Named after a town and county in Massachusetts 

first USS Essex 
1st USS Essex
USS Essex is named after a town and county in Massachusetts which is significant because of the tie in with the people of Essex county in 1798 and the building of the first USS Essex.

Aside from that it’s noteworthy that the name Essex is a very popular one for British and American ships, there being five British and five American ships named Essex through the years.

Current USS Essex

USS Essex USS Essex (LHD 2) is fifth ship to bear the name Essex and the second ship to be commissioned in the WASP-class of multipurpose amphibious assault ships. The principle mission of Essex is to conduct prompt, sustained operations at sea, primarily as the centerpiece and flagship of the Amphibious Ready Group. LHDs provide the means to transport, deploy, command and support all elements of a Marine landing force of over 2,000 troops during an assault by air and amphibious craft.

Designed to be versatile, Essex has the option of simultaneously using helicopters, Harrier jets, and Landing Craft Air Cushioned (LCAC), as well as conventional landing craft and assault vehicles in various combinations and LHDs missions while operating with an aircraft carrier battle group. The ship's extensive medical facilities consist of six medical operating rooms, four dental operating rooms, medical laboratories and hospital facilities capable of caring for 600 patients.

In carrying out its primary mission, the 844-foot long, 44,000-ton Essex will transport and land ashore troops, tanks, trucks, artillery, and other supplies necessary to support an assault.

USS Essex keel was laid on March 20, 1989, at Pascagoula, Miss. Two years later, the ship was christened and began a series of performance trials leading up to commissioning on October 17, 1992 in San Diego, California.

Departing October 1994, Essex set sail on her maiden deployment to the Western Pacific with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Special Operations Capable, (SOC) embarked.

Two years later in October 1996, Essex departed on her second Western Pacific deployment with the 11th MEU SOC and Amphibious Squadron Five. After a maintenance period and a short workup cycle on June 1998, Essex departed on her third Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf deployment with the 15th MEU (SOC) and Amphibious Squadron Five.

Essex departed San Diego in July 2000 to replace USS Belleau Wood (LHA 3) successfully completing the largest hull swap in U. S. Navy history. Essex then inherited the distinctive role as the Navy’s only forward-deployed multi-purpose amphibious assault ship in Sasebo, Japan.

In that role Essex provided Humanitarian Assistance and disaster relief operations to East Timor in October 2001.

After completing Exercises Foal Eagle and Cobra Gold, Essex departed in August 2004 for her fourth deployment with the 31st MEU (SOC). Essex served as Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group Three (ESG 3) flagship.

While on deployment to the Arabian Gulf in January 2005, Essex received additional tasking to provide Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief in Indonesia for the victims of the Tsunami.

Essex was again deployed for Humanitarian Assistance in February 2006 helping the survivors of the Leyte mudslide in the Philippines.

In March 2006 Essex arrived at Iwo Jima to participate in the 61st Anniversary of the historic World War II Battle. Essex was called upon in November 2006 to provide security, medical and communication support to the President of the United States during his visit to the Western Pacific.

Continuing to lead U.S. Navy’s strategic engagement initiative, in 2007 Essex successfully conducted combined operations with the Republic of Korea, the Republic of the Philippines, and Australia.

Essex capped off her 2007 deployment schedule with a historic visit to the Kingdom of Cambodia. Essex’ visit to Cambodia marked the first time an amphibious assault ship has ever visited the country.

In 2008 Essex once again conducted annual training exercises with the partner nations of the Republic of the Philippines, the Kingdom of Thailand and the Republic of Korea.

Early in 2008 Essex was called upon to be in position to render aid to Burma in the wake of Cyclone Nargis. Essex remained on station for over three weeks, prepared to render aid but was rebuffed by the ruling government.

Early 2009, Essex completed a successful exercise Cobra Gold, which had been cut short the previous year. Essex followed this with exercise Balikatan with the Republic of the Philippines. Essex then got underway in support of exercise Talisman Saber 2009 and conducted various welldeck and flight deck evolutions in support of this joint bi-lateral exercise between the U.S. and Australian military forces.

Since her commissioning, Essex has received seven Battle Efficiency awards and numerous other awards, including all of the warfare excellence awards, numerous Golden Anchor awards for retention, and two Ney awards for food service excellence.

1st USS Essex

America was young. While struggling to establish economic and political stability under the new constitution, the United States faced continued threats from French naval forces against a new and thriving maritime industry. To protect these interests, Congress passed several acts to establish a token naval force; and on June 30, 1798, the act was passed which enabled the first USS Essex to be built. This act allowed the President to accept vessels of war from private citizens on the credit of the United States. In response to this action, 23 citizens of Salem, in the county of Essex, Massachusetts, opened a “Patriotic Subscription” on July 17, 1798, to build a vessel of war for the United States of America.

On October 25, 1798, a meeting of the first Essex sponsors was held to determine the type of vessel to be built. From the Salem Gazette of October 26, 1798, came the following announcement which read in part: “At a meeting in this town on Tuesday last, of those gentlemen who have subscribed to build a ship for the service of the United States, it was voted unanimously to build a frigate of 32 guns, and to loan the same to the government…”

A month later, the frigate’s builder, Enoch Briggs, advertised for shipbuilding materials in a ringing appeal: “Take Notice! Ye sons of freedom! Step forth and give your assistance in building the frigate to oppose French insolence and piracy! Let every man in possession of a white oak tree feel ambitious to be foremost in hurrying down the timber to Salem…where noble structure is to be fabricated and maintain your rights upon the seas and make the name of America respected among the nations of the world! Your longest and largest trees are wanted…four trees are wanted for the keel, which altogether measure 146 feet in length, and hew 16 inches square. Please call on the subscriber, who…will pay the ready cash.”

The frigate was launched on September 30, 1799, before a crowd of 12,000 people. On 17 December 1799 she was presented to the United States and accepted by Captain Edward Preble.

With the United States involved in naval action against France on 6 January 1800 Essex, Captain Edward Preble, departed New York in company with Congress to rendezvous with and convoy merchant ships returning from Batavia, Dutch East Indies. Congress was dismasted only a few days out, and Essex was obliged to continue her voyage alone, making her mark as the first U.S. man-of-war to double the Cape of Good Hope, both in March and in August 1800 prior to successfully completing her convoy mission in November.

Captain William Bainbridge commanded Essex on her second cruise whereon she sailed to the Mediterranean with the squadron of Commodore Richard Dale. Dispatched to protect American trade and seamen against depredations by the Barbary Powers, the squadron arrived at Gibraltar on 1 July 1801 and spent the ensuing year convoying American merchantmen and blockading Tripolitan ships. In 1802, Essex resumed duties in the Mediterranean. She participated in the successful attack on the town of Derne on 27 April 1805 and remained in these waters until the conclusion of peace terms in 1806.

Returning to the Washington Navy Yard in July, she was placed in ordinary until February 1809 when she was recommissioned for sporadic use in patrolling American waters and a single cruise to Europe. When war was declared against Britain on 18 June 1812, Essex, commanded by Captain David Porter, made a successful cruise to the southward. On 11 July near Bermuda she fell in with seven British transports and by moonlight cut out and seized one of them. On 13 August she encountered and captured the sloop Alert after an engagement. By September when she returned to New York, Essex had taken 10 prizes.

Essex sailed in South Atlantic waters and along the coast of Brazil until January 1813 when Captain Porter undertook the decimation of English whale fisheries in the Pacific. Although her crew suffered greatly from a shortage of provisions and heavy gales while rounding Cape Horn, she anchored safely at Valparaiso, Chile, on 14 March, having seized schooners, Elizabeth and Nereyda in course. The next 5 months brought Essex 13 prizes, including Essex Junior.

In January 1814 Essex sailed into neutral waters at Valparaiso, Chile, only to be trapped there for 6 weeks by the British frigates, Phoebe and Cherub. Porter determined to gain the open sea, but a heavy squall crippled Essex forcing her return to the harbor. The enemy, disregarding the neutrality of the harbor, proceeded to attack the disabled ship. The engagement which followed was one of the most remarkable in naval history. For 2½ hours, Essex resisted with intrepidity the enemy's superior fighting power; however, the loss of 155 men forced the gallant frigate to surrender. In the War of 1812, the first Essex compiled a battle record unequaled by any other man-of-war.

2nd USS Essex

The second USS Essex, an ironclad steamer, was built in 1856 for use as a ferry. Originally named New Era, she was renamed Essex following purchase by the War Department on September 20, 1861.

In January 1862, with W. D. Porter as her commanding officer, USS Essex and USS St. Louis engaged Confederate gunboats in the Tennessee River near Lucas Bend, Mo. In company with six other gunboats commanded by Flag Officer A. H. Foote, she cooperated with the Army in capturing Fort Henry, Tenn., on 6 February. During this action Essex suffered a penetrating hit that severely damaged her boiler, killing 11 and wounding 23 of her crew, including Porter.

Essex was extensively modified and repaired, including new, protected boilers, heavier armor and a 45-foot hull section inserted in the middle of the ship. Essex steamed south and participated in the assault on Vicksburg on 13 July 1862. Nine days later she ran past the batteries of Vicksburg and, in company with USS Queen of the West, attacked and damaged the Confederate ram, Arkansas. Since her engines were not strong enough to carry her back north, Essex retired to south to Baton Rouge, LA. In a later battle Essex attacked Arkansas again and, during the engagement, Arkansas broke down and drifted ashore where she was destroyed by her crew.

In September, Essex retired to New Orleans for a refit. During that period, the entire Western Flotilla, including Essex, was turned over to the Navy on 1 October 1862 in compliance with congressional enactment and thereafter was named the Mississippi Squadron.

The daily bombardment by Essex and Mortilla helped bring about the eventual surrender of Port Hudson LA in July 1863. Later in July she engaged the enemy at Donaldsonville and although damaged in the battle, carried out her patrol duty through March 1864 when she sailed with the fleet into the mouth of the Red River and assisted in the capture of Fort de Russy. In April Essex got underway for Vicksburg. In May she proceeded to Memphis, Tenn., where she remained as a guardship for the duration of the war. In April 1865, following a massive boiler explosion in steamship Sultana, Essex's boats help rescue 60 people from the water. Essex was decommissioned at Mound City, Ill., on 20 July 1865.

For more detailed history on the second USS Essex visit the Navy Archive page at

3rd USS Essex

The third Essex, a wooden-screw steamer, was built by the United States at East Boston, Massachusetts, and was commissioned on October 3, 1876 with Commander W. S. Schley as the commanding officer.

The new USS Essex reported to the North Atlantic Squadron. During the following year Essex cruised to Liberia and the west coast of Africa and in 1878-79 joined the South Atlantic Squadron. She sailed on the Pacific Station from November 1881 to December 1882, during which she recued Captain S. H. Morrison and crew members of the shipwrecked Ranier. In October 1886 Essex anchored at Ponape, Caroline Islands, to protect American missionaries during a native uprising. She then returned to New York and was placed out of commission in May 1889.

Essex was designated next as a training ship. She logged a cruise with Annapolis cadets in 1893 and tours to train naval apprentices in 1894, 1898 and 1903. Essex was lent to the Naval Militia of Ohio (1904-16) and served in the Ninth Naval District from 1917 to 1926. The Naval Reserve of Minnesota used her as a training ship from 1927 through 1930 when she was stricken from the Navy List. She was sold on 23 December 1930.

For more detailed history on the third USS Essex visit the Navy Archive page at

4th USS Essex

The fourth Essex (CV-9) was launched 31 July 1942 by Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. and commissioned 31 December 1942 with Captain D. B. Duncan as the commanding officer. She was reclassified (CVA-9) on 1 October 1952, and (CVS-9) on 8 March 1960.

Following her shakedown cruise USS Essex sailed to the Pacific in May 1943 to begin a succession of victories which would bring her to Tokyo Bay. USS Essex participated with TF 15 in carrier operations against Marcus Island in August 1943; was designated flagship of TF 14 and struck Wake Island in October; launched an attack with TG 50.3 against the Gilbert Islands where she also took part in her first amphibious assault, the landing on Tarawa in November 1943. Essex cruised as flagship of TG 50.3 to attack Kwajalein in December and participated in her second amphibious assault with TG 58.2 against the Marshalls in January 1943 until February 1944.

Essex was in TG 58.2 as it joined with TG 58.1 and 58.3 to constitute the most formidable carrier striking force to date. They launched an attack against Truk in February 1944 during which eight Japanese ships were sunk. En route to the Marianas to sever Japanese supply lines, the carrier force was detected and attacked by Japanese aircraft. The carrier force fought off the attack and continued with the scheduled attack upon Saipan, Tinian and Guam.

After this operation Essex joined carriers Wasp (CV-18) and San Jacinto (CVL-30) in TG 12.1 to strike Marcus Island and Wake in May 1944. She then deployed with TF 58 to support the occupation of the Marianas in June through August; sortied with TG 38.3 to attack the Palau Islands and Mindanao in September and remained in the area to support landings on Peleliu. In October she weathered a typhoon and four days later departed with TF 38 for the Ryukyus.

For the remainder of 1944 Essex continued her frontline action. In October she participated in strikes against Okinawa and Formosa, covered the Leyte landings and took part in the battle for Leyte Gulf, and continued the search for enemy fleet units until she returned to Ulithi, Caroline Islands, for replenishment. She then delivered attacks on Manila and the northern Philippine Islands during November. On 25 November a kamikaze hit the port edge of her flight deck landing among planes gassed for takeoff, causing extensive damage, killing 15, and wounding 44.

Following quick repairs Essex joined with the 3rd Fleet off Luzon supporting the occupation of Mindoro in December 1944. With TG 38.3 in January 1945 Essex participated in the Lingayen Gulf operations, launched strikes against Formosa, Sakishima, Okinawa, and Luzon, entered the South China Sea in search of enemy surface forces and conducted strikes on Formosa, the China coast, Hainan, and Hong Kong. Essex struck again at Formosa, Miyakp Shima and Okinawa.

During the remainder of the war she operated with TF 58 which conducted attacks against the Tokyo area in February. She also supported missions against Iwo Jima and neighboring islands, but in May was employed primarily to support the conquest of Okinawa. In the closing days of the war, Essex took part in the final telling raids against the Japanese home islands. Following the surrender, she continued defensive combat air patrols until 3 September when she was ordered to Bremerton, Wash., for inactivation. On 9 January 1947 she was placed out of commission in reserve.

Essex was modernized with a new flight deck and a streamlined island superstructure on 15 January 1951 and recommissioned with Captain A. W. Wheelock as the commanding officer.

After a brief cruise in Hawaiian waters USS Essex began the first of three tours in Far Eastern waters during the Korean War. She served as flagship for Carrier Division 1 and TF 77. Essex was outfitted and reclassified (CVA-9) on 1 October 1952. She was the first carrier to launch F2H "Banshee" twin-jet fighters on combat missions. Essex launched strikes up to the Yalu River and provided close air support for U.N. troops.

In December 1953 she started her final tour of the war, sailing the China Sea with the Peace Patrol. From November 1954 to June 1955 she engaged in training exercises, operated for 3 months with the 7th Fleet, assisted in the Tachen Islands evacuation, and engaged in air operations and fleet maneuvers off Okinawa.

In July 1955 Essex entered Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for repairs and extensive alterations, including installation of an angled flight deck. She rejoined the Pacific Fleet in March 1956. For the next fourteen months the carrier operated off the west coast. Ordered to join the Atlantic Fleet for the first time in her long career, she sailed from San Diego to in Mayport, FL August 1957.

In the fall of 1957 Essex participated as an antisubmarine carrier in the NATO exercises, "Strike Back," and in February 1958 deployed with the 6th Fleet until May when she shifted to the eastern Mediterranean. Alerted to the Middle East crisis on 14 July 1958 she sped to support the U.S. Peace Force landing in Beirut, Lebanon, launching reconnaissance and patrol missions until August. Once again she was ordered to proceed to Asian waters, and transited the Suez Canal to arrive in the Taiwan operational area where she joined TF 77 in conducting flight operations before rounding the Horn and proceeding back to Mayport.

Essex joined with the 2d Fleet and British ships in Atlantic exercises and with NATO forces in the eastern Mediterranean during the fall of 1959. In December she aided victims of a disastrous flood at Frejus, France.

In the spring of 1960 she was converted into an ASW Support Carrier (CVS-9) and was thereafter homeported at Quonset Point, R.I. Since that time she operated as flagship of Carrier Division 18 and Antisubmarine Carrier Group Three. She conducted rescue and salvage operations off the New Jersey coast for a downed blimp; cruised with midshipmen, and was deployed on NATO and CENTO exercises that took her through the Suez Canal into the Indian Ocean. She also was designated as the recovery carrier for some of the Apollo space flights, recovering Apollo 7's crew on 22 October 1968. She was decommissioned 30 June 1969, struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 June 1973 and sold for scrap in 1975.

Essex received the Presidential Unit Citation, and 13 battle stars for World War II service; 4 battle stars and the Navy Unit Commendation for Korean War service.

For more detailed history on the fourth USS Essex visit the Navy Archive page at

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