Nassau Expeditionary Strike Group
"First from the Sea" / "Top Gator"
The modern day USS NASSAU was commissioned in 1979 as the fourth of the Navy's TARAWA-class general-purpose amphibious assault ships. For more than 25 years NASSAU has been an example of excellence and dedication.
The contract for the Nassau was awarded on Nov 6, 1970 to Ingalls. The ship's keel was laid less than three years later, on Aug 1973, and the ship was not launched until July 28, 1979.
In support of Operations DESERT SHIELD/STORM, NASSAU deployed to the Middle East for over eight months on only eight days notice. Upon leaving the United States, NASSAU became the Flagship for Commander, Amphibious Task Force and the 4th MEB's Commanding General. NASSAU was honored during this deployment when President George H. W. Bush selected NASSAU as the site for a special Thanksgiving Day meal with Sailors and Marines thousands of miles from home. The President was joined by his wife, Barbara Bush, General Norman Schwarzkopf and several influential members of Congress.
NASSAU participated in several more operations throughout the 1990s, including Operations SUPPORT DEMOCRACY, DENY FLIGHT, ALLIED FORCE and NOBLE ANVIL. These operations in support of U.S. foreign policy objectives as well as NASSAU's participation in numerous Navy and joint exercises took NASSAU to numerous locales in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Adriatic regions, including Haiti, Spain, Morocco, Italy, France, Greece, Israel, Albania, Zaire and Kosovo.
NASSAU's capability as a general-purpose ship has allowed her to flex to the needs of virtually any mission assigned. In addition to her primary role as a Marine transport, NASSAU has served as a flagship, logistics hub for incoming and outgoing mail, cargo and other supplies, combat search and rescue, and the tactical recovery and rescue of downed aircraft and personnel.
The United States Navy's "Top Gator", USS NASSAU (LHA 4) is named for the target of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps' first ever-amphibious landing. Captain Esek Hopkins arrived off the Bahamas on March 1, 1776, to capture the islands from British forces stationed there. Two days later, Hopkins ordered a landing designed to outflank English defenses of the island. Two hundred thirty Marines and 50 Seaman landed on the beach and captured nearby Fort Montague. The force then advanced on Fort Nassau, which surrendered the following morning. Although most of the powder supply was no longer there, Hopkins and his men captured 103 and mortars - enough to make the operation worthwhile. Thus, for the first time American Sailors and Marines responded to the equivalent modern command of "Land the landing force."
Nassau (CVE-16) was laid down 27 November 1941 by the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corp., Tacoma, Washington, as M.C. Hull No. 234; launched 4 April 1942; sponsored by Mrs. G. H. Hasselman, Tongue Point, Oregon; acquired by the Navy 1 May, towed to the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington, and converted to an escort carrier; and commissioned 20 August, Captain Austin K. Doyle in command.
On the 10th of October, Nassau arrived at the Naval Air Station, Alameda, California, loaded aircraft, and four days later steamed for Pearl Harbor, thence to Palmyra Island, arriving 30 October. For the next four months, she operated between Palmyra and Noumea, New Caledonia and Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides.
Nassau returned to Pearl Harbor 14 February 1943, embarked personnel and aircraft, and sailed the 21st on a ferry mission to Espiritu Santo. She returned to Pearl Harbor in mid-March and then continued on to Alameda, California. In April, she moved to San Diego and conducted flight training operations, after which she rendezvoused with Task Group 51.1 and steamed for Cold Bay, Alaska with VC-21 embarked.
Nassau got underway on a search mission 4 May and conducted flight operations with Task Force 51, providing air cover for the occupation of Attu Island from 11 through 20 May. She returned to San Diego in late May, arrived at Alameda 8 June and onloaded 45 aircraft destined for Brisbane, Australia. She delivered the aircraft 2 July and returned to San Diego via Noumea, New Caledonia.
In August, she trained off San Diego before ferrying planes to Samoa. Returning to San Diego from Samoa, 19 October, Nassau embarked Marine Fighter Squadron 225 for passage to Pearl Harbor. Arriving the 30th, she conducted air operations off Pearl Harbor during the early days of November and on the 7th she embarked VF-1 and steamed for the Gilbert Islands for operations with Task Force 52.
Nassau's mission was to transport VF-1 to Tarawa and to send it ashore as soon as facilities were available. The invasion of Tarawa commenced 20 November but encountered bitter resistance. As a result, VF-1 was assigned combat air patrol and flew bombing and strafing runs from the carrier in support of the assault troops. The Squadron flew a total of 106 missions and spent 237 hours of flying time in four days of operations without losing a single plane or pilot.
Nassau returned to Pearl Harbor on 5 December following flight operations. She then sailed to the Marshall Islands with Task Group 51.2 and launched strikes 29 January 1944 against Taroa Field on Maloelap Atoll. The next day, the Task Group centered its operations around Kwajalein, Wotje, and Maloelap Atolls, with Nassau conducting both anti-submarine and combat air patrols.
Nassau returned to Pearl Harbor 3 March, disembarked VC-66, and took on aircraft, cargo, and passengers for ferry to the Marshall Islands. Throughout March, ferry missions were performed between Kwajalein, Majuro, and Pearl Harbor. After repairs and alterations at Mare Island Navy Yard, the carrier sailed with 51 aircraft for Finschhafen, New Guinea 5 May. The next four months she performed ferry missions from San Diego to Pearl Harbor, the Admiralties and the New Hebrides Islands.
Upon arrival at Seeadler Harbor 1 September, Nassau reported to Commander Task Group 30.8. Thus began her tour of duty with Admiral Halsey's 3rd fleet, which made unprecedented naval history in the following months. Nassau's mission was to operate out of the Admiralties with other escort carriers to provide replacement aircraft and pilots for the attack carriers of Task Force 38. Steaming in company with the oiler groups, which refueled the ships of the Task Force at sea, Nassau made three cruises into the western Pacific. She returned to the Admiralties with disabled aircraft which were destined for shipment to Pearl Harbor or the United States for reconditioning.
The first of these replacement trips was in support of the strikes against Palau; the second in support of operations against the southern and central Philippines. Then Task Force 38 shifted to more northerly targets in the Philippines and Formosa. Nassau reached Manus 20 October. After offloading old aircraft and taking on new ones, she departed on her last replacement trip. Steaming to Ulithi Atoll in the Caroline Islands, she joined up with Task Groups 38.1 and 38.3 on 28 October and transferred 70 aircraft and 43 pilots to the attack carriers.
Task Unit 12.6.1, composed of Nassau, Tennessee (BB-43), and four other ships steamed for Pearl Harbor 5 November, arriving the 16th. Two days later, Nassau was dispatched to San Diego. Among her passengers were 382 survivors of light carrier Princeton (CVL-23), which was sunk in the Battle for Leyte Gulf, 24 October 1944. Another ferry mission to Pearl Harbor followed in mid-November, with three more runs to Guam in December, January 1945, and February. Nassau returned to Alameda, California, 23 March and through the remainder of the war ,performed transport and ferry missions between Alameda, Pearl Harbor, Guam, Manus, Samar, and Saipan.
Nassau departed Alameda 13 May 1946 for Tacoma, Washington. On 28 October, she decommissioned and entered the Pacific Reserve Fleet. Designated for modification for aircraft transportation purposes, her classification was changed to CVHE-16, 12 June 1955. Shortly thereafter she transferred to the Bremerton Reserve Group, and was struck from the Navy Register, 1 March 1959. In June 1961 she was towed to Japan for scrapping.
Nassau received five battle stars for World War II service.
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