MARINE CORPS NEWS, ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Navy commissioned its newest and most advanced amphibious ship, the USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7), June 30, 2001, in Pensacola, Fla.
General Michael J. Williams, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, was the keynote speaker for the commissioning at which more than 10,000 people attended, including 1,000 Marine and Navy veterans of the actual Battle for Iwo Jima.
The ship is named in honor of the famous World War II battle of Iwo Jima, where more than 6,000 U.S. Marines lost their lives while capturing the island from the Japanese who had about 20,000 casualties.
The primary mission of the LHD-7 is to enable the Navy/Marine Corps team to embark, transport, deploy, command and fully support all elements of a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) of 2,000 Marines, inserting forces ashore via helicopters, landing craft and amphibious vehicles.
The Iwo Jima is also the command ship of an amphibious Ready Group and is fully capable of amphibious assault, advance force and special purpose operations, as well as non-combatant evacuation and other humanitarian missions.
In addition, the ship was built from the keel up with accommodations for 450 female sailors. The ship has living areas for a total of 3,200 crew members and troops.
The ship was built by Ingalls shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., and cost approximately 761 million dollars. The length of the ship measures 840 feet with a flight deck width of 140 feet.
After it's commissioning, the USS Iwo Jima became the second amphibious ship to be named such. The first ship, USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2), was the lead ship of the LPH class of amphibious assault ships. It was commissioned in 1961 and served as the key element during Southeast Asia operations in Vietnam, as the recovery ship for the return of Apollo 13's crew and was the first amphibious assault ship deployed to the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm. After nearly 32 years of faithful service to the sea services, LPH-2 was decommissioned in 1993.
The sponsor of the LHD-7 was Zandra Krulak, wife of retired former Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Charles Krulak, who broke a bottle of champagne across the bow to formally name the ship. She was joined by the Iwo Jima's commanding officer, Capt. John T. Nawrocki, a 1975 graduate of the Naval Academy, during the ceremony.