USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41):
Whidbey Island was laid down on 4 August 1981, by
the Lockheed Shipbuilding, Seattle, Wa.; launched on 10 June 1983, sponsored
by Mrs. Sally Gorton, wife of Senator Slade Gorton; and commissioned on 9
February 1985, Commander P.M. Muldoon in command.
In February 1981, the U. S. Navy awarded Lockheed Shipbuilding Company of
Seattle, Washington, a contract to construct LSD 41, first of a new Dock
Landing Ship class to replace the aging Thomaston-class LSDs. At the 4 August
1981 keel-laying ceremony, the Honorable John F. Lehman, Secretary of the
Navy, affixed his signature to the LSD 41 keel; the first keel of an
amphibious assault ship lain in more than five years.
Although the first ship to carry the name Whidbey Island, there was at one
time a ship on Navy rolls named USS Whidbey (AG-141), a small transport
purchased from the U. S. Army and servicing U.S. Trust Territories in the
Whidbey Island, the first ship in a class designed specifically to interface
with the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC), assisted in the operational and
developmental testing of the amphibious assault craft from July to September
1985 and again in May and July 1986.
In August 1986, Whidbey Island embarked on her first major operation,
participating in the NATO Exercise Northern Wedding/Bold Guard '86.
Whidbey Island's first deployment was to the Mediterranean in January 1987.
The ship took part in seven amphibious exercises carrying out duties as
Presidential Support Ship for the World Economic Summit in Venice, Italy, May
Whidbey Island deployed to the Mediterranean for the second time in December
1988 with MARG 1-89, participating in three major landing exercises with the
Spanish, French and Italian Navies before returning to homeport in June 1989.
Whidbey Island was the first amphibious ship from the East Coast to deploy to
the European Theater with LCACs. In September and October 1989, Whidbey
Island participated in Hurricane Hugo disaster relief operations in the
In August 1990, Whidbey Island again deployed to the Mediterranean as part of
MARG 3-90. During the trans-Atlantic crossing, the ship received orders to
sail to Mamba Station off the coast of Monrovia, Liberia, serving as the
flagship for evacuation operations in Operation Sharp Edge, spending 105
consecutive days at sea. By the time Whidbey Island reached its first port,
Las Palmas, Canary Islands, the ship had been out to sea for 126 straight
days. After further steaming around the Western Mediterranean in support of
Operation Desert Storm, Whidbey Island returned to homeport March 1991 from
its extended seven-month deployment.
On 5 December 1991 Whidbey Island deployed with MARG 1-92 representing the
Amphibious Ready Group's operations in the Black Sea with a series of port
calls. With members of the Sixth Fleet, the USS Inchon Band, and
representatives from the other MARG ships, Whidbey Island made historic port
calls to Samsun, Turkey; Constanta, Romania; and Burgas, Bulgaria, becoming
the first United States amphibious ship and the largest United States warship
to operate in the Black Sea, the first U.S. Navy ship to visit Samsun in 70
years and the first U.S. Navy ship to ever visit Burgas. Whidbey Island
returned to homeport on 5 June 1992.
In January 1993, Whidbey Island deployed in support of Operation Sea
Signal/Able Manner, enforcing alien migration policies off the coast of
Later that year, Whidbey Island deployed to the littorals of South America
and West Africa during UNITAS 34-93/WATC 93, the first Whidbey Island-class
ship to deploy to this region, again making history by leading the
southern-most amphibious exercise ever at Tierra del Fuego, returning from
deployment 17 December 1993.
In August 1994, in a Combined Joint Task Force Whidbey Island provided
emergent lift services for the evacuation of 160 migrant camps from Grand
Turk Island. Shortly after, Whidbey Island rescued and transported over 8,100
Cuban migrants from the Straits of Florida during Operation Able Vigil and
participated in the restoration of the legitimate government to Haiti during
Operation Uphold Democracy.
At the turn of 1995, Whidbey Island along with Wasp and Shreveport
participated in NATO cold weather training in the North Atlantic for Exercise
Strong Resolve 95. On 28 August 1995, Whidbey Island deployed for a fifth
Mediterranean Deployment with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
During this deployment, the ship participated in Exercises Atlas Hinge,
Odysseus 95, Noble Shirley, Bright Star and Alexander the Great, spending
over three months in the Adriatic Sea in support of peacekeeping operations
for the Dayton Peace Accords in the former Yugoslavia. The crew received the
Armed Forces Service Medal and the NATO Medal, returning to homeport 29
On 3 June 1996, Whidbey Island entered Norfolk Shipbuilding and Drydock
Company (NORSHIPCO) for a Dry-docking Phased Maintenance Availability (DPMA)
and received a Women at Sea Certification. On 1 July 1997, Whidbey Island
departed for Unitas 38-97 setting a record for amphibious landings with
several UNITAS participating nations before returning home 13 December 1997.
Whidbey Island departed for its sixth Mediterranean deployment 15 September
1999. Along with 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, Whidbey Island participated
in Exercises Bright Star, Noble Shirley and Infinite Moonlight. During these
exercises the ship worked in partnership with members of the British,
Egyptian and Jordanian armed forces. Whidbey Island safely transited the Suez
Canal as well as the Straits of Tiran, Toranto, Gibraltar, and of Messina,
visiting ports such as Antalya, Turkey; Haifa, Israel; Souda Bay, Greece; and
On 24 May 2000, Whidbey Island returned to NORSHIPCO for multiple upgrades
and additions to the ship's configuration and systems. During this PMA period
the ship received two Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM) Launchers as well as
the Ship's Self Defense System (SSDS) Mk-1, significantly enhancing Whidbey
Island's ability to track, engage and destroy incoming missiles at close
On 11 June 2001, Whidbey Island completed its Basic Phase of Training and
started a five-week pre-deployment maintenance period. Starting 11 July 2001
the ship began its intermediate training cycle in preparation for deployment
as part of Amphibious Squadron 8, Amphibious Ready Group.
On 19 September 2001, just eight days after the terrorist attacks on the
Pentagon and the World Trade Center, Whidbey Island weighed anchor for its
seventh deployment. With troops of 26th MEU (Special Operations Capable), the
ship participated in Exercise Bright Star off the coast of Egypt. At the
completion of the exercise, crew and troops enjoyed a few days in the port of
Marmaris, Turkey, before transiting the Suez Canal en route to the North
Persian Gulf. While there Whidbey Island spent 123 consecutive days on
station in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. During this operation, 26th
MEU set the record for conducting the longest amphibious operation ever
(distance-wise)—nearly 700 nautical miles (1300 km) inland.
While deployed, Whidbey Island's crew visited Jebel Ali, United Arab
Emirates; Split, Croatia; and Rota, Spain. The ship also participated in the
National Training Continuum, Operations Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring
Freedom and Operation Swift Freedom. Most importantly, every Sailor and
Marine that deployed on Whidbey Island came back safely from the grueling,
As of 2006, Whidbey Island is commanded by Commander Erik M. Ross, homeported
at NAB Little Creek, Virginia, and assigned to Amphibious Group 2.
In June 2006, Whidbey Island deployed in support of Operation Enduring
Freedom. While inport Aqaba, Jordan in July 2006, she was recalled through
the Suez Canal to support contingency operations due to the crisis in
Lebanon. Whidbey Island subsequently participated in the largest
Non-Combatant Evacuation conducted by the US Navy since Vietnam. During July
and August, she evacuated 817 American citizens (out of a total of 14,555
evacuated by the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group) via Landing Craft Air
Cushion (LCAC) with Personnel Transport Module. AMCITS were taken to
Limassol, Cyprus and released to State Department Control. Following
operations off of Lebanon, Whidbey Island redeployed through the Suez Canal
to the Fifth Fleet Operations Area and offloaded elements of the 24 MEU into
Bahrain for operations in Iraq. Following the offload, Whidbey Island
deployed to the Northern Persian Gulf in support of Commander Task Force 158,
responsible as Afloat Forward Staging Base. In this role, she was responsible
for defense of the KAAOT and ABOT oil rigs, the primary critical oil
infrastructure producing revenue for Iraq. In November 2006, Whidbey Island
departed the Northern Persian Gulf and returned home, stopping in
Civitavecchia, Italy and Tunis, Tunisia en route, arriving 6 December 2006.
On 16 February 2007, Whidbey Island was awarded the 2006 Battle "E"
On 1 October 2007, Whidbey Island deployed from Little Creek Naval Amphibious
Base. After being deployed to the Horn of Africa, she assisted the Comorian
vessel MV Al Marjan and its crew when they were released by Somali pirates on
2 December 2007.
On 11 January 2008, the US Navy reported that Whidbey Island had fired
warning shots at a small Iranian boat in the Strait of Hormuz in December.
The boat was reportedly approaching Whidbey Island rapidly but stopped after
the warning shots were fired.