USS Saipan (LHA 2)


LHAs could carry a complete, Marine Corps Battalion Landing Team, along with the supplies and equipment needed in an assault, and land them ashore by landing craft, amphibious vehicles and helicopters.

USS Saipan (LHA-2) The “We Do It All” amphious assault ship using both airborne and amphibious assets as it launches an assault.

Often, there were several Navy detachments from the Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek, attached to the general purpose amphibious ship, the LHA.

Assault Craft Unit 2 (ACU-2)

The purpose of this unit was to man the Navy’s assault craft: LCUs and LCM-8s. The mission of ACU-2, through its assault craft, was to shuttle troops, vehicles, miscellaneous gear and cargo to the point of debarkation on a beachhead–a predesignated spot on the beach, in the safest way possible.

The men assigned to ACU-2 had berthing and messing facilities on the assault craft itself–they were not a part of ship’s company. They were a self-contained unit within SAIPAN.

Beachmasters Unit 2 (BMU-2)

Masters of the Beach–the mission of BMU-2 was to clear the beach for an amphibious landing. Responsible for the “matting” detail, this unit ensured that landing craft did not get mired in sand by laying out matting about 5 feet into the water from the beach. There are different types of matting, including fiberglass and corrugated steel (called low-mat). Beachmaster units used forklifts and bulldozers to accomplish their mission.

Operations Department

The Operations Department of an LHA directed both detachments during the landing operations. However, the overall coordination for loading and unloading of troops, cargo and vehicles was directed by the ship’s Executive Officer from Debark Control, assisted by the Marine Combat Cargo Officer (CCO).

Marine Corps Commanders

On the Marine Corps side, the head of the Marine Amphibious Unit was called the Commander, Landing Force. He was in charge of all Marine Corps components. He took  over command and directd all Marine Corps evolutions once the Commander Amphibious Task Force (the Navy boss), had moved the amphibious units to the beach. The Navy was responsible for getting them to the beach-then the Commander, Landing Force (Marines) took over command.

USS Saipan (LHA-2) A USMC tracked landing vehicle personnel (LVTP) comes ashore during an amphibious assault, as USS Saipan remains just off shore.

The amphibious ship had the capability to launch a battalion of combat Marines from the flooded well deck at her stern. However, to launch landing craft from the well deck required the ship to be at the proper level. This Is accomplished by a process called “ballasting,” in which tanks were filled and emptied of water to add or subtract buoyancy thus raising or lowering the water level in the well deck. The ship could be underway during this process, launching and recovering small craft and helicopters while operating near the coast.

USS Saipan (LHA-2) A Uility Landing Craft (LCU) returns from the beach with a USMC tank and prepares to enter the well deck which has been flooded to allow the boat to motor in to deliver its cargo.


Next Page: LHA Air Amphibious Mission

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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.