) at 031°27′N 119°42′W / 31.45°N 119.7°W / 31.45; -119.7Coordinates: 031°27′N 119°42′W / 31.45°N 119.7°W / 31.45; -119.7. After being hit by several Maverick, Harpoon missiles, and general-purpose bombs, the ex-Okinawa was finally sunk by a Mk 48 torpedo fired by the USS Portsmouth.

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