Saipan II LHA-2
The second Saipan (LHA-2) was laid down on 21 July 1972 by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Division, Litton Industries, Paseagoula, Miss.; launched on 20 July 1974; sponsored by Mrs. J. William Middendorf II, wife of Secretary of the Navy Middendorf. Commissioning of the amphibious assault ship is scheduled to take place in September 1975.Saipan was christened on July 20, 1974, by Mrs. Isabelle Middendorf, wife of former Secretary of the Navy, J. William Middendorf, and commissioned as a U.S. Navy vessel on October 15, 1977.
Saipans first Commanding Officer was Captain F. W. Johnston. Saipans operational career began in July of 1979 when the ship was diverted from Fleet Refresher Training to "Special Contingency Operations" for possible non-combatant evacuation of American personnel from Nicaragua during that countrys civil war. In May of 1980, Saipan was underway augmenting US Coast Guard efforts to assist Cuban refugees crossing the Straits of Florida to the United States. On August 25, 1980, Saipan departed Norfolk for the first Mediterranean deployment by a LHA, and then on September 3, 1981, Saipan deployed for its second tour in the Med. During that deployment, Saipan visited or operated in seven different countries on three continents, transited the Suez Canal, and participated in Exercises Ocean Venture, Display Determination, Bright Star and National Week.
In September of 1983, Saipan was diverted to participate in Operation Urgent Fury off Grenada. Saipan then set sail for its third Mediterranean deployment on January 22, 1985. During this deployment, it steamed more than 32,000 miles, logged over 6,700 safe aircraft landings, and visited ports in three countries. Amphibious Refresher Training was held in May of 1986 off the Coast of North Carolina with Saipan achieving a 99.97 overall grade, the highest score ever achieved by any amphibious ship.
On August 17, 1986, Saipan departed on its fourth Mediterranean deployment. Extended briefly in the Eastern Mediterranean for contingency operations, Saipan returned to Norfolk on February 24, 1987. Then from March 17, 1990 through September 17, 1990, Saipan was deployed to the Mediterranean and conducted the evacuation of approximately 1,600 civilians from war-torn Liberia in support of Operation Sharp Edge. From September 17, 1991 to March 17, 1992, Saipan deployed to the Persian Gulf as a unit of ARG 3-91 in support of Operation Desert Storm. During 1993, Saipan was out of homeport for 245 days.
Saipan again deployed to the Mediterranean on March 17 with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit in support of Operations Deny Flight and Provide Promise. Saipan has since deployed three more times to the Mediterranean in 1996, 1998 and 2000.
Saipans awards include the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Navy Expeditionary Medal (two awards), Humanitarian Service Medal, Battle Efficiency "E" (four awards), the Admiral Flatley Safety Award (two awards), the Sledge Award, the Atlantic Fleet Surface Force "Admirals Cup" in 1985, COMPHIBRON Twelves "Bronze Anchor" for retention excellence, and the 1993 COMNAVSURFLANT Command Excellence Award for Command and Control, Maritime Warfare and Logistics Management.