Amphibious Ship Fort McHenry Decommissioned After 33 Years of Warfighting, Humanitarian Missions

USS Fort McHenry decommissioning ceremony.
Sailors aboard the dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry man the rails during the decommissioning ceremony at Naval Station Mayport, March 27, 2021. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Aaron Lau)

The Navy amphibious dock landing ship Fort McHenry will soon be towed to a Philadelphia facility for inactive vessels after more than three decades supporting wartime and humanitarian missions across the globe.

Sailors held a decommissioning ceremony at Naval Station Mayport, Florida, on Saturday for the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship. The ship, which was commissioned in 1987, will be inactivated on April 16 -- one of eight ships that will be sidelined, sold or dismantled by the end of September.

The ceremony included a performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner," which was written during the daylong bombardment of Baltimore's Fort McHenry by British forces during the War of 1812. The ship is named in the fort's honor.

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"The history of Fort McHenry lies within each of the ship's sailors, and it is my hope this pride in their namesake guided all who crossed its quarterdeck and reported for duty," Rear Adm. Robert Katz, the commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 2, said during the decommissioning ceremony.

Fort McHenry participated in missions both at home and abroad during its more than three decades of service. It was first homeported in San Diego before moving to Japan in 1995 and later Florida.

In 1989, it accompanied the amphibious transport dock Juneau to Alaska, where it supported cleanup efforts after an Exxon tanker spilled millions of gallons of crude oil in the Prince William Sound. The ships were there for four months, serving as the command center and floating hotels for cleanup crews, according to the Navy.

Fort McHenry supported the Gulf War in the 1990s and the war in Afghanistan following the 2001 terror attacks in the U.S. The ship also assisted with disaster relief efforts in 2001 in the Philippines and Indonesia in 2004, its service history states.

The dock landing ship ended its final deployment in 2019 when it joined the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group through Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Fort McHenry operated with members of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard.

That was more than 30 years after Fort McHenry's 1988 maiden deployment to the Pacific, during which it carried members of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and made stops in Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Australia, South Korea and Hawaii.

Women have served on Fort McHenry since 1994 when two female lieutenants -- a supply officer and an electrical officer -- were permanently assigned to the crew.

Cmdr. Michael Fabrizio, the ship's commanding officer, said Fort McHenry's final crew displayed toughness and resilience.

"Like their predecessors onboard, their efforts during the last phase of the ship's active service and the inactivation process have been nothing short of amazing," he said in a Navy release on the ship's decommissioning.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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