LHD-8 Makin Island
The Navy commissioned the amphibious assault ship Makin Island on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009 during a ceremony at North Island Naval Air Station, Coronado, Calif. Adm. Patrick Walsh, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, delivered the ceremony's principal address. Silke Hagee, wife of former commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Michael Hagee, served as ship's sponsor. Upon commissioning, the ship became a member of U.S. Pacific Fleet as part of Amphibious Group Five and was home ported in San Diego.
Northrop Grumman Ship Systems (NGSS) Ingalls Operations in New Orleans was tasked with the fabrication of LHD 8, the warship that will lead the transformation of the Navy's next-generation "big deck" amphibious force. This milestone event was heralded at a Start of Fabrication Ceremony at NGSS' shipbuilding facility in Pascagoula, Miss., on 22 May 2003.
LHD 8 will be a multi-purpose amphibious assault ship designed to transport and land a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), a force of almost 2,000 Marines, ashore by helicopter, landing craft and amphibious assault vehicle. LHD 8 will also have secondary missions of sea control and power projection by helicopter and fixed-wing vertical short take-off and landing (VSTOL) aircraft; command and control, and mission support, including a hospital with six operating rooms.
Although LHD 8 is the eighth ship of the Wasp class, it will feature noteworthy technological advances. Changes from the previous LHD design include: gas turbine main propulsion engines, all electric auxiliaries, an advanced machinery control system, water mist fire protection systems, and the Navy's most advanced command and control and combat systems equipment. The gas turbine propulsion plant, with all electric auxiliaries, is a program first for large deck amphibious assault ships and will provide significant savings in manpower and maintenance costs associated with traditional steam-powered amphibious ships.
In late September 2003 the U.S. Navy has selected the name Makin Island for its next amphibious assault ship, which honors the daring raid carried out by Marine Corps Companies A and B, Second Raider Battalion, on Japanese-held Makin Island, in the Gilbert Islands, Aug. 17-18, 1942.
The Keel Laying Ceremony for the Makin Island was held on February 14, 2004 at the Northrop Grumman Ship Systems shipbuilding facility in Pascagoula, MS.
The U.S. Navy christened Makin Island on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2006, during a 10 a.m. CDT ceremony at Northrop Grumman Ship Systems in Pascagoula, Miss. Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi delivered the principal address at the ceremony while Silke Hagee, wife of Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Michael W. Hagee, served as ship’s sponsor.
Delivery of LHD 8 was completed May 2007.
Marine Corps Companies A and B, Second Raider Battalion, conducted a raid on Japanese-held Makin Island, in the Gilbert Islands, Aug. 17-18, 1942.
The raid was launched from the submarines USS Nautilus and USS Argonaut, and succeeded in routing the enemy forces based there, gaining valuable intelligence. The raid's leader, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Evan Carlson was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions, while Marine Corps Sgt. Clyde Thompson was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism and was the first enlisted Marine to be so honored during World War II.
During the two-day battle, the Raiders killed an estimated 83 Japanese soldiers, but their attempts to leave the island were bedeviled by a high and crashing surf and they were unable to evacuate the bodies of their fallen comrades.
In 2001, the bodies of 19 Marine Corps raiders who died during the operation or were executed after being captured were recovered on the island of Kwajalein and returned to the United States for burial.
The remains are those of Capt. Gerald P. Holtom, Palo Alto, Calif.; Sgt. Clyde Thomason Atlanta, Ga.; FM1 Vernon L. Castle, Stillwater, Okla.; Cpl. Daniel A. Gaston, Galveston, Texas;Cpl. Edward Maciejewski, Chicago, Ill.; Cpl. Robert B. Pearson, Lafayette, Calif.; Pfc. William A. Gallagher, Wyandotte, Mich.; Pfc. Kenneth M. Montgomery, Eden, Wis.; Pfc. John E. Vandenberg, Kenosha, Wis.; Pvt. Carlyle O. Larson, Glenwood, Minn.; Pvt. Robert B. Maulding, Vista, Calif.; Pvt. Franklin M. Nodland, Marshalltown, Iowa; and Pvt. Charles A. Selby, Ontonagon, Mich.
The families of six other Marines killed during the raid elected to have private burials. A casket containing co-mingled remains was interred during the ceremony in addition to the 13 individual caskets.
USS Makin Island, a 7800-ton Casablanca class escort aircraft carrier built at Vancouver, Washington, was commissioned in May 1944. Following shakedown, she left the West Coast in June 1944 to transport airplanes to Hawaii and the central Pacific, then spent several months working up for combat operations. In November 1944 Makin Island escorted convoys to the contested island of Leyte, in the Philippines. She then began preparations to provide close air support for the landings at Lingayen Gulf which, in early January 1945, marked the beginning of the American reconquest of Luzon. During this operation, and subsequent ones, she served as flagship for an escort carrier task force. In February and early March, Makin Island participated in the invasion of Iwo Jima, again in a close air support role.
The carrier's next operation, the campaign to seize Okinawa and other islands in the Ryukyus, began later in March. She remained in the combat area for more than two months, during which her aircraft flew more than 2,250 sorties. From mid-July to mid-August 1945, Makin Island covered minesweeping and surface raiding activities in the East China Sea, and her planes also attacked the Japanese on the China mainland. In September and October, following the enemy's surrender, she supported the occupation of Japan. She finished the year transporting war veterans home from the western Pacific. USS Makin Island was decommissioned in April 1946. Stricken from the list of Navy ships a few months later, she was sold for scrapping at the beginning of 1947.
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