While struggling to establish economic and political stability under
her new constitution, the United States faced continued threats from
French Naval Forces against a new and thriving maritime industry. To
protect these interests, Congress passed several acts to establish a
token naval force and on 30 June 1798, the act which enabled ESSEX to
be built came into being. This act allowed the President to accept
vessels of war from private citizens on the credit of the United
In response to this action, 23 citizens of Salem, Massachusetts, opened
a "Patriotic Subscription" on 17 July 1798 to build a vessel of war for
the United Stars of America. And so it came to pass that a legend was
born. On 25 October 1798, a meeting of the sponsors of the first ESSEX
was held to determine the type of vessel to be built. From the Salem
Gazette of 26 October 1798 came the following announcement which read
in part: "At a meeting in this town on Tuesday last, of those gentlemen
who have subscribed to build a ship for the service of the United
States, it was voted unanimously to build a frigate of 32 guns, and to
loan the same to the government ...."
A month later, the frigate's builder, Enoch Briggs, advertised for
shipbuilding materials in a ringing appeal: "Take notice! Ye sons of
freedom! Step forth and give your assistance in building the frigate to
oppose French insolence and piracy! Let every man in possession of a
white oak tree feel ambitious to be foremost in hurrying down the
timber to Salem ... Where noble structure is to be fabricated to
maintain your rights upon the seas and make the name of America
respected among the nations of the world! Your largest and longest
trees are wanted ... Four trees are wanted for the keel, which
altogether will measure 146 feet in length, and hew 16 inches square.
Please call on the subscriber, who ... Will pay the ready cash." The
frigate was launched on 30 September 1799, before a crowd of 12,000
The expected war with France did not materialize, but in the War of
1812, the first ESSEX compiled a record of battle unequaled by any
other man-of-war and by the close of 1813, ESSEX was the only vessel of
worth to be operating; all others having been captured, damaged or
The second ESSEX, an ironclad steamer, was built in 1856 for use as a
ferry. Originally NEW ERA, she was renamed ESSEX following purchase by
the War Department on 20 September 1861. She was assigned duty with the
Western Flotilla, an organization maintained, operated and controlled
by the Army, but commanded by a naval officer. She participated in
action against Confederate Forces on the Cumberland and Tennessee
rivers, culminating in the capture of Fort Henry, Tennessee, a battle
in which she was seriously damaged. After extensive repairs, she
returned to duty and saw action at Vicksburg and Baton Rouge before
being decommissioned on 20 July 1865.
The third ESSEX, a wooden-screw steamer, was built by the United States
at East Boston, Massachusetts, and was commissioned at the Boston Navy
Yard on 3 October 1876. Regarded as one of the finest ships of the
Fleet, ESSEX saw action with the North and South Atlantic Squadrons and
on the Pacific and Asiatic Stations. She returned to New York via the
Suez Canal and was placed out of commission in May 1889. She was then
designated as a training ship. ESSEX spent the next 14 years at
Annapolis and then was lent to the Naval Militia of Ohio and eventually
was assigned to the Naval Reserve of the State of Minnesota before
being stricken from the record in 1930.
Most recently, an aircraft carrier (CV-9) carried the name ESSEX into
Fleet duty as the lead ship in a class of World War II aircraft
carriers. Commissioned in December 1942, she reported to the Pacific
Fleet following shakedown cruises, and embarked on a series of
victories that would take her to Tokyo Bay. As flagship of Task Force
14, CV-9 struck Wake Island in October 1943, launched an attack on the
Gilbert Islands and participated in her first amphibious assault,
against Tarawa in November, then moved on to the Marshall Islands, Truk
and the Marianas, Saipan, Tinian and Guam in early 1944. After her
first overhaul, she returned to the Pacific, continuing her frontline
action. In late 1944, for the first time in her far-ranging operations,
ESSEX received injury. A kamikaze hit the port edge of her flight deck
landing among planes gassed for takeoff, causing extensive damage,
killing 15 and wounding 44. USS Essex (CV-9).
In the closing days of the war, ESSEX took part in the final telling
raids against the Japanese home islands. She was decommissioned in
1947, then modernized and recommissioned in 1951, with a new flight
deck and streamlined superstructure. As flag ship for Carrier Division
1, she was the first carrier to launch twin-engine "Banshee" jet
fighters in support of U.N. Troops in Korea. She was reclassified
(CVA-9) on 1 October 1952. Following her Korean action, she was again
modernized, this time with an angled flight deck, and saw duty in both
the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets in the late 1950s.
In 1960, ESSEX was converted to an ASW support carrier, reclassified
(CVS-9) and participated in various NATO exercises. On 22 October 1968
ESSEX recovered the Apollo 7 astronauts in the Atlantic and was
decommissioned 30 July 1969. Over her 27 year career, ESSEX was
credited with sinking 92 and damaging 217 ships and destroying 1,564
aircraft. The Navy's top ace of World war II, Medal of Honor winner
Commander David McCampbell, flew from the deck of the ESSEX, shooting
down 34 enemy planes. She received the Presidential Unit Citation and
13 battle stars for World War II service (equaled by none in her class
and only Enterprise earned more) and the Navy Unit Commendation and
four battle stars for action in Korea.
USS ESSEX (LHD-2) is the second ship in the all new WASP (LHD-1) class
of multipurpose amphibious assault ships and was commissioned on
October 17, 1992 in San Diego, CA. The mission of the ESSEX is to
conduct prompt, sustained combat operations at sea, as the centerpiece
of the Navy's amphibious strategy...From the Sea.
ESSEX is designed to carry a full range of Navy and Marine Corps
helicopters, Harrier II (AV-8B) Jump Jets, Air Cushion Landing Craft
(LCAC), and many other landing craft and amphibious vehicles.
ESSEX is 844 feet long, with two steam propulsion plants to
44,000 ton ship to speeds in excess of 24 knots. The ship's living
spaces can support 3,200 crew members and embarked troops.
USS ESSEX (LHD-2) is the 5th ship to bear the name dating
back to the
frigate which was launched in Salem, Mass. on September 30, 1799.
After commissioning the ESSEX departed San Diego on her maiden
deployment on October 25, 1994 during which, was a major participant in
the withdrawal of the Multinational force from Somalia in Operation
On its second deployment the ship and embarked 11th Marine
Expeditionary Unit participated in Operation Southern Watch/ Exercise;
Eager Mace off the coast of Kuwait and Exercise; Tandem Thrust off the
coast of Australia.
In July 2000, ESSEX took part in the Navy's largest crew swap to date
when she arrived in Sasebo, Japan to relieve the USS BELLEAU WOOD (LHA
3) which was forward deployed to Sasebo since the fall of 1992. The
swap was part of a planned rotation of forward deployed naval forces in
Japan, and was the third crew-swap exchange. The ships’ crews
simply switched ships, minimizing the impact of moving families from
homeport to homeport. Sailors in Sasebo assigned to USS BELLEAU WOOD,
moved on to ESSEX, while Sailors from San Diego assigned to ESSEX moved
aboard BELLEAU WOOD. BELLEAU WOOD and the San Diego-based crew then
returned to San Diego in mid-August to begin overhaul and maintenance
ESSEX departed San Diego in July 2000 to replace USS BELLEAU WOOD (LHA
3) successfully completing the largest hull swap in U. S. Navy history.
ESSEX then inherited the distinctive role as the Navy’s only
forward-deployed multi-purpose amphibious assault ship in Sasebo,
Japan. In that role ESSEX provided Humanitarian Assistance and disaster
relief operations to East Timor in October 2001.
After completing Exercises Foal Eagle and Cobra Gold
ESSEX departed in August 2004 for her fourth deployment with the 31st
MEU (SOC). ESSEX served as Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group Three
(ESG 3) flagship. While on deployment to the Arabian Gulf in January
2005, ESSEX received additional tasking to provide Humanitarian
Assistance and Disaster Relief in Indonesia for the victims of the
ESSEX was again deployed for Humanitarian Assistance in
February 2006 helping the survivors of the Leyte mudslide in the
Philippines. In March 2006 ESSEX arrived at Iwo Jima to participate in
the 61st Anniversary of the historic World War II Battle. ESSEX was
called upon in November 2006 to provide security, medical and
communication support to the President of the United States during his
visit to the Western Pacific.
Continuing to lead U.S. Navy’s strategic engagement
in 2007 ESSEX successfully conducted combined operations with the
Republic of Korea, the Republic of the Philippines, and Australia.
ESSEX capped off her 2007 deployment schedule with a historic visit to
the Kingdom of Cambodia. ESSEX’ visit to Cambodia marked the
first time an amphibious assault ship has ever visited the country.
In 2008 ESSEX once again conducted annual training exercises with the
partner nations of the Republic of the Philippines, the Kingdom of
Thailand and the Republic of Korea. Early in 2008 ESSEX was called upon
to be in position to render aid to Burma in the wake of Cyclone Nargis.
ESSEX remained on station for over three weeks, prepared to render aid
but were rebuffed by the ruling government.
Early 2009, ESSEX completed a successful exercise Cobra Gold, which had
been cut short the previous year. ESSEX followed this with exercise
Balikatan with the Republic of the Philippines. ESSEX then got underway
in support of exercise Talisman Saber 2009 and conducted various
welldeck and flight deck evolutions in support of this joint bi-lateral
exercise between the U.S. and Australian military forces. Since her
commissioning, ESSEX has received seven Battle Efficiency awards and
numerous other awards, including all of the warfare excellence awards,
numerous Golden Anchor awards for retention, and two Ney awards for
food service excellence.