(LHA-1: dp. 38,900 (f.); 1. 820'; b. 106'; dr. 26'; s. 24 k.; cpl. 759; trp. 1,903; a. 2 mis. In., 35", Sea Sparrow, 6 20mm., 2 40mm., ac. 28 (helo.); cl. Tarawa)
An atoll in the north central Gilbert Islands located some 90 miles north of the equator and two-thirds of the way along a diagonal drawn from Hawaii to Australia. It was the scene of a bitter and bloody battle from 20 to 24 November 1943. The Marines' assault upon the atoll was one phase of Operation "Galvanic," the first jump in the Navy's leap-frog sweep to victory through the Central Pacific.
The second Tarawa (LHA-1) was laid down in November 1972 at Pascagoula, Miss., by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Corp.; launched on 1 December 1973; sponsored by Mrs. Audrey B. Cushman, the wife of General Thomas J. Cushman, former Commandant of the Marine Corps.; and commissioned on 29 May 1976, Capt. James H. Morris in command.
Tarawa is the first of five ships in a new class of general-purpose amphibious assault ships and combines in one ship type the functions previously performed by four different types: the amphibious assault ship (LPH), the amphibious transport dock (LPD), the amphibious cargo ship (LKA), and the dock landing ship (LSD). She is capable of landing elements of a Marine Corps battalion landing team and their supporting equipment by landing craft, by helicopters, or by a combination of both.
The ship departed Pascagoula on 7 July 1976 and set a course for the Panama Canal. She transited the canal on 16 July and, after a stop at Acapulco, Mex., arrived at San Diego on 6 August. During the remainder of 1976, the amphibious assault ship conducted trials, tests, and shakedown in the southern California operating area.
During the first half of 1977, Tarawa was engaged in training exercises off the California coast. On 13 August, she entered Long Beach Naval Shipyard for post-shakedown availability which was completed on 15 July 1978. Following four and one-half months of intensive individual ship and amphibious refresher training with embarked Marines, Tarawa ended 1978 in her home port of San Diego on Christmas standdown.