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USS Tarawa (LHA-1) is a United States Navy amphibious assault ship, the lead ship of her class, and the second ship to be named for the Battle of Tarawa during World War II. Tarawa was decommissioned on 31 March 2009, at San Diego Naval Base.[1]



Her first Western Pacific (WESTPAC) deployment came in 1979, where, among other memorable actions including port visits to Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, South Korea, pre-reversion Hong Kong, Singapore, Pattaya, and Okinawa, she successfully engaged in experimental launch and recovery operations with Marine close air support AV-8 Harrier jets and later rescued over 400 South Vietnamese refugees adrift in the South China Sea; her corpsmen delivering Grace Tarawa Tran during the rescue effort, who recently returned to a decommissioned Tarawa in Pearl Harbor to meet the man who delivered her.[3]

After a second deployment WESTPAC, IO, beginning in 1980 and spanning into 1981, Tarawa was in the Indian Ocean.[4][better source needed]

In 1983, during her third deployment, Tarawa went to the Mediterranean to support the United Nations (UN) peacekeepers in BeirutLebanon. Several additional cruises followed.

In June 1989, Tarawa deployed for a six-month WESTPAC tour as the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), composed of the Marines from Camp Horno, Camp Pendleton, California, 1st Battalion 9th Marines (redesignated as 2nd Battalion 1st Marines on 9 September 1994).

In December 1990, Tarawa was the flagship of a 13-ship amphibious task force in support of Operation Desert Storm.[citation needed] She participated in the Sea Soldier IV landing exercise in January, which was a deception maneuver suggesting an amphibious assault in Kuwait, and then on 24 February landed Marines in Saudi Arabia just south of the Kuwaiti border.

In May 1991, Tarawa went to Bangladesh in support of Operation Sea Angel, providing humanitarian assistance to victims of a cyclone, delivering rice and water purification equipment.

In May 1992, Tarawa deployed for the eighth time to the Western Pacific, participating in Eager Mace '92–'93, a joint U.S./Kuwait exercise. The ship also supported the insertion of Pakistani troops into Somalia in support of UN humanitarian relief, and returned to San Diego in November 1992. Tarawa was awarded her fourth Admiral Flatley Award and her first Commander, Seventh Fleet, Amphibious Warfare Excellence Award for the '92 deployment. Her 1992 deployment included visits to Hong Kong, Singapore, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, and Australia.

In April 1996, following another complex overhaul at Long Beach Naval ShipyardTarawa left from San Diego on its ninth Western Pacific deployment. A U.S./Thailand amphibious training exercise in the Gulf of Thailand, and exercise Indigo Serpent (with the Royal Saudi Navy) and exercise Infinite Moonlight (the first-ever exercise between U.S. and Royal Jordanian Navy) in the Red Sea preceded Tarawa's visit to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch, enforcing the "no-fly zone" over southern IraqTarawa was also part of Operation Desert Strike. Returning to San Diego in October 1996, Tarawa earned both the Federal Energy Conservation Award and the Secretary of the Navy Energy Conservation Award.

Activity hums around Tarawa , as U.S. Marines go ashore in Kuwait.

In mid October 2000, Tarawa was passing through the Strait of Hormuz on her way into the Persian Gulf when the destroyer USS Cole was attacked. On hearing news of the attack, Tarawa came about and steamed full ahead to the Port of Aden in Yemen, where she joined USS Donald CookUSS Hawes, and the British ship HMS Marlborough, already providing logistical support and harbor security, as the command ship in charge of force protection in what became "Operation Determined Response". Other US Naval ships involved were CatawbaCamdenAnchorage, and DuluthTarawa remained with the damaged Cole until she was secure aboard the Norwegian heavy-lift semi-submersible salvage ship MV Blue Marlin for passage to the US before returning to duty in the Persian Gulf.

Part of the film Rules of Engagement (2000) includes scenes of actor Samuel L. Jackson filmed aboard Tarawa.[citation needed]

USMC AV-8B Harrier launching from Tarawa in 2003

On 17 January 2001, Tarawa lost its port anchor and chain while being deployed. The Navy used a video of this loss as a training tool to prevent future losses.[5]

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