Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro announced last month that a future America-class amphibious assault ship will be named USS Fallujah (LHA 9), commemorating the Iraqi city that suffered the greatest amount of violence at the hands of the U.S. military.
The future USS Fallujah will commemorate the First and Second Battles of Fallujah, American-led offensives during the Iraq War. The name selection follows the tradition of naming amphibious assault ships after U.S. Marine Corps battles, early U.S. sailing ships, or legacy names of earlier carriers from World War II.
The name is meant to memorialize the First and Second Battles of Fallujah, which were American-led offensives carried out during the Iraq War, and cements LHA-9 as the first ship to be named after a battle from a post-9/11 era.
The USS Fallujah is being built by Huntington Ingalls.
Like the other ships in the America class, the USS Fallujah will resemble a small aircraft carrier, but it will be substantially different with a floodable well deck and a significant reconfiguration of its flight deck layout and island design.
By taking on water, the ship can lower its stern, flooding the well deck to allow boats, amphibious vehicles and landing craft to dock inside.
It is an established convention that U.S. Navy amphibious assault ships, regardless of class, be named either after battles where the Marine Corps was victorious, early U.S. sailing ships, or legacy names of older carriers from World War II.
As is customary, the first-in-class ship of the America class was named USS America (LHA-6).
The second was named USS Tripoli (LHA-7) in honor of the 1805 Battle of Derne during the First Barbary War — a conflict so significant to the Marine Corps that it is highlighted in their hymn.
The third is named USS Bougainville (LHA-8) after an island in the Solomons in the southwestern Pacific where a historic World War II campaign occurred from 1943 to 1945.
The America class is currently slated to include five vessels including the forthcoming LHA-9 and the future unnamed LHA-10.
In the cases of both Tripoli and Bougainville, ships with those same names have already come and gone in Navy service before. However, there has never been a USS Fallujah before now, making it so the vessel will be carrying on a legacy in more ways than one.
“It is an honor to memorialize the Marines, Soldiers, and coalition partners that fought valiantly and those that sacrificed their lives during both battles of Fallujah,” said Del Toro. “This namesake deserves to be in the pantheon of iconic Marine Corps battles and the LHA’s unique capabilities will serve as a stark reminder to everyone around the world of the bravery, courage, and commitment to freedom displayed by those who fought in the battle.”
The city became a major center of resistance against the US-backed government during the Iraqi insurgency and the city was the scene of fierce fighting during the First and Second Battles of Fallujah, battles that left much of the city heavily damaged.
The First Battle of Fallujah occurred in April 2004 in an effort to capture or kill insurgents responsible for the killing of four U.S. contractors. The Second Battle of Fallujah, fought between Nov. 7 and Dec. 23, 2004, was a major U.S.-led offensive to retake control of the city from insurgents and foreign fighters.
With over 100 coalition forces killed and over 600 wounded, Operation Phantom Fury is considered the bloodiest engagement of the Iraq War and the fiercest urban combat involving U.S. Marines since the Vietnam War’s Battle of Hue City.
“Under extraordinary odds, the Marines prevailed against a determined enemy who enjoyed all the advantages of defending in an urban area,” said Gen. David H. Berger, the Commandant of the Marine Corps. “The Battle of Fallujah is, and will remain, imprinted in the minds of all Marines and serves as a reminder to our Nation, and its foes, why our Marines call themselves the world’s finest.”
The US-led assault on Falluja – a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency west of Baghdad – displaced most of the city’s 300,000 population and left many of its buildings destroyed.
The U.S. military initially denied that it used white phosphorus as an anti-personnel weapon in Fallujah, but later admitted to using the incendiary chemical in the city as an offensive weapon.
Operation Phantom Fury resulted in the reputed death of over 1,350 insurgent fighters. About 95 American troops were killed, and 560 wounded. After the successful recapture of the city, U.S. forces discovered a room in which they claimed to find evidence of a beheading, and bomb-making factories, which were shown to the media as evidence of Fallujah’s important role in the insurgency against U.S. forces.
The city was also embroiled in conflict after the emergence of the Islamic State (known as ISIS), a so-called caliphate that claimed religious, political, and military authority over Muslims worldwide.
In January 2014, the city was captured by the Islamic State and suffered major population loss. In May 2016, Iraqi forces announced the beginning of their attempt to retake Fallujah from IS. On June 26, 2016, the city was declared fully liberated by the Iraqi army.
Along with the ship’s name, Del Toro announced the sponsor for the future USS Fallujah as Donna Berger, who is not only the spouse of Gen. David H. Berger, 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps, but also an avid advocate and mentor for military families.
America-class amphibious assault ships are designed to support Marine Corps Operational Maneuver From the Sea and Ship to Objective Maneuvers.
The America-class ships replaced all of the decommissioned Tarawa-class LHAs and are now optimized for aviation ability, accommodating the Marine Corps’ future Air Combat Element while adding additional aviation maintenance capabilities and increasing fuel capacities, and extra cargo storage. With the unique inherent powers of the amphibious assault ships, they are often called upon to also support humanitarian and other contingency missions upon short notice.