USS Saipan (LHA 2)

Saipan Loves New York

The following account of Saipan’s 1982 July 4th Weekend in New York was written by Navy journalist IS2 Ric Nicholas.

If one tries to think of the perfect way to spend a Fourth of July weekend, New York City always seems to pop right to the top of the list for places to be. The crew of USS Saipan (LHA-2) got a bird’s eye view of the “big apple” this Fourth of July as the 40,000 ton amphibious assault ship moored to pier 92 on the West side of Manhattan, Friday morning July 2nd.

USS Saipan (LHA-2) Fleet Week in New York City 1982. The amphibious assault ship entering New York Harbor, passing the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and heading up the Hudson River to its mooring.
USS Saipan (LHA-2) Fleet Week in New York City 1982. The amphibious assault ship entering New York Harbor and heading up the Hudson River to its mooring at Pier 92 on Manhattan’s West Side.

A participant in New York’s Harborfest ’82, Saipan hosted well over 25,000 guests during three days of general visiting, 3-5 July.

With helicopters, landing craft, medical exhibits, and Marine Corps equipment on static display, New Yorkers who toured Saipan left with a better understanding of today’s modern amphibious warfare arsenal and its’ capabilities.

USS Saipan (LHA-2) Polishes the Big Apple during Fleet Week in New York City 1982. Crowds enjoy the rare thrill of strolling on the flight deck of an amphibious assault ship. Planes and equipment were set up as “static displays” that helped the public better understand the ship’s missions.

 

 

USS Saipan (LHA-2) Polishes the Big Apple during Fleet Week in New York City 1982. Crowds enjoy the rare thrill of strolling on the flight deck of an amphibious assault ship, and peering into a Sea Stallion heavy-lift helicopter. Planes and equipment were set up as “static displays” that helped the public better understand the ship’s missions.

After arriving the morning of July 2nd, “bunnies” from New York City’s playboy club came onboard for a tour and special “raffle.”  During the transit from norfolk to New York, Saipan sailors bought raffle tickets for the bunnies to draw upon arrival in New York. $275.00 was raised from the raffle with the proceeds going to the Navy Relief Society. All prizes were donated by the New York Playboy Club, with top prize being an all expense paid dinner at the club.

July 3rd was a big day for Saipan runners as a group of 25 participated in the “Pepsi Challenge 10 kilometer run.” out of a field of nearly 5,000 runners, Lieutenant Steve Frisk of the Amphibious Group Two staff embarked in Saipan finished 40th and Yeoman Seaman David Lukasavage of Saipan’s engineering department finished in the top 100.

Nearly 5,000 runners participated in the 1982 Pepsi Challenge in New York City, including 25 Saipan Sailors and Marines.

 

LT Steve Frisk and YNSN David Lukasavage finished among the leaders of the Pepsi Challenge.

Also on the 3rd of July, a group from saipan attended the afternoon matinee of the broadway play, “Woman of the Year,” starring Raquel Welch. As if the play wasn’t enough to impress sal pan sailors, the trip backstage after the show was enough to give a few heart failure. Raquel, in all her glory, took time between shows to meet with Saipan Sailors and pose for a few photos.

USS Saipan (LHA-2) Fleet Week in New York City 1982. Shipshape CPO (Chief Pretty Officer) Raquel Welch, welcomed admiring Saipan Sailors to the Palace Theater where she had recently taken over the “Woman of the Year” role from Lauren Bacall.

On July 4th Saipan’s honor and color guard drill team took to the streets of New York City and gave New Yorkers a look at a crack navy marching unit. The 36-man unit participated in the City’s Fourth of July parade. RADM William A. Kearns, Jr., Commander Amphibious Group Two and Captain John W. Renard, Commanding Officer of Saipan were invited to the reviewing stand for that event.

USS Saipan (LHA-2) Fleet Week in New York City 1982. On July 4th the Saipan’s honor and color guard drill team took to the streets of New York City and gave New Yorkers a look at the crack Navy marching until. The 16-man unit participated in the city’s Fourth of July Parade, during which RADM William Kearns, Jr., COMPHIBGRUTWO and CAPT John W. Renard, Saipan CO, were honored guests in the reviewing stand.

Winding up a very eventful and enjoyable weekend Saipan Crewmembers took to the ballpark Monday night July 5th. Before a crowd of over 40,000, Saipan’s color guard marched onto the Field for the national anthem, as the sports announcer declared it “Saipan night at Shea Stadium.”

Saipan Night at Shea Stadium on July 5, 1982. Saipan’s Color Guard stands at attention for the National Anthem.
Saipan Commanding Officer, CAPT John W. Renard, USN, talks with NY Mets General Manager, George Bamberger, before throwing out the first ball at Shea Stadium.

Captain Renard threw in the first pitch of the game and hundreds of Saipan Sailors settled back and watched the world champion Los Angeles Dodgers and the New york mets go at it for nine innings. The game was followed by a spectacular fireworks show which rivaled Macey’s show from the night before.

While waiting in line for a broadway show, a Saipan crewmember was overheard in earnest conversation with a veteran sailor of World War II. The old salt was telling the young sailor from Saipan about his days in the ” gator navy” aboard an old Infantry Landing Craft (lci). When the Saipan sailor told the old salt that Saipan could carry four of its modern day replacement, the LCU, internally, the old salt could only smile , shake his head and reply, “Wow.”

New York City impressed Saipan and likewise Saipan impressed New york city. The memories of the 1982 fourth of july weekend will linger in the minds of Saipan sailors for years to come.

Some will never experience the flashy lifestyle, the hustle and bustle and culture of New York City. But one thing is for certain … Saipan loved new york.

USS Saipan (LHA-2) arrives in New York Harbor in June 1982. Evocative photographs such as this one were often signed by participants and shared as mementos.

 

© Copyright 2017 BelleAire Press, LLC

 


Works by Dr. Connors

Log Entries, are as varied as the person reliving them–interesting, exciting, provocative, stimulating, appealing, heartwarming, lively and entertaining–worth telling to a larger audience, sharing with others some unforgettable experiences and preserving precious memories for future generations.

Truckbusters From Dogpatch: the Combat Diary of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing during the Korean War, 1950-1953. The incredible story of the men—pilots, ground crew and supporting elements—whose achievements and records during that bloody conflict not only made U.S. Air Force history, but helped the newly fledged military service gain the confidence and respect it now enjoys.

Baited Trap: the Ambush of Mission 1890. After more than fifty years, we know the riveting story — “…a story that has not been told, but should have been” (Graybeard Magazine) — of the Korean War’s most heroic–and costly, helicopter rescue mission. It took declassification of official records, extensive research, tracking down the scattered families of brave airmen, and use of the Freedom of Information Act, to piece together the story of what five incredibly determined Air Force and Navy pilots did that long June afternoon in the infamous “Iron Triangle.”

About Tracy Connors

Tracy D. Connors graduated from Jacksonville University (AA), University of Florida (BA), the University of Rhode Island (MA), and Capella University (Ph.D. with Distinction, human services management, 2013). Ph.D. (Honorary), Leadership Excellence, Jacksonville University, December, 2013. Designated a "Distinguished Dolphin" by Jacksonville University, Feb. 2, 2010.