USS SAIPAN
LHA 2
  
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USS Saipan (LHA 2) keel was laid on July 21, 1972 and the ship was christened in July 20, 1974 by Mrs. Isabelle Middendorf, wife of former Secretary of the Navy, J. William Middendorf. She was commissioned on October 15, 1977, Capt. F. W. Johnston in command.

Saipan's operational career began in July 1979 when she was diverted from Fleet Refresher Training to Special Contingency Operations for possible non-combatant evacuation of American personnel from Nicaragua during that country's civil war.

In May 1980, the amphibious assault ship was underway augmenting U.S. Coast Guard efforts to assist Cuban refugees crossing the Straits of Florida to the United States. On August 25, 1980 USS Saipan departed Norfolk for the first Mediterranean deployment by a LHA, and on Sept. 3, 1981 USS Saipan deployed for her second tour in the Mediterranean. During that deployment, she visited or operated in seven different countries on three continents, transited the Suez Canal, and participated in Exercises Ocean Venture, Display Determination, Bright Star and National Week.

From August 1982 through July 1983, the Saipan was in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia, for her first scheduled, complex overhaul. In September, while undergoing Refresher Training at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, she was diverted to participate in Operation Urgent Fury off Grenada.

LHA 2 departed homeport for its third Mediterranean deployment on January 22, 1985. During the underway period, the amphibious assault ship steamed more than 32,000 miles, logged over 6,700 safe aircraft landings, and visited ports in three countries. After a maintenance period in Norfolk Naval Shipyard from Oct. 1985 to Feb. 1986, USS Saipan sailed to Guantanamo Bay to complete Refresher Training.

On August 17, 1986 the Saipan departed on her fourth Mediterranean deployment. Extended briefly in the eastern Mediterranean for contingency operations, she returned to Norfolk Feb. 24, 1987.

March 17, 1990 USS Saipan departed for a six-month underway period to the Mediterranean Sea and conducted the evacuation of approximately 1,600 civilians from war-torn Liberia in support of Operation Sharp Edge.

September 17, 1991 LHA 2 deployed for six-month to the Persian Gulf as a unit of ARG 3-91 in support of Operation Desert Storm.

On March 17, 1993 the Saipan departed on a six-month deployment, returning on Sept 10. She was accompanied by the USS Ponce and USS Pensacola. During the deployment she participated in four major combined amphibious exercises and played a role in two search and rescue (SAR) missions involving downed allied aircraft participating in Operation Deny Flight.

April 29, 1994 USS Saipan entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for her third scheduled complex overhaul.

June 28, 1996 LHA 2 departed to the Mediterranean Sea with the 24th MEU. By the second week in July, it entered the Straits of Gibraltar and then the Mediterranean. Exercise Atlas Hinge involved U.S. and Tunisian armed forces conducting an amphibious landing on the North African Coast. Exercise Rescue Eagle saw the ship steam with select Albanian military units in the Adriatic Sea.

In late 1998 Amphibious Ready Group, consisting of command ship USS Saipan, USS Austin and USS Tortuga, worked closely with the 22nd MEU in conducting several amphibious exercises. Included in the training were deck landing qualifications for Marine Helicopter Squadrons (HMM) 162 and Navy Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) 6.

In 1999 and early to mid-2000, the Saipan took part in extensive sea trials for the engineering and manufacturing, development (EMD) MV-22 aircraft.

July 11, 2000 USS Saipan departed homeport for a scheduled underway period. In September, the Saipan Amphibious Ready Group and the 26th MEU conducted Exercise Atlas Hinge at Cap Serrat, Tunisia. LHA 2 ARG made port calls throughout the Mediterranean, including visits in Spain (Tarragona, Almeria, Malaga, and Palma de Mallorca), Cannes, France; Italy (La Spezia, Livorno, Civitavecchia, Gaeta, Naples, Catania, and Trieste), Souda Bay, Crete; Valetta, Malata; Croatia (Dubrovnik, Split, and Rijeka), and Koper, slovenia. The three ships returned to Norfolk on Dec. 19.

In August 2002 the Navy announced that the Saipan would be deploying at the head of an Expeditionary Strike Group that would be comprised of a guided-missile cruiser, a destroyer, a frigate, and a submarine in addition to the normal LPD and LSD vessels. This would be the first ESG to deploy, sometime in August 2003.

January 11, 2003 USS Saipan recently recieved orders to deploy, sa part of ATF-E, in support of the war against terrorism.

February 4, The seven ships Amphibious Task Force - East (ATF-E) transited the Suez Canal.

Marines and Sailors launched from USS Saipan by sea and air on Feb. 20, began the offload of forces from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Battalion (MEB) and supporting units into Kuwait.

May 7, An explosion occurred in a berthing compartment aboard the Saipan while it was in Persian Gulf, injuring 11 personnel. One of the injured had been evacuated to an Army field hospital in Kuwait with a serious arm wound and is in stable condition. The remaining injured are being treated by the ship's medical personnel. None of the injuries are life-threatening. The explosion occurred in a trash receptacle in Marine berthing, piercing a bulkhead and injuring personnel in the adjacent compartment.

June 26, LHA 2 returned to Naval Station Norfolk after five-and-a-half month deployment in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

August 15, Capt. Christophere Hase relieved Capt. Norma Lee Hackney as commanding officer of USS Saipan.

January 15, 2004 The amphibious assault ship is currently conducting training in conjuction with its pre-deployment cycle.

April 7, The Saipan Expeditionary Strike Group Four wraps up its nine-day ESG/MEU Integration exercise.

July 15, LHA 2 is currently in the Atlantic Ocean conducting traning exercises in preparation for upcoming deployment.

November 16, Ships from the USS Saipan Expeditionary Strike Group, several units of NATO's Standing Naval Force Atlantic, and a variety of aircraft successfully completed a live-fire exercise, sinking ex-USS Hayler and ex-Research Vessel Gosport Nov. 12-14.

January 19, 2005 USS Saipan ESG deployed for approximately two months to the Caribbean. During the deployment, three ships will support a humanitarian assistance exercise in Haiti entitled New Horizons.

February 14, The amphibious assault ship completed the offload of 1,200 tons of construction equipment and supplies for U.S. Navy Seabees and U.S. Army Reserve Military Police in Gonaives, Haiti, in February. The Seabees immediately began building up a base camp to support their mission as part of New Horizons Haiti, a humanitarian a civic assistance exercise sponsored by U.S. Southern Command.

March 9, LHA 2 returned to Naval Station Norfolk after supporting humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti.

May 25, USS Saipan deployed under the Fleet Response Plan (FRP), in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

June 6, The amphibious ship pulled to Oslo, Norway, for a scheduled port call.

June 13 The Saipan entered the port of Rotterdam, Netherland, for a routine port visit.

June 22, USS Saipan pulled to Portsmouth, England, to participate in the British celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalger.

July 14, Nearly 1,500 Navy and Marine Corps personnel are participating in a multinational exercise with Albania and Macedonia, July 11-30, in the Adriatic Sea. Participating U.S. forces include USS Saipan, USS Grasp (ARS 51), EODMU 8, HC-4, Marine Corps Security Force Company Europe, and CTF-67.

August 25, LHA 2 returned to homeport after completing a three-month surge deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

November 18, Rear Adm. Gary E. Hall relieved Rear Adm. Ruebin B. Bookert during a change of command ceremony held aboard the Saipan.

February 14, 2006 The amphibious assault ship is currently off the East coast conducting routine trainings off the coast of Virginia.

March 13, The Saipan is currently in the Atlantic Ocean conducting routine trainings, off the coast of Virginia, in order to maintain deployment readiness.

May 18, USS Saipan departed Naval Station Norfolk to participate in the multinational Exercise Phoenix Express, in the Sixth Fleet Area of Responsibility (AoR), including ships from Algeria, France, Morocco, Spain and the United States.

June 1, Representatives from six countries attended a pre-sail conference May 30-31 aboard the Saipan in Rota, Spain, to review details for the upcoming combined multinational exercise, Phoenix Express 2006.

August 15, LHA 2 departed Norfolk for a six-month surge deployment in support of the global war on terrorism.

September 2, The amphibious assault ship transited the Suez Canal.

September 22, USS Saipan, along with Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 15 "Blackhawks", successfully conducted a mine countermeasure exercise in the Persian Gulf Sept. 19. The exercise was the first time a LHA-class ship participated in minesweeping operations with a MH-53E helicopter and a MK-105 magnetic mine sweeping system, also known as the "sled." The sled is a high-speed catamaran hydrofoil platform, which is towed by the Blackhawk's helicopter.

October 3, USS Saipan, commanded by Capt. Richard D. Fitzpatrick, is currently on deployment in the Fifth Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations (MSO) in the Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, Red Sea, and Indian Ocean.

November 10, The Norfolk-based amphibious assault ship departed Manama, Bahrain, after a brief port visit.

December 4, The Saipan transited the Suez Canal, after successfully completing her last surge deployment before decommissioned.

December 22, USS Saipan returned to homeport after a four-month underway period.

April 20, 2007 USS Saipan was decommissioned in a ceremony at Pier 10, Norfolk Naval Station, after nearly a 30 years of service. LHA 2 will be used for weapons effect testing, providing vital information on structural integrity and survivability which will assist in the designing and planning of future ships. After the tests have been conducted it will be transferred to the inactive fleet at Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility in Philadelphia.

October 28, 2009 The ex-Saipan departed Philadelphia for its final trip to International Shipbreaking Limited in Brownsville, Texas, where it will be scrapped.