The fifth U.S. Navy ship to carry this historic name. The first, a man-of-war, was named for town and county in Massachusetts and was launched on 30 September 1799. She fought against Barbary pirates in the Tripolitan War and against the British in the War of 1812. In her final battle, for two hours, Essex resisted the enemy’s superior fighting power, but the loss of 155 men forced the gallant frigate to surrender. The second, an ironclad steamer, fought on the western rivers during the Civil War. The third, a wooden screw steamer commissioned at the Boston Navy Yard on 3 October 1876, was ultimately designated a training ship, and was stricken from the Navy List on 27 October 1930 and subsequently sold. The fourth Essex (CV-9) was launched 31 July 1942. She received the Presidential Unit Citation, and 13 battle stars for World War II service; 4 battle stars and the Navy Unit Commendation for her Korean War service.
(LHD-2: displacement 27,803 (light) 41,684 (full); length 844'; beam 106'; draft 28'; speed 20+ knots; complement 1,070; troop capacity 1,687 (+184 surge); armament 2 RAM launchers; 2 NATO Sea Sparrow launchers; 3 20mm Phalanx CIWS mounts; 4 .50 caliber machine guns; 4 25 mm Mk 38 machine guns; aircraft: 12 CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters; 4 CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters; 6 AV-8B Harrier attack aircraft; 3 UH-1N Huey helicopters; 4 AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter (planned capability to embark MV-22 Osprey VTOL tilt-rotors) and F-35B Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) STOVL aircraft). landing/attack craft 3 Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) or 2 Landing Craft, Utility (LCU); class Wasp.
The fifth Essex (LHD-2) was laid down on 20 March 1989 at Pascagoula, Miss. by Ingalls Industries Incorporated Shipyard; launched on 4 January 1991; sponsored by Mrs. Lynne Cheney, wife of Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney; commissioned on 17 October 1992, Capt. Ronald V. Berg in command.
Essex christening ceremony at Pascagoula, Miss., 16 March 1991. (Ingalls Shipbuilding Incorporated Photograph donated to the U.S. Navy-DN-SN-92-03706)
Essex christening party (left to right), Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney; Elizabeth Cheney and Mary Cheney, Maids of Honor; Lynne Cheney, Sponsor, 16 March 1991. (Ingalls Shipbuilding Incorporated Photograph donated to the U.S. Navy-DN-SN-92-03714)
Lynne Cheney christening Essex, 16 March 1991. (Ingalls Shipbuilding Incorporated Photograph donated to the U.S. Navy)
Essex underway during sea trials, circa mid-1992. (Ingalls Shipbuilding Incorporated Photograph donated to U.S. Navy Photograph NH 107660-KN from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command)
On 7 January 1995, Lt. Gen. Anthony Zinni, USMC, Commanding General, First Marine Expeditionary Force assembled a combined task force (CTF). The ships of this task force included Essex (command and control ship), amphibious transport dock Ogden (LPD-5), dock landing ship Fort Fisher (LSD-40), amphibious assault ship Belleau Wood (LHA-3), guided missile cruiser Lake Erie (CG-70), and ammunition ship Kiska (AE-35). Coalition forces from Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh also served on the task force under Lt. Gen. Zinni. On 7 February the CTF arrived on station off Mogadishu, Somalia, in preparation for evacuating United Nations in Somalia II assets from Mogadishu (Operation United Shield). On 27-28 February a landing was conducted to secure the Mogadishu International Airport and the port facilities. UNOSOM II personnel began evacuating on 28 February. By 3 March all UNOSOM II and landing personnel were withdrawn. ON 6 March all CTF units began redeployment to their home stations and the CTF was disestablished on 17 March.
Essex underway off the coast of Dili, East Timor, 31 October 2001. (Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Michael B. Lewis, U.S. Navy Photograph 011031-N-9815L-002, Navy.mil Photos)
On 12 March 2002, the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) constituting Essex, dock landing ships Germantown (LSD-42) and Fort McHenry (LSD-43), and amphibious transport dock Juneau (LPD-10) with the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), visited Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands, and took part in the 57th Anniversary Commemoration of the Battle of Iwo Jima. On 23 March, Essex with the embarked Marines from the 31st MEU conducted a mock amphibious assault as part of Exercise Foal Eagle, a joint exercise with armed forces from the Republic of Korea.
As part of a surge deployment in August 2004, the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), with the 31st MEU embarked, sailed from U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo, Japan, for the Persian Gulf to conduct maritime security operations and maritime interception operations. The Essex ARG arrived in the Persian Gulf on 9 September. While on station, Essex provided security to the Al Basrah and the Khawr Al Amaya oil terminals in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terrorism. On 10 September 2004 Essex successfully embarked the Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 3 staff from Belleau Wood (LHA-3) during an at-sea cross deck, this officially activated the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG). Essex served as the flagship for Commander, Amphibious Squadron (PhibRon) 11.
Following the 26 December 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, Essex and Helicopter Mine-Countermeasures Squadron 15 personnel from Bahrain were called upon to assist Combined Support Force 536 in Operation Unified Assistance which provided disaster relief and humanitarian assistance to the tsunami victims in Indonesia. In eight days, the amphibious assault ship moved more than a million pounds of humanitarian aid and relief supplies to survivors on Sumatra, Indonesia using helicopter and Air Cushion Landing Craft support in addition to manual labor. In sum, Essex delivered nearly six million pounds of supplies.
In the wake of Unified Assistance, Essex returned to the Persian Gulf and rejoined Juneau and dock landing ship Harpers Ferry (LSD-49). On 28 February 2005, those ships began re-embarking the 31st MEU and their equipment for the return transit to the Seventh Fleet area of operations. In addition to the amphibious operations conducted during the deployment, Essex also provided high-level medical care and served as the premier hospital ship, with embarked fleet surgeons from Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 7.
The Forward-Deployed Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) consisted of Essex, Juneau, Harpers Ferry, Fort McHenry, elements from the 31st MEU, as well as embarked personnel from Amphibious Group 1, PhibRon 11, Assault Craft Units 1 and 5, Beachmaster Unit 1, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5, Helicopter Combat Squadron (HC) 5 and FST 7. While en route, the ARG disembarked the 31st MEU people and equipment at White Beach, Okinawa, and later returned to Sasebo on 6 April 2005.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld receives honors as he crosses the quarter deck of Essex at Changi Naval Base, Singapore, on 4 June 2004. (Photographer's Mate Airman Travis M. Burns. U.S. Navy Photograph 040604-N-8801B-002, Navy.mil Photos)
On 17 February 2006 the Forward Deployed ARG, Essex, Harpers Ferry, and the guided missile destroyer Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54), with embarked elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), reached Subic Bay, Philippines, for Exercise Balikatan 2006. Two days later, on 19 February, the Forward Deployed ARG arrived on station off the coast of southern Leyte to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief for victims of a mudslide there. The Forward Deployed ARG completed its mission on 28 February and departed Leyte.
On 16 May 2012 Essex, Capt. Chuck Litchfield, commanding, collided with the Military Sealift Command-manned USNS Yukon (T-AO 202) off southern California. There was no damage to fuel tanks reported, and no fuel spilled at sea. No injuries were reported from either ship. The underway replenishment was part of normal ship operations for both vessels and was in preparation for Essex’ scheduled return to San Diego, after completing twelve years as the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship in Sasebo, Japan. Essex arrived at San Diego Naval Station on 17 May. After an investigation, Rear Adm. Gerard Hueber, Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 3, relieved Capt. Litchfield of command on 18 June, due to loss of confidence in his ability to command.
Essex (LHD 2) transits in formation with the French Marine Nationale Frigate FS Cassard (D-614) during an interoperability exercise in the Arabian Gulf, 9 October 2015. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Bradley J. Gee, U.S. Navy Photograph 151009-N-IC565-134, Navy.mil Photos)
The Essex Amphibious Ready Group, comprising Essex, amphibious transport dock Anchorage (LPD-23), and dock landing ship Rushmore (LSD-47), deployed from San Diego to the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans on 10 July 2018. Capt. Gerald R. Olin, Commander, Amphibious Squadron 1, broke his flag in Essex as the commodore in command of the group, which embarked the 13th MEU, including Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 166. The sailors and marines took part in a number of exercises during the voyage, including Rim of the Pacific and Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training.
Essex reported Cpl. Jonathan Currier, USMC, missing while the ships sailed across the Sulu Sea on 9 August 2018. A native of New Hampshire, Currier served with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361 out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., and deployed as a crew chief on board a Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion of VMM-166. He enlisted in August 2015; graduated from Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Paris Island, S.C., that November; and completed School of Infantry at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Aviation and A&C School in Pensacola, Fla., and Center for Naval Aviation Training in Jacksonville, N.C. The group and the Philippines Coast Guard carried out an extensive search (9–13 August) covering an area of nearly 13,000 square miles, launching more than 110 aerial sorties of 300 flight hours, across the Sulu Sea, Mindanao Strait, and the Surigao Strait. Despite the massive search, however, they failed to recover the man, and on the 17th the Marine Corps announced him as deceased.
“Our hearts go out to the Currier family,” Col. Chandler S. Nelms, USMC, commanding officer of the 13th MEU, said. “Cpl. Currier’s loss is felt by our entire ARG/MEU family, and he will not be forgotten.”
The vessels visited various ports during their deployment and Essex put in to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, on 19 August, and five days later Anchorage stood in to Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. The trio of ships patrolled the Indian Ocean littoral (4–24 September), operating in support of the Fifth Fleet to ensure maritime stability and security in that region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points.
They then came about from the Gulf of Aden and made for the Northern Arabian Sea, where Essex, while steaming in international waters on the morning of 27 September 2018, launched Lockheed Martin F-35B’s of VMFA-211 that flew the first U.S. Lightning II combat strike. The jets roared in against Taliban militants in Afghanistan and struck a fixed target “in support of ground clearance operations,” according to a Naval Forces Central Command (NavCent) statement that afternoon, which further claimed that the strike appeared successful.
“The F-35B is a significant enhancement in theater amphibious and air warfighting capability, operational flexibility, and tactical supremacy,” Vice Adm. Scott A. Stearney, Commander, NavCent, said. “As part of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group, this platform supports operations on the ground from international waters, all while enabling maritime superiority that enhances stability and security.”
“The opportunity for us,” Col. Nelms reflected, “to be the first Navy, Marine Corps team to employ the F-35B in support of maneuver forces on the ground demonstrates one aspect of the capabilities this platform brings to the region, our allies, and our partners.”
Awards, Citations and Campaign Ribbons
Navy Battle "E" Ribbon (7)
National Defense Service Medal
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (2)
Southwest Asia Service Medal (2)
Humanitarian Medal (Operation Unified Assistance, Tsunami Relief 2005)
Sea Service Deployment Medal
Overseas Service Medal (10)
Detailed history under construction.
Christopher B. Havern Sr.
3 November 2015
Updated by Mark L. Evans
28 September 2018