USS Essex 


The gold line joining the blue of the Navy and the scarlet of the Marine Corps shows the unity of the two services. The gold border shows the unity required of amphibious operations. The 2 stands for LHD 2.

The bald eagle with a shield on its breast is representative of the eagle used in the coat of arms of the fourth ship to bear the name USS ESSEX. The Marine officer’s sword grasped in the eagle’s talons is showing that the embarked Marine units are USS ESSEX’s main battery. The red banner stands for sacrifice and valor required to win the thirteen battle stars in World War II and the four in the Korean War. The Black color for the motto is meant to stand out for all to read and heed. The white border on the banner and the white stars symbolize the purity of cause for which the ship serves and the stars were won.

The motto refers to the notice that went out to people of Essex County, Massachusetts, to raise funds for the building of the first ESSEX.

The amphibious insignia over the Pacific Ocean symbolizes amphibious operations from the oceans of the world.

The gold chain surrounded by the five-sided coat of arms represents the five naval ships to bear the name 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 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. The expected war with France did not materialize, but in the War of 1812, the first ESSEX compiled a battle record unequaled by any other man-of-war and by the close of 1813, ESSEX was the only vessel of worth to be operating (all others having been captured, damaged, or sunk).

The second ESSEX, an ironclad steamer, was built in 1856 for use as a ferry. Originally NEW ERA, she was renamed ESSEX following purchase by the War Department on September 20, 1861. She participated in action against the Confederate forces on the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers. She was decommissioned on July 20, 1865.  

The third ESSEX, a wooden-screw steamer, was built by the United States at East Boston, Massachusetts, and was commissioned on October 3, 1876. ESSEX saw action with the North and South Atlantic Squadrons and on the Pacific and Asian stations. She returned to New York via the Suez Canal and was placed out of commission in May 1889.  

The fourth ESSEX was an aircraft carrier (CV 9) and was built as the lead ship in a class of World War II aircraft carriers. Commissioned in December 1942, she reported to the Pacific Fleet following shakedown cruises and embarked on a series of victorious battles that would take her to Tokyo Bay. As the flagship of Task Force 14, CV 9 struck Wake Island in October 1943, launched an attack on the Gilbert Islands, and participated in her first amphibious assault (against Tarawa) in November. ESSEX then moved on to the Marshall Islands, Truk and the Marianas, Saipan, Tinian, and Guam in early 1944.  

In the closing days of the war, ESSEX took part in the telling raids against the Japanese home islands. She was decommissioned in 1947, then modernized and re-commissioned in 1951, with a new flight deck and streamlined superstructure. As flagship for Carrier Division 1, she was the first carrier to launch twin-engine F2H “Banshee” jet fighters in support of troops in Korea. She was reclassified (CVA 9) on October 1, 1952.  

Following her Korean action, she was again modernized, this time with an angled flight deck, and saw duty in both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets in the late 1950s. In 1960, ESSEX was converted to an ASW support carrier, reclassified (CVS 9) and participated in various NATO exercises. On October 22, 1968, ESSEX recovered the Apollo 7 astronauts in the Atlantic and was decommissioned July 30, 1969.  

Over her 27 year career, ESSEX was credited with sinking 92 and damaging 217 ships and destroying 1,564 aircraft. The Navy’s top ace of WWII, Medal of Honor winner Commander David McCampbell, flew from the deck of the ESSEX, shooting down 34 enemy planes. She received the Presidential Unit Citation and 13 battle starts for WWII service (equaled by none in her class; only Enterprise earned more), and the Navy Unit Commendation and four battle stars for action in Korea.  

ABOUT THE SHIP:   The largest of all amphibious warfare ships; the Essex resembles a small aircraft carrier; capable of Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing (V/STOL), Short Take-Off Vertical Landing (STOVL), Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) tilt-rotor and Rotary Wing (RW) aircraft operations; contains a well deck to support use of Landing Craft, Air Cushioned (LCAC) and other watercraft.


Keel Laid March 20, 1989
Christening Date March 16, 1991
Commissioning Date October 17, 1992           Location: San Diego, CA
Complement (with Marines embarked) 1,200 (Navy) 1,800 (Marine)
Number of compartments 1,426

Length, overall

844 Feet


106 Feet

Height, waterline to mast top

185 Feet, 8 Inches 

Area of flight deck 80,000 Square Feet

Displacement (with full combat load)

40,650 Tons

Number of propellers 2
Diameter of each propeller 16 Feet
Blades on each propeller 5
Number of rudders 2

Max Speed

24 plus knots

Number of Anchors 2 standard Navy Stockless

Weight of each anchor

40,000 lbs

Length of each anchor chain 1,170 Feet
Weight of each anchor chain link 155 lbs


600PSI Steam

Gallons of water made each day


Cargo storage space 100,000 Cubic Feet
Vehicle storage space 22,000 Square Feet
Well deck 13,000 Square Feet
Number of Landing Craft Air Cushion 3
Number of Landing Craft Unit 2
Number of aircraft 33
Number of aircraft elevators 2
Number of meals served each day 7,620
Sodas consumed each day 1,920
Number of eggs consumed each day 770 fresh - 300 lbs frozen
Fresh vegetables consumed each day 125 lbs

Fresh fruit consumed each day

370 lbs

Meat consumed each day

2,200 lbs

US Navy Recruiting | No Fear Act | FOIA | | US Navy | US Marine Corps | Navy Reserves | Individual Augmentee | Veterans Crisis Line | Vote This is an official United States Navy Website. This US Government system is subject to monitoring. Please read our Privacy Policy and Section 508/Accessibility Statement.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense, or the United States Department of the Navy of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Department of Defense, the Department of the Navy  does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DoD web site.