The fourth U.S. Navy ship named Kearsarge. The first was named for the mountain in Merrimack County, N.H.; the first ship thus named, a Civil War-era sloop of war famous for defeating the Confederate raider CSS Alabama off Cherbourg, France in 1864; the second was so-named to commemorate the service of the first, the victor over Alabama, and that turn-of-the-century battleship (Battleship No. 5) sailed as part of President Theodore Roosevelt's “Great White Fleet.” The third was an aircraft carrier (CV-33), received two battle stars for her Korean War service, and later received international renown for her part in the Project Mercury space program.
(LHD-3: displacement 28,078 (light) 41,684 (full); length 847'; beam 106'; draft 28' ; speed 20+ knots; complement 1,204; 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 fourth Kearsarge (LHD-3) was laid down on 6 February 1990 at Ingalls Industries Incorporated Shipyard, Pascagoula, Miss.; launched on 26 March 1992; sponsored by Mrs. Alma Powell, wife of General Colin L. Powell, US Army (Retired), former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ; commissioned at Pascagoula on 16 October 1993, Capt. David J. Montgomery in command.
Blue and gold are colors traditionally associated with the Navy and symbolize the sea and excellence. The green chevron suggests the green-peaked Mount Kearsarge in New Hampshire. The amphibious nature of the combat operations of the present Kearsarge is represented by green and blue, alluding land and sea. The arrowheads, together with the white chevronel, which represents a shore line, allude to assault landings. The stars commemorate the battle stars the third Kearsarge received for Korean War and Vietnam War service.
The wings of the crest symbolize the aviation capabilities of both the present and the third Kearsarge; they are gold for the honor and achievement. The white anchor recalls the round the world cruise of the second Kearsarge of the Great White Fleet in 1907 and denotes the naval prowess of the Kearsarges. The blue and gray wavy bar highlights the Civil War service for the first Kearsarge.
The swords, one a U.S. Navy cutlass and the other a U.S. Marine mameluke, are crossed to denote cooperation and teamwork as well as the combined combat mission of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.
“PROUD -- TRUSTWORTHY—BOLD”
Kearsarge sponsor, Alma Powell (Ingalls Shipbuilding Photograph donated to U.S. Navy)
Ship’s sponsor Alma Powell christens Kearsarge, 26 March 1992. (Ingalls Shipbuilding Photograph donated to U.S. Navy).
Kearsarge departed for her maiden deployment on 22 March 1995. Kearsarge served as the primary platform for the rescue of “Basher 52,” USAF Captain Scott O'Grady, after he was shot down over Bosnia. After the deployment, Kearsarge served as the primary Navy unit participating in the 1995 New York City Veteran’s Day activities, which marked the nation’s final tribute for the 50th Anniversary of the end of World War II.
Kearsarge began her second deployment on 15 April 1997. On 2 May 1997 she relieved Nassau (LHA-4) on station off the coast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) in support of Operation Guardian Retrieval. Kearsarge was later directed to Freetown, Sierra Leone to conduct Non-combatant Evacuation Operations in support of Operation Noble Obelisk. On 31 May, she began evacuating American citizens and foreign nationals from Sierra Leone. During the four-day operation, Kearsarge evacuated more than 2,500 Americans and foreign nationals from more than 40 countries.
On 17 April 1999, Kearsarge embarked on her third deployment. Performing a turnover with the Nassau (LHA-4) ARG while underway, Kearsarge made best speed to the Adriatic Sea where she performed various operations off the coast of Kosovo, including Operation Noble Anvil/Allied Force and establishment of Camp Hope in Fier, Albania. On 7 June, Operation Joint Guardian began. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Special Operations Capable (SOC), was off-loaded on 10 June across Litokhoron Beach, Greece, for movement to Skopje, Macedonia. These U.S. Marines were the first peacekeeping force to enter Kosovo. Immediately following, Kearsarge was ordered to Izmit, Turkey, to provide support after the nation experienced a devastating earthquake that killed 12,000 people.
A landing craft, air cushion returns to Kearsarge off the coast of Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, during Joint Task Force Exercise 99-1, 18 February 1999. (CWO2 Seth Rossman, U.S. Navy Photograph 990218-N-9593R-002, Navy.mil Photos).
On 25 April 2001, Kearsarge began her fourth deployment, where the ship hosted the annual USO Gala in Naples, Italy, participated in several large amphibious operations (Trident D'Or, Alexander the Great, and the Albanian PHIBLEX), and provided support to President George W. Bush during the G-8 Summit in Genoa, Italy. Kearsarge was underway in the Mediterranean Sea on 11 September 2001 as al-Qaeda terrorists attacked New York and the Pentagon. During that deployment, Kearsarge visited 12 ports in seven different countries. Kearsarge returned home on 15 October 2001.
On 8 January 2002, Kearsarge entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard for a Planned Maintenance Availability (PMA) that ended on 25 April of that year. In July, Kearsarge made a port visit to Boston to participate in the annual Harborfest celebration over the 4 July holiday. On 10 October Kearsarge participated in an exercise in the Gulf of Mexico to prove that multipurpose amphibious assault ships could conduct minesweeping operations.
Kearsarge deployed on 12 January 2003 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom with only 72-hours notice. It was the ship’s fifth deployment,. Serving as the flagship for Rear Adm. Michael P. Nowakowski, Commander, Amphibious Task Force East, and Brig.Gen. Richard Natonski, Commanding General Second Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) and Landing Force East, Kearsarge carried more than 1,700 Marines from the MEB to the Northern Arabian Gulf. Kearsarge later became the Flagship for Commodore Gregg Jackson, Commander Amphibious Squadron Eight. On February 14th, Kearsarge began off-loading the 2nd MEB at Kuwait Naval Base. They joined up with Marines from the 1st MEB to become Task Force Tarawa. On 20 March U.S. forces initiated hostilities against Iraq with Operation Iraqi Freedom and Task Force Tarawa crossed into Iraq. Kearsarge remained off the coast of Iraq as the embarked CH-53E helicopters of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron Four (HMH) 464 flew combat re-supply missions.
During a special Memorial Day Service, Marine Corps infantry equipment comprised of helmets, rifles, boots, and personal dog tags, stand in a ceremonial formation on Kearsarge’s flight deck to remember the 23 Marines assigned to the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade who died in combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom I, 26 May 2003. (Photographers Mate 2nd Class Alicia Tasz, U.S. Navy photo 030526-N-4048T-025, Navy.mil Photos).
After this combat deployment Kearsarge provided support to President Bush’s visits to Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt and Aqaba, Jordan during his summits with Arab leaders. En route back to the United States, the ship was diverted to the western coast of Africa to support Operation Shining Express. Kearsarge returned home on 30 June 2003.
In June 2004, following a four-month shipyard availability, Kearsarge surge deployed to the Arabian Gulf to transport elements of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. She returned home in August 2004.
Kearsarge passes by the Rock of Gibraltar, 20 June 2004. (Photographers Mate 3rd Class Angel Roman-Otero, U.S. Navy Photograph 040620-N-2972R-157, Navy.mil Photos).
Kearsarge embarked on her seventh deployment on 25 March 2005 as the flagship for the Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), consisting of Kearsarge, guided missile cruiser Normandy (CG-60), amphibious transport dock Ponce (LPD-15), guided missile destroyer Gonzalez (DDG-66), guided missile frigate Kauffman (FFG-59), submarine Scranton (SSN-756) and dock landing ship Ashland (LSD-48), and the 26th MEU. On 19 August 2005 Kearsarge was at Aqaba, Jordan with Ashland when both were targeted by three Katyusha rockets fired from a warehouse close to the port. Neither ship was hit and there were no U.S. casualties, but there were two Jordanian casualties, one killed and one wounded.
On 30 July 2007 Kearsarge embarked on her eighth deployment as the flagship for the Kearsarge ESG with the marines of the 22nd MEU (Special Operations Capable). On 15 November Cyclone Sidr struck Bangladesh, Kearsarge was deployed in response. Kearsarge, Essex (LHD-2), Tarawa (LHA-1) and the embarked 22nd MEU arrived on station in the Bay of Bengal for humanitarian assistance/disaster relief efforts on 22 November after steaming over 3,000 miles in just under six days from the coast of Africa. These ships conducted a successful sea-based operation in support of Operation Sea Angel II. The ship and her crew returned from deployment on 1 February 2008.
Sailors and marines on board Kearsarge load supplies onto a CH-46 Sea Knight for distribution in Bangladesh, 26 November 2007. (Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Ash Severe, U.S. Navy Photograph 071126-N-1831S-030, Navy.mil Photos).
Kearsarge participated in New York City’s Fleet Week in May 2008. Later, on 6 August 2008 Kearsarge deployed in support of Operation Continuing Promise 2008. The ship’s crew, along with augmentation from the Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, Public Health Service, Canadian forces, and other multi-national forces and NGO's, provided medical, construction and humanitarian services to Panama, Columbia, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Trinidad. The ship also conducted humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in Haiti following four Atlantic hurricanes.
In January 2009 Kearsarge entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard for her first Dry Dock PMA since the ship’s commissioning.
On 27 August 2010 Kearsarge deployed from Norfolk with the other vessels of the Kearsarge ARG, dock landing ship Carter Hall (LSD-50) and Ponce, with the embarked marines of the 26th MEU. The deployment was moved up approximately one month as the ARG was deployed to provide disaster relief and humanitarian aid to flood-stricken regions in Pakistan.
With the outbreak of civil war in Libya Kearsarge and Ponce were deployed to the waters off Libya as part of Joint Task Force (JTF) Odyssey Dawn, the U.S. Africa Command task force established to provide operational and tactical command and control of U.S. military forces supporting the international response to the unrest in Libya and enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. US forces began attacks against Libyan government forces on 19 March 2011. On 20 March USMC AV-8B Harriers from the 26th MEU on board Kearsarge launched in support of Odyssey Dawn conducting strikes against Muammar Gaddafi’s ground forces and air defenses. Upon completion of the Odyssey Dawn deployment, Kearsarge and Ponce reunited with Carter Hall during a port call at Rota, Spain to re-constitute the Kearsarge ARG. Upon departing Rota, the Kearsarge ARG returned to Norfolk on 16 May 2011.
A 26th MEU Harrier returns to Kearsarge for fuel and ammunition resupply while conducting air strikes supporting Operation Odyssey Dawn, 21 March 2011. (Lance Corporal Michael S. Lockett, U.S. Marine Corps Photograph 110321-M-1869L-084, Navy.mil Photos).
In October 2015 Kearsarge participated in Egemen, a Turkish-led and hosted amphibious exercise designed to increase tactical proficiencies and interoperability among participants.
Kearsarge is underway in the Aegean Sea participating in Egemen 2015, 26 October 2015. (Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Tyler Preston, U.S. Navy Photograph 151026-N-AX638-114, Navy.mil Photos).
The fierce winds and heavy rain of Hurricane Harvey made landfall early on 26 August 2017 as a Category 4 storm near Rockport, Texas. In the wake of Harvey’s battering the region, and as large-scale relief efforts got underway, Adm. Phil Davidson, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, on 30 August ordered the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge (LHD-3) and dock landing ship Oak Hill (LSD-51) to get underway from their Tidewater home ports to support federal, state and local authorities continuing relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Consequently, Kearsarge cleared Naval Station, Norfolk, for the Gulf Coast region on 31 August, to support the efforts of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as well as those of the local and state authorities to provide humanitarian and disaster relief for the areas affected by Harvey. Oak Hill got underway the same day, standing out of Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story.
Kearsarge and her complement had recently been underway conducting shipboard drills, and the ship returned to her home port of Naval Station Norfolk for 30 hours on 30 August 2017, to take on supplies and embark various units, including Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 2, Commander, Amphibious Squadron 6, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, and Fleet Surgical Team 4. The fleet replenishment oiler USNS John Lenthall (T-AO-189), and the dry cargo ship USNS William McLean (T-AKE-12) accompanied Kearsarge and Oak Hill on the disaster relief mission.
“Besides delivering combat power from the sea, amphibious assault ships are ideally suited to deliver assistance and aid,” Capt. David K. Guluzian, Kearsarge’s commanding officer, stated, “We can transport large amounts of manpower and supplies to areas in need using our small boats, landing craft, and helicopters. We also have a robust medical suite, including operating rooms, an intensive care unit, X-ray, blood bank, and even counseling services. If required, we could care for injured persons or evacuees on board the ship.”
In an all-hands effort, Kearsarge took on board more than 200 pallets containing items such as baby food and formula, diapers, bedding, water bottles, coolers, batteries, towels, canned and dry food items and food service supplies.
“Our hearts are heavy, but we are eager to serve our countrymen and the people of the great state of Texas in their time of need,” Command Master Chief Jason Knupp averred, “Kearsarge and her sailors are energized and ready to focus their hard work toward loading the ship, putting to sea, and supporting the nation-wide relief effort.”
To some on board Kearsarge, the mission was personal. “It kind of changes things when this stuff happens so close to home,” Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman Chelsea Hamann, who hails from Houston, declared, “Knowing that my family and friends are there, and that they might need my help, makes me even more motivated to head out there and do what we’re trained to do.” Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuels) Jerome Fuda, also a native Texan and a veteran of relief efforts in New Orleans and Haiti, admitted to mixed emotions about returning to his home state under those circumstances. “[Pride] because I am a Texan and all Texans are proud. Proud because this is what we do in the Navy. Just showing up off the coast will give the folks of Texas some relief and reassurance that everything will be alright. But I am scared and emotional because I am dreading seeing firsthand the devastation. I know families that have lost everything, and towns that I used to visit as a kid are gone.” Despite his trepidation, though, Fuda declared, “Protecting our country doesn’t always have to be from an enemy. Right now the freedom of millions has been taken away by a storm. I hope I get the opportunity to represent Kearsarge ashore and help in any way I can. Don’t mess with Texas!”
Awards, Citations and Campaign Ribbons
Navy Unit Commendation
Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation (2)
Navy Battle "E" Ribbon (5)
National Defense Service Medal (2)
Southwest Asia Service Medal
Kosovo Campaign Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Armed Forces Service Medal
Humanitarian Service Medal (Nobel Obelisk, 25 May 97 - 6 June 97)
Detailed history under construction.
Christopher B. Havern Sr.
2 November 2015