On 31 March the USS Peleliu (LHA-5), the last active Tarawa-class amphibious assault ship, was decommissioned from the U.S. Navy. Built by Ingalls Shipbuilding at Pascagoula, Mississippi, the Peleliu was launched in 1978 and entered service in May 1980. Displacing more than 39,000 tons fully loaded, the Peleliu and her four retired sisters, the Tarawa (LHA-1), Saipan (LHA-2), Belleau Wood (LHA-3), and Nassau (LHA-4), could each carry a crew of 1,000 sailors plus 2,000 Marines and their equipment. A floodable well deck permitted the use of LCU and LCAC landing craft while a large flight deck and hangar facilities enabled operation of an air group that typically included CH-46, CH-53, UH-1, and AH-1 helicopters, plus AV-8B Harrier strike jets and, later, MV-22 Ospreys. In addition to their combat capabilities, the Peleliu and her sisters were also impressive platforms for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, with hospital facilities that were expandable to more than 300 beds and four operating rooms.
By Eric Wertheim