Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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Harpers Ferry (LSD-49)


A historic site in West Virginia; a major federal arsenal established in 1796, that produced small arms for the armed forces. In 1859 John Brown and a band of fellow abolitionists seized the arsenal in the hope of fomenting and arming a slave rebellion. A force of U.S. marines under the temporary command of U.S. Army Col. Robert E. Lee defeated and captured Brown, who was then tried for treason, convicted, and hanged in nearby Charles Town. Located in a strategic position at the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, the town changed hands multiple times during the first two years of the Civil War. This is the first U.S. Navy ship to bear the name.

(LSD-49: displacement 11,604 (light) 16,601 (full); length 610’; beam 84’; draft 20’; speed 20+ knots; complement 419, 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; 2 Landing Craft, Air Cushion; flight deck for 2 rotary-wing aircraft; class Harpers Ferry).

Harpers Ferry (LSD-49) was laid down 15 April 1991 at Avondale Shipbuilding, New Orleans, La.; launched on 16 January 1993; sponsored by Mrs. Mimi R. Dailey, wife of General John R. Dailey, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps; and was commissioned at New Orleans on 7 January 1995, Cmdr. Charles P. Salsman in command.

Harper Ferry-Coat of Arms


From a wreath Or and Azure, a ship's wheel of the first bearing a fountain, all superimposed by two Civil War era muskets saltirewise Proper. Dark blue and gold are the colors traditionally associated with the Navy and symbolize the sea and excellence. Red and gold are the traditional Marine Corps colors. The chevron denotes movement, symbolizing the delivery ashore of ground troops. The battle-axe, denoting strength and battle-readiness, has two cutting edges to signify the prowess of both Harpers Ferry and the Marines she lands.


The ship's wheel and the fountain, heraldic symbols for water, refer to world- wide capabilities and transportation while highlighting the location and importance of the town of Harpers Ferry, the ship's namesake. The Civil War muskets indicate both the past and present Harpers Ferry while alluding to the history and heritage of the town.


The complete coat of arms emblazoned in full color upon a white oval enclosed by a blue collar edged on the outside with a continuous gold rope and inscribed at top "USS HARPERS FERRY" and in base "LSD-49," all in gold letters.


A United States Navy and a Marine Corps Officer's sword saltirewise points down Proper. The Navy and Marine Corps Officer's swords reflect the ship's mission and are crossed to denote cooperation, teamwork and strength.


A scroll Azure edged and inscribed "FIRST IN FREEDOM" in Gold.

Harpers Ferry- Mimi Dailey- Sponsor
The ship’s sponsor, Mrs. Mimi R. Dailey. (Avondale Industries, Incorporated Photo, Negative No. 93-01-78, donated to the U.S. Navy).
Harpers Ferry- Christening
The ship’s sponsor, Mrs. Mimi R. Dailey, christens Harpers Ferry at the Avondale Shipyard in New Orleans, La. on 16 January 1993. (Avondale Industries, Incorporated Photo, Negative No. 93-01-79, donated to the U.S. Navy).
Harpers Ferry- Launching- 16JAN1993
Launch of Harpers Ferry at the Avondale Shipyard in New Orleans, La. on 16 January 1993. (Avondale Industries, Incorporated Photo, Negative No. 93-01-80, donated to the U.S. Navy).

On 10 September 2002 Harpers Ferry arrived at U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo to relieve Germantown (LSD-42) among the forward deployed amphibious force of Commander, Amphibious Group One. Following the hull swap and a year of successful operations and inspections, Harpers Ferry earned the Battle "E" Efficiency Award for 2002.

Harpers Ferry- Aussies fast-rope onto flight deck-4Nov2004-041104-N-4772B-058
Boarding team members from Australian frigate Adelaide (FFG.01) fast rope from an S-70B-2 Seahawk onto Harpers Ferry’s flight deck during an exercise while deployed to the North Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, 4 November 2004. (Journalist 2nd Class Brian P. Biller, U.S. Navy Photograph 041104-N-4772B-058, Photos).

On 13 March 2010 Sailors from Harpers Ferry participated in a visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) drill with a Philippine Navy Special Warfare Group on board Philippine logistics support vessel Dagupan City (LC-551). During the exercise, Dagupan City played the role of a non-compliant ship. The two VBSS teams used rigid hull inflatable boats to come along side Dagupan City, attaching hook ladders to climb up to the ship's deck. Once on board, the six-man team from Harpers Ferry checked crew and cargo manifests for irregularities, interviewed Filipino Sailors, and searched the ship for contraband. The exercise was part of Balikatan 2010, an annual exercise designed to improve interoperability between the United States and the Philippines.

On 26 March 2010, South Korean corvette Cheonan (PCC-772) suffered an explosion believed to be caused by a torpedo split and sank. The ship was recovered in April by South Korean and USN ships to include Harpers Ferry, along with guided missile cruiser Shiloh (CG-67) and salvage ship Salvor (T-ARS-52). Harpers Ferry served as the U.S. afloat staging base for the salvage and recovery operation.

Harpers Ferry- AAV entering the well deck-31Mar2014-140331-N-TQ272-892
Marines drive an amphibious assault vehicle into the well deck of Harpers Ferry during Exercise Ssang Yong, the joint exercise with the Republic of Korea, 31 March 2014. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark El-Rayes, U.S. Navy Photograph 140331-N-TQ272-892, Photos).

Naval and merchant maritime experts partnered together to deliver enhanced maritime domain awareness for the first time in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2018. An annual international maritime exercise, RIMPAC 2018 involved 46 ships, five submarines, about 200 aircraft, and nearly 25,000 people from 25 nations, who carried out training scenarios across the Eastern Pacific from southern Californian to Hawaiian waters (27 August–2 August 2018).

Harpers Ferry took part in the exercise, and worked closely with Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 14, which conducted airborne mine countermeasure operations off southern California as part of Combined Task Force 177. The squadron flew Sikorsky MH-53E Sea Dragons to detect and sweep mines, and supported diving operations for multiple evolutions. HM-14 coordinated their flights with the ship, Mine Countermeasures Squadron 3, and Mine Countermeasures Division 31. Allied sailors that joined the mine warfare training with Harpers Ferry and those commands included Canadian coastal defense vessel Whitehorse (MM.705), the Royal New Zealand Navy Clearance Diving Team, Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit, and the Royal Netherlands Navy Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Unit.

Awards, Citations, and Campaign Ribbons:

Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation
Navy Battle "E" Ribbon (4)
National Defense Service Medal
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (3)

Detailed history pending.

Christopher B. Havern Sr.
20 October 2015

Updated by Mark L. Evans
2 August 2018

Published: Thu Aug 02 09:40:21 EDT 2018