Historic site in Florida; a group of desert coral islets 60 miles west of Key West, Florida that was discovered by Ponce de Leon in 1513. In 1861 the U.S. government built Fort Jefferson on garden Key and retained it throughout the Civil War. During the 1880s, the Navy established a base at Tortuga and subsequently, a coaling and wireless station as well. One previous Navy ship has borne this name. Commissioned in 1945, Tortuga (LSD-26) earned 5 battle stars for Korean War service and eight during the Vietnam War before being stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in 1976.
(LSD-46: displacement 11,099 (light) 16,190 (full); length 610’; beam 84’; draft 21’; speed 20+ knots; complement 378, 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).
The second Tortuga (LSD-46) was laid down on 23 March 1987 at Avondale Shipbuilding, New Orleans, La.; launched on 15 September 1988; sponsored by Mrs. Rosemary P. Schoultz, wife of Vice Admiral Robert F. Schoultz, USN (Retired); commissioned 17 November 1990, Cmdr. Allan D. Wall in command.
Dark blue and gold are traditional Navy colors and symbolize the sea and excellence. In honor of Ponce de Leon, the Spanish explorer who discovered Tortuga in 1513, the colors red and yellow are adopted from the national flag of Spain. Red is also the color of valor and is symbolic of the proud history of amphibious warfare. The angular configuration simulating Fort Jefferson appears as a spearhead and represents the ship’s primary mission of amphibious assault. The gold wings below the spearhead reflect the ship’s capability of amphibious airlift. The crossed officer’s sword and enlisted cutlass honor the spirit of leadership and teamwork between the ship’s wardroom and crew.
The helmet represents Ponce de Leon. The 5 stars represent the five battle stars earned by LSD-26 during the Korean War and the eight spears represent the eight battle stars earned in the Vietnam War.
The supporters are rifled Parrott guns of the mid-19th century and are of the same design as those first installed at Fort Jefferson. They symbolize toughness and tenacity in battle.
“TOUGH, TALL, TENACIOUS”
Tortuga cruises off the coast of Curacao during operations in support of exercise Relieve Discomfort, 17 February 2001. (Photographer's Mate 1st Class Martin Maddock, U.S. Navy Photograph 010217-N-0872M-506, Navy.mil Photos).
On 31 August 2005 Tortuga deployed from her homeport at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek to support the relief effort in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The ship arrived in New Orleans on 4 September and moored at Naval Support Activities New Orleans. She provided victims who were transported to the ship with hot meals, showers and beds to sleep in. The Navy's involvement in the humanitarian assistance operations was led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in conjunction with the Department of Defense.
Tortuga makes her way up the Mississippi River to the city of New Orleans to provide assistance to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, 4 September 2005. (Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Michael B. Watkins, U.S. Navy Photograph 050904-N-6436W-024, Navy.mil Photos).
A Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk takes off from Tortuga while she is moored pier side in New Orleans, 5 September 2005. (Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Michael B. Watkins, U.S. Navy Photograph 050905-N-6436W-140, Navy.mil Photos).
On 14 October 2005 the Navy announced that Tortuga, originally homeported in Little Creek, Va., would be forward-deployed to Sasebo, Japan, to relieve Fort McHenry (LSD-43). Tortuga arrived in Sasebo 31 March 2006 for turnover and assignment as part of the Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF). Tortuga and Fort McHenry completed an exchange-of-command process on 12 April at Sasebo, which welcomed Tortuga to the FDNF.
A BQM-74E aerial target launches from the flight deck of Tortuga during a missile exercise in the South China Sea, 8 June 2006. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John L. Beeman, U.S. Navy Photograph 060608-N-9851B-006, Navy.mil Photos).
On 3 July 2013 Tortuga returned to Sasebo, Japan after two months underway. The crew then welcomed Ashland (LSD-48), originally homeported in Little Creek, Va. for a Hull Swap process. On 23 August 2014, upon the exchange-of-command ceremony, Ashland replaced Tortuga as the Forward Deployed ship within the 7th Fleet Operating Area. Tortuga departed Sasebo, Japan for its last time on 9 September 2013. On 22 October 2013 Tortuga returned to its original homeport in Little Creek, Va. following a seven-year assignment in support of FDNF.
Families gather to welcome home Tortuga to Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, 22 October 2013. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Abe McNatt, U.S. Navy photo 131022-N-PJ969-219, Navy.mil Photos).
At approximately 0730 on 6 October 2014 Tortuga made contact with Thimble Shoals buoy while en route to her scheduled anchorage off the coast of Virginia. The collision caused the buoy to become adrift as well as over $2.5M damage to the ship. The ship entered National Steel and Shipbuilding Company in Norfolk, Va. where repairs were completed on 11 December. Following an official command investigation, Commander, Amphibious Squadron Four, Capt. Jim Cody, found Tortuga's Commanding Officer, Cdr. Thomas Goudreau and Executive Officer, Cdr. John Fleming violated Uniform Code of Military Justice Articles 92 (Failure to Obey an Order of Regulation) and 110 (Hazarding a Vessel) at non-judicial punishment proceedings. On 16 December 2014 Goudreau and Fleming were relieved of their duties due to loss of confidence in their ability to safely operate and navigate the ship and their credibility to lead the crew.
Awards, Citations, and Campaign Ribbons:
Navy Unit Commendation
Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation (2)
Navy Battle "E" (6)
National Defense Service Medal
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (Somalia)
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Armed Forces Service Medal
Detailed history pending.
Christopher B. Havern Sr.
13 October 2015