History of the U.S.S. Iwo
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Iwo Jima joins Navy`s fleet
11,000 attend ship`s Pensacola commissioning
With gray skies overheard and a light rain over Pensacola Naval Air Station on Saturday, hundreds of sailors and Marines ran aboard the USS Iwo Jima, officially manning the ship for the first time. Sailors in dress-white uniforms stood side by side with Marines in their dress khaki deltas along the 819-foot flight deck of the Iwo Jima, facing and saluting the crowd of more than 11,000. Capt. John Nawrocki took command and ordered the first watch. And with that, the USS Iwo Jima was welcomed to the Navy fleet as thousands of veterans of the World War II battle watched. "I'm proud of my sailors, and I'm proud of all these veterans out here that have braved this inclement weather," Nawrocki, the ship's commanding officer, said. "Now it's time to take her to sea and perform our mission."
The ceremony was capped off by a flyover by four Marine Corps helicopters and a fireworks display. Afterward, the thousands in attendance were invited to board the Navy's newest ship. "I think it was absolutely marvelous," said Vice Adm. Alfred Harms, Chief of Naval Education and Training at Pensacola NAS. "There was tremendous support from Pensacola here today, and like (Capt. Nawrocki) said, it was a perfect day for these amphibious forces." The commissioning capped off a weeklong stay in Pensacola for the USS Iwo Jima and marked the beginning of the ship's service. The $1.4 billion amphibious assault vessel is the seventh of its kind and the first ship to be commissioned in Pensacola since the USS Bonhomme Richard in 1998. The ship is designed to deploy a team of 2,000 Marines, their helicopters and ground units around the world.
Gen. Michael Williams, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, was the guest speaker and was joined by Navy Secretary Gordon England. While many of the speakers during the ceremony spoke of the importance of the ship for the future of the Navy, they also explained the importance of the history behind the name Iwo Jima. "You are fortunate to have a very special intangible with you as you prepare to join the Navy," Rear Adm. John Foley, commander of the Atlantic Fleet's Naval Surface Unit, said to the crew of the ship. "You have the spirits of the thousands of sailors and Marines who before you gave their lives in the battle for which you are named."
The 1945 battle was a turning point in World War II, giving American forces an emergency landing spot for bombers attacking Japan. More than 6,000 Americans lost their lives in the battle, which was later immortalized by the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of six Americans raising a U.S. flag on Mount Suribachi. Dallas Conrad, 80, a Miami resident who traveled to Pensacola for the commissioning, was standing on Mount Suribachi when the flag was raised. He was amazed there are so many veterans of the battle still alive. "It's an honor for me to come here and share this with him," said Conrad's son Richard. "He doesn't talk about it much, so to share this with him, and the others here, is truly amazing."
The USS Iwo Jima will remain at NAS until Monday morning, when the ship leaves for its homeport of Norfolk, Va. "I was really impressed with Pensacola," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian McNeal of Detroit. "I manned the rails when we came and saw all those boats and people on the beach welcoming us. We had a great week, but now the vacation's over. It's time to get to work."
Iwo Jima (LPH-2) was launched by Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Wash., 17 September 1960; sponsored by Mrs. Harry Schmidt; and commissioned 26 August 1961, Captain T. D. Harris in command. The first ship to be designed and built from the keel up as an amphibious assault ship, Iwo Jima carries helicopters and a detachment of embarked Marines for use in the Navy's newest "vertical envelopment" concept of amphibious operations. Following shakedown training, she spent the rest of 1961 off the California coast in amphibious exercises. In April 1962 the ship joined Joint Task Force 8 in the Johnston Island-Hawaii area for an important series of nuclear tests. Iwo Jima evacuated several islands and took part in the test evaluation. She sailed for Pearl Harbor 26 July from the test area, and continued to San Diego, where she arrived 10 August 1962.
In September the ship took part in full-scale amphibious exercises in California, departing 17 October from San Diego for her first deployment to the western Pacific. As a crisis flared 19 October over the introduction of offensive missiles into Cuba, however, Iwo Jima returned to San Diego, embarked Marines 22 to 27 October, and departed quickly for the Caribbean. As part of America's powerful and mobile force afloat, she cruised in a "ready" status until December brought an easing of the Cuban situation. She arrived San Diego 13 December, having played a major role in preserving American and Latin American security.
Iwo Jima operated out of her home port during the first half of 1963, carrying out amphibious exercises and training. She departed 30 August on her long delayed cruise to the western Pacific. Joining the 7th Fleet, mobile bulwark of American security in the area, she ranged from Hawaii to the Philippines and Taiwan.
On October 31, 1963, Iwo Jima departed Philippine waters for special operations along the coast of South Vietnam, standing by to protect American nationals during a period of increased strife. She returned to Subic Bay 12 November. The following months she sailed with Special Landing Forces of Marines for rigorous amphibious assault and landing raids practice off the coasts of Taiwan and Okinawa. After unloading ammunition at Sasebo, Japan, she departed 13 April 1965 for return to San Diego, arriving 28 April. Following amphibious training with Marines along the California seaboard, she overhauled in the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. This work was completed by 7 December 1965 when Iwo Jima began amphibious refresher training ranging to the Hawaiian Islands. On 13 March 1965 she departed Pearl Harbor for San Diego, arriving 6 days later.
Iwo Jima received tons of supplies and scores of Army helicopters, tanker trucks, and vehicles in her hangar and flight deck spaces. Nearly a thousand troops were embarked for her western transit that began 12 April. She touched Pearl Harbor a few hours the 17th to off-load 50 Marines and their equipment, then steamed off St. Jacques, Republic of Vietnam, 1 to 2 May, flying off 77 Army helicopters, loaded with troops and combat cargo. From there she proceeded to Subic Bay in the Philippines, where troops and equipment were received for amphibious landing at Chu Lai, Vietnam, 11 May 1965.
Iwo Jima remained off Chu Lai for a month, protecting Marines and Seabees establishing an air field on the sandy shore. Besides helicopter support ashore, including defense perimeter patrol, she was a support center for laundry, showers, fresh provisions, store and mail service. She also supervised the continual off-load of ships over the beach for the entire month, then on 7 June 1965, landed squadron personnel and helicopters ashore at Hue-Phu Bai, some 30 miles north of Da Nang. After a few days rest in Subic Bay she was routed to Sasebo, thence to Buckner Bay, Okinawa, where she embarked Marines and equipment. This was completed 26 June 1965 when she sailed for Quinohn, Republic of Vietnam, in company with Talladega (APA-208) and Point Defiance (LSD-31). These ships were designated Task Group 76.5, that part of the 7th Fleet that carries the Marine Special Landing Force. On the 30th she arrived at Quinohn about 100 miles south of Chu Lai. The following day Marines landed ashore to take up defensive positions for he protection of Army engineers and communications units.
Iwo Jima remained off Quinohn for defensive support until 20 July 1965, then steamed for Pratas Reef about 240 miles southwest of Taiwan. Arriving the morning of the 22d her helicopters were immediately pressed into service to aid the salvage of destroyer Frank Knox. The close approach of typhoon "Gilda" pounded the grounded destroyer so badly that it was impossible for small boats to get alongside her. Extra men were heli-lifted off the destroyer while surf rose 12 feet high to break completely over the stern of Frank Knox. Support given by Iwo Jima included such items as hot food, clothes, water, pumps, hose, gasoline, air compressors, welding machines, damage control equipment and technicians. Feed water was heli-lifted in special tanks constructed by destroyer tender Prairie (AD 15) who had faint hope of keeping the destroyer's boiler alive. Detached from this duty 1 August 1965, Iwo Jima made a brief call at Hong Kong, then proceeded to the Philippines.
On 17 August 1965 Iwo Jima steamed out of Subic Bay for Vung Tau, Republic of Vietnam, to join in Operation "Starlight," a 5-day search-and-destroy operation that eradicated some 600 Viet Cong. The successful Navy-Marine Corps amphibious operation backed by gunfire support from cruiser Galveston and two destroyers, came to a close late on 24 August. Iwo Jima's evacuation and surgical teams kept the American casualties down to a very low percentage. During transit back to Subic Bay she learned Frank Knox had been refloated, good news for Iwo Jima's crew who had put in so many hard and long hours at Pratas Reef. She landed her Marine Special Landing Force at Chu Lai 1 to 2 September, embarked 800 Marines of a rotation draft, and sailed for Buckner Bay.
Iwo Jima landed the rotation troops at Okinawa, then came off Quinohn, 10 September 1965, to cover the landing of the Army's 1st Air Cavalry Division. She had supported three amphibious assault search-and-destroy raids along the coast by 1 October when she steamed to southern waters, remaining in stand-by status for possible evacuation of U.S. nationals in revolt-torn Indonesia. Eight days later she sailed for Danang for a helicopter squadron exchange, thence to Subic Bay where she was relieved by Valley Forge (LPH-8). Following a visit to Yokosuka, she departed 1 November for return to San Diego, arriving 17 November 1965. Several months later she again joined the 7th Fleet Amphibious Ready Group, a fast moving assault force which had completed more than 20 search-and-destroy operations along the South Vietnamese coast between March 1965 and September 1966. One of these missions hit only 3 miles south of the demilitarized zone to search out and decimate a regiment of the North Vietnam Army's 34ZB Division which had infiltrated South Vietnam through the neutral zone.
During the first 3 months of 1966, Iwo Jima was at San Diego for upkeep and improvement changes. From April through June extensive refresher training occupied all hands as Iwo Jima prepared for her forthcoming Western Pacific deployment. On 24 July, steaming with a task group, she passed the volcanic island whose costly conquest by stouthearted sailors and Marines had inspired her name. On board was one of the Marine groups that had landed on Iwo Jima over two decades earlier. After operations in the Vietnam area, she sailed for Japan. December 30th once again found Iwo Jima on the line and underway for special operations in the Mekong Delta region of South Vietnam in a Navy-ready group with a two pronged punch. Early in January 1967 the Commanding Officer, Captain Nils W. Boe, was relieved by Captain F. X. Timmes. Upon his departure Captain Boe said of his crew in a family-gram to mothers and wives, "I want to thank each of you for letting me borrow these magnificent young men for a little while. They have made me feel ten feet tall." On 1 July 1967 Iwo Jima was reassigned to Amphibious Squadron 3 from vice Amphibious Squadron 1, with which she continued to sail with the Pacific Fleet.
LPH-2 IWO JIMA class
The seven IWO Jima class amphibious assault ships were built is to transport more than 1700 fully equipped Marine Assault Troops into combat areas and land them by helocopter at designated inland points. This technique of vertical envelopment pioneered by the Navy-Marine Corps Team, exploits flexibility and suprise. The ships are capable of supporting a Marine Batallion Landing Team, it's armament, vehicles, equipment and a reinforced squadron of transport helicopters and various support personnel. Combat-ready Marinesare flown in-land behind the enemy's defenses by helicopters to isolate strategic strong points, disrupt communicatioins, and converge with beach landed Marines to gain ultimate control of their objective. The ships also supports mine-sweeping operations with Helicopter Mine Countermeasure Squadrons and provides humanitarian assistance and a non-combatant evacuations of American Embassy personnel and citizens caught in civil-conflict overseas. Currently the USS Guam (LPH-9), homeported at Norfolk, VA, is the only remaining ship of this class in service. [Confusingly, the seven ships of this class were not sequentially numbered, with intervening numbers being assigned to ships of other classes converted to perform the amphibious assault mission].
Deployed to the Persian Gulf as part of the military forces which ultimately would be used to drive Iraqi forces from Kuwait, on 30 October 1990 Iwo Jima (LPH 2) suffered a high-pressure steam leak that cost the lives of 10 of its crew, but repairs kept her fully operational. A steam turbine valve in the fireroom sustained a catastrophic mechanical failure. This failure resulted in the release of superheated steam at a temperature of 850 degrees Fahrenheit into the fireroom. The Iwo was "stricken" in September 1995 and scrapped in Philadelphia, then towed upriver. The hulk was sold as scrap in August of 1996 for $140,000 to Mystic Shipping and Trading Co. and she was towed to New Orleans.
The first U.S. Navy ship to be named Iwo Jima
The first ship named for the battle, LPH 2, was the lead ship of the LPH class of amphibious assault ships, built as the first “keel-up” amphibious assault ship.
Commissioned in August 1961, USS Iwo Jima participated in a series of shakedown and amphibious exercises before reporting for duty along the coast of South Vietnam in late 1963. USS Iwo Jima’s original homeport was San Diego. In September 1963, the ship made its first deployment to the Western Pacific, one of six deployments the ship would make to that area. During each deployment, USS Iwo Jima played an active role in Southeast Asian operations by participating in more than 30 amphibious landings in Vietnam.
On April 17, 1970, USS Iwo Jima served as the primary recovery ship for the return of the crew of Apollo 13. HS-4 helicopters from USS Iwo Jima recovered the three Apollo 13 astronauts from the South Pacific.
The ship was transferred to Atlantic Fleet duty in 1972. In reaction to the Middle East crisis between Israel and Egypt in October 1973, USS Iwo Jima deployed fully loaded, more than a month early and participated in Nimbus Star, an operation to clear mines from the Suez Canal.
In June 1976, USS Iwo Jima commenced its fourth deployment to the Mediterranean and participated in the second evacuation of civilians from Beirut, Lebanon. From May to December 1983, the ship was deployed again to the area of Beirut, where the crew provided command, control and logistic support for the U.S. contingent of the multi-national peacekeeping force.
In August 1990, two weeks after the initial deployment of troops to the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Shield, USS Iwo Jima became the first amphibious assault ship to deploy to that area and helped military forces that ultimately would be used to drive Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
USS Iwo Jima was decommissioned in 1993.
LPH-2 IWO JIMA class
The seven IWO Jima class amphibious assault ships were built is to transport more than 1700 fully equipped Marine Assault Troops into combatr areas and land them by helocopter at designated inland points. This technique of vertical envelopment pioneered by the Navy-Marine Corps Team, exploits flexibility and suprise. The ships are capable of supporting a Marine Batallion Landing Team, it's armament, vehicles, equipment and a reinforced squadron of transport helicopters and various support personnel. Combat-ready Marinesare flown in-land behind the enemy's defenses by helicopters to isolate strategic strong points, disrupt communicatioins, and converge with beach landed Marines to gain ultimate control of their objective. The ships also supports mine-sweeping operations with Helicopter Mine Countermeasure Squadrons and provides humanitarian assistance and a non-combatant evacuations of American Embassy personnel and citizens caught in civil-conflict overseas. Currently the USS Guam (LPH-9), homeported at Norfolk, VA, is the only remaining ship of this class in service. [Confusingly, the seven ships of this class were not sequentially numbered, with intervening numbers being assigned to ships of other classes converted to perform the amphibious assault mission].
Deployed to the Persian Gulf as part of the military forces which
ultimately would be used to drive Iraqi forces from Kuwait, on 30 October
1990 Iwo Jima (LPH 2) suffered a high-pressure steam leak that cost the
lives of 10 of its crew, but repairs kept her fully operational. A steam
turbine valve in the fireroom sustained a catastrophic mechanical failure.
This failure resulted in the release of superheated steam at a temperature
of 850 degrees Fahrenheit into the fireroom. The Iwo was "stricken" in
September 1995 and scrapped in Philadelphia, then towed upriver.
Following its commissioning Aug. 26, 1961, USS Iwo Jima was
homeported in San Diego, Calif., and for nine years, beginning in 1963,
made six deployments to the Western Pacific. During each deployment, the
ship played an active role in Southeast Asian operations and
participated in more than 30 amphibious landings in Vietnam. In May
1972, USS Iwo Jima departed San Diego, bound for its new homeport in
Norfolk. Six weeks after the ship's arrival, it departed for its first
of 12 Mediterranean deployments.
@2017 Don Smith