Decommissioning of the USS Tarawa LHA-1 

Naval Base San Diego, Ca.

 December 4, 2008

(Photo from the Decom pamphlet)

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Picture from local source, tugs bringing The Tarawa for the last time to 32nd Street . Next time it will be the tugs towing her to Hawaii for mothballing for the Readiness Reserves. I guess if you have to retire, might as well be Hawaii.

She first came into my life back in November of 1975, it wouldn't be till May of 1976 would we be able to board and get her ready for the trip from her birth place, Pascagoula Mississippi. Finally May 29th 1976 would we commission her. Though it would be a few months before getting the Tarawa back to San Diego.  Folks who are on a commissioning crew are called "Plankowners". We brought USS Tarawa back to San Diego through the Panama Canal. The ship is one of the largest to transit the canal. In fact I seem to recall the ship losing a few scuppers as passed through the locks.


A few months back (Oct 2008) we received an e-mail from Dan White. He was in the OI Division with me and let me know about the decommissioning. I had not heard from him for about 30 years. It was great reconnecting and in our discussion we began to search for a few others from our division. He had maintained contact with a  number of them through the years. We located a few more and we all decided to make the trip to San Diego for the decommissioning. Following are pictures from the ceremony and dinner.

Plankowners:Bud Clayton, Rodney Harris, Dan White,Roy Colon, Paul Mullendore, and Keith Berry


PICT0019.JPG (68959 bytes) Bud catches up with fellow OS (Operations Specialist) White and Colon.

Just a few sea stories!


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PICT0015.JPG (71608 bytes) Bud Clayton had so much fun in the service he stayed in for 30 years, working his way from the enlisted ranks to end up as a LTCDR. His wife Sue in the background.

. PICT0028.JPG (55595 bytes) A fine dinner was put on with guest speakers, the commanding officer and others spoke about Tarawa's carreer. PICT0024.JPG (54340 bytes) Keith Berry (OS2) and his wife Helen Marie.

PICT0041.JPG (94804 bytes) Helen Marie Berry's aunt joins the crew as well as Bob Kuning, another plankowner, as we have breakfast in Chula Vista at the famous Family House Of Pancakes PICT0063.JPG (58261 bytes) The view as we approached the pier they had Tarawa tied up at. It was breathtaking as we had not been back on board since leaving in 1977

Tarawa all decked out and no where to go, what an awesome sight! PICT0072.JPG (74970 bytes) PICT0064.JPG (58826 bytes) PICT0074.JPG (82695 bytes)

PICT0066.JPG (92055 bytes) Ship's van, there were two of them with very cool paintings (murals) on the side. PICT0080.JPG (72443 bytes) This brought back so many memories, never thought we would do it again, crossing the quarterdeck.

LHA-1 and look at all the Battle Es on her bridge. PICT0081.JPG (83172 bytes) Photo of the bridge from the flight deck. Tours were given by the crew. PICT0099.JPG (101905 bytes)

PICT0108.JPG (38023 bytes) Ship's crew giving tour on the flight deck with Dan White, his wife Barb, Roy Colon, and Bob Kuning.


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Photos on the bridge, right and above-right PICT0113.JPG (60633 bytes) Safety was always job one on board and on the flight deck you had to always be on your toes. Between Harriers and Helos, one had to have their head on a swivel while working up there.

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The above pictures were from our old work space, known as CIC or Combat Information Center. The first (though the consoles have been updated) is the seat that I manned during the USS Tarawa shock trials, broadcasting the countdown over a radio net. The second is another work station as I was a "Chart Petty Officer" maintaining ship's sailing charts and lastly, the infamous DRT (Dead Reckoning Tracer). CIC was home for lots of folks, from Operations Specialist to Electronic Warfare specialists.

The ceremony was very emotional as Tarawa kept all the traditions associated with the decommissioning. The commanding Officer gave the Executive Officer the order to read the orders for decommissioning. He read them and then the CO said, "XO, make preparation to decommission the USS Tarawa". The XO replied with a hearty "Aye Aye" and then the XO called out to Department heads to report. Though I don't remember  them all but they were about the boilers being secured, weapons removed, and a number of other reports given as to the readiness of decommissioning. It was very moving as each Department Head responded. The order was given to secure the watch. Once these were completed the XO called out to the CO that the ship was ready for decommissioning. Then the most moving order I had ever heard,, the CO called out, "XO! De-man the ship!". I failed to mentioned that the ship's crew and a detachment of Marines were on board manning the rails. Once the order was given to de-man, they left the rails and marched off the ship, such a powerful scene. Below are some pictures from that ceremony.

PICT0126.JPG (94684 bytes) PICT0127.JPG (99026 bytes) PICT0130.JPG (59315 bytes) PICT0132.JPG (58411 bytes)
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PICT0133.JPG (45978 bytes) PICT0146.JPG (53924 bytes) Following officers spoke:

Commanding Officer: Capt. Brian E. Luther

Executive Officer: Capt. David F. Bean
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Also: RADM Garry E. Hall Commandant, Industrial College of the Armed Forces

Major General Terry G. Robling Commanding General Third Marine Aircraft Wing.

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Officer of the Deck receives the ship's flag, spy glass, and ship's log and then passes them to the Commanding Officer.


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Dramatic pictures of the crew following the order to De-man the ship. Marching out across the quarterdeck. They fell out in formation on the pier, all in their dress blues. Very impressive!
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PICT0170.JPG (57459 bytes) Part of tradition and is shown here, Capt. Luther received the ship's pennant from Command Master Chief Linda Handley. (left)

Quarterdeck of the USS Tarawa (Right)

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One last photo from the hanger bay before heading off.


Funny thing about ships, if serving in the service four years or thirty, one becomes attached to the ship. Not sure why that it is, pride maybe, hard work and many hours in serving aboard her, it's a sailor's home and we all know how we feel about our homes. And once gone from her we would always note her name in the news when it was reported. Her name will be missed in the news. There are a number of sites on the Net about Tarawa and her service. Googling USS Tarawa LHA-1 will also bring up a  list of sites reporting her service and news.

Official USN web site:

Official History Site: lha1.htm


Except where noted pictures taken by Keith and can be contacted at: 


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