USS Harpers Ferry
"First In Freedom"

USS Harpers Ferry Crest



Dark blue and gold are the colors traditionally associated with the Navy and symbolize the sea and excellence. Red and gold are the traditional Marine Corps colors. The chevron denotes movement symbolizing the delivery ashore of ground troops. The battle-ax, denoting strength and battle-readiness, has two cutting edges to allude to the prowess of both HARPERS FERRY and the Marines it will land.


The ship's wheel and the fountain, heraldic symbols for the water, refer to world-wide capabilities and transportation while highlighting the location and importance of the town of Harpers Ferry, the ship's namesake. The muskets, from the Civil War era, indicate both the past and the present HARPERS FERRY while alluding to the history and heritage of the town.


The Navy and Marine Corps' officers' swords reflect the ship's mission and are crossed to denote cooperation, teamwork and strength.

 In 2007 USS Harpers Ferry Received the Golden Anchor Award for Retention


John Brown's Raid

On October 16, 1859, the radical abolitionist John Brown led a small group of 22 men in a raid on the Arsenal. Five were black: three free blacks, one a freed slave, and one a fugitive slave. During this time assisting fugitive slaves was illegal even in the north, and morally unacceptable to most southern white communities. Brown attacked and captured several buildings; he hoped to use the captured weapons to initiate a slave uprising throughout the South. However, he and his men were quickly pinned down by local citizens and militia, and forced to take refuge in the engine house adjacent to the armory.  

On October 18, United States Marines were sent via train to Harpers Ferry. Under the temporary command of U.S. Army Colonel Robert E. Lee, they stormed the fire house and killed or captured most of the raiders. Brown was tried for treason by the State of Virginia, convicted, and hanged in nearby Charles Town. Following the prosecution (by Andrew Hunter), "John Brown captured the attention of the nation like no other abolitionist or slave owner before or since." The failed raid was a catalyst for the American Civil War.


Civil War

The Civil War was disastrous for Harpers Ferry, which changed hands eight times between 1861 and 1865. Because of the town's strategic location on the railroad and at the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, both Union and Confederate troops moved through Harpers Ferry frequently. The town's garrison of 14,000 Federal troops played a key role in the Confederate invasion of Maryland in September 1862. General Robert E. Lee did not want to continue on to Pennsylvania without capturing the town, which was on his supply line and would control one of his possible routes of retreat if the invasion did not go well. Dividing his army of approximately 40,000 into four sections, he used the cover of the mountains and sent three columns under Stonewall Jackson to surround and capture the town. The Battle of Harpers Ferry started with light fighting September 13 to capture the Maryland Heights to the northeast while John Walker moved back over the Potomac to capture Loudon Heights south of town. After an artillery bombardment on September 14 and September 15, the Federal garrison surrendered. Lee, because of the delay and the movement of Federal forces west, was forced to regroup at the town of Sharpsburg, leading two days later to the fateful Battle of Antietam, and the bloodiest single day in American military history. When Virginia seceded in April of 1861 the US garrison attempted to burn the arsenal and destroy the machinery. Locals saved the equipment, which was later transferred to a more secure location in Richmond. Arms production never returned to Harpers Ferry. 

Shortly after the end of the Civil War, Harpers Ferry, along with all of both Berkeley and Jefferson Counties, was separated from Virginia and incorporated into West Virginia. The inhabitants of the counties as well as the Virginia legislature protested, but the federal government went ahead anyway, forming the West Virginia "panhandle" of today. Without the distraction of Union forces at Harpers Ferry during the Antietam campaign the North might not have won that crucial battle or, consequently, the war.


Dock Landing Ships support amphibious operations including landings via Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC), conventional landing craft and helicopters, onto hostile shores. These ships transport and launch amphibious craft and vehicles with their crews and embarked personnel in amphibious assault operations.




610 Feet


84 Feet


20 Feet


16,708 tons


20 plus knots

Landing Craft

Two Landing Craft, Air Cushion


4 Colt Industries 16 Cylinder Diesels; 2 shafts, 33,000 shaft horsepower


Ships Company: 22 officers, 397 enlisted; Marine Detachment: 402 plus 102 surge


Steel hull, steel superstructure


Two 25mm MK 38 Machine Guns, Two 20mm Phalanx CIWS mounts and Six .50 cal. machine guns, two Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) mounts.


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