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LSD 43 Fort McHenry

USS FORT MCHENRY's mission is to transport, launch, and support landing craft and helicopters carrying United States Marines during amphibious operations against hostile shores. When deployed, FORT MCHENRY can carry a Marine landing force with up to 34 officers, 20 non-commissioned officers, and 450 enlisted. FORT MCHENRY accomplishes her mission through the use of a well deck that is flooded to embark and launch assault craft. After leaving the ship, the assault craft are directed towards the shore by the ship's Combat Information Center.

FORT MCHENRY carries the new Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC). The LCAC is an assault hovercraft with the ability to exceed 40 knots while carrying a 60 ton payload. Using this new craft, FORT MCHENRY forces will be able to accomplish amphibious assaults against a wider range of beaches.

To provide continuing support to the assault force, FORT MCHENRY is equipped with the Navy's latest advanced technology including updated communication and combat systems, 20 ton and 60 ton cranes, expanded repair facilities, two helicopter landing areas, complete medical and dental facilities, and an automated supply system.

Named for the national monument in Baltimore, Maryland, USS FORT MCHENRY (LSD 43) is the third Whidbey Island Class Dock Landing Ship. The keel was laid on 10 June 1983, and the ship was launched on 1 February 1986. FORT MCHENRY's commissioning ceremony took place in Seattle on 8 August 1987.

FORT MCHENRY's maiden deployment was from June 1988 to December 1988 to the Western Pacific. Following its return, FORT MCHENRY participated in the cleanup of the EXXON VALDEZ oil spill from 28 April to 22 June 1989. In recognition of the crew's effectiveness during the cleanup operation, FORT MCHENRY was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation and the Coast Guard Special Operations Service Ribbon.

On 20 June 1990, FORT MCHENRY began its second deployment and spent 10-months in the Arabian Gulf for Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Following its return to San Diego on 17 April 1991, FORT MCHENRY received the Navy Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal and the Combat Action Ribbon.

Eight months later, FORT MCHENRY deployed to the Western Pacific on 6 January 1992. After several successful multinational exercises and port visits, FORT MCHENRY returned to San Diego on 6 July 1992.

Following an extensive overhaul period, FORT MCHENRY began the training cycle to prepare for its next deployment. While in the training cycle, FORT MCHENRY transited to the East Coast through the Panama Canal to pick up five new LCACs from Panama City, Florida. At the completion of the training cycle, FORT MCHENRY embarked on its fourth deployment from 9 June to 9 December 1994. While deployed, FORT MCHENRY participated in Operation Restore Hope. The ship also participated in Operation Vigilant Warrior. Following the deployment, FORT MCHENRY was awarded its second Navy Unit Commendation and Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and also received its fourth Battle Efficiency Award.

On 1 September 1995, FORT MCHENRY departed San Diego to become one of the units forward deployed to Sasebo, Japan.

Since its arrival to Japan FORT MCHENRY has participated in training exercises and multi-national exercises such as Tandem Thrust and Crocodile in Australia, Cobra Gold in Thailand, Foal Eagle in South Korea, visited ports during those exercises and visited Shanghai, People's Republic of China, and Kure, Japan.

During May of 1998, FORT MCHENRY participated on Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT 98), which includes visits and exercises with countries in the Western Pacific such as Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. In addition to its involvement in CARAT 98, FORT MCHENRY received the Commander, Naval Surface Pacific Fleet Wellness Unit Award for 1997 and the Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award for 1997 on the 1st of June, 1998.

After spending January 1999 in Hong Kong, FORT MCHENRY entered the competitive phase of its training cycle. In April 1999, FORT MCHENRY participated in exercise Tandem Thrust 99 in Guam. FORT MCHENRY was also named a repeat winner of the Commander, Naval Surface Pacific Fleet Wellness Unit Award. Finally, during June 1999, FORT MCHENRY underwent two Total Ship Training Assessments (TSTA), which confirmed the ship's training progress during the 1999 competitive cycle.

FORT MCHENRY began the new millinium by participating in Exercise Balikatan 2000 with Filippino Armed Forces. The ship was named a repeat winner of the Battle Efficiency Award, Command Excellence Awards for Maritime Warfare, Engineering/Survivability, Command and Control, and Logistics Management for its achievements during the 1999 fiscal year. After Balikatan 2000 was completed FORT MCHENRY continued its hectic schedule by participating in Exercise COBRA GOLD 2000, during May of 2000, with the navies of Thailand and Singapore. The busy schedule continued in October 2000, when FORT MCHENRY participated in Exercise NEPTUNE THUNDER 00 with American Army forces stationed in South Korea. From 27 October to 3 November, FORT MCHENRY concluded the year with its participation in Exercise Foal Eagle which took placed in South Korea.

FORT MCHENRY spent the first half of 2001 in a lengthy Ship Required Availability period. During this period the ship acquired two new weapon systems, Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Launcher and Ship's Self Defense System (SSDS,) both would greatly increased the ship's defensive capabilities.

After returning to sea in June 2001, FORT MCHENRY is in the middle of its training cycle. Recently, the ship completed a port visit to Kagoshima in August 2001, where approximately seven thousand residents of Kagoshima toured FORT MCHENRY.

The wavy bars refer to Chesapeake Bay. The pile suggests the peninsula between Baltimore harbor and the mouth of the Patapsco River, a strategic location in defense of Baltimore. The fort on the pile denotes Fort McHenry's location on Whetstone Peninsula in the upper Chesapeake Bay. The fort was named for James McHenry, Secretary of War under President Adams. The trefoil on the red cross symbolizes McHenry's immigration from Ireland to Philadelphia where he studied medicine and later volunteered as a surgeon during the Revolutionary War. The red cross, a symbol for medical establishments, also recalls the use of the fort as a military hospital during World War I. The colors blue and gold are traditionally associated with the Navy.

The eagle, symbol of the United States, grasps a representation of the flag over Fort McHenry that inspired Francis Scott Key's "Star Spangled Banner". The bomb stands for the bombardment of the fort by the British fleet in 1814. The eagle holding the United States flag over the bomb indicates the fort's successful defense against the British.

Fort McHenry

The history of the fort begins in 1776 during the Revolutionary War.

The people of Baltimore feared an attack by the British and wanted a fort for protection. Anticipating an attack at any time, a set of earthen mounds was quickly constructed. Originally, it was called Fort Whetstone, because of its location one Whetstone Point. Although the Revolutionary War ended without an attack on Baltimore, improvements to the fort continued. In 1798, a French engineer was directed by the Secretary of War to draw plans for a new fort on Whetstone Point. These plans were expensive, and it was difficult for the people of Baltimore to raise money for construction. However, James McHenry, a well-known politician, was instrumental in raising funds for the new fort.

The fort was renamed "Fort McHenry" in his honor. Fort McHenry became famous when the British tried to attack Baltimore during the War of 1812. When the bombardment began on 13 September 1814, there were 1000 soldiers defending the fort. Their commanding officer was Major George Armistead. Just prior to the attack, Francis Scott Key met the Royal Navy in Chesapeake Bay to affect the release of Dr. William Beanes, a British prisoner and close friend of Key. Dr. Beanes was released, but the Americans were forced to wait in their boat behind the British fleet until the attack was completed. From a distance of approximately eight miles, Key and his friends watched the British bombard Fort McHenry. After 25 hours of continuous bombing, the British decided to leave since they were unable to destroy the fort. Realizing the British had ceased the attack, Key looked toward the fort to see if the flag was still there. To his relief, the flag was still flying! Quickly, he wrote down the words to a poem that was soon handed out as a handbill under the title, "Defence of Fort McHenry". Later, the words were set to music, and renamed "The Star Spangled Banner". This became a popular patriotic song, and in 1931 it became our national anthem.

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