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Cleveland III (LPD-7)


A city in Ohio, which was named for Moses Cleaveland, a Connecticut attorney who in 1796 led the surveying party that laid out the city at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River on the south shore of Lake Erie on behalf of the Connecticut Land Company. The spelling of the city’s name changed to Cleveland around 1830.


(LPD-7: displacement 16,500; length 569'9"; beam 105'; draft 21'6"; speed 21+ knots; complement 457, troop capacity 850; armament eight 3-inch; class Austin)

The third Cleveland (LPD-7) was laid down on 30 November 1964 at Pascagoula, Miss., by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Division of Litton Industries; launched on 7 May 1966; sponsored by Mrs. Carrie F. Moorer, wife of Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet; and commissioned at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, Va., on 21 April 1967, Capt. Robert A. Hogsed in command.

After her commissioning, Cleveland spent the next six weeks fitting out at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. She devoted most of June 1967 preparing to transfer to her home port of San Diego, Calif., departing Norfolk on the 28th. Transiting to the Pacific via the Panama Canal, the newest member of Amphibious Squadron (PhibRon) 3 sailed into San Diego on 11 July. Cleveland began four weeks of shakedown training on 24 July, followed by amphibious training from 30 August–15 September. Capt. Thomas C. Harbert, commander of PhibRon 3, broke his flag in Cleveland on 16 September, and the ship held her final acceptance trials with the Board of Inspection and Survey (InSurv) from 18–20 September. For the next month, Cleveland made final preparations for her first overseas deployment.

On 18 October 1967, less than six months after her commissioning, Cleveland steamed from San Diego en route to Vietnam as flagship of a convoy consisting of attack transport ship Cavalier (APA-37), attack cargo ship Tulare (AKA-112), and dock landing ship Comstock (LSD-19). Cavalier and Tulare detached on 24 October, and Cleveland and Comstock continued on to Pearl Harbor, arriving on 26 October. Vice Adm. Harold G. Bowen, Jr., Commander Antisubmarine Warfare Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and Rear Adm. William R. McKinney, Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Personnel and Administration, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet (CinCPacFlt), greeted the ship upon her arrival. Both officers had served in the second Cleveland (CL-55) in 1942–1943, and they presented a photograph of the namesake World War II-era cruiser to the captain and crew of the new amphibious transport dock. Sailing independently from Hawaii on 28 October, Cleveland loaded materials at Buckner Bay, Okinawa, Japan, from 7–10 November and then arrived at Đà Nẵng, South Vietnam, on the 13th. After relieving Duluth (LPD-6) and transferring equipment from her sister ship, Cleveland joined amphibious assault ship (helicopter) Iwo Jima (LPH-2), dock landing ship Fort Marion (LSD-22), and tank landing ship Washtenaw County (LST-1166) as a member of Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) Alfa (Task Group 76.4).

Throughout the deployment, Cleveland operated with the ARG off the Vietnamese coast between Huế and Đông Hà, transferring marines and cargo from ship to shore and back, with occasional resupply runs to Đà Nẵng. From 24–27 November 1967, the ship supported Operation Ballistic Arch, a helicopter and amphibious search and destroy mission in Quảng Trị Province, just south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) dividing North from South Vietnam. In December, some of the ship’s LCM-8s (mechanized landing craft) engaged in psychological operations up the Cửa Việt River to Đông Hà and along the coast. Cleveland arrived at Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines, on 6 January 1968 for a week of upkeep. After returning to her station in Vietnam on the 17th, the amphibious transport dock took part in Operation Ballistic Armor (22–26 January) and Operation Fortress Attack (27 January–14 March).

During the Tet Offensive, a campaign of surprise attacks throughout South Vietnam launched by the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong on 30 January 1968, Cleveland’s flight deck offered safe overnight refuge for Allied helicopters based in Đà Nẵng and their crews when the city came under heavy bombardment. The ship continued in this role while operating in the combat zone through the remainder of the deployment. In mid-February, Cleveland transferred 600 tons of ammunition by helo from her station off the DMZ to Allied forces in the vicinity of Huế, the scene of intense fighting since the end of January. After transferring the last of the ammunition to Đông Hà by LCM-8s on the 19th, Cleveland took part in a search and rescue (SAR) mission when a Marine Sikorsky CH-53A Sea Stallion (BuNo 153278) went missing between Phu Bai and Đà Nẵng.

Cleveland remained stationed off the DMZ through mid-March 1968. On 10 March at Cửa Việt, an enemy shell landed in the middle of an ammunition staging area, causing a raging fire and multiple explosions that sent shrapnel flying. Cleveland dispatched medical and rescue teams to the scene and received six casualties for medical treatment. From 16–24 March, Cleveland had another upkeep period at Subic Bay. She then returned to her duties with the ARG on 27 March and supported Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines (BLT 2/4) in the vicinity of the Cửa Việt River area during Operation Fortress Attack II. On 21 April, as Cleveland marked the first anniversary of her commissioning with a festive celebration, two Air Force pilots returning from a mission over North Vietnam ejected from their disabled McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom. Cleveland sent one of her LCM-8s to participate in the rescue effort. Coincidentally, one of the rescued pilots, Maj. Carl R. Webster, USAF, was a native of Cleveland, Ohio, the ship’s namesake city.

After a visit from Rear Adm. John V. Smith, Prospective Commander, Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet, on 18 May 1968, Cleveland departed en route to Subic Bay for upkeep, arriving on 20 May. She completed turnover with Dubuque (LPD-8) (24–26 May) and then began the long trip home with a five-day port call at Hong Kong (30 May–3 June), followed by an offload at Buckner Bay (6–7 June) and five days of upkeep at Yokosuka, Japan. Steaming in company with Iwo Jima on the 15th, Cleveland arrived at Pearl Harbor on the 22nd and concluded her first deployment, for which she received a Meritorious Unit Commendation, at San Diego on 28 June.

Following her deployment, Cleveland was in upkeep status until early August 1968, when she commenced local operations and training. From 19–21 August, the ship participated in BLTLEX 2-68 with Okinawa (LPH-3), Jerome County (LST-848), and Belle Grove (LSD-2). The ship underwent shock testing from 10–12 September and made a quick trip to San Francisco later in the month. She took part in FleetEx 5-68 in early October and began upkeep upon her return to port.

Cleveland began a post-shakedown availability on 24 October 1968, although due to a delay in completion of specifications, work at the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) did not begin until 15 November. The availability lasted through 12 January 1969, and then the amphibious transport dock threw herself into trainings and assessments to prepare for her next deployment. After loading ammunition at Seal Beach on 14–15 January, the ship conducted interim refresher training from 27 January–7 February, followed by amphibious refresher training from 17–27 February. She took part in the amphibious Exercise Bell Jangle, conducted off Camp Pendleton with marines embarked, from 14–20 March. Secretary of the Navy John Chafee visited the ship on 24 March, and the next day, Cleveland entered dry dock for repairs. She emerged from dry dock on 5 April but remained in restricted availability through the 29th.

On 1 May 1969, Cleveland stood out with Iwo Jima, amphibious cargo ship Washburn (LKA-108), and dock landing ship Colonial (LSD-18) of PhibRon 3 to begin her second deployment to the western Pacific (WestPac). After briefly touching at Pearl Harbor and Okinawa, the ship proceeded to Subic Bay. Arriving on 29 May, she held turnover with Ogden (LPD-5) and joined ARG Alfa, which also included Iwo Jima, Washburn, and Whetstone (LSD-27). Cleveland arrived at Đà Nẵng on 6 June and began her first line period. From 27 June–6 July, she supported Operation Bold Pursuit, a combined amphibious and air landing on Barrier Island. She next participated in Operation Mighty Play (10–20 July), a helicopter assault south of Đà Nẵng. The ARG then steamed to Subic Bay for two weeks of upkeep.

Cleveland returned to Đà Nẵng on 8 August 1969 and resumed her role conducting amphibious transport missions. On 3 September, Rear Adm. Edwin M. Rosenberg, Commander, Amphibious Force, Seventh Fleet, broke his flag in Cleveland. The ship then played a supporting role in Operation Defiant Stand, an amphibious assault south of Đà Nẵng conducted jointly with marines from the Republic of Korea. Beginning in mid-September, the amphibious transport dock made several stops at Subic Bay; Hong Kong; Okinawa; and Keelung, China, and twice transported retrograde materials from Vietnam to Okinawa as part of Operation Keystone Cardinal. During Operation Breezy Cove/Sea Float (28–30 September), the ship carried six small craft from Nha Be to Song Ong Doc.

At Subic Bay on 19 November 1969, Dubuque assumed the duties of flagship for Rear Adm. Rosenberg. Cleveland returned to Vietnam to conduct another Keystone Cardinal transport between Đà Nẵng and Okinawa and sailed to Yokosuka for five days of upkeep (29 November–3 December) before commencing her return trip across the Pacific. While making her eastward transit on 11 December, Cleveland towed the disabled Coast Guard cutter USCGC Winnebago (WHEC-40) to Midway Island. Two days later, the ship provided assistance at Tern Island in the French Frigate Shoals after a tsunami on 1 December destroyed the island’s LORAN station. After pausing at Camp Pendleton to offload retrograde cargo earlier in the day, Cleveland returned home to San Diego on the evening of 19 December and immediately entered a month-long holiday leave and upkeep period.

On 28 January 1970, Cleveland began her first regular overhaul. The ship received extensive repairs and alterations at Campbell Machine Co., San Diego, during the three-month maintenance and repair period, which included one month in dry dock (9 February–9 March). The amphibious transport dock conducted sea trials on 20 April and completed her yard period on the 27th. After loading ammunition at Seal Beach, Cleveland returned to Naval Station San Diego on 30 April.

Following overhaul, Cleveland began preparations for her next deployment, commencing refresher training on 4 May 1970. Beginning on 3 June, the ship welcomed more than 350 midshipmen and nine officers from the U.S. Naval Academy for a two-month summer training cruise to the western Pacific. Sailing in company with fellow amphibious transport dock Vancouver (LPD-2) on 10 June, Cleveland called at Yokosuka, Hong Kong, Đà Nẵng, and Pearl Harbor and returned to San Diego on 1 August. The ship then conducted amphibious refresher training from 21 September–1 October.

Cleveland departed for her third western Pacific deployment on 2 November 1970 in company with Iwo Jima, Tulare, and Fresno (LST-1182). The convoy arrived at Pearl Harbor on 8 November and continued west on the 11th without Fresno, which remained behind for repairs to her main propulsion system. Arriving at Okinawa on 21 November, Cleveland onloaded BLT 3/9 and Marine Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 165. Westchester County (LST-1167) joined the group at Okinawa, and the four ships, now serving in the role of ARG Alfa, departed for Subic Bay on 25 November.

Following a ten-day upkeep period, on 7 December 1970, the ARG commenced training and operations in the Philippines. On 8–9 December, the group took part in an amphibious landing exercise in the Zambales Training Area and then surveyed several beaches along the coast of the Lingayen Gulf. On 16 December, Cleveland steamed for Singapore with Iwo Jima and Tulare. After crossing the equator on the 20th, the amphibious transport dock’s trusty shellbacks held a Crossing the Line ceremony to initiate the ship’s slimy pollywogs into the mysteries of the realm of King Neptune. Calling at Singapore from 21–25 December, Cleveland then returned to Subic Bay for another upkeep period, arriving at the Ship Repair Facility on the 31st.

Cleveland’s maintenance period ended three days early on 7 January 1971 when ARG Alfa received orders to steam to the Gulf of Thailand. There Cleveland served as the command center for Brig. Gen. John H. Cushman, USA, Deputy Commander of the Delta Military Assistance Command (DMAC). She also acted as a forward fueling and rearming platform for Army helicopters working in Cambodia to clear the road between Phnom Penh and Kompong Som of North Vietnamese forces. At the end of operations on 25 January, the ARG proceeded to Subic Bay to resume upkeep, arriving on the 28th.

Emergent tasking interrupted the ARG’s upkeep period yet again on 2 February 1971 when the ships, now rejoined by Fresno, received orders to proceed into the Gulf of Tonkin north of the DMZ to create a diversion as South Vietnamese troops entered Laos attempting to disrupt the North Vietnamese supply line along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. ARG Alfa remained in the Gulf until 6 March. Cleveland stopped at Okinawa on 10 March to transfer troops and then steamed to Subic Bay for upkeep from 16–24 March.

ARG Alfa took part in Exercise SUBOK, a Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) exercise with units from the Philippine, British, Australian, New Zealand, and United States navies from 26 March–7 April 1971. Operating in the northeastern Lingayen Gulf, Cleveland served as flagship and primary control ship for the second of three units conducting amphibious, airborne, and air-landed assaults on three separate beaches. Following this exercise, on 8 April the ARG proceeded to Hong Kong for a port visit, departing on the 15th for turnover and upkeep at Subic Bay. After a brief stop at Đà Nẵng on 22–23 April to load retrograde cargo, Cleveland sailed for the U.S. Pausing in Hawaii on 5 May to refuel and exchange cargo, Cleveland continued east the next day, returning home to San Diego on 11 May.

After an extended post-deployment leave and upkeep period, Cleveland completed sea trials from 6–9 July 1971 and held a dependents’ cruise on the 16th. Assuming a novel role, the amphibious transport dock served as helicopter control ship for units representing Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (HS) 2 and Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) 5 drilling in antisubmarine warfare (ASW) tactics (19–23 July). Continuing with local operations, Cleveland and Iwo Jima conducted an amphibious landing exercise off Del Mar, Calif. (26–27 July) followed by a gunnery and shore bombardment exercise (28–29 July). Cleveland put to sea again from 7–17 September as a participant in the Pacific Fleet’s Readiness and Operational Evaluation (RopEval) 3-71, during which she served as both amphibious landing ship and antisubmarine warfare control ship off Camp Pendleton. Cleveland continued to help evaluate new ASW tactics during Operation Uptide 3A from 28 September–8 October.

During a month-long restricted availability (RAV) to convert the ship’s engineering plant to burn Navy Distillate Fuel, representatives of Commander Task Force (CTF) 130 visited Cleveland on 29 October 1971 to assess her suitability for potential assignment as the primary recovery ship for the upcoming Apollo 16 lunar mission. However, the evaluators deemed the amphibious transport dock too small to meet the requirements of the news media that would be embarked during the event. After completion of the RAV on 22 November, Cleveland conducted sea trials, helicopter deck qualifications, and amphibious operations over three days. Sailing again on 29 November, the ship took part in Composite Training Unit Exercise (CompTuEx) 14-71 over the next week, completing helicopter operations with HS-2 and acting as a target for the submarine Gudgeon (SS-567). On 9 December, Capt. Tracy H. Wilder Jr., ComPhibRon 3, broke his flag in Cleveland.

The first half of 1972 saw Cleveland busily preparing for her next deployment. From 10–14 January, she practiced squadron tactics in company with Racine (LST-1191), Tulare, and Ogden and was underway again several days later for amphibious refresher training operations (17–20 January). On 28 January, the amphibious transport dock hosted the ComPhibRon 3 change of command ceremony, with Capt. William H. Ellis relieving Capt. Wilder. While en route to San Francisco on 1 February, she joined with Thomaston (LSD-28) and James C. Owens (DD-776) to carry out special operations for Project Rice. Cleveland spent a week at Naval Air Station Alameda (2–9 February) and returned to San Diego on the evening of 10 February after supplying a small disabled boat with food, water, and fuel earlier that afternoon. She participated in CompTuEx 5A-72 as a member of Task Group 178.8 from 14–18 February. In early March, the ship completed an InSurv inspection and then stood out again from 20–23 March to conduct amphibious and helo operations. On the afternoon of 4 April, Vice Adm. Sir Richard I. Peek, Chief of the Royal Australian Navy, visited the ship. Cleveland completed CompTuEx 10A-72 from 18–26 April and remained in port until making a quick trip to Seal Beach on 6–7 June. She then commenced refresher training, culminating with the completion of the final battle problem on 23 June.

On 10 July 1972, Cleveland stood out from Naval Station San Diego and steamed independently for Pearl Harbor to begin her fourth deployment to Vietnam and the Western Pacific. After two days in Hawaii (16–17 July), she sailed to Eniwetok Atoll, where on 24 July she loaded some damaged vessels and then proceeded to Guam for a quick fuel stop (28 July). Touching at Subic Bay on 1 August to load seven Bell AH-1J SeaCobra helos of Marine Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMA) 369, the amphibious transport dock headed for the Gulf of Tonkin the next day.

Cleveland arrived on station off North Vietnam on 4 August 1972 and joined Task Force (TF) 77. During the first watch on 6 August, the ship was involved in a SAR mission for a downed aircraft, rescuing one survivor early the next morning. For most of the month, as Cleveland patrolled the area near Hòn Gió Island, her embarked helos executed Marine Hunter-Killer (MARHUK) missions over the Hòn La anchorage. A recent tactical development, marine helicopters flying from amphibious platforms would now be used in an attack role during non-amphibious operations. American forces believed that Chinese commercial vessels were covertly assisting the enemy by dumping provisions into the sea to be retrieved later by North Vietnamese sampans. On 18 August, for example, Cleveland recovered 20 bags of rice wrapped in plastic and burlap that had floated downwind from Hòn La. On MARHUK missions, Cleveland’s SeaCobras sought out and destroyed the small fishing boats in order to disrupt the enemy supply lines.

Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), and Vice Adm. James L. Holloway III, Commander, Seventh Fleet, called on Cleveland on 23 August 1972 as they toured several Seventh Fleet ships operating in the Gulf of Tonkin. Three days later, Cleveland departed for upkeep at Subic Bay (28 August–5 September) and a port call at Hong Kong (7–11 September), where some of her marines disembarked. She returned to her station in the vicinity of Hòn Gió Island late on 12 September and the SeaCobras resumed MARHUK operations over Hòn La anchorage. In company with the guided missile destroyer Preble (DDG-46), Cleveland took part in a SAR mission on 16 September after a McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom II splashed, with Preble recovering both of the U.S. Air Force plane’s pilots. On 19 September, Vice Adm. Holloway made a return visit to Cleveland, accompanied by Adm. Noel Gayler, Commander in Chief, Pacific Command (CinCPac), and Adm. Bernard A. Clarey, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, for an operational briefing. On 26 September, the ship’s gunnery unit destroyed more than 200 bags of rice found floating in the water, thought to have been dumped by a Chinese merchant vessel at Hòn La.

After temporarily taking leave of her station on 2–3 October to avoid Typhoon Lorna, Cleveland sailed for Buckner Bay, Okinawa, on the afternoon of 8 October 1972. Upon her arrival on the morning of the 12th, HMA-369 offloaded and the ship was underway again by midday. She spent 14–22 October at Sasebo, Japan. Returning to Buckner Bay on the 25th to backload the marines, the amphibious transport dock made her way back to the Gulf of Tonkin and reassumed her patrol station on the 29th. After once again evading a typhoon on 8­–9 November, Cleveland sailed for Okinawa on the 10th. However, while steaming in the South China Sea late the next day, the ship received orders to return to the Gulf of Tonkin, and she arrived at midday on the 13th. The following night, Cleveland was briefly fired upon from the beach, but the rounds fell into the water well short of the ship. She remained on station until 26 November.

Following a short call at Subic Bay on 29 November, Cleveland arrived at Buckner Bay on 2 December 1972. There she completed turnover with Dubuque, transferring HMA-369 and their SeaCobras to the relief ship, and embarking elements of BLT 1/9. Departing in company with Fresno as Task Group (TG) 76.5, Cleveland next called at Kaohsiung, Taiwan, on 7 December. The next day, representatives from the Republic of China Marine Corps toured the ship and received a briefing, and a U.S. Marine Corps reconnaissance platoon demonstrated rappelling from helicopters. Cleveland and Fresno sailed independently to Subic Bay on the 11th and unloaded marine equipment upon arrival. The two ships joined Inchon (LPH-12) and Tulare to form ARG Bravo, with Cleveland as flagship, and with units of the 33rd Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU), BLT 1/9, and HMM 164 embarked on the ships, the group took part in the amphibious landing exercise ZAMLEX 6-72 from 17–18 December. They returned to Subic Bay for the night and then sailed for Singapore. Cleveland marked the occasion of crossing the equator on 22 December with “appropriate festivities for the pleasure of Neptunus Rex.” ARG Bravo spent the Christmas holiday at Singapore (23–27 December) and arrived on station in the Gulf of Tonkin on 31 December.

After a week of sailing in the “Gator Box” amphibious holding area off Đà Nẵng, ARG Bravo returned to Subic Bay and spent the week of 9–16 January 1973 in upkeep. From 17–19 January, Cleveland operated near Subic Bay, conducting deck landing qualifications for marine helicopter squadrons. She rejoined the other ships of the ARG on the 20th, and together they steamed back to Vietnam. However, with word of the cease-fire agreement signed on 27 January 1973, the ARG received orders to proceed to Okinawa. Sailing with Fresno, Cleveland arrived on 30 January, quickly offloaded her complement of marines, and departed for Subic Bay. Arriving on 1 February, the ship held two and a half weeks of upkeep, during which time she received visits from Rear Adm. Wycliffe D. Toole Jr., Commander Amphibious Forces, U.S. Seventh Fleet, and Vice Adm. Robert S. Salzer, Commander, Amphibious Forces, Pacific.

At Subic Bay, Cleveland joined TF 78, assigned to remove mines that had been planted in North Vietnam’s coastal waters. On 17 February 1973, with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 463 detachment Delta embarked, the amphibious transport dock began one week of training for mine clearing operations. The task force sailed for the North Vietnamese city of Haiphong on 26 February to participate in Operation End Sweep, and on 4 March Cleveland’s embarked helos began clearing mines from Haiphong Harbor. On 18 March, a Sikorsky CH-53D Sea Stallion, “Pineapple [YH] 11” of HMM-463, towing minesweeping gear, crashed just after takeoff from Cleveland’s flight deck. Lifeboats from Cleveland and New Orleans (LPH-11) quickly rescued the helo’s six crewmen, who were not seriously injured in the incident. As minesweeping operations continued, Cleveland deckhands working with divers from the rescue and salvage ship Safeguard (ARS-25) recovered the wreckage of YH-11 on 25 March.

Operation End Sweep, 1973

“Pineapple 12,” a Sikorsky CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter from HMM-463 tows a magnetic orange pipe (not seen) while conducting minesweeping operations in Hon Bay, North Vietnam, during Operation End Sweep, 18 March 1973. (PH1 George Norris, Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph USN 711571)

Departing the Haiphong area on 1 April 1973, Cleveland began her much-anticipated voyage home after a long deployment. Beginning on the 4th, the ship held six days of upkeep at Subic Bay. She conducted turnover with Vancouver on 9 April and charted a course for the United States the following day. En route to San Diego, the ship called at Guam (14 April), Eniwetok Atoll (16 April), and Pearl Harbor (22 April). She returned to San Diego on 28 April.

Following post-deployment stand down and leave, Cleveland began local operations on 31 May 1973 and held a dependents’ cruise the next day. From 2–3 June, 3,000 people toured Cleveland during her turn as visit ship at Broadway Pier in downtown San Diego. She put in to Seal Beach from 4–5 June to offload ammunition and then spent the rest of the month preparing for overhaul. On 16 July, the amphibious transport dock began her yard period at Campbell Industries. Upgrades accomplished during the overhaul included renovation of the crew quarters, mess decks, and galley and repainting of the ship, which was in dry dock from 8 August–25 September. She conducted acceptance trials on 29 November and concluded her overhaul on 14 December. Beginning on 17 December, Cleveland conducted a shakedown cruise and reloaded her ammo at Seal Beach. Returning to San Diego on 20 December, the ship then entered the year-end holiday leave and upkeep period.

Cleveland spent most of January 1974 preparing to enter another interdeployment training cycle, beginning with a restricted availability to complete unfinished work from her recent overhaul. After passing her training readiness evaluation (TRE) on 17 January, she completed her availability on the 21st and then was underway for a shakedown cruise through the 25th. The amphibious transport dock spent the next four weeks in refresher training, culminating with the final battle problem on 22 February. She completed another TRE on the 25th and then from 4–15 March she held amphibious operations refresher training. The ship was in restricted availability through early April and also passed a number of inspections at this time. She then took part in Operation Bell Cannon, a ten-day amphibious exercise off southern California, before entering the pre-overseas movement period.

Steaming from San Diego in company with Ogden, Tulare, Racine, Monticello (LSD-35), and San Bernardino (LST-1189), Cleveland departed on a WestPac deployment on 24 May 1974. Detaching from the group on 31 May, Cleveland and Tulare conducted two days of amphibious and helo training at Kaneohe Bay, Oahu. Cleveland departed independently on 4 June and called at Pago Pago, American Samoa (10–12 June). She then proceeded to Brisbane, Australia, for a six-day visit, arriving on the 20th. At Brisbane, Cleveland rendezvoused with Fresno, Tulare, and San Bernardino. The ships put to sea together on 25 June and sailed for Hervey Bay, Australia, where they conducted turnover with ARG BravoJuneau (LPD-10), Fort Fisher (LSD-40), Alamo (LSD-33), and Bristol County (LST-1198)—on 27–28 June. Departing the next day, the ARG joined the destroyers Bausell (DD-845) and Gurke (DD-783) and guided missile destroyer Waddell (DDG-24) shortly thereafter. Following two days at Subic Bay (10–11 July), Cleveland sailed to Okinawa with Tulare and San Bernardino, arriving on the 15th. Joined by Racine the following day, the group conducted two days of amphibious training at Chin Wan [Kinbu Bay]. Cleveland then put into Yokosuka for a week of upkeep.

Cleveland spent the next three months shuttling troops and cargo around East Asia. The ship stopped at Numazu Bay, Japan (28–29 July); Okinawa (2 August); and Kaohsiung, Taiwan (4 August). She arrived at Subic Bay on 5 August for a week of upkeep followed by two days of underway amphibious and flight operations (13–14 August). After spending five days at Hong Kong, she headed for Okinawa on the 21st but could not call there on the 24th due to adverse weather conditions. She put in to Chinhae, South Korea, on 27 August to disembark a Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) team for training and then spent 29 August–4 September in upkeep at Yokosuka. The ship made an overnight stop at Numazu Bay on 5–6 September and then arrived at White Beach, Okinawa, on the 10th. Rear Adm. Arthur W. Price Jr., Commander Amphibious Force Seventh Fleet / CTF 76 broke his flag in Cleveland on 11 September. She remained at White Beach through the 28th save for two days of underway flight operations.

On 30 September 1974, Cleveland made a brief stop at Chinhae to pick up the SEAL team and then arrived at Inchon, South Korea, on 2 October for a five-day port visit. After spending 9–22 October at Okinawa, the ship offloaded her remaining marines at Numazu Bay and then arrived at Yokosuka on 26 October for upkeep. Rear Adm. Price shifted his flag to Blue Ridge (LCC-19) on 6 November, and Cleveland returned to Okinawa on the 9th. With “California Dreamin’” playing over the ship’s PA system, Cleveland sailed for San Diego the following day in company with Ogden. The ships exercised with guided missile cruiser Long Beach (CGN-9) and planes from Patrol Squadron (VP) 22 for three days prior to arrival at Pearl Harbor on 23 November. Getting underway again the next day, the ships returned home to San Diego on 30 November.

Following her post-deployment/holiday leave and upkeep period, Cleveland operated locally during the first quarter of 1975. With marines from the 17th MAU embarked, she steamed from San Diego on 28 January in company with her fellow amphibious transport dock Denver (LPD-9), dock landing ships Anchorage (LSD-36) and Mount Vernon (LSD-39), amphibious cargo ship Mobile (LKA-115), and tank landing ships Barbour County (LST-1195) and Racine to participate in the amphibious exercise Operation Bead Stream. After a month of training and inspections in February, Cleveland was underway again from 10–14 March for additional amphibious exercises with Racine, Ogden, Tulare, and Monticello. Then from 17–22 March, she took part in a logistics exercise during which she practiced working with lash barges.

Very early on 1 April 1975, an electrical fire seriously damaged Cleveland’s wardroom and adjacent areas of the ship. Nevertheless, the next day she got underway to complete helo carrier qualifications with a marine helicopter squadron and then offloaded ammunition at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach. Following two months of repairs and training, the amphibious transport dock took part in FleetEx 2-75 (“Bell Box”) from 17–27 June. Getting underway again on 1 July, Cleveland sailed to Monterey, Calif., to participate in Independence Day celebrations and the city’s Commodore Sloat Festival. While at Monterrey from 3–6 July, the ship hosted more than 3,000 visitors.

On 23 July 1975, Cleveland passed her training readiness evaluation and spent the rest of the summer in training and upkeep. She completed an InSurv inspection from 14–17 October and conducted underway amphibious operations training with Fresno and Point Defiance (LSD-31) during the first week of November. Cleveland welcomed more than 1,800 guests as visit ship at Broadway Pier in San Diego from 15–16 November and then departed once again with Fresno and Point Defiance on the 17th to conduct a five-day amphibious exercise, during which the embarked Army troops of the 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division would practice embarking and debarking from amphibious ships and landing craft. Cleveland put to sea on 7 December en route to Bangor, Wash., where she offloaded the Army troops on 11 December. After an additional stop at Esquimalt, B.C., Canada, she returned to San Diego on 19 December and began holiday leave and upkeep.

Cleveland began 1976 with amphibious refresher training off Coronado Island, Calif., and Camp Pendleton through 16 January. She got underway again on 23 February for Exercise Bead Chevron, practicing surface and amphibious warfare tactics with Fresno, Point Defiance, Mobile, Thomaston and frigate Kirk (FF-1087) until 1 March. From 11–12 March, the ship completed her operational readiness evaluation and then entered the pre-overseas movement period the next day.

Cleveland stood out for deployment to the western Pacific with PhibRon 3—Ogden, Point Defiance, Fresno, Peoria (LST-1183), and Frederick (LST-1184)—plus guided missile cruiser Chicago (CG-11) and frigate Cook (FF-1083) on 13 April 1976, but an engineering casualty brought her back to San Diego two days later. Departing once again on 19 April, the amphibious transport dock steamed independently to White Beach, Buckner Bay, Okinawa, arriving on 6 May. She held turnover with Juneau and assumed duties as flagship for Rear Adm. Donald B. Whitmire, Commander, Amphibious Force, Seventh Fleet / CTF 76 and CTG 76.5 (Commander ARG Bravo). On 10 May, Cleveland sailed to Ora Wan, Okinawa, for a landing exercise with the Regimental Landing Team (RLT), 4th Marines. Due to heavy swells that made conditions unsafe to offload the RLT via tracked landing vehicle (LVT), the troops had to be transported to the beach by helicopter. The ship returned to White Beach later that day and then departed for Subic Bay on the 14th.

After unloading cargo and Project Handclasp materials at Subic Bay from 17–19 May 1976, Cleveland spent the next several weeks moving cargo and troops around the western Pacific, calling at Sattahip, Thailand (22–24 May); Subic Bay (29–31 May); and White Beach (4–5 June). Scheduled to onload BLT 1/9 at Numazu on 9 June, Cleveland encountered high winds of 25–32 knots and 12-foot seas, forcing the postponement of the troop onload until the evening of the 11th. During the rest of the month, the ship touched at Ora Wan (14 June) and White Beach (14–15 June) for troop transfers, conducted a landing exercise at Numazu with TG 76.5 (17–18 June), and returned to Okinawa (21–22 June) before sailing to Keelung, Taiwan, for a port visit, arriving on the morning of 24 June.

The weather continued to affect Cleveland’s operations in the western Pacific through the summer months. Typhoons Ruby and Sally postponed the ship’s departure from Keelung from 28 June to 2 July 1976. The ship spent the Independence Day holiday at White Beach. During an open house on the 4th, more than 6,300 visitors toured the amphibious transport dock in 4.5 hours. After a five-day port visit at Hong Kong (9–13 July), Cleveland headed for Yokosuka for an upkeep period. However, on 16 July while steaming near Okinawa, the ship changed to a southerly course to avoid adverse conditions caused by Typhoon Therese, delaying the start of the ship’s upkeep period at Yokosuka by one day.

Getting underway again on 2 August 1976, Cleveland stopped at Numazu the next day to onload elements of BLT 3/9. She put in at White Beach on the 6th but the next day had to sortie to avoid Typhoon Billie and could not return to port until the 10th. On 19 August, the flagship hosted the change of command ceremony for CTF 76, with Rear Adm. James H. Morris relieving Rear Adm. Whitmire. Following the ceremony, Cleveland sailed for Subic Bay, dodging yet another tropical storm en route. From 23–29 August, ARG Bravo conducted BLT-Ex 1-7T, during which BLT 3/9 landed ashore. Returning to Subic Bay on the 29th, Cleveland held upkeep with Ship Repair Facility Subic through 6 September. Steaming for White Beach on the 9th, Cleveland reduced speed to avoid Typhoon Fran, thus delaying her arrival to late on 10 September. Continued high wind conditions on the 11th hampered loading and offloading efforts.

Cleveland departed White Beach on 13 September 1976 and conducted amphibious operations at Numazu (15–16 September). She then continued with cargo and troop transfers at Buckner Bay, Okinawa (20 September); Inchon, Korea (23–24 September); and back to Buckner Bay (27-28 September). Beginning the long voyage back across the Pacific on 29 September, Cleveland touched briefly at Subic Bay (2 October) and then sailed for Kwajalein, Marshall Islands. After arriving on 10 October, Rear Adm. Morris shifted his flag to Blue Ridge. Cleveland departed on 16 October, and during the transit to Hawaii, the ship held turnover at sea with Dubuque and then conducted a two-day raid exercise with the First Marine Brigade. Following two days in port at Pearl Harbor, Cleveland departed on 26 October with male relatives and friends of crewmen known as “Tigers” embarked and sailed for San Diego with Thomaston and Peoria. She returned home on 2 November and spent the rest of the year preparing for the ship’s upcoming overhaul.

Towed by the ocean tug Molala (ATF-106), Cleveland arrived at Long Beach Naval Shipyard for regular overhaul on 14 January 1977. The ship was in dry dock from 2 March–12 May, and repair work continued through the summer. She held sea trials from 12–15 September and completed overhaul on 20 September. That evening she sailed for Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach to load ammunition, and she returned to San Diego on 23 September. During her post-overhaul shakedown period in the fall, Cleveland operated locally, conducting training evolutions and preparing for and completing evaluations to demonstrate the amphibious transport dock’s operational readiness for her next deployment in the spring. She completed her Operational Propulsion Plant Examination (OPPE) from 19–21 December and then commenced the year-end holiday leave and upkeep period.

Cleveland got underway on 10 January 1978 for interim refresher training, returning to port on the 20th. She put to sea again on the 23rd with PhibRon 3 for ReadiEx 2-78, a major Third Fleet exercise during which Cleveland took part in an opposed amphibious landing on the western shore of San Clemente Island. The ship returned to San Diego on 2 February, completed another OPPE (17–19 February), and then entered the pre-overseas movement period, featuring a dependents’ cruise on 23 February.


Cleveland underway in the Pacific, February 1978. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph K-119462)

On the morning of 17 March 1978, Cleveland put to sea for her next WestPac deployment, serving as flagship of Amphibious Squadron 3, consisting of Ogden, Point Defiance, Peoria, San Bernardino, and Frederick. She spent two days at Pearl Harbor (25–27 March) where she embarked elements of the 31st MAU and BLT 1/3. She then sailed to Kaneohe Bay to conduct helo familiarization operations with the marines (28–31 March). Departing from Pearl Harbor in company with San Bernardino on 1 April, Cleveland steamed to the vicinity of Wake Island, where on 11 April she rendezvoused with Tripoli (LPH-10) to transfer ComPhibRon 3 and his staff as well as the embarked troops to the helicopter landing platform. Cleveland then resumed her Pacific transit, arriving at Buckner Bay, Okinawa, on the 16th. There the amphibious landing dock assumed the responsibilities of flagship for CTF 76 and commander of ARG Bravo, and she proceeded to Yokosuka for an availability period (19–25 April).

Getting underway on 25 April 1978 with her ARG, Cleveland headed for Numazu (26 April) and then White Beach (30 April–2 May). With offload operations completed, Cleveland departed for a port visit at Keelung, Taiwan (3–7 May). She then returned to White Beach and had an official visit on 9 May from Gen. Kurisu Hiroomi, Chairman of the Joint Staff, Japanese Self Defense Forces, and Gen. George G. Loving Jr., USAF, Commander, U.S. Forces Japan. ARG Bravo carried out an amphibious exercise at Kin Blue Beach, Okinawa, on 10–11 May and unloaded at Numazu on the 15th. Cleveland then departed for a three-week availability with Ship Repair Facility Yokosuka and the destroyer tender Prairie (AD-15).

On 7 June 1978, Cleveland sailed to Numazu to load troops and cargo and then steamed to Pusan, Korea, via the Shimonoseki Straits. Cleveland embarked 11 midshipmen for a summer training cruise while at Pusan (11–13 June). Getting underway on 14 June, Cleveland in company with Ogden and Frederick commenced Exercise Ssang Yong IX (BLTEx 2-78), a six-day joint amphibious exercise with units of the Republic of Korea navy and marines, in the Pohang, Korea, operating area. During the exercise, a Japanese film crew embarked in Cleveland filmed scenes for the motion picture Inchon, which debuted in theaters in 1981. With Typhoon Polly approaching from the south, weather conditions deteriorated and forced an acceleration of the exercise schedule. Late on 19 June, the task group put in to Chinhae Harbor to weather the storm, completing the offload in heavy rain the next day. Cleveland then steamed to White Beach, where on 24 June, she hosted the CTF 76 Change of Command ceremony, with Rear Adm. Donald S. Jones assuming command from Rear Adm. James H. Morris.

Stopping at Naha, Okinawa, on 26 June 1978 to load four LCM-8s (“Mike boats”), Cleveland stood out the next day, laden with cargo. After unloading the Mike boats and debarking the summer cruise midshipmen at Apra Harbor, Guam (30 June–1 July), Cleveland arrived at Enewetak (formerly Eniwetok) Atoll on the morning of 4 July. For the next five days, all hands took part directly or indirectly in an around-the-clock small craft repair assignment in the ship’s wet well. With assistance from 10 workers from Naval Ship Repair Facility Guam and a detachment from Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 1, Cleveland’s crew accomplished an impressive 75% of the work requested on 12 utility landing craft (LCU) and Mike boats assigned to a Navy element of a joint task group at Enewetak. Departing on 9 July after the intense boat repair effort that earned her a Humanitarian Service Medal, Cleveland resumed her routine troop transport duties for the rest of the month, conducting transfer operations at Pohang (17 July), Kin Red Beach (21 July), White Beach (21–23 July), and Numazu (25–26 July).

Cleveland’s schedule next took her to Subic Bay for upkeep, but before reaching her destination, the ship had to avoid two tropical storms, delaying her arrival by one day to 2 August 1978. A second group of midshipmen who had joined the amphibious transport dock at Pohang on 17 July for their summer training cruise debarked on 6 August. Two days later, Cleveland got underway in company with destroyers John Paul Jones (DDG-32) and Hull (DD-945) as well as three ships of the Philippine Navy to participate in Tempo Caper. During the five-day exercise which was hampered by high winds and seas, elements from the U.S. Navy, Army, Air Force, and Marines and their counterparts from the Republic of the Philippines combined forces to rehearse amphibious landing maneuvers. After the exercise concluded on 12 August, Cleveland stopped at Subic Bay to offload the troops and then enjoyed a port call at Manila (14–17 August).

Following another upkeep period (17 August–4 September) with Ship Repair Facility Subic Bay and the destroyer tender Samuel Gompers (AD-37), Cleveland called at Hong Kong from 6–11 September 1978. In port at the same time that the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra was in town, the ship hosted 20 of the musicians on 10 September, and members of the crew attended one of the orchestra’s performances at Hong Kong City Hall Theater. Cleveland rounded out her time in the western Pacific delivering watercraft to Guam (17 September) and Enewetak (19–20 September), where PhibRon 3 reassembled and turned over ARG duties to PhibRon 1. Reaching Pearl Harbor on 27 September, Cleveland debarked the 31st MAU and welcomed more than 50 Tigers aboard for the final leg of the deployment, which concluded at San Diego on 5 October. After a much-deserved post-deployment leave period, the ship filled the rest of the year with maintenance activities and local operations.

Cleveland began 1979 with a two-week tender availability with Prairie (2–14 January) to prepare for her upcoming InSurv inspection. Following the completion of InSurv (17–19 January), the ship conducted two weeks of training and then entered a planned restricted availability from 5 February–30 March. Inspections and trainings continued through April, and in May and June the ship operated locally both independently and with other units including Blue Ridge and USNS Taluga (T-AO-62). She completed her training readiness evaluation on 5 July. During the summer, she conducted amphibious refresher training (23 July–3 August) and interim refresher training (20–31 August). Departing San Diego on 24 September, Cleveland participated in the joint U.S./Canadian Fleet Exercise 2-79/Kernel Potlatch II in company with Anchorage, Mobile, Roanoke (AOR-7), Kilauea (AE-26), and San Bernardino. Following a port call at Victoria, B.C., Canada, from 6–7 October, she returned home on the 12th and operated locally for the rest of the year.

On 9 November 1979, the amphibious transport dock held a special ceremony to honor a piece of her heritage, the ship’s bell from the original Cleveland (Cruiser No. 19), sailing in the fleet from 1903–1929. Historically, a bell has been used on ships to communicate the time, to warn the crew or other ships of a hazard or emergency situation, or to indicate the presence of a VIP on the ship, and it may be rung during ceremonial events as well. When a U.S. Navy ship is decommissioned, the bell is removed and retained as a historical artifact that the Navy may loan to commands or cultural institutions for display as appropriate “to inspire and to remind our naval forces and personnel of their honor, courage, and commitment to the defense of our nation.” At the beginning of his career as a naval officer, retired Capt. John M. Kennaday served in the first Cleveland in 1928. More than 40 years later while viewing an exhibit at the Western Reserve Historical Museum in the cruiser’s namesake city, he encountered his former ship’s ornate bronze bell. Bequeathed to the cruiser by the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce in November 1903, the bell features two bas relief scenes of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s pivotal moments during the Battle of Lake Erie in September 1813. Capt. Kennaday lobbied various stakeholders for five years until finally the bell was mounted aboard the modern Cleveland. After the unveiling of the bell during the short shipboard ceremony, Capt. Kennaday made a few remarks and then struck eight bells on time to mark the noon hour.

Capt. John M. Kennaday

Capt. John M. Kennaday, USN (ret.), stands with the ship’s bell from Cleveland I (Cruiser No. 19), donated to that ship by the City of Cleveland Chamber of Commerce in November 1903, upon the occasion of its remounting in Cleveland III, November 1979. The bell is part of the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Historic Artifact Collection. (Collection of Curator Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command)

On 4 January 1980, Cleveland departed San Diego, beginning her next WestPac deployment with BeachMaster Unit (BMU) 1 and ACU-1 embarked. Serving as flagship for PhibRon 3, Cleveland sailed in company with Mobile, Anchorage, Alamo, and San Bernardino. Arriving at Pearl Harbor on 11 January, the ship spent three days in port and then got underway on the 14th with Mobile, Alamo, and San Bernardino for operations off Hawaii, including an amphibious rehearsal and assault and naval gunfire support (NGFS). During these exercises, Rear Adm. Donald G. Ramsey, Commander Amphibious Group Eastern Pacific, visited Cleveland. The ships returned to port on the 18th, and two days later Cleveland stood out with San Bernardino and Mobile and set course for Enewetak Atoll, where from 28–29 January, Cleveland supported Enewetak clean up and held turnover with PhibRon 5. She next stopped at Guam for upkeep from 2–13 February, and while there, Capt. Robert P. Lenahan, ComPhibRon 3, shifted his flag to amphibious assault ship Okinawa. Steaming independently, the amphibious transport dock then completed her first series of troop and equipment transport operations at Buckner Bay, Okinawa (16 February and 23–25 February) and Inchon, Korea (19–21 February). After a five-day port visit at Hong Kong (28 February–4 March), Cleveland made another stop at Buckner Bay (7 March) and then sailed to Sasebo, Japan, for a week of upkeep (9–14 March).

Cleveland continued to transport troops and cargo in Korea and Japan in March and April 1980, completing missions at Inchon (16–19 March), Numazu (26–29 March), Pusan (6–7 April), and Buckner Bay (21–24 March, 1–3 April, and 11–13 April). Following three weeks of upkeep at Subic Bay (16 April–9 May), the ship departed on 9 May to take part in Exercise Tempo Caper, an amphibious operation in the Philippine operational area that included elements from the Marines, Army, and Air Force. She returned to Subic Bay on the 16th and then visited Manila from 18–21 May. Cleveland spent the long Memorial Day weekend (24–27 May) at Buckner Bay, celebrating the holiday with a dependents’ cruise for CTF 76/79 and a holiday cookout on the flight deck on the 26th. Departing on the 27th, the ship completed local operations at Ora Wan en route to Naha, where she completed a loading operation from 29–31 May.

Arriving at Yokosuka on 3 June 1980, Cleveland held upkeep until 14th, when she reunited once again with Mobile, Anchorage, Alamo, and San Bernardino and the squadron put to sea to begin the long journey home across the Pacific. At Pearl Harbor from 24–26 June, the ships rejoined PhibRon 3 flagship Okinawa and with Tigers embarked began the final leg of the voyage, arriving back at San Diego on 3 July. Cleveland engaged in post-deployment leave and upkeep through 4 August. She steamed to Seal Beach on 11 August to unload her ammunition, returning to San Diego on the 14th. From 18–29 August, she took part in Exercise Kernel Blitz 2-80 in the southern California operating area with Regimental Landing Team 7 embarked and then conducted an independent operation locally on 2–3 September.

On 30 September 1980, Cleveland departed for San Francisco with dependents embarked, arriving at Naval Air Station Alameda on 2 October for a regular overhaul period. On 6 October, the ship completed a deadstick move to Service Engineering Corp, Pier 38, San Francisco, and commenced overhaul, with her homeport officially shifting to San Francisco that same day. The ship moved to dry dock at Todd Shipyards on 20 October. She left dry dock on 8 December and returned to Pier 38, where she remained until her sea trials on 23–24 May 1981. She completed her overhaul on 24 June and the next day shifted berths to Naval Supply Center Oakland.

USS Cleveland (LPD-7)

Cleveland (LPD-7) underway at sea following removal of some of her 3-inch/50 gun mounts, circa late 1970s or 1980s. U.S. Navy Photograph, donation of Berle Spurlock. (Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph NH 107699)

Cleveland departed the Bay Area on 27 June 1981, officially changing her homeport back to San Diego that same day. Effective 1 May, Cleveland had been reassigned from PhibRon 3 to PhibRon 7, and upon her return home on 1 July, ComPhibRon 7 embarked the ship. After loading ammunition at Seal Beach from 7–10 July, Cleveland began her next training cycle, conducting refresher training and individual ship’s exercises locally from August into the fall. From 20–21 October, Cleveland served as visit ship at Broadway Pier in San Diego. On 16 November, the engineering crew discovered an extensive boiler casualty caused by oxygen pitting in the generating tubes. Less than a week later, the amphibious transport dock had an InSurv inspection (21–27 November). The ship rounded out the year on 22 December with a joint Change of Command ceremony for both Cleveland as well as Amphibious Squadron 7.

Following the year-end holiday stand down period, Cleveland resumed her pre-deployment training with independent steaming exercises from 4–8 January 1982. Then from 12–22 January, she took part in Exercises Kernel Egress and Kernel Usher ’82 with other units of PhibRon 7 off the coast of southern California. The ship continued underway training including amphibious refresher training through mid-March. On the 31st, Cleveland held a dependents’ cruise.

On 2 April 1982, Cleveland departed San Diego, beginning her deployment to the Western Pacific with a transit to Pearl Harbor with PhibRon 7—Point Defiance, Peoria, Bristol County, and San Bernardino—plus New Orleans, Tuscaloosa (LST-1187), and Mobile. Arriving on 9 April, the ship embarked Marine Service Support Group (MSSG) 31 and BLT 33. She stood out on the 12th to participate in the ten-day Rim of the Pacific (RimPac) ’82 exercise with units from the Canadian, New Zealand, Australian, and Japanese navies. Following turnover with ARG Alfa on 22 April, Cleveland steamed for Iwo Jima, where from 3–6 May she took part in Readex ’82, a major amphibious exercise conducted jointly by units of PhibRon 7 and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. Her Pacific transit next brought Cleveland to Subic Bay, where she held upkeep from 12–27 May.

Enjoying her first liberty port of the deployment, Cleveland called at Pattaya Beach, Thailand, from 1–5 June 1982. Then in conjunction with the Royal Thai Navy, the ship took part in Operation Cobra Gold, an amphibious exercise off southern Thailand, from 6–14 June. During an underway replenishment on 12 June, Cleveland had a minor collision with the fleet oiler Ashtabula (AO-51), damaging the starboard flight deck antenna and fuel station. After a port call at Singapore (16–20 June), the ship sailed for Diego Garcia, a remote outpost in the middle of the Indian Ocean, for a quick stop (28–29 July) to pick up supplies. She then steamed to Fremantle, Australia, for five days of liberty (8–12 July). From 13–18 July, she engaged in Freedom Pennant, a joint operation with the Royal Australian Navy, off Western Australia.

Cleveland arrived at Naval Station Subic Bay on 26 July 1982 for regular upkeep and to repair the damage sustained in the collision with Ashtabula. A planned two-week stay was extended to nearly a month, however, after a flood in engine room no. 1 damaged several electrical motors that needed to be repaired. Finally departing on 20 August, the amphibious transport dock steamed to Japan to rejoin her squadron, calling at Sasebo (24–29 August) and Yokosuka (7–12 September). From there, PhibRon 7 began the journey home, departing for Hawaii on 13 September. At Pearl Harbor, the ship offloaded MSSG 31 and BLT 33 and took on cargo. She then sailed for San Diego on the 27th, arriving home on 4 October.

Following her deployment, Cleveland spent the next six weeks in port in leave and upkeep status. On 16 November 1982, the ship sailed for Amchitka in Alaska’s Aleutian Island chain in company with England (CG-22), Paul F. Foster (DD-964), Duncan (FFG-10), Kansas City (AOR-3), Robert E. Lee (SSBN-601), and USCGC Mellon (WHEC-717) and with elements of BLT 17 and MSSG 17 embarked. She took part in the cold-weather amphibious exercise Kernel Potlatch ’82 with numerous other U.S. ships including Peleliu (LHA-5), Bristol County, and San Bernardino as well as the Canadian naval escort ships Restigouche (DDE.257) and Terra Nova (DDE.508) and replenishment oiler Provider (AOR.508) from 27 November–1 December and then headed for Esquimalt, B.C., Canada, for five days of liberty (7–11 December). She arrived at Seal Beach to offload ammunition on 14 December and then returned to San Diego on 17 December and entered the holiday leave and upkeep period.

On 1 January 1983, Cleveland began a two-month pierside repair availability at Pier 10, Naval Station San Diego. Scheduled tasks included refurbishment of the well deck, crew quarters, engineering systems, and communications and tactical equipment, as well as repainting the ship and her topside spaces. However, on 17 January, engineers discovered heavy corrosion in the ship’s four ship’s service turbine generators, and the availability extended into early May to complete repairs. Finally from 9–13 May, Cleveland got underway to conduct amphibious refresher training. While exercising off Silver Strand Beach, Coronado, one of the ship’s amphibious landing craft (VP-3) sank in high surf, and the salvage effort irreparably damaged the vessel.

Cleveland’s underway training activities continued through the spring and summer of 1983. She completed refresher training in mid-June, and on the 29th, she sailed for Santa Cruz, Calif., to participate in that city’s Independence Day festivities, anchoring offshore on 1 July. Unfortunately, hazardous boating conditions due to swells caused the cancellation of general public ship visitation, but Cleveland was able to host a reception for city VIPs, Naval Sea Cadets, and Sea Scouts, and the ship’s color guard took part in a number of events ashore over the long weekend. The amphibious transport dock arrived back at San Diego on the 7th, but her stay in port was brief. After embarking units of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) of the U.S. Army’s 160th Aviation Battalion (Assault Helos), she got underway again for amphibious training off Silver Strand Beach on Coronado, returning to port on 9 July. As a final tune up before deployment, Cleveland stood out on 2 August in company with Peleliu, St. Louis (LKA-116), and Peoria to participate in ReadiEx 83-5 in the southern California operating area with elements from BMU-1 and MSSG-17 embarked. She returned to San Diego on 13 August and entered the pre-overseas movement period.

Steaming from San Diego with fellow PhibRon 7 ships Anchorage, Peoria, and St. Louis, Cleveland began her next western Pacific deployment on the morning of 12 September 1983. Unfortunately tragedy befell the amphibious transport dock the very next day with the death of Hull Maintenance Technician 1st Class John Alan Delozier, who had been involved in an accident while repairing a valve in Cleveland’s sewage holding, collection, and transfer system. “John was a valued shipmate, a good friend, and a hard worker,” according to a tribute in the ship’s cruise book. “His death was a sobering reminder that even in peacetime there are threats to life and limb in the working environment of a Navy ship.”

Continuing on her transit, Cleveland arrived at Pearl Harbor on 19 September 1983 and embarked elements of BLT 2/3. From 23–26 September, PhibRon 7 was underway off Hawaii for Operation Bell Volcano and then returned to Pearl Harbor. In company with her ARG, consisting of Peleliu, Fort Fisher, and San Bernardino, plus Anchorage, Cleveland departed for Subic Bay on 2 October. On the 14th, the amphibious transport dock took part in Operation Beach Guard 84-1 with ARG Alfa at Iwo Jima and then continued on to Subic Bay, arriving on 18 October.

On 21 October 1983, Cleveland departed Subic Bay with ARG Alfa, headed for a liberty call at Fremantle, Australia. After stopping off Singapore to complete turnover with PhibRon 1 earlier in the day, on 25 October misfortune visited Cleveland again when the ship struck a log. Her cruise book wryly noted, “The only tree in the entire Pacific, and we found it!” With her starboard screw significantly damaged in the encounter, the amphibious transport dock transferred her embarked marines and their equipment to the other ships of the ARG and limped back to Singapore for repairs. She entered dry dock on the 28th, and over the next week and a half, workers fixed the damaged screw and addressed additional maintenance issues.

Cleveland returned to service on 7 November 1983, heading east-southeast to cross the equator and cleanse the ship of slimy pollywogs to appease King Neptune before reversing course to steam through the Strait of Malacca. While making a liberty stop at Phuket, Thailand, from 11–17 November, 21 of Cleveland’s sailors delivered books, toys, clothes, food, and medical supplies from Project Handclasp to the Bankalin School in Pa Tong Beach and spent some time playing with the children and painting the school. Departing Phuket on the 17th, Cleveland returned to Singapore two days later to rejoin ARG Alfa and to reembark BLT 2/3. The ship remained in port at Singapore for upkeep through the 29th.

On 1 December 1983, Cleveland anchored off the coast of Pattaya Beach, Thailand, with other units of PhibRon 7. She departed on 5 December and took part in LandEx 83, an amphibious landing exercise at Green Beach, Subic Bay, from 8–9 December. She spent most of the rest of the month in upkeep at Subic Bay, departing on 26 December for a visit to Hong Kong over the New Years’ holiday (27 December–2 January). On 3 January 1984, the ship got underway for Sasebo, Japan. While en route, ARG Alfa took part in Valiant Usher ’84, a cold weather amphibious landing exercise at Tok Sok Ri Beach north of Pohang, Korea (7–10 January). After spending 12–22 January at Sasebo for upkeep, Cleveland arrived at Pusan, Korea, for two days of liberty (24–25 January). She returned to Pohang to load marines on 26–27 January and then sailed to Subic Bay, mooring at Boton Pier, Cubi Point, on 1 February.

Sailing with Fort Fisher and San Bernardino, Cleveland began her voyage back home on 5 February 1984. After stopping at Guam on 10 February, the ships rendezvoused with the Ranger (CV-61) battle group on the 15th for the transit to Hawaii. At Pearl Harbor from 21–27 February, Cleveland disembarked her marines and welcomed a group of Tigers for the last leg of the voyage. Departing on 28 February in company with Fort Fisher and Peoria, the amphibious transport dock reached San Diego on 6 March, concluding her deployment.

After a period of leave and upkeep, Cleveland began a new training cycle on 16 April 1984 with underway amphibious refresher training. On 20 April as the ship prepared to return to port in high winds and large swells, the hydraulic system in the starboard stern gate arm malfunctioned. Getting underway again on 25 April, the ship offloaded gasoline at La Playa pier and arrived at Seal Beach the following day to offload ammunition. She returned to San Diego on 27 April for a pierside restricted availability, which did not actually begin until 1 June. In addition to removing, repairing, and reinstalling the stern gate, work completed on the ship included a space habitability renovation, engine and boiler work, resurfacing the flight and well decks, galley equipment upgrades, and extensive repainting.

Cleveland resumed her underway training activities on 7 August 1984 with her training readiness evaluation. In September, the ship completed additional maintenance work with the reinstallation of the stern gate (3 September) and renovation of a set of crew heads (8–16 September). While underway for refresher training on 26 September, Cleveland found herself in need of even further repairs as she collided with the ammunition ship Shasta (AE-33) during an underway replenishment. Although deemed able to continue with her current training, the ship sustained small punctures in the hull well above the water line on the port side, and approximately 20 feet of catwalk was destroyed. Returning to port on the 29th, Cleveland effected preliminary repairs and then put to sea on 1 October for her second week of refresher training.

In November 1984, Cleveland would require even more repairs when the jacking gear was found to be malfunctioning on the 22nd. Closer inspection of the damage revealed that someone had deliberately sabotaged the port main engine reduction gear, and a Naval Investigative Service (NIS) investigation was initiated. Cleveland remained in pierside availability through late January 1985 to complete repairs. In addition to fixing the reduction gear, workers also painted and renovated the ship’s spaces for embarked marines, overhauled three pallet conveyors, overhauled the pumps and motors associated with the B and A crane, and established a fully-functional sail locker.

On 24 January 1985, Cleveland finally got underway again for a week of flight and well deck operations, and she continued to operate locally through the spring, primarily preparing for inspections and evaluations and completing training evolutions in preparation for her next deployment. On 28–29 March, the ship hosted approximately 70 military dignitaries from around the world during a naval attaché visit, which included a demonstration of the ship’s amphibious capabilities while anchored off Camp Pendleton. From 4–8 June, Cleveland participated in the amphibious exercise Kernel Usher 85-3 with Task Group 177.6, consisting of Durham (LKA-114), Okinawa, Fort Fisher, frigates Roark (FF-1053) and Bradley (FF-1041), guided missile frigate Thach (FFG-43), and guided missile destroyer Joseph Strauss (DDG-16). Upon completion of the exercise, Cleveland conducted amphibious refresher training. She continued with individual steaming exercises in the month of June and held a maintenance availability in the first three weeks of July during the pre-overseas movement period. As a final rehearsal before deployment, Cleveland took part in amphibious exercise Kernel Usher 85-5 from 24 July–1 August.

Cleveland began her deployment on 9 August 1985, steaming from San Diego in company with Okinawa, Fort Fisher, and Durham. Task Group 76.3 arrived at Subic Bay on 1 September, and Cleveland began a week-long upkeep period that was interrupted briefly on 4–5 September to sortie for storm evasion. The task group departed Subic Bay on 8 September for a ten-day transit to Australia. From the 19th–23rd, the task group joined forces with the Midway (CV-41) Battle Group to conduct the amphibious exercise Valiant Usher 85-5AS off the coast of Western Australia. Cleveland then called at Fremantle for a week-long port visit (24–30 September).

On 1 October 1985, Task Group 76.3 sailed together from Australia, with Cleveland and Durham detaching the next day to head for Malaysia. From 9–10 October, the two ships visited Penang, where approximately 100 military dignitaries visited Cleveland as part of a major public affairs event. Cleveland and Durham rejoined the rest of the task group on 11 October and sailed to Singapore for upkeep (12–17 October). Departing on the 18th, the task group, joined en route by USNS Hassayampa (T-AO-145), headed for a port visit at Hong Kong (23–28 October). En route to Subic Bay from 29 October–1 November, the task group successfully conducted a landing exercise. Cleveland docked at Subic Bay for three weeks of upkeep (2–23 November) and then on 24 November sailed for Pearl Harbor, where she moored briefly on 8 December to embark Tigers. Getting underway again later that day, Task Group 76.3 set course for San Diego, returning home on 16 December. Cleveland’s crew enjoyed some much-deserved post-deployment leave over the end-of-year holidays.

Cleveland operated locally during the first three months of 1986, passing her Maintenance and Material Management (3M) inspection in mid-March. On 21 March, Cleveland completed NGFS at San Clemente Island before putting in to Long Beach Naval Ship Yard to make preparations to begin a regular overhaul. She offloaded her remaining ammunition at Seal Beal from 31 March–2 April and returned to Long Beach to commence overhaul. The ship was in dry dock from 22 April­–12 August and then continued the overhaul at the pier into November. She conducted sea trials on 12–13 November and completed her yard period on 8 December. Returning to San Diego the following day, Cleveland remained in port for the rest of the year.

Beginning in January 1987, Cleveland commenced a new training cycle for her next deployment, with inspections, trainings, and limited local operations taking place through the first seven months of the year. In April, Cleveland was selected to assume the role of Third Fleet flagship in early 1988, and she was also under consideration to assume duties from La Salle (AFG-3) as flagship for Commander Middle East Force (MidEastFor) in September. Beginning in June, as she continued with her regular activities, Cleveland underwent renovations to ready her to serve as command ship, including converting officer quarters for embarked marines to office space, installing 42 more outside phone lines and additional communications equipment, updating the flag plot spaces, and rerouting shore power cables. Ultimately, however, auxiliary command ship Coronado (AGF-11) received the assignment as MidEastFor flagship. On 3–4 August, Cleveland completed her training readiness evaluation. She held NGFS at San Clemente Island from 2–4 September and then conducted refresher training through most of the rest of the month, followed by amphibious refresher training during the second half of October. Cleveland played a limited role in Kernel Usher 88-1 from 10–16 November before loading ammunition at Seal Beach. Ship modifications to support her upcoming Third Fleet flagship role continued through her holiday leave and upkeep period. On 29 December, she held a dependents’ cruise in conjunction with sea trials.

Steaming from San Diego on 3 January 1988, Cleveland pointed her prow towards Hawaii to take over as flagship for Vice Adm. Diego E. Hernández, Commander Third Fleet. Arriving at Pearl Harbor the 10th, the amphibious transport dock conducted flagship turnover with Coronado and embarked the Third Fleet staff. Getting underway on the 12th, the new Third Fleet flagship took part in the week-long ReadiEx ’88. She remained at Pearl Harbor for the next month and then called at Nawiliwili on the island of Kauai from 19–22 February for the Captain Cook Festival. Back at Pearl Harbor, Cleveland served as host ship for HMY Britannia, royal yacht of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, from 11–15 March.

Making a return visit to San Diego from 2–14 April 1988, Cleveland next took part in FleetEx 88-2 in the southern California operating area (15–26 April). Following the exercise, the ship spent several more days at her home port until departing for the week-long transit to Pearl Harbor on 2 May. Over the summer, she hosted three different groups of midshipmen for their summer training cruise; called at Lahaina, Maui (3–5 June); returned to San Diego (27 June–5 July); and took part in the major multinational exercise RimPac 88. On 22 August, Cleveland embarked on a Tiger Cruise from Pearl Harbor to San Diego and conducted a two-day “Damage Control Olympics” during the transit. Departing San Diego on 12 September, the ship participated in Readiex 88-3 en route to Pearl Harbor. After conducting amphibious operations including night beach landings from 26–28 October, Cleveland made a return visit to Lahaina (28–31 October). Concluding her special tasking for Third Fleet, Cleveland relinquished flagship duties back to Coronado during turnover from 9–13 November, and on the 14th, the amphibious transport dock sailed for San Diego. After her homecoming on 21 November, the ship operated in the local southern California area through January 1989.

On 6 February 1989, Cleveland commenced a planned maintenance availability, moving to Southwest Marine Shipyard, San Diego, on 15 February. Completing the availability with sea trials on 4–5 May, she returned to Naval Station San Diego and operated locally. Called upon once again for special duty, Cleveland stood out on 25 May with HMM 164 and their Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight helos embarked and sailed to Prince William Sound, Alaska, site of what at that time was the largest oil spill in U.S. history. On 24 March, the loaded oil tanker Exxon Valdez struck a reef in the sound, causing more than 10 million barrels of crude oil to leak into the environment. Arriving on site on 31 May, the amphibious transport dock spent the next five and a half weeks providing support services for the ongoing cleanup operation for the ecologically devastating disaster. Cleveland provided berthing and other hotel services for cleanup crews and helped to transport people and equipment around the disaster area by helicopter and small craft. On 6 July, the ship received the U.S. Coast Guard Special Operations Service Ribbon for her efforts on this task. Departing Alaska on 9 July, Cleveland visited San Francisco (14–16 July) on her trip home.

After arriving at San Diego on 18 July 1989, Cleveland devoted the rest of the year to workups for her next deployment, slated for early 1990. She completed an ammunition transfer with Denver off Coronado Island on 31 July–1 August and completed her training readiness evaluation over the next two days. In August she completed amphibious readiness training, and from 5–14 September she participated in Kernel Usher 89-3 in company with Peleliu, Fort Fisher, and Fresno with MSSG 15 and SEAL Team 1 embarked. From 18 September–14 October, she took part in Exercise Kernel Potlatch in the Aleutians with Peleliu, Fort Fisher, and Schenectady (LST-1185). After returning to San Diego, Cleveland completed refresher training in late October and early November and took part in SoCEx 89 with SEAL Team 1 embarked from 13–20 November. She concluded the year with a pre-overseas movement availability from 5–22 December.

USS Cleveland

Sailors stand in front of the helicopter hangar on board Cleveland during PacEx ’89, 19 September 1989. (U.S. Navy Photograph DN-ST-90-09582, JO1 Lancaster, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

USS Cleveland

Stern view of amphibious transport dock Cleveland (LPD-7) underway off the coast of southern California, 29 November 1989. (U.S. Navy Photograph DN-SN-90-07293, PH1 Robert P. Wilcox, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

On 12 January 1990, Cleveland stood out from San Diego for deployment to the western Pacific in company with Fort Fisher and Fresno and rendezvoused with Peleliu later that day. The amphibious transport dock detached on 21 January due to an engineering casualty but rejoined the group on the 25th. From 31 January–1 February, Cleveland took part in Exercise Valiant Usher 90-3 off Iwo Jima. She then continued west, spending a day in port at Buckner Bay, Okinawa (5 February) and completing Valiant Usher 90-5 (8–10 February) en route to the Philippines. After completing loading operations at Subic Bay, Cleveland steamed independently en route to the Gulf of Thailand to complete Exercise Fringe Keeper 90 (18–21 February). She returned to Subic Bay for several days of upkeep (25–28 February), which continued at her next stop of Pohang, Korea (5–6 March). From 7–23 March, Cleveland participated in Team Spirit ’90, a joint exercise with the Republic of Korea, and then visited Pusan (27–29 March).

Cleveland sailed for Okinawa with her ARG on 30 March 1990 and continued on for the Philippines on 2 April. The ships participated in RRC/CRRC/SEAL raids in the Subic Bay area from 4–5 April with the Australian destroyers Parramatta (DE.46) and Derwent (DE.49). Cleveland completed an NGFS exercise on 6 April and then put in to Subic Bay for three weeks of upkeep. After taking part in Valiant Usher 90-6 from 29–30 April, she returned to Subic Bay for two more weeks of upkeep. Cleveland sailed independently for the Gulf of Thailand on 16 May. Rejoining the ARG on the 20th, the ship participated in Exercise Cobra Gold 90 with the Royal Thai Navy (21 May–2 June) and then called at Pattaya (3–7 June). Cleveland next sailed to Subic Bay for several more days of upkeep (13–16 June) before commencing the voyage back to the United States. Stopping briefly at Pearl Harbor on 2–3 July, Cleveland returned home to San Diego on 12 July.

Following post-deployment leave and upkeep and ammunition offload, Cleveland entered dry dock at Southwest Marine, San Diego, on 10 September 1990, beginning an extensive docked planned maintenance availability. The ship exited dry dock on 13 November, but the availability continued through 15 February 1991. She returned to Naval Station San Diego on 16 February and completed three weeks of upkeep. Following the maintenance availability, Cleveland carried out a compressed workup schedule, with Kernel Usher 91-1 from 30 April–12 May her only significant pre-deployment tune-up exercise with her ARG, consisting of Peleliu, Comstock (LSD-45), and Bristol County. Tragically, during an underway replenishment on 11 May, a phone line broke away, fatally injuring Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Orlando Font after he had proactively cleared all other crew from the phone and distance line station. As the ship’s cruise book memorialized, “His action reflected character, fidelity to his shipmates and serves as an example of true Navy leadership.”

Due to a boiler casualty, Cleveland failed to deploy to the western Pacific and Middle East with ARG Alfa as scheduled on 29 May 1991. The amphibious transport dock departed independently on 1 June, stopping first at Pearl Harbor (7–11 June) and then continuing west to the Philippines. From 25–27 June, she operated in the Subic Bay area in support of Operation Fiery Vigil, the joint Air Force and Navy effort to evacuate military and civilian personnel and their families from Clark Air Base and Naval Base Subic Bay in the wake of the catastrophic eruption of nearby Mt. Pinatubo on 15 June. Cleveland received a Joint Meritorious Unit Award for her work during Fiery Vigil. Rejoining her ARG on the 27th, Cleveland sailed to Hong Kong for a liberty visit (29 June–5 July), and then the group steamed for the Persian Gulf. Cleveland held turnover with Denver on 18 July and transited the Strait of Hormuz to enter the Gulf the following day. For the rest of the month, she participated in Al Hamra Amphibious Training I in the southern Persian Gulf. From 5–9 August, the ship visited Abu Dhabi and then sailed with the group to take part in Al Hamra Amphibious Training II in the southern Persian Gulf (13–19 August).

Following ten days of upkeep at Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates (23 August–3 September), Cleveland and ARG Alfa patrolled and trained in the central Persian Gulf until once again transiting the Strait of Hormuz to leave the Gulf on 23 September. The ship visited Muscat, Oman (25–30 September) and then took part in Advance Force Operations (30 September–1 October) and Operation Sea Soldier V (2–9 October), both in the North Arabian Sea. The ARG patrolled the Gulf of Oman for a week, and then on 17 October, Cleveland held turnover with Nashville (LPD-13). The ARG then crossed the Indian Ocean, headed to the Straits of Malacca. On 24 October, Cleveland detached from the group and sailed to Penang, Malaysia, for a port visit (26–30 October). She transited the Straits on 31 October and rejoined the ARG the next day for the transit to Hawaii and a brief stop at Pearl Harbor on 18 November. Cleveland paused off Camp Pendleton to offload marines and their supplies on 26 November and sailed in to San Diego the next day to begin post-deployment leave and upkeep.

Cleveland spent much of 1992 conducting independent ship’s exercises in the San Diego area to prepare for her next deployment. From 8 February–2 March, the ship held a restricted maintenance availability at San Diego, and she completed her InSurv inspection in early April. She departed on 26 May for a trip up the coast to Portland, Ore., for that city’s annual Rose Festival (3–8 June), returning to San Diego on 12 June. Later that week, Cleveland offloaded her ammunition at Seal Beach, and from 22 June–20 September, the ship completed a planned maintenance availability at the Southwest Marine Shipyard, San Diego.

In October 1992, Cleveland received special tasking to support law enforcement operations off Central America. Departing with little advance notice on 30 October, Cleveland steamed to Naval Station Rodman before transiting the Panama Canal on 18 November. Save for a port visit at Curaçao, Netherland Antilles (4–7 December), Cleveland conducted law enforcement operations in the Caribbean Sea through 8 December. She made the return transit of the Panama Canal the next day and arrived home at San Diego on 18 December to begin the year-end leave and upkeep period.

Cleveland remained in port until 15 February 1993, when she sailed for a visit to San Francisco (18–20 February). Departing again on 20 March, Cleveland headed south and once again conducted law enforcement operations in the southeastern Pacific and the Caribbean Sea with Joint Task Force 4. She stopped at Naval Station Rodman on 5 April, and after the ship crossed the equator on the 11th, King Neptune cleansed Cleveland of slimy pollywogs while en route to a port call at Manta, Ecuador (13–16 April).

Beginning on 22 April 1993, Cleveland took part in what was the second largest maritime seizure of narcotics to date. Coast Guard law enforcement officials embarked in Cleveland and the cruiser Valley Forge (CG-50) boarded the motor vessel Sea Chariot off the coast of Panama and discovered the ship to be transporting more than 11,000 pounds of cocaine. Cleveland took control of the vessel and over the next several days escorted it through the Panama Canal to a position off Cuba. On 5 May, Cleveland rendezvoused with the Coast Guard cutter USCGC Decisive (WMEC-629) and transferred control of Sea Chariot and her crew to the Coast Guard for transport to Miami for prosecution.

Cleveland followed up her big drug bust with several days of upkeep at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (7–12 May) and a port visit at Key West, Fla. (15–18 May). While operating off Cuba on 19 May 1993, the ship encountered nine people floating on a raft. With Cuban gunboats circling nearby, Cleveland rescued the refugees. Two days later, she rendezvoused with the Coast Guard patrol boat USCGC Sitkinak (WPB-1329), which would bring the Cuban refugees to Miami. Cleveland returned to the Pacific via the Panama Canal on 24 May and stopped for a day at Rodman. On 1 June, the amphibious transport dock took part in an non-combatant evacuation exercise with aviation, medical, and special operations aviation U.S. army units off the coast of Panama before heading home. She arrived at San Diego on 7 June and held leave and upkeep through 11 July. The amphibious transport dock spent the rest of the year conducting training, workups, maintenance, and assessments in preparation to deploy.

Operating as a member of the Tripoli ARG, Cleveland’s first major exercise prior to her next deployment was CompTuEx 94-20 (14–18 February), followed by CompTuEx 94-19M (1–18 March). The ship completed her final evaluation problem from 21–23 March 1994. After participating in FleetEx 94-2M2 (21 April–4 May), Cleveland entered the pre-overseas movement period. On 9 June, Cleveland departed San Diego for her 14th overseas deployment in company with Fort McHenry (LSD-43) and ARG flagship Tripoli. The ARG took part in an amphibious exercise at Tinian in the Northern Mariana Islands from 26–28 June and then made port calls at Hong Kong (4–8 July) and Singapore (13–18 July).

On 19 July 1994, Cleveland departed Singapore and began her transit of the Malacca Strait and the Indian Ocean en route to eastern Africa. Arriving off Mombasa, Kenya, with Tripoli on 29 July, Cleveland and her embarked marines participated in Operation Support Hope, responding to the humanitarian crisis following the mass genocide in the nation of Rwanda. Dock landing ship Rushmore (LSD-47), a last-minute replacement in the ARG, joined the ships on 12 August, and the trio departed Mombasa on the 16th. They steamed to Jebel Ali, U.A.E, for a maintenance availability period with repair ship Jason (AR-8) that began on 25 August, with Fort McHenry rejoining the group two days later. Upkeep ended prematurely, however, when on 1 September, the ARG received orders to return to Africa. Arriving on station off Mogadishu, Somalia, on 8 September, Tripoli ARG and the 15th MEU (Special Operations Capable) (SOC) spent the next week in a state of readiness to evacuate personnel from the United States Liaison Office (USLO) during its relocation from Mogadishu to Nairobi, Kenya.

The USLO relocation mission ended on 15 September 1994 with no evacuations required by the Tripoli ARG. The ships steamed north and joined with the Omani military to conduct Sea Soldier IX off Oman (18–28 September), followed by Exercise Iron Magic 94-1 with forces from the United Arab Emirates (2–7 October). The latter exercise ended three days ahead of schedule when the ARG received orders to backload the marines training ashore and proceed quickly to the northern Persian Gulf, where on shore, Iraq was amassing troops near its border with Kuwait. Beginning on 9 October, the ships of Tripoli ARG assumed positions off Kuwait to deter further Iraqi aggression as part of Operation Vigilant Warrior. After nearly two weeks on station, for which the ships of the ARG received a Navy Unit Commendation, Cleveland received word to head for home on 20 October.

Cleveland made return visits to Jebel Ali (21–29 October) and Singapore (8–12 November) as well as Pearl Harbor (29 November–1 December) during her voyage back to the United States. On 8 December 1994, she anchored off Camp Pendleton to debark the 15th MEU and returned to San Diego the following day to enter the holiday leave and upkeep period immediately. She got underway again on 10 January 1995, sailing to Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach to offload ammunition. After returning to San Diego on the morning of the 13th, Cleveland entered Continental Maritime for overhaul on 23 January. She returned to Pier 6 at Naval Station San Diego on 20 April.

With her overhaul completed, Cleveland commenced local operations to prepare for both her next deployment as well as her upcoming InSurv examination, scheduled for the end of June 1995. From 22 May–2 June, the ship exercised off San Clemente Island, and from 6–9 June she loaded weapons at Seal Beach. After loading troops and equipment at Camp Pendleton (10–11 August), the amphibious transport dock departed San Diego in company with Valley Forge on 17 August. Bound for Hawaii, the ships arrived at Pearl Harbor on the 24th. During the disaster relief exercise Cooperation From the Sea 95 that began on 27 August, Cleveland sailed to Maunalua Bay with Valley Forge, salvage ship Salvor (ARS-52), and the Russian destroyer Admiral Panteleyev. It was the first time American and Russian forces exercised together in U.S. waters. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry visited Cleveland on 30 August, and the ship returned to Pearl Harbor that evening. On 1 September, Cleveland sailed in the International Parade of Ships off Waikiki commemorating the 50th anniversary of V-J Day and the end of World War II. She departed Hawaii on 6 September and arrived home at San Diego on the afternoon of the 14th. For the remainder of the year, Cleveland operated locally conducting individual ship’s training exercises.

USS Cleveland

Cleveland passes Diamond Head while taking part in a parade of ships during the 50th anniversary of V-J Day in celebration of the end of World War II, 1 September 1995. (U.S. Navy Photograph DN-SC-97-00776, PHCS Terry Cosgrove, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

During 1996, Cleveland worked through her interdeployment training cycle requirements to achieve operational readiness to deploy in October. Early in the year, the amphibious transport dock prepared for and conducted several major evaluations, including OPPE (5–7 March), Tailored Ship’s Training Availability (TSTA) III (11–15 March), and the final evaluation period (FEP) (19–21 March). The ship began an availability on 15 April to install improved communications equipment. Departing San Diego on 11 May in company with ARG flagship Essex (LHD-2) and dock landing ship Harpers Ferry (LSD-49), Cleveland sailed to Pearl Harbor with MSSG 11 from the 11th MEU and SEAL Team 3 Det Alfa embarked to take part in RimPac 96-2, a major multi-national exercise that included Canadian, Japanese, Chilean, Korean, and Australian forces. Returning to San Diego on 28 June, Cleveland continued to train with her ARG in the summer during FleetEx 96-2M (15–22 July) and JTFEx (8–19 August). During her pre-overseas movement period, the ship conducted a family cruise on 13 September and completed pre-deployment sea trials from 24–26 September.

Putting to sea with the Essex ARG on 10 October 1996, Cleveland commenced a six-month deployment to the Western Pacific and Persian Gulf. The ARG participated in amphibious exercise Kaula in Hawaii’s Pōhakuloa Training Area from 17–19 October. At the end of the exercise, Cleveland assisted in an ultimately unsuccessful search and rescue mission after a sailor from Harpers Ferry fell overboard. The ships next transited to Singapore via the Philippines, arriving at Sembawang Pier on 5 November for upkeep. Cleveland then visited Penang, Malaysia (12–20 November) before shaping a course across the Indian Ocean to the Middle East.

On 28 November 1996, Cleveland arrived in the Arabian Sea and joined with the ARG and units from the Omani military to begin Exercise Sea Soldier ’97 (1–8 December). The ship called at Muscat, Oman (10–11 December) after the exercise and then made her way to the Persian Gulf. From 14–18 December, Cleveland took part in Exercise Eastern Maverick ’97 with the ARG and forces from Qatar. She then sailed to Kuwait City to offload the 11th MEU for Eager Mace ’97-1, a month-long training exercise at Camp Doha with the Kuwaiti military. On the 21st, Vice Adm. Thomas B. Fargo, Commander, Fifth Fleet, visited the amphibious transport dock. Departing Kuwait City on 28 December, Cleveland conducted maritime interdiction operations (MIO) in the northern Gulf as part of Operation Vigilant Sentinel to enforce sanctions imposed upon Iraq by the United Nations.

After spending another week at Kuwait (5–11 January), Cleveland returned to the northern Persian Gulf. From 13 January 1997 until very early on the morning of the 19th, the amphibious transport dock carried out a non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) exercise off the coast of Kuwait. Later on the 19th, she returned to Kuwait City to backload her embarked troops from the 11th MEU returning from Exercise Eager Mace. Getting underway on 24 January, Cleveland, Essex, and Harpers Ferry called at Manama, Bahrain (26–30 January) before exiting the Gulf on 3 February and heading for Australia.

Cleveland spent 18–24 February 1997 at the western Australian city of Bunbury and then proceeded to the continent’s east coast to rejoin Essex at Sydney (3–10 March). The ships sailed to the Coral Sea for Tandem Thrust 97, a crisis response exercise conducted jointly with the Australian military through the 21st. At the conclusion of the exercise, the Essex ARG steamed for Hawaii. Crossing the equator at the International Date Line (180° longitude) shortly after midnight on the 28th, Cleveland held a special Crossing the Line ceremony later that day, with King Neptune bestowing the special status of Golden Shellback upon the ship’s crewmembers. Reaching Pearl Harbor on 1 April, the ARG embarked Tigers for the return trip to southern California. Cleveland paused off Camp Pendleton on 9 April to offload the 11th MEU and their cargo and arrived home at San Diego on the morning of the 10th.

After a month of post-deployment leave and upkeep, Cleveland got underway again on 12 May 1997. Stopping first at La Playa Pier to transfer fuel, she continued on to Seal Beach to offload ammunition and returned to Pier 10 on the 16th. The amphibious transport dock moved to Southwest Marine on 30 May, beginning a four-month overhaul that included a dry dock period from 27 July–22 September. She conducted sea trials on 29–30 October and returned to Naval Station San Diego, operating locally for the rest of the year.

Cleveland began 1998 with a shore intermediate maintenance activity (SIMA) availability and several assist visits through 8 February to prepare the ship for certification. In February, she completed requirements for TSTA I, and she spent the first three weeks of March in upkeep. Cleveland put to sea at the end of the month for Exercise Bright Victory (23–30 March), which also served as an underway evaluation for TSTA II. Cleveland finished TSTA II on 10 April, and for the rest of the month, the ship was in upkeep including a ten-day SIMA availability, during which workers commenced installation of the SPS-40E radar. Cleveland’s major evaluations concluded in early May with TSTA III and the final evaluation problem, and she spent the rest of the month in upkeep, including another SIMA availability from 15–29 May.

After stopping at Camp Pendleton to load LCUs on 1 June 1998, Cleveland proceeded to Seal Beach to load ammunition (2–4 June). Beginning Operation Alaskan Roads on the 5th, the amphibious transport dock continued up the West Coast for a port visit at Victoria, B.C., Canada (9–11 June) and then offloaded cargo at Annette Island, Alaska, on the 14th. After returning to San Diego on 20 June, Cleveland resumed her SIMA availability through the 30th. In early July, crews finished installing and testing the SPS-40E radar. On 13 July, Cleveland sailed for Hawaii with her ARG, the flagship Boxer (LHD-4) and Harpers Ferry, to take part in RimPac 98 with vessels representing ten nations. Returning to San Diego on 13 August, Cleveland and 12 other ships paraded along the San Diego waterfront for the city’s Fleet Week. The ship held upkeep through 5 October except for one underway period (14–25 September) with the ARG for FleetEx/SOCCEx (Special Operations Capable Certification Exercise). The Boxer ARG was underway again from 6–16 October for ARG certification, after which Cleveland completed her final certifications and preparations for deployment.

With elements of the 13th MEU (SOC), Navy SEALs, and a detachment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) embarked, Cleveland set off on a Mideast deployment with her ARG on 5 December 1998. The ship conducted amphibious training off Hawaii, stopped at Pearl Harbor (12–15 December), and then took part in Exercise Frequency Hunter (15–17 December). Continuing the westward transit of the Pacific, Cleveland passed near Iwo Jima and held a memorial service to honor the men who died there during World War II. Next enjoying a series of liberty ports, Cleveland rang in the new year at Hong Kong (30 December–1 January), called at Singapore (6–10 January), and then put in to Phuket, Thailand, on 13 January 1999.

Sailing for the Horn of Africa on 16 January 1999, Cleveland arrived on station on 23 January. The amphibious transport dock remained in the Gulf of Aden through the end of the month and spent most of February in the Red Sea. While steaming off the coasts of Eritrea and Djibouti, the ship maintained readiness to conduct non-combatant evacuation operations as long-standing tensions between Eritrea and Ethiopia threatened to erupt in violence due to conflicts over the location of their common border in several disputed areas. Cleveland was not called upon to make any evacuations, however, and on 24 February she charted a course to the Persian Gulf.

After transiting the Strait of Hormuz on 28 February 1999, Cleveland stopped off Bahrain on 1 March and then continued on to the northern Persian Gulf. From 4–7 March, she offloaded her marines at Kuwait for Exercise Eager Mace and then returned to Bahrain (9–13 March). For the next two weeks, the ship sent her embarked UAVs aloft to enforce the United Nations’ (U.N.) no-fly zones over Iraq and then backloaded her marines at Kuwait beginning on the 27th. Departing on 1 April, Cleveland took part in MIO Surge, conducting MIO operations in the northern Gulf to enforce U. N. sanctions against Iraq. The amphibious transport dock served as flagship of all MIO forces in the Gulf. One of Cleveland’s UAV’s discovered an Iraqi surface-to-surface missile site that was threatening coalition forces. Aircraft from Enterprise subsequently destroyed this site while the UAV transmitted live imagery back to Cleveland. On 11 April, the ship arrived at Jebel Ali, U.A.E., for a maintenance availability.

The Boxer ARG reassembled at Jebel Ali and departed together on 16 April 1999 to begin the return trip to San Diego. Stopping first at the island of Bali in Indonesia (29 April–3 May), the ships then headed for Australia, where Cleveland visited the city of Cairns from 11–15 May. Departing on the morning of the 16th, she rejoined the ARG during the transit to Hawaii. Crossing the equator at the International Date Line on 21 May, 450 Cleveland crewmen joined the exclusive ranks of the Golden Shellbacks. The ARG called at Pearl Harbor from 26–27 May and departed on the 28th with more than 50 family members and friends embarked for the Tiger Cruise to San Diego. Cleveland offloaded the marines and their equipment and embarked 25 additional Tigers off Camp Pendleton on the 4th, and on the morning of 5 June Cleveland returned home to the familiar sights of San Diego. She remained in post-deployment leave and upkeep status through the Independence Day holiday.

Getting underway again on 5 July 1999, Cleveland headed to Seal Beach to offload her ammunition. Upon her return to San Diego on 9 July, the ship prepared for her InSurv inspection (19–23 July). She entered Southwest Marine Shipyard on 28 July and began a two-month planned maintenance availability, which included the installation of a new rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) and its accompanying boat davit. Cleveland completed sea trials on 28–29 September and operated locally for the rest of the year.

In January 2000, Cleveland commenced her interdeployment training cycle, completing both phases of TSTA. On the 31st, Alaska Air Flight 261 plunged into the Pacific Ocean just north of Anacapa Island, Calif. The high-speed impact with the water destroyed the McDonnell Douglas MD-83 aircraft, instantly killing all 88 passengers and crew on board. From 1–8 February, Cleveland operated off Port Hueneme, Calif., serving as on-scene afloat coordinator to help the Coast Guard keep unauthorized vessels away from the crash scene. The search and recovery operation included several Navy and Coast Guard helicopters as well as the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), destroyer Fife (DD-991), and guided missile frigate Jarrett (FFG-33). Cleveland received the Coast Guard Commendation Ribbon with Operational Distinguishing Device as well as a Secretary of the Navy Letter of Commendation for her efforts during the salvage operation.

USS Cleveland

Cleveland off the coast of Port Hueneme, Calif., supporting search and recovery operations for Alaska Airlines Flight 261, February 2000. (U.S. Navy Photograph 000203-N-153C-002, PHCS Terry Cosgrove, Navy News Service)

Following her special tasking for the Alaska Airlines recovery mission, Cleveland resumed her training activities, completing her basic training in February and moving on to amphibious specialty training in April and May. From 15–23 May 2000, the amphibious transport dock took part in RimPac East 00, assuming the role of mine countermeasures (MCM) command ship for MCM Squadron 3. Cleveland supported various specialized MCM units, including three mine-detecting dolphins, which stayed in large pools in Cleveland’s well deck when not participating in RimPac activities. Cleveland spent much of the summer working with Marine Corps reservists, conducting a surface and air amphibious rehearsal and assault in support of the 25th Marines. From 7–11 August, she also served as flagship during Reserve Amphibious Orientation Training.

Sailing with the other members of her ARG, the flagship Boxer and Harpers Ferry, on 2 October 2000, Cleveland steamed to San Francisco for Fleet Week. During her visit from 7–9 October, the amphibious transport dock hosted more than 25 tour groups. After returning to San Diego on 13 October, the ARG began to test the ships’ ability to work together as a coordinated team during CompTuEx (30 October–9 November). From 11–15 December, the ARG completed TRUE at Sea, practicing amphibious assault beach landings.

Following holiday leave and upkeep through 7 January 2001, Cleveland got underway for FleetEx (8–19 January) during which the Boxer ARG and the Constellation (CV-64) battle group practiced joint operations in the southern California operating area. Later in the month, Cleveland held SOCCEx (29 January–9 February). As part of this exercise, embarked Navy SEALs practiced operational skills including visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) and gas and oil platform (GOPlat) takedowns, while the 11th MEU (SOC) conducted reconnaissance missions and beach assaults. After three and a half weeks of pre-deployment leave and upkeep, Cleveland was underway for Readiness for Sea, the ship’s last pre-deployment exercise, on 7–8 March.

On 14 March 2001, Cleveland put to sea in company with the Boxer ARG en route to the Persian Gulf by way of the western Pacific, embarking the 11th MEU (SOC) the following day. Arriving at Honolulu, Hawaii, on the 20th, the ARG completed a two-day force protection exercise followed by two days of liberty. Departing on 24 March, the ships made a quick stop for fuel at Darwin, Australia, and then continued on to East Timor [Timor-Leste]. From 9–11 April, the Boxer ARG conducted humanitarian assistance operations in the poverty-stricken nation. The ships delivered food and supplies on behalf of Project Handclasp, provided medical and dental care to local residents, and rebuilt two school buildings. Cleveland next steamed to Singapore for maintenance at Changi Naval Base (16–20 April) and then made a liberty call at Phuket, Thailand (22–26 April).

Departing Phuket on 27 April 2001, Cleveland transited the Indian Ocean, bound for the Middle East. The ship conducted MIO in the Persian Gulf from 5–8 May and then stopped at Bahrain from 8–10 May. Steaming north to Kuwait, Cleveland offloaded her MEU units from 10–17 May for Exercise Eager Mace with the Kuwaiti Army. The amphibious transport dock conducted MIO in the northern Gulf through the 25th while acting as “mother ship” for area MIO vessels. After backloading the marines at Kuwait, Cleveland had planned to hold a change of command ceremony at Bahrain, but an elevated force protection condition there caused the ceremony to be rescheduled to 29 May at Jebel Ali.

On 2 June 2001, Cleveland set course for the Red Sea. During Exercise Red Reef held in the vicinity of Juddah, Saudi Arabia, from 7–18 June, the Boxer ARG operated with units from the Saudi Navy while the 11th MEU trained ashore with the Saudi Royal Army. The ARG then transported the marines to Aqaba, Jordan, for Exercise Infinite Moonlight with the Jordanian Army. The MEU offloaded for the ten-day exercise on 21–22 June, but in response to a credible terrorist threat just one day later, the ARG reloaded all of the troops and their gear in less than 24 hours and evacuated the area. Cleveland then made her way back to the Persian Gulf and operated there from 1–17 July.

Following a stop at Bahrain (18–21 July), Cleveland began the lengthy trip back to the United States. She first made a return visit to Phuket from 1–5 August 2001 followed by nine days in port at Guam (15–23 August). Calling once again at Honolulu from 2–6 September, Cleveland embarked more than 100 Tigers for the transit to San Diego. Stopping off Camp Pendleton from 11–13 September to offload her contingent of marines, Cleveland reached San Diego on 14 September, concluding the six-month deployment.

Following a month-long post-deployment leave, upkeep, and training period, the ship operated locally for the rest of the year and into early 2002. Cleveland offloaded ammunition at Seal Beach from 11–14 February, and one week later, she steamed to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for a liberty visit (24–27 February). The amphibious transport dock arrived under tow at Southwest Marine San Diego on 20 March to begin a nine-week phased maintenance availability. During the extensive overhaul, jobs completed included removal of asbestos insulation, replacement of many valves and pumps in the engine rooms, powder coating of more than 50 watertight doors, installation of 13 new package air conditioning units, remodeling the wardroom, installing a new wood deck in the well deck, and repainting all ship spaces. Cleveland completed her yard period on 23 May and returned to Naval Station San Diego. On her first underway following refurbishment on 11–12 June, Cleveland lost her starboard anchor while conducting a drop test.

Cleveland spent most of the rest of 2002 completing various milestones of her interdeployment training cycle to prepare for her next deployment, scheduled for June 2003. Taking a break from her training requirements and assessments, in October the ship sailed to San Francisco to participate in the first Fleet Week (12–14 October) to take place since the September 11th terrorist attacks the previous year. From 5–7 November, Cleveland successfully completed her final evaluation problem. She was underway from 20–22 November for VBSS training and helicopter deck landing qualifications and loaded ammunition at Seal Beach from 2–5 December.

On Christmas Day 2002, the crew received word that Cleveland would deploy early, departing in less than one month as part of Amphibious Task Force West in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the fight against global terrorism. Departing for the Middle East on 17 January 2003, Task Force West also included Boxer, Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6), Dubuque, Comstock, Pearl Harbor (LSD-52), and Anchorage. Cleveland proceeded directly to Kuwait City, arriving on 24 February. Over the next week, she offloaded troops and equipment at the Kuwaiti Naval Base, all the while keeping vigilant watch for threats to the security of the task force.

USS Cleveland

Loaded with U.S. Marines and AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters, Cleveland heads to sea from San Diego in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, 17 January 2003. (U.S. Navy Photograph 030117-N-2069B-011, PH3 Gregory Badger, Navy News Service)

Departing Kuwait on 4 March 2003, Cleveland headed for the Gulf of Oman to monitor area shipping. However, while en route, her tasking changed, and she instead charted a course to the Mediterranean Sea. Transiting the Suez Canal on 15 March, Cleveland entered the Mediterranean for the first time very early the next morning. Reaching Augusta Bay, Italy, on 18 March, Cleveland embarked MCM Squadron 2, Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 15, and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 6. As the opening salvos of Operation Iraqi Freedom erupted in the Persian Gulf, the amphibious transport dock assumed the role of mothership to these Mediterranean minesweeping units. On 25 March, Cleveland sailed for the northern coast of Egypt in company with the squadron’s four mine countermeasures ships—Sentry (MCM-3), Devastator (MCM-6), Scout (MCM-8), and Chief (MCM-14). Through 16 April, the task force patrolled the northern approaches to the Suez by air and sea to protect regional maritime traffic from potential terrorist mining. Cleveland’s atypical assignment required her crew to develop novel operational procedures for tasks such as refueling the mine countermeasures ships and launching and recovering the MK 105 MCM sled from the stern of an amphibious transport dock. Cleveland received a Navy Unit Commendation for her efforts during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

With her return to Augusta Bay on 19 April 2003, Cleveland disembarked all of the mine countermeasures units, concluding her minesweeping role in the deployment. Her crew enjoyed a week of liberty in Sicily followed by a port visit at Split, Croatia (2–6 May). On 7 May, the ship sailed en route to Kuwait to embark marines, making the southbound transit of the Suez Canal on the 10th. Entering the Gulf of Oman on 15 May, Cleveland responded to a call for assistance from a merchant vessel under attack by pirates, but the vessel was able to repel the attempted boarding unassisted and Cleveland resumed her transit. Soon thereafter, the ship flew a Navy sailor from USCGC Jarvis (WHEC-725) to Cleveland for medical treatment, returning him that evening, fit for duty. Cleveland entered the Persian Gulf on 18 May and arrived at Kuwait Naval Base on the morning of the 20th.

After backloading the marines, Cleveland stood out from Kuwait on 27 May 2003 and rejoined Boxer, Bonhomme Richard, Dubuque, and Pearl Harbor. The task force transited the Strait of Hormuz on 30 May and sailed for Australia. One week later, Cleveland crossed the equator into the southern hemisphere, marking the occasion with the traditional rituals to appease King Neptune and cleanse the ship of its slimy pollywogs. The lengthy transit continued, with the task force ships sailing as a unit until they approached Australia’s eastern coastline, where they split up to visit several different ports. From 20–23 June, Cleveland called at Sydney and then sailed up the coast for a four-day visit to Cairns.

Cleveland departed Cairns on 2 July 2003 and set course for Hawaii. On 9 July, the ship held another Crossing the Line ceremony to initiate the crew as Golden Shellbacks after crossing the equator at the International Date Line. Following a stop at Pearl Harbor from 13–17 July, the amphibious transport dock steamed for San Diego. During the weeklong transit to the American mainland, 62 embarked Tigers got a taste of what their loved ones’ lives were like on board a Navy ship. On 24–25 July, Cleveland stopped at Camp Pendleton to offload the marines. The next morning, the amphibious transport dock and her task force companions Boxer, Bonhomme Richard, Pearl Harbor, and Dubuque concluded their deployment parading through San Diego Harbor into port where throngs of happy and relieved family members eagerly awaited their return.

USS Cleveland

Returning home after supporting U.S. and coalition forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Cleveland sails into San Diego Harbor on her way to her berth at Naval Station San Diego while her sailors man the rails, 26 July 2003. (U.S. Navy Photograph 030726-N-0226M-005, PHCS Mahlon K. Miller, Navy News Service)

Following a one month post-deployment leave and upkeep period, on 27 August 2003, Cleveland began an intermediate maintenance availability. Getting underway again on 15 September, the ship sailed for the northeastern Pacific. After a stop at Esquimalt Naval Base, near Victoria, B.C., Canada (19–23 September), she headed to the vicinity of Homer, Alaska, to conduct two days of helo deck landing qualifications with the 123rd Aviation Battalion. The amphibious transport dock called at Anchorage, Alaska, from 30 September–3 October and headed next to Santa Barbara, Calif. However, the ship received orders to steam instead to San Francisco, where from 9–13 October Cleveland served as Third Fleet flagship during the city’s Fleet Week festivities, which also included guided missile cruisers Shiloh (CG-67) and Mobile Bay (CG-53), guided missile destroyer Hopper (DDG-70), and guided missile frigate Thach.

USS Cleveland

Navy Blue Angels fly in formation above Cleveland during San Francisco Fleet Week, 12 October 2003. (U.S. Navy Photograph 031012-N-4010S-001, JO1 Ty Swartz, Navy News Service)

Cleveland returned to San Diego on 15 October 2003 and began a two-week upkeep period the next day. At the end of the month, wildfires raged unchecked in the area around San Diego, shutting down much of the city and disrupting the ship’s maintenance work for two days. After the availability concluded on 2 November, Cleveland conducted deck landing qualifications with the Air Force and well-deck operations with LCU-1666 from 3–7 November and hosted community business leaders from the Leaders to Sea program on a familiarization cruise from 17–21 November. Following Thanksgiving stand-down, she offloaded ammunition at Seal Beach from 1–5 December and began holiday leave and upkeep on 15 December.

On 7 January 2004, Cleveland began a docking planned maintenance availability at Southwest Marine Shipyard in San Diego. During the ten-month yard period, Cleveland was the first ship of her class to undergo major life extension repairs and rehabilitation, which included rewiring the ship’s 60 Hz electrical generation system, replacing the air conditioning and chill water systems, switching out many steam driven pumps with motor-operated pumps, and upgrading the communications and navigations systems. She conducted sea trials from 3–5 November, but recurring electrical issues necessitated additional repair work. However, Cleveland was still able to commence a new inter-deployment training cycle and achieve several certification milestones by year’s end.

For the first three months of 2005, Cleveland continued to operate locally while conducting training and assessments, culminating with the final evaluation problem from 28–29 March. After loading ammunition at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach (4–7 April), the ship steamed to Camp Pendleton for an amphibious exercise and onload of the 13th MEU. From 14–24 April, Cleveland took part in an Expeditionary Strike Group Exercise (ESGEx) with Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 1, consisting of flagship Tarawa (LHA-1) as well as Pearl Harbor and guided missile frigate Ingraham (FFG-61). Upon her return to San Diego on 25 April, Cleveland spent the next several days making final preparations for her InSurv inspection, which took place the first week of May. From 11–27 May, Cleveland participated in CompTuEx with ESG-1, including its additional member, the guided missile cruiser Chosin (CG-65). As a final rehearsal prior to deployment, the ESG took part in JTFEx from 9–20 June.

On 16 July 2005, Cleveland sailed from Naval Station San Diego to begin her deployment. After embarking the 13th MEU off Camp Pendleton, she steamed to Naval Station Pearl Harbor, arriving on 22 July. The ESG, now including the submarine Santa Fe (SSN-763), conducted an antisubmarine warfare exercise on 25–26 July with U.S. submarine Topeka (SSN-754) and destroyers Myoko (DDG.175), Makinami (DD.112), and Akebono (DD.108) of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force. The ESG then proceeded to the Philippines, where they conducted medical and dental humanitarian assistance operations at Tawi-Tawi Island (8–9 August). Following a week-long port visit at Darwin, Australia (15–21 August), Cleveland steamed across the Indian Ocean and into the Red Sea via the Bab al-Mandab Strait. The ESG transited the Suez Canal on 9 September and arrived off the northern coast of Egypt on the 10th, offloading the 13th MEU over the next two days. From 13–19 September, Cleveland participated in Operation Bright Star 2005, a multinational exercise held every other year to promote cooperation and interoperability amongst coalition forces operating in the Middle East. During the exercise, Cleveland made a port call at Rhodes, Greece (20–24 September) but returned to the area near Mubarak Military City in Egypt to serve as primary control ship for the exercise’s amphibious assault landing demonstration, which more than 20,000 people viewed from the beach.

USS Cleveland

Cleveland settles low in the water as her well deck floods prior to conducting amphibious operations in the Western Pacific Ocean, 5 August 2005. (U.S. Navy Photograph DN-SD-06-04301, PH1 Marvin Harris, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

After backloading her troops at the end of Bright Star, Cleveland transited the Suez Canal once again with ESG-1 on 1 October 2005 and steamed for the northern Persian Gulf. From 2–4 October, Cleveland took part in Operation Caribou, analyzing and mapping maritime traffic in the Red Sea. The ESG entered the Gulf on 9 October and the next day Cleveland arrived at the Kuwait Naval Base, where MEU offloading operations took place for the next four days. With the marines and their equipment ashore and en route to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Cleveland sailed to Manama, Bahrain, for a port visit (16–22 October). While at Bahrain, the amphibious transport dock loaded emergency humanitarian relief supplies for delivery to the victims of a devastating magnitude 7.6 earthquake that had struck the Kashmir region on the India-Pakistan border on 8 October. Cleveland departed on the 22nd, temporarily leaving the Gulf to transport her vital cargo to the disaster area. She arrived at Karachi, Pakistan, on 27 October and offloaded 280 tons of equipment and essential goods, including 37 pieces of heavy machinery, construction supplies, food, tents, cots, and blankets.

Departing Karachi on 28 October 2005, Cleveland next participated in Operation Flying Jib, a maritime security operation in the Gulf of Oman and northern Arabian Sea off the coasts of Iran and Pakistan. With the aim of protecting the seas for legitimate uses while hindering smugglers and terrorists from using the “Hash Highway” to launch attacks or to transport suspicious people or illegal materials, the ships of coalition Task Force 150—including Tarawa, Oscar Austin (DDG-79), French replenishment oiler Var (A.608) and frigate La Fayette (F.710), and Pakistani destroyer Badr (D.184)—monitored and queried vessels and conducted VBSS operations. Serving as the test platform for the Navy’s first unmanned aerial vehicle during this deployment, Cleveland used UAV Scan Eagle to help detect and observe maritime traffic in the area during Flying Jib through 13 November. Cleveland returned to the Persian Gulf and put in to Jebel Ali for a port visit from 14–18 November. Her next assignment took her off the coast of Somalia, Africa, from 22 November–9 December for Operation Foresail, an anti-piracy mission. Cleveland again employed Scan Eagle, flying the UAV more than 150 hours to monitor pirate activity. Scan Eagle also proved instrumental in revealing hidden pirate camps and the routes between them along the Somali coast.

Cleveland docked at Fujairah, U.A.E., on 13 December 2005 for a week-long maintenance period. She transited the Strait of Hormuz on 20 December, once again returning to the Persian Gulf. From the 21st–26th, she took part in Operation Sea Dragon in support of Commander Task Force 152, helping to maintain a strong coalition presence in the central and southern Persian Gulf. Then from 27–31 December, she stopped at Kuwait Naval Base to backload the 13th MEU returning from their mission in Iraq, sadly without nine of their fellow marines from BLT 2/1 who had been killed during operations ashore—Maj. Ray Mendoza, 1st Lt. Ryan McGlothlin, Cpl. Jeffry A. Rogers, Cpl. Joshua J. Ware, Cpl. John M. Longoria, Lance Cpl. Roger W. Deeds, Lance Cpl. John A. Lucente, Lance Cpl. Christopher M. McCrackin, and Lance Cpl. Christopher M. Poston.

Cleveland made one last stop in the Gulf at Jebel Ali from 4–7 January 2006 before commencing the journey home. The ship broke up the lengthy transit to San Diego with port calls at Singapore (19–20 January), Hong Kong (26–28 January), and Pearl Harbor (10–11 February), where Tigers embarked for the last leg of the trip. After offloading the 13th MEU at Camp Pendleton on 19 February, Cleveland returned home to San Diego on the morning of 20 February and remained in leave and upkeep status for the next month.

Putting to sea on 23 March 2006, Cleveland sailed north to Canada to conduct a special Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) project. Working with American and Canadian support ships in the Strait of Georgia at an underwater acoustic test range, the amphibious transport dock tested the AN/WSQ-11 Torpedo Defense System (“Super Nixie”), capable of detecting and classifying incoming torpedoes quickly so that appropriate countermeasures, including an anti-torpedo torpedo, could be initiated. Cleveland finished the prototype testing on 7 April and called at Esquimalt for four days of liberty at nearby Victoria (8–12 April). She then steamed to Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach to offload ammunition (17–20 April). Returning to San Diego on 21 April, the ship held a maintenance and hull cleaning availability through 5 June.

Cleveland carried out a busy schedule of underway operations during the summer of 2006. Her agenda included flight deck training, helicopter deck landing qualifications, amphibious exercises, the Leaders to Sea program, midshipmen summer training, testing of the prototype Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle), and a trip to San Francisco for the long Independence Day weekend (1–4 July). On 30 July while en route to Seattle, Cleveland responded to a medical emergency on board a nearby fishing vessel. On 2 August, Cleveland led the parade of ships into Seattle during that city’s Sea Fair celebration (1–6 August). The following day, the ship hosted more than 400 guests at an evening reception for the community. Attendees included Adm. Michael G. Mullen, Chief of Naval Operations, and Vice Adm. Barry M. Costello, Commander Third Fleet.

On 16 August 2006, Cleveland entered NASSCO Shipyard in San Diego and began a two-month phased maintenance availability. After sea trials on 17–18 October, the ship returned to Naval Station San Diego. She put to sea again on 20 October and headed to Manzanillo, Mexico. While in port from 26–29 October, members of the crew completed community relations projects and conducted ship tours in Spanish. Departing on 30 October, the amphibious transport dock carried out an exercise with the Mexican navy before returning to San Diego. In November and December, Cleveland completed three important underway assessments, beginning the training cycle for her next deployment. Continuing with underway training evolutions into the new year, she held her final evaluation period from 16–20 April 2007. A visit to the ship by NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr. as well as fellow driver Shane Huffman of the U.S. Navy-sponsored No. 88 car on 18 April invigorated crew morale in the midst of the demanding FEP.

Deployment preparation continued through the spring and summer of 2007. Cleveland loaded ammunition at Seal Beach in early May, held type training in June, and conducted midshipman summer training in July. From 30 July–6 August, Cleveland once again participated in Seattle’s Sea Fair, leading the parade of ships and hosting a reception for Vice Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, Commander Third Fleet. For the rest of the summer, Cleveland completed underway training exercises with her expeditionary strike group, led by flagship Tarawa and also including dock landing ship Germantown (LSD-42), guided missile cruiser Port Royal (CG-73), guided missile destroyer Hopper, and guided missile frigate Ingraham. From 17–26 August, Cleveland, Tarawa, and Germantown practiced amphibious operations together off Camp Pendleton. The ESG took part in CompTuEx from 7–21 September and then completed the final pre-deployment Certification Exercise (CertEx) from 1–11 October.

USS Cleveland

Cleveland transits Puget Sound during Seattle Seafair, 1 August 2007. (U.S. Navy Photograph 070801-N-3390M-002, MC2 Douglas G. Morrison, Navy News Service)

Over a five-day span beginning on 21 October 2007, more than two dozen wildfires started in southern California, with nearly a third of these in San Diego County. Drought conditions and strong Santa Ana winds contributed to the severity of the outbreak, with many fires spreading very rapidly in populated areas. An estimated 900,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes situated in the potential path of the raging flames and relocate to emergency shelters outside of the danger zones. Although Cleveland was in the midst of her pre-overseas movement stand down period, more than 30 members of her crew stepped up to respond to the crisis. The ship’s medical team offered basic health care services to elderly evacuees at a local high school, while other Cleveland sailors passed out emergency supplies to displaced area residents.

Cleveland departed for deployment on 5 November 2007 with Marine Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 11 embarked. During the transit west, the ESG took part in an Undersea Warfare Exercise (USWEX) off Hawaii. Following three days of sustainment training, the amphibious transport dock stopped at Guam (29 November–1 December). She then proceeded to the Indian Ocean via the Surigao and Balabac Straits through the Philippines, the Singapore Strait, and the Straits of Malacca. Cleveland spent 15–21 December in the Republic of the Maldives to conduct Coconut Grove, a joint exercise with the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF). The ship’s medical and dental teams also provided health care treatment to Maldivian citizens and training for local doctors. On 17 December, Cleveland welcomed to her decks the Hon. Robert Blake Jr., Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Republic of the Maldives, and the following day Brig. Gen. Moosa Ali Jaleel, MNDF Quick Reaction Force commanding general, visited the ship.

Continuing her journey to the Middle East, Cleveland headed northwest to the Arabian Sea. Transiting the Strait of Hormuz on 29 December, she entered the Persian Gulf and greeted the new year at Jebel Ali (30 December–1 January). On 5 January 2008, the amphibious transport dock arrived at Kuwait Naval Base where she offloaded her embarked marines. Cleveland then commenced her primary mission for the next two months, to train and operate with CTF 152 and coalition partners in the Gulf. For much of January, Cleveland operated in the southern Gulf off Abu Dhabi training crews of naval vessels from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates in VBSS operations and general naval proficiency. After a liberty call at Bahrain from 30 January–4 February, Cleveland spent the next two weeks exercising with the Bahraini navy in compliant boarding practices to help combat piracy and terrorism. After returning to Kuwait Naval Base (19–21 February) to backload the marines, the ship spent another week working with the Bahraini navy, followed by a port visit at Jebel Ali (5–8 March). From 9–18 March, the ship participated in Exercise Goalkeeper II with a group of Bahraini naval officers embarked. Upon completion of their training in small boat attack defense, oil platform defense, and VBSS operations, the Bahrainis assumed command of Task Force 152.

After a port call at Bahrain from 19–21 March 2008, Cleveland departed the Persian Gulf and steamed for the coast of the African nation of Djibouti, where from 27–30 March, the 11th MEU completed sustainment training. The ship then returned to the Gulf, touching at Kuwait Naval Base (12–13 April) and Bahrain (16–18 April). Exiting the Gulf via the Strait of Hormuz on 19 April, Cleveland commenced the voyage back to San Diego. She stopped for fuel at Darwin, Australia, on 1 May and then made her way to Brisbane for a week-long visit (9–15 May). On 26 May, she stopped at Pearl Harbor and embarked Tigers. After offloading the marines at Camp Pendleton on 2 June and embarking additional Tigers, Cleveland arrived at San Diego the next morning.

Following post-deployment leave and upkeep, Cleveland operated locally for the next three months. During the last week of August 2008, some of the ship’s crew travelled to Ohio to participate in community relations projects during Navy Week in the ship’s namesake city. On 8 October, the amphibious transport dock moved to Continental Maritime San Diego Shipyard for a two-month overhaul period. Returning to Pier 5 at Naval Station San Diego on 10 December, Cleveland remained in port into the New Year.

Returning to regular operations on 13 January 2009, Cleveland operated locally during the first half of the year as she completed training requirements and assessments in preparation for her next deployment. In July and August, Cleveland conducted integration exercises with the 11th MEU and her assigned ARG, consisting of Rushmore and the flagship Bonhomme Richard. She also took part in CompTuEx beginning 20 July. Sailing in company with Rushmore, Cleveland stood out for deployment on 18 September, arriving at Apra Harbor, Guam, on 5 October. The ships departed three days later with Bonhomme Richard, whose departure from San Diego had been delayed by nearly a week to address a last-minute repair issue with her engineering systems.

Detaching from their flagship on 11 October, Cleveland and Rushmore continued on to the Java Sea to participate in Marine Exercise (MarEx) 2009, a joint exercise with the Indonesian military that began on the 15th. During MarEx, medical and dental teams from the American ships went ashore to provide healthcare services to local residents, who were recovering from earthquakes that occurred two weeks earlier. Cleveland sailors and marines also delivered sanitary supplies from Project Handclasp and built chalkboards and desks for a local school in addition to repairing its roof. The ship hosted a delegation of 12 Indonesian military officials, civic leaders, and emergency services personnel on the 22nd. Cleveland and Rushmore next sailed to Singapore, arriving at Changi Naval Base on 28 October for a port visit. On the morning of 2 November, Cleveland and Rushmore steamed for the Indian Ocean via the Strait of Malacca, rejoining Bonhomme Richard on the 5th. The ARG in-chopped to Fifth Fleet on 10 November and operated in the Gulf of Oman and Persian Gulf through mid-December. Cleveland spent Christmas (20­–26 December) at Jebel Ali, U.A.E.

USS Cleveland

During operations in the Java Sea, a landing signalman on board Cleveland launches a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 166, 24 October 2009. (U.S. Navy Photograph 091024-N-3925A-002, MC1 Grant P. Ammon, Navy News Service)

After her brief holiday respite, Cleveland resumed maritime security operations in the Persian Gulf. From 10–13 January 2010, Cleveland served as the command and control platform for 22 ships representing five nations spread out over 900 square miles during Exercise Stakenet Plus. Conducted off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, the exercise focused on wide area maritime infrastructure protection. Moving to the northern Persian Gulf, the amphibious transport dock took part in another infrastructure defense exercise in the vicinity of Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal off the coast of Iraq on 16 February. Other participating units included guided missile destroyer Russell (DDG-59), coastal patrol ships Sirocco (PC-6) and Typhoon (PC-5), the U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat USCGC Adak (WPB-1333), British frigate Monmouth (F.235), and British royal auxiliary amphibious assault vessel RFA Cardigan Bay (L.3009).

The Bonhomme Richard ARG completed turnover with the Nassau (LHA-4) ARG on 1 March 2010 and began the lengthy voyage back to the United States. On 3 March, Cleveland and Rushmore arrived at Phuket, Thailand, for a port visit. The ARG left Hawaii on 7 April after a two-day call at Pearl Harbor (5–6 April), where Tigers embarked for the final leg of the voyage. Pausing off Camp Pendleton on 13 April to offload the 11th MEU and their equipment, Cleveland and her two ARG companions arrived back at Pier 6 at Naval Station San Diego the following morning. After nearly seven months away from home, Cleveland’s crew welcomed a month-long post-deployment leave and upkeep period.

Cleveland resumed operations on 24 May 2010, putting to sea for the large-scale amphibious exercise Dawn Blitz 2010. Working at times in company with Bonhomme Richard and Benfold (DDG-65) off San Clemente Island, Cleveland completed gunnery and amphibious exercises and returned to port on 28 May. Getting underway again on 1 June for the second half of Dawn Blitz, Cleveland participated in a coordinated amphibious landing at Camp Pendleton with Bonhomme Richard, Rushmore, New Orleans, Green Bay (LPD-20), and Germantown until 4 June. On the 17th, Cleveland steamed for Pearl Harbor to participate in RimPac 2010. The multi-national exercise from 23 June–1 August included units from Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Peru, France, and the Netherlands. During the exercise, Cleveland held a crew exchange with the Australian landing platform ship Kanimbla (L.51; ex-Saginaw LST-1188).

USS Cleveland

Cleveland departs Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to support Rim of the Pacific (RimPac) 2010 exercises, 6 July 2010. (U.S. Navy Photograph 100706-N-6854D-188, MC2 Jon Dasbach, Navy News Service)

Cleveland returned to San Diego in August 2010 and offloaded her ammunition at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach. In September, the ship commenced a two and a half month continuous maintenance availability (CMAV) at Naval Base San Diego. Work completed included resurfacing the flight deck, painting, refurbishment of berthing areas, and replacement of engineering equipment. Despite her recent refurbishment, in early 2011 Cleveland received word that her long and admirable career would come it its conclusion later in the year.

Prior to decommissioning, however, Cleveland would first complete one final special deployment as flagship for Pacific Partnership 2011. Conceived during the relief effort for the devastation wrought by the massive 26 December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Pacific Partnership is an annual humanitarian assistance deployment to the South Pacific and Southeast Asia led by the United States in collaboration with militaries, government entities, and relief organizations from the international community. By carrying out medical, engineering, agricultural, and other service projects in the region, the operation seeks to improve living conditions for residents of host countries while also promoting cooperation among partner organizations when responding to natural disasters.

USS Cleveland

Cleveland transits toward the Kingdom of Tonga to begin the first phase of Pacific Partnership 2011, 13 April 2011. (U.S. Air Force Photograph 110413-F-HS649-799, Tech Sgt. Tony Tolley, Navy News Service)

Cleveland stood out from San Diego on 21 March 2011 and headed to Pearl Harbor to embark elements of the Pacific Partnership team. During the course of the deployment, Cleveland would work with representatives of all branches of the U.S. military, including for the first time the Coast Guard, represented by cutter USCGC Jarvis in Tonga and buoy tender USCGC Sequoia (WLB-215) in Micronesia. International partners included the Australian heavy landing craft Balikpapan (L.126) and Betano (L.133) and New Zealand’s multi-role vessel Canterbury (L.421) with a French helicopter and associated crew embarked. Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, and Spain contributed additional support personnel. Although Japan was not able to send a ship as originally scheduled in the aftermath of that country’s destructive earthquake and tsunami on 11 March, a team of Japanese medical professionals did join the operation.

Steaming south from Hawaii at the beginning of April, Cleveland crossed the equator on the 9th. “During the Crossing the Line ceremony,” a Navy News Service article wryly noted, “all pollywogs were treated to a special breakfast, provided an opportunity to get some exercise, encouraged to participate in some group singing, and [got] a good dousing in salt water.” The ship’s itinerary took her to Tonga (12–24 April), Vanuatu (28 April–10 May), Papua New Guinea (19–31 May), Timor-Leste (14–25 June), and the Federated States of Micronesia (2–14 July). Over the course of three months, Cleveland’s sailors and marines contributed to and otherwise supported a variety of projects during Pacific Partnership, including medical, vision, dental, and veterinary clinics; construction and renovation of schools, community centers, sanitation facilities, and other structures; delivery of toys, books, toiletries, and various supplies on behalf of Project Handclasp; and many other community service projects.

USS Cleveland

Lance Cpl. Alonzo Aguilera, USMC, assigned to the amphibious transport dock ship Cleveland, moves educational supplies during a Pacific Partnership 2011 civic action project in Lae, Papua New Guinea, 23 May 2011. (U.S. Navy Photograph 110523-N-ZF681-514, MCSN Christopher Farrington, Navy News Service)

USS Cleveland

Military and civilian personnel participating in Pacific Partnership 2011 exit Cleveland’s well deck in LCU-1665 at sunrise at Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, 12 July 2011. (U.S. Navy Photograph 110712-N-KB563-015, MC2 Michael Russell, Official U.S. Navy Flickr Page)

Returning to San Diego from the Pacific Partnership deployment on 4 August 2011, Cleveland’s crew immediately set to work to ready the ship for her upcoming decommissioning. At that point, only the venerable frigate Constitution and the aircraft carrier Enterprise (CVN-65) could boast of careers longer than Cleveland’s more than 44 years of service. In a ceremony attended by hundreds of former crewmembers and several prior commanding officers, Cleveland was decommissioned on 30 September 2011 at Naval Base San Diego, Pier 9. On 5 October, fleet ocean tug USNS Sioux (T-ATF-171) steamed from San Diego with Cleveland in tow, bound for the Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility at Pearl Harbor, where the amphibious transport dock would be held in reserve.

USS Cleveland

Sailors man the rails as Cleveland returns to San Diego at the conclusion of her final deployment for Pacific Partnership 2011, 4 August 2011. (U.S. Navy Photograph 110804-N-KS651-097, MC2 Jason Behnke, Navy News Service)

USS Cleveland

Cmdr. Christopher J. Kipp, commanding officer of Cleveland, gives a final salute during the decommissioning ceremony for Cleveland at Naval Base San Diego, 30 September 2011. (U.S. Navy Photograph 110930-N-UM054-167, EMFN Yasmine Muhammad, Navy News Service)

Stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 13 November 2017, as of April 2020, the ship remains in the custody of the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Inactive Ships On-site Maintenance Office, Pearl Harbor. Her final disposition has not yet been determined.

In her 44 years of service, Cleveland received the following unit awards: Combat Action Ribbon (2), Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Navy Unit Commendation (2), Meritorious Unit Commendation (4), Navy Excellence Ribbon (8), Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (5), Vietnam Service Medal (23), Southwest Asia Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Secretary of the Navy Letter of Commendation, Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation—Gallantry (3), Coast Guard Unit Commendation Ribbon with Operational Distinguishing Device and Coast Guard Special Operations Service Ribbon.

Commanding Officer

Date Assumed Command

Capt. Robert A. Hogsed

21 April 1967

Capt. Isham W. Linder

31 July 1968

Capt. John L. Merrick

3 November 1969

Capt. John R. Dewenter Jr.

2 October 1970

Capt. William Beck Jr.

18 August 1971

Capt. Robert E. Kirksey

4 December 1972

Capt. Herbert A. Zoehrer

11 October 1973

Capt. James J. Ridge

2 May 1975

Capt. Richard J. Cavicke

19 August 1977

Capt. Charles H. Kinney

14 December 1978

Capt. Kent R. Siegel

18 July 1980

Capt. Roger B McPherson

22 December 1981

Capt. Barton E. Bacon III

2 December 1983

Capt. John A. Byers

7 December 1985

Capt. Richard S. Cloward

9 January 1988

Capt. Thomas E. Hopson

5 January 1990

Capt. George V. Galdorisi

18 March 1992

Capt. Thomas S. Fellin

12 July 1993

Capt. Larry W. Nelms

20 January 1995

Capt. Willie C. Marsh

8 November 1996

Capt. James A. Winnefeld Jr.

3 August 1998

Capt. Ronald W. Brinkley

16 December 1999

Capt. Lawrence S. Rice

29 May 2001

Capt. Robert W. Brown

15 November 2002

Capt. Michael B. Chase

11 August 2004

Capt. Francis R. McCulloch

27 January 2006

Capt. William J. Hart

14 August 2007

Capt. Kevin J. Couch

26 March 2009

Capt. S. Robert Roth

12 July 2010

Cmdr. Christopher J. Kipp

4 August 2011

Stephanie Harry

2 July 2018

Published: Wed Mar 08 11:55:04 EST 2023