Peleliu Expeditionary Strike Group
Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group
ex-Da Nang / ex-Khe Sanh
Pax Per Potens: "Peace Through Power"
The amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) was bid farewell to the 'Iron Nickel' during the ship's decommissioned during a ceremony held at Naval Base San Diego, on March 31, 2015.
During 34 years of service, Peleliu was homeported in both Long Beach and San Diego on the California coast as thousands of Sailors and Marines called the ship home. Capable of launching a coordinated air and sea attack from one platform, Peleliu conducted 17 deployments, 178,051 flight operations, served 57,983 personnel and steamed approximately 1,011,946 nautical miles since being commissioned May 3, 1980 in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
The contract to build LHA-5 was awarded on Nov 6, 1970, Peleliu's keel was laid Nov. 12, 1976, and the ship was launched Nov. 11, 1978. Peleliu was christened Jan. 6, 1979, by Margaret Hayward, wife of former Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Thomas B. Hayward. Commissioning took place in Pascagoula, Miss., at Ingalls Shipyard May 3, 1980.
Peleliu is the first U.S. Navy ship to carry the name Peleliu, and the second ship named in honor of the World War II battles fought in the Palau Islands. The first ship was USS Palau (CVE 122), a Commencement Bay Class aircraft carrier, which served from 1946 until being decommissioned in 1954. Peleliu is named in honor of the 3rd Amphibious Force's assault and capture of Peleliu Island in the fall of 1944.
On May 17th Peleliu arrived in Colon, Panama to begin unrigging for the transit of the Panama Canal. Peleliu departed Colon on May 20th and tied up in Balboa, Panama (Pacific side of the canal) twelve hours later. After five days of rerigging in Balboa, Peleliu departed and entered her homewaters of the Pacific. Peleliu proceeded south from Panama and crossed the equator on the night of May 27th, which is the record for the shortest period between a ship's commissioning and "Crossing the Line."
On May 28th Peleliu headed northerly enroute Mazatlan, Mexico, departing the Baja port on June 7th enroute San Diego, California. Most of the events Peleliu and her crew participated in during this initial transit were "firsts" and the underway refueling with USNS TALUGA was no exception, occurring on June 8th. Peleliu arrived at Naval Air Station, San Diego on June 10th for a one-day stop prior to proceeding to Long Beach, CA, her homeport.
In 1981 Peleliu complete its Post-Shakedown Availability and join the fleet as a fully operational unit of the Navy's Pacific Amphibious Force. The latter part of the year found the ship and her crew well trained having past numerous work up evaluations. The Engineering department passed their Operational Propulsion Plant Examination (OPPE) in 42--hours vice the normal 72 hours required, and REFTRA was successfully accomplished just prior to the holiday season. All efforts were directed toward preparing Peleliu for its first Western Pacific/Indian Ocean deployment.
1982 marked USS Peleliu's first year as a fully operational unit of the Navy's Pacific Fleet Amphibious Force. In January, she was the flagship in a no-notice, non-combatant emergency evacuation exercise conducted off San Clemente Island, and on March 28th the ship got underway for its maiden deployment to the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean.
The deployment was completed on October 4th, 1984. One month later the ship deployed to the northern Pacific Ocean to participate in an exercise held off Amchitka in the Aleutian Islands. Peleliu conducted its 10,000th accident free landing during this northern Pacific exercise.
The first fleet firing of the RIM 116 RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile) occurred in October 1995 from the USS Peleliu.
In Sepember 1997 the Peleliu ARG took part in Fleet Battle Experiment - Bravo's "Silent Fury" phase along with the Constellation Battle Group.
The Peleliu ARG was deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1997 (actually being present in the Gulf in November) and participated in Exercise Eager Mace 98.
On 31 March 2015 hundreds of plankowners, former crew members, and a few Marines joined the ship’s current crew at Naval Base San Diego to say “goodbye" to one of the most famous ships in the Navy’s Pacific Fleet. Tears wet the eyes of many in attendance as the flag was hauled down, the watch was secured and the crew ceremoniously disembarked for the final time.
During almost 35 years of service, Peleliu was homeported in both Long Beach and San Diego on the California coast as thousands of Sailors and Marines called the ship home. Capable of launching a coordinated air and sea attack from one platform, Peleliu has conducted 17 deployments, 178,051 flight operations, served 57,983 personnel and steamed approximately 1,011,946 nautical miles since being commissioned May 3, 1980 in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
The ship’s maiden deployment took place in 1982, with follow-on deployments taking place almost every two years thereafter. While on a Western Pacific deployment in 1990, the crew rescued 155 refugees from Vietnam who were crammed into a small boat. The story of how the gray silhouette of the mighty Peleliu appeared on the horizon to rescue the group just in time lives on in the hearts of a group of grateful individuals.
Peleliu took on another humanitarian mission during the summer of 2007 as the platform for Pacific Partnership. Throughout the four-month deployment, Peleliu hosted both military and civilian personnel, who provided medical and dental care, as well as, education and preventative medicine to more than 31,600 people in the Philippines, Vietnam, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
Following the Pacific Partnership deployment, Peleliu deployed in 2008 to support maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operations. Three months into the deployment the ship made headline news when it responded to a distress call from the M/V Gem of Kilakarai off the coast of Somalia reporting that it was under attack from armed pirates.
Rear Adm. Marcus A. Hitchcock, who commanded Peleliu during the 2008 deployment, said he remembers the attack on the civilian merchant ship and how Peleliu’s Sailors and Marines sprang into action in order to help prevent the pirates from taking control of the vessel.
“We were conducting routine operations that morning and then suddenly there was a commercial container vessel putting out a mayday call," said Hitchcock. “The ship was electrified and we launched three helicopters within minutes." A show of force from the Navy and Marine Corps helicopters and the sight of the mighty Peleliu’s silhouette on the horizon must have struck fear into the pirates as they quickly fled the scene.
The Gem of Kilakarai did report one grenade landed on the ship’s bridge wing during the attack but failed to detonate. Explosive ordnance personnel from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit were dispatched to defuse the unexploded grenade. “The ship was doing a good job at evasive maneuvers but the pirates were determined to take the ship," said Hitchcock. “Our actions absolutely prevented that act of piracy from taking place."
The 2008 deployment was not the last for the mighty Peleliu as it deployed again in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Even with new Sailors and Marines joining the team each time, the ship developed a reputation of doing whatever it took to safely accomplish the mission. From delivering relief supplies to Pakistan during massive flooding to landing Marines on the beach, the blue/green team.
During that deployment, the officers and crew also made an impressive effort to earn surface warfare officer, enlisted surface warfare, and enlisted air warfare pins during the deployment. As a result the ship was flying all three pennants as it returned home to Naval Base San Diego on Nov. 4, 2008, with hundreds of friends and family on board for a Tiger Cruise.
After the decommissioning process is complete, Peleliu was towed from San Diego to Pearl Harbor to join the Navy’s reserve fleet. There, the gray silhouette of the last of its class amphibious assault ship took its place alongside its sister ship and first in class, the ex-USS Tarawa (LHA 1).
The ship's crest has Eight stars across the top of the shield - symbolizing eight Medal of Honor awardees from the assault on Peleliu. The crest also has a large Roman "V" in center of shield with a four-pointed star in center of large "V" - symbolizes four functions of the LHA. A ring in lower left of shield - by traditions of heraldry, a ring or annulet symbolizes the fifth born. Emblem of 1st Marine Division - constellation Southern Cross, with numeral "1", superimposed.
Battle of Peleliu
USS Peleliu is the first ship to carry the name Peleliu and the second ship named in honor of the battles fought in the Palau Islands. The first ship was USS PALAU (CVE-I 22), a Commencement Bay class escort aircraft carrier, which served from 1946 until its decommissioning in 1954.
USS Peleliu is named in honor of the Third Amphibious Force's assault and capture of the island of Peleliu. The battle was one of the most vicious and stubbornly contested of the Pacific campaign and nowhere was the fighting efficiency of the U.S. Marines more convincingly demon-strated. Eight Marines were awarded the Medal of Honor during this battle.
Like the bloody World War II island campaigns before it, Peleliu was a fight to capture an airstrip on a far-flung speck of coral in the western Pacific. And, as with previous island battles, the Americans would prevail, but at a cost no one anticipated, against a fanatical enemy whose new defense strategy would make the invaders pay dearly for every chunk of coral taken. By the summer of 1944, the United States had come a long way since the dark days of Pearl Harbor, Wake Island and Bataan. Victories in the Southwest and Central Pacific had brought the war even closer to Japan, with American bombers now able to strike at the Japanese homeland itself. But there was disagreement by the U.S. Joint Chiefs over two proposed strategies to crush the Japanese Empire. One strategy proposed by General Douglas MacArthur called for the recapture of the Philippines, followed by the capture of Okinawa then Formosa for an attack at the Chinese mainland. From there, the eventual invasion of Japan would come.
Admiral Chester Nimitz, on the other hand, favored a more direct strategy of bypassing the Philippines, but seizing Okinawa and Formosa as staging areas for the future invasion of Japan's southernmost islands. As for Peleliu, both commanders' strategies included the invasion of this island, but for different reasons, and the 1st Marine Division had already been chosen to make the assault. To settle this dispute, President Franklin Roosevelt traveled to Pearl Harbor to meet personally with both commanders and hear their respective arguments. From this the president would make his own decision. After a review of both positions, MacArthur's strategy was chosen. However, before MacArthur could retake the Philippines, the Palau Islands - Peleliu specifically, would have to be neutralized to protect his right flank. What followed would be a ferocious battle lasting more than two months and costing over 12,000 lives. It would also be one of the Pacific War's most forgotten campaigns.
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