Naval History and Heritage Command

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Fort McHenry (LSD-43)


National monument located in Baltimore, Maryland; scene of the successful defense of that port city against a British naval assault in September 1814. The fort stood firm in American hands after a massive naval bombardment. Its defense inspired Francis Scott Key’s “Star-Spangled Banner,” which eventually became the national anthem. This is the first ship to bear the name.


(LSD-43: displacement 11,325 (light) 16,261 (full); length 610’; beam 84’; draft 21’; speed 20+ knots; complement 413, troop capacity 402 (504 surge); armament 2 25mm MK 38 Machine Guns, 2 20mm Phalanx CIWS mounts, 6 .50 cal. machine guns; 2 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Mounts; 4 Landing Craft, Air Cushion or 21 Landing Craft, Mechanized-6; flight deck for 2 rotary-wing aircraft; class Whidbey Island).

Fort McHenry was laid down on 10 June 1983 at Lockheed Shipbuilding Corporation, Seattle, Wa.; launched on 1 February 1986; sponsored by Representative Helen D. Bentley, Congresswoman from Maryland; and commissioned on 8 August 1987, Cdr. George S. Rhodes in command.

Fort McHenry- Coat of Arms


Argent three bars wavy Azure, on a pile of the like (Dark Blue) a fort or bearing a cross Gules charged with a trefoil slipped of the first. The wavy bars refer to the Chesapeake Bay. The pile suggests the peninsula between Baltimore harbor and the mouth of the Patapsco River, a strategic location in defense of Baltimore. The fort on the pile denotes Fort McHenry's location on Whetstone Peninsula in the upper Chesapeake Bay. The fort was named for James McHenry, Secretary of War under President Adams. The trefoil on the red cross symbolizes McHenry's immigration from Ireland to Philadelphia where he studied medicine and later volunteered as a surgeon during the Revolutionary War. The red cross, a symbol for medical establishments, also recalls the use of the fort as a military hospital during World War I. The colors blue and gold are traditionally associated with the Navy.

On a wreath Argent and Azure, a fireball Sable fired in two places fesswise; standing thereon an eagle, wings elevated of the first, langued and armed Gules grasping in dexter talon a staff of the third with a pheon Or as a finial and flying thereon the 1814 Flag of the United States Proper. The eagle, symbol of the United States, grasps a representation of the flag that flew over Fort McHenry in 1814 and was the inspiration for Francis Scott Key's "Star Spangled Banner." The bomb stands for the bombardment of the fort by the British fleet. The eagle standing on the bomb holding the United States flag high indicates the fort's successful defense against the British.

The complete coat of arms in full color as in the blazon upon a white field enclosed by a blue oblong border arched at the top and in base, having an outer edge of gold continuous rope and inscribed at top "USS FORT MCHENRY" and in base "LSD 43" in gold letters.


On a scroll Azure doubled Argent the words, "DOMUS FORTIUM" (Home of the Brave), in letters of the like.

Fort McHenry- Helen Bentley- Sponsor-8Aug1987-502-4-8
Fort McHenry’s sponsor, Representative Helen D. Bentley of Maryland, speaks at the ship’s launching, 8 August 1987. (Lockheed Shipbuilding Company Photo 502-4-8 donated to Naval History and Heritage Command).
Fort McHenry- Official Launching Party- 502-6-19
Representative Bentley, her official party, and members of Fort McHenry’s crew from Baltimore at the ship’s launching, 8 August 1987. (Lockheed Shipbuilding Company Photo 502-6-19 donated to Naval History and Heritage Command).
Fort McHenry- at Pearl Harbor- March 1989-NH 107646-KN
Fort McHenry underway in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in March 1989. (Operations Specialist John Bouvia. Donation of John Bouvia. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, NH 107646-KN, Naval History and Heritage Command).

From 28 April to 22 June 1989 Fort McHenry assisted the U.S. Coast Guard with the cleanup of the Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska. In recognition of this service, the ship received the Meritorious Unit Commendation and the Coast Guard Special Operations Service Ribbon.

Fort McHenry began her second deployment on 20 June 1990, as a result of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on 2 August, she was dispatched to the Persian Gulf support of Operation Desert Shield. She would also support operations during Operation Desert Storm. The ship returned to her homeport of San Diego on 17 April 1991.

Fort McHenry joined Combined Support Force 536 in Operation Unified Assistance and delivered more than 1.2 million pounds of humanitarian aid and disaster relief supplies to the area, which was devastated by a tsunami on 26 December 2004. The ship also embarked personnel and equipment from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 40 to support the effort. Embarked medical and dental teams provided care to more than 150 patients. The ship also participated in activities marking the 60th Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima on 12 March 2005 before returning to Sasebo, Japan on 21 March.

Fort McHenry- Bush and Clinton visit-Jan2005-050220-N-5663H-016
Former Presidents George H.W. Bush, left, and William J. Clinton are piped aboard Fort McHenry. Sailors and Marines greeted the former Commanders-in-Chief as they toured the ship and received operational briefings on the humanitarian relief efforts in Banda Aceh on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, 20 February 2005. (Journalist Seaman David J. Ham, U.S. Navy Photograph 050220-N-5663H-016, Photos).

Fort McHenry, as part of Bataan (LHD 5) Amphibious Relief Mission, participated in Operation Unified Response providing military support to civil authorities in order to stabilize and improve the situation in Haiti following a 7.0 magnitude earthquake on 12 January 2010. The ship with Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked deployed from Little Creek Amphibious Base, Little Creek, Va. on 13 January. The ship departed Haitian waters on 11 March.

Fort McHenry- Operation Unified Response-24Jan2010-100124-N-4971L-046
Sailors on board Fort McHenry (LSD-43) carry injured Haitian medical evacuees to an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 26 to be transported off the ship for further medical care, 24 January 2010. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rachael L. Leslie, U.S. Navy Photograph 100124-N-4971L-046, Photos).

In conjunction with the Emerald Isle Classic football game between the University of Notre Dame and the U.S. Naval Academy played in Dublin, Ireland, Fort McHenry made a port call at the Irish capital from 31 August to 3 September 2012. While in port the ship was visited by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert as well as U.S. Army Gen. Maritn E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny, Daniel Rooney, U.S. ambassador to Ireland, and Irish Navy Commodore Mark Mellett.

Fort McHenry- in Baltimore for Bicentennial-5Sep2014-140905-N-DQ840-075
Sailors on board Fort McHenry spray fire hoses from the bow of ship in honor of the Battle of Baltimore Bicentennial, 5 September 2014. (Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Adam Austin, U.S. Navy Photograph 140905-N-DQ840-075, Photos).

In January 2015 the Iwo Jima Amphibious Readiness Group, consisting of  Iwo Jima (LHD-7) and Fort McHenry with embarked units of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, were on station in the Red Sea in order to respond to any  non-combatant evacuation operation contingencies for U.S. citizens resulting from the civil war between Yemeni government forces and Shiite Houthi rebels.

Awards, Citations, and Campaign Ribbons

Combat Action Ribbon

Navy Unit Commendation

Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation

Navy Battle "E" Ribbon (4)

National Defense Service Medal

Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (1-Somalia)

Southwest Asia Service Medal

Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal

Humanitarian Service Medal

Sea Service Ribbon

Navy & Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon

Coast Guard Special Operations Service Ribbon
Philippines Presidential Unit Citation

Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia)

Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait)

Detailed history under construction.

Christopher B. Havern Sr.

7 October 2015

Published: Mon Mar 14 14:28:13 EDT 2016