USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7) is a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship.
Fabrication work for Iwo Jima began at Ingalls shipyard on September 3, 1996, and the ship's keel was laid on December 12, 1997. She was launched on February 4, 2000. USS Iwo Jima was christened by her sponsor, Mrs. Zandra Krulak, wife of General Charles C. Krulak, the former Commandant of the Marine Corps, in Pascagoula, Mississippi on March 25, 2000. The commissioning crew moved aboard in April 2001, and made the ship's maiden voyage on June 23, 2001, accompanied by more than 2,000 World War II veterans — many of them survivors of the Battle of Iwo Jima. She was commissioned a week later in Pensacola, Florida, on June 30, 2001.
Shortly thereafter, the ship and crew began an accelerated Inter Deployment Training Cycle, which tested virtually every system onboard in realistic combat conditions. Iwo Jima was also the first ship on the waterfront open to the public after the terrorist attacks of September 11. Iwo Jima and the Marines of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) deployed March 4, 2003 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. It was also in 2003 that the USS Iwo Jima was deployed to the coast of Liberia as part of JTF Liberia. In July 2003, the US Army Southern European Task Force (USA SETAF) (Airborne), with the 26 MEU and the ARG were sent to Liberia to prevent a humanitarian disaster and secure peace in Liberia. "At its height, JTF Liberia consisted of over 5,000 service members from the SETAF headquarters, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the three-ship Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, 3rd Air Force's 398th Air Expeditionary Group, U. S. Army Europe's 21st Theater Support Command, and Army Special Forces."
USS Iwo Jima served as the 2nd Fleet flagship in 2005, based out of Norfolk, Virginia.
On August 31, 2005, the Iwo Jima was sortied to the Gulf of Mexico to provide disaster relief and to conduct support operations in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The Iwo Jima sailed up the Mississippi River to the city of New Orleans to directly support relief operations and act as the central command center for all federal, state and local disaster recovery operations.
During this critical period, the Iwo Jima also served as the region’s only fully functional air field for helicopter operations, conducting over one thousand flight deck operations; provided hot meals, showers, drinking water, and berthing to thousands of National Guardsmen and relief workers; provided medical services, including first aid and surgical services, for disaster victims; and conducted clean-up operations in the city and suburbs of New Orleans.
The Iwo Jima served as flagship for the commander-in-chief, George W. Bush, during Hurricane Katrina Joint Task Force, and is only the second Navy ship to have been presented the flag of the President of the United States of America.
On June 6, 2006, the Iwo Jima left its homeport of Norfolk, Va., and began a regularly scheduled six-month deployment to the U.S. European Command and U.S. Central Command area of responsibilities, as flagship for the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group, encompasing 6,000 Sailors and Marines. The ship has also been a part of the evacuation effort of American citizens from the conflict in Lebanon.
News reports on July 15, 2006 stated that the Iwo Jima, along with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, would be used to evacuate U. S. citizens from Lebanon after the Israeli Defense Force made the Beirut International Airport unusable through bombing its runways and fuel storage areas.
The ship's motto, "Uncommon Valor," is based on Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz's words when he spoke eloquently of Sailors and Marines who fought at Iwo Jima: "Among the Americans who served on Iwo Island uncommon valor was a common virtue."