LHA-1 Tarawa class Troop Facilities
The TARAWA class LHAs have troop accommodations for approximately 2,000 men. These normally would include a Marine rifle battalion of 1,100 officers and enlisted men plus a helicopter squadron, the landing force commander and his staff, and detachments of tank, artillery, engineer, amphibious tractor, communications, and beach group personnel as they are required.
Also included in the troop category are the Navy amphibious force commander and his staff, a surgical team, a boat group (to operate the landing craft), and a tactical air control squadron (to direct air operations during the amphibious assault).
The troop spaces are especially designed to provide a high standard of living for a military ship because during normal operations the LHA operates in an overseas area for several months as part of a deployed task group. This is in contrast to World War I I-era operations when the Marines were loaded aboard the landing ship which then steamed directly to the assault area for the invasion, generally a one- or two-week trip.
Thus, the LHA has relatively spacious troop berthing areas, with storage space for personnel belongings, chairs and tables for relaxing, and adjacent toilet facilities. There are special areas for recreation, including a library, game room, and hobby shop. All living spaces in the ship can be air conditioned when the ship operates in tropic areas and heated for Arctic operations.
The ship is designed to keep the troops at a high state of readiness while at sea. An extensive closed-circuit television system is provided for remote classroom training (as well as for recreation and general information use at other times). There is a troop training and acclimatization room for general training, physical conditioning, and to accustom the Marines to special climates that they could encounter in the assault areas. Previously, when troops were rushed by ship from a cold or even temperate area to a tropic area it could take several days until their bodies adjusted to the local climate, permitting them to fight or work at peak proficiency. Aboard the LHA they can exercise periodically in the acclimatization room and be subjected to the temperature and humidity conditions that they will encounter in the assault area.
The key element in an amphibious assault is the landing force, such as these Marines shown boarding an LPH. The LHA will carry a reinforced battalion of some 2,000 Marines and most of their equipment.
As the LHA approaches the assault area there are designated spaces for the troops to assemble with their equipment, so that they can move to the landing craft or helicopters as tactical units. Passages and stairs are assigned for the movement of men and supplies to specific loading areas to avoid traffic jams or interference of, for example, one troop unit moving toward the docking well and another toward the flight deck, at the same time. The stairs replace the ladders of earlier amphibious ships so that Marines carrying their weapons, packs, and equipment will not have to climb hand-over-hand up ladders, but can walk stairs between decks.
Those Marines that will be lifted ashore by helicopter reach the flight deck by a sheltered passageway just under the sides of the flight deck. They can be held there if necessary and then walk up a few steps to reach the helicopter loading spots without having to cross the flight deck. By waiting on the sheltered passageway rather than on the flight deck to board helicopters they will not watch wounded troops being unloaded from helicopters returning from the beach, an important psychological factor for troops about to enter combat.
The LHA is fitted for the mass treatment and evacuation of wounded troops. In addition to providing routine medical and dental services to the 2,800 embarked troops and ship's crew, the LHA can treat up to 300 combat casualties during an assault operation. The treatment facilities are comparable to those of a modern hospital and include two main operating rooms, two emergency operating rooms, three dental operating rooms, X-ray rooms, blood bank, pharmacy, laboratories, and casualty wards.
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