Historic site in Virginia; home of Founding Father, George Mason, who is often referred to as the “Father of the Bill of Rights.” This is the second ship to bear the name. The first (LSD-5) was commissioned in 1943 and took part in three wars, earning nine battle stars for service in World War II, seven in the Korean War and nine in the Vietnam War. The ship also earned a Meritorious Unit Commendation for actions in 1969-1970.
(LSD-44: displacement 11,332 (light) 16,581 (full); length 610’; beam 84’; draft 21’; speed 20+ knots; complement 378, troop capacity 402 (504 surge); armament 2 25mm MK 38 Machine Guns, 2 20mm Phalanx CIWS mounts, 6 .50 cal. machine guns; 2 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Mounts; 4 Landing Craft, Air Cushion or 21 Landing Craft, Mechanized-6; flight deck for 2 rotary-wing aircraft; class Whidbey Island).
Gunston Hall (LSD-44) was laid down on 26 May 1986 at Avondale Shipbuilding, New Orleans, La.; launched on 27 June 1987; sponsored by Mrs. Thomas R. Morgan, wife of Gen. Thomas R. Morgan, USMC, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps; and commissioned on 22 April 1989, Comdr. John P. Jeffcoat in command.
Quarterly Azure and Argent, a cross Gules, all within a bordure quartered Argent and Azure charged with nine mullets counterchanged. The colors of the shield are taken from the Coat of Arms of George Mason, Revolutionary owner of Gunston Hall. The Red Cross, from the flag of England, reflects his country of origin and source of the name Gunston. The border of nine stars represents the nine battle stars earned for World War II and the nine battle stars earned in the Korean War. The Red Cross also refers to Operation "Crossroads", the 1946 series of atomic bomb tests in which Gunston Hall participated at Bikini Atoll. White, symbolizing high ideas and virtue, exemplifies the part the Gunston Hall played in the U.S. Navy's humanitarian efforts in 1955 to evacuate almost 800,000 refugees from North to South Vietnam, Operation Passage to Freedom.
On a wreath, Argent and Azure, a sea lion erect Azure langued Gules charged on the neck with a torteau fimbriated Or and grasping in its paws an open parchment scroll Proper, issuing from an embattled tower of the like charged with a fleur-de-lis Gules and in front of a grassy knoll also Proper. The sea lion, taken from the device of the first Gunston Hall, represents her and recalls her long and distinguished service. The torteau refers to the World War II Pacific actions against Japan and the threat of Kamikaze attacks. The motto "DEFENDING THE CONSTITUTION" is referred to by the parchment in the sea lion's grasp, recalling also the Bill of Rights which was based on Virginia's Declaration of Rights, authored by George Mason. The tower refers to Gunston Hall estate and the security provided by the modern Dock Landing Ship. The red fleur-de-lis is adapted from George Mason's Coat of Arms. The grassy knoll stands for the land of Virginia and is canting reference to the functions of Gunston Hall, i.e., it is an all allusion to the "landing" ship.
The coat of arms emblazoned upon a White oval enclosed by a Blue collar edged on the outside with Gold rope and inscribed with the words "USS GUNSTON HALL" above and "LSD 44" below in Gold letters.
A scroll Azure doubled and inscribed "DEFENDING THE CONSTITUTION" in Gold.
Gunston Hall deployed in support of Operation Allied Force NATO’s peacekeeping effort in Kosovo. On 10 June 1999 she landed elements of 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit at Litohoro, Greece. After forming up the Marines then moved to a forward support base in Macedonia.
Amphibious Assault Vehicles disembark from Gunston Hall bound for the beach on 10 June 1999. (Journalist 2nd Class John Harrington U.S. Navy Photograph 990610-N-0000H-001, Navy.mil Photos).
Gunston Hall deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as a key platform in the Mine Countermeasures mission. She worked in conjunction with Ponce (LPD-15), Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 14 "Vanguards" and Commander Task Unit 55.4.3 to clear underwater mines from the Khawar Abd Allah River and the port of Umm Qasr, Iraq. Gunston Hall played a unique role by housing marine mammals (dolphins) trained to hunt for naval mines.
Signalman 2nd Class Diver Harold Bickford, a mammal handler from Commander Task Unit 55.4.3, brushes the teeth of a bottle nose dolphin in the well deck on board Gunston Hall, 17 March 2003. (Photographers Mate 1st Class Brien Aho, U.S. Navy Photograph 030317-N-5319A-015, Navy.mil Photos).
Members of the Dive Platoon crew from Commander Task Unit 55.4.3 launch their dive boats from the well deck of Gunston Hall operating in the Arabian Gulf, 17 March 2003. (Photographers Mate 1st Class Brien Aho. U.S. Navy Photograph 030317-N-5319A-013, Navy.mil Photos).
Gunston Hall conducting operations in the Persian Gulf during Exercise Nautical Union, 19 July 2005. (Photographer's Mate 1st class Robert R. McRill, U.S. Navy Photograph 050719-N-5526M-001, Navy.mil Photos).
On 1 January 2008 Gunston Hall, as part of the Kearsarge Strike Group returned to the Sixth Fleet area of operations in the Mediterranean Sea after transiting the Suez Canal. In addition to Gunston Hall, the constituents of the Kearsarge Strike Group included Kearsarge (LHD-3), Porter (DDG-78), Carr (FFG-52), Ponce (LPD-15), and Miami (SSN-755)
In July 2008 Gunston Hall began her comprehensive midlife modernization refit at Metro Machine Corp. in Norfolk, Va. This included major upgrades to the ship's control system, local area network and machinery control system, propulsion systems, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, as well as replacement of the ship's boilers and evaporators with an all-electric services system. On 21 May 2009 Gunston Hall successfully completed sea trials and became the first dock landing ship in the Navy to complete the midlife refit.
On 12 January 2010 a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti. In response the Navy dispatched Gunston Hall from Little Creek Amphibious Base, Little Creek, Va. on 15 January and arrived off the Killick Haitian Coast Guard Base on 18 January. As part of Operation Unified Response the ship providing military support to civil authorities in order to stabilize and improve the situation in Haiti. Following this humanitarian mission, Gunston Hall departed Haitian waters on 12 February to conduct operations off Africa in support of Africa Partnership Station West. Gunston Hall served as the flagship for Africa Partnership Station West to improve maritime safety and security with African Coastal nations including conducting small boat operations; maritime domain awareness; fisheries management; and visit, board, search, and seizure tactics training with maritime forces from Nigeria, Ghana, and Sao Tome and Principe. Embarked Seabees constructed a breakwater jetty, installed floating piers, constructed additions and renovated barracks side-by-side with host-nation military engineers in Cameroon and Liberia.
Gunston Hall departs Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story on 15 January 2010 to conduct humanitarian assistance in Haiti. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian Goodwin U.S. Navy Photograph 100115-N-6764G-110, Navy.mil Photos).
On 8 February 2014 Gunston Hall, as part of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group departed Naval Station Norfolk along with Bataan (LHD-5) and Mesa Verde (LPD-19) on an eight-month deployment also embarked with these ships was the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.
While in the Gulf of Aden, an MV-22 Osprey lands on the flight deck of Gunston Hall) as part of a deck landing qualification, 22 April 2014 (Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jesse A. Hyatt, U.S. Navy Photograph 140422-N-XJ695-410, Navy.mil Photos).
Awards, Citations, and Campaign Ribbons
Navy Unit Commendation
Navy Battle "E" Ribbon (7)
National Defense Service Medal
Southwest Asia Service Medal
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Armed Forces Service Medal (10)
Detailed history under construction.
Christopher B. Havern
8 October 2015