LHA 9—the future USS Fallujah—will be a sister ship to LHA 8, pictured here in an artist's conception and currently under construction at Huntington Ingalls Industries.

LHA 9—the future USS Fallujah—will be a sister ship to LHA 8, pictured here in an artist's conception and currently under construction at Huntington Ingalls Industries. Huntington Ingalls Industries

Amphibious Warship To Be Named for Fallujah Battles

The 45,000 metric-ton ship will be the first Navy vessel to honor a post-9/11 battle.

The future America-class amphibious assault ship LHA-9 will be named after the two battles of Fallujah of the Iraq war, the Navy secretary announced Tuesday.

The 45,000-metric-ton vessel, USS Fallujah, will be the first U.S. warship named for a post-9/11 battle, the Navy confirmed. Construction is to begin this month at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Mississippi. No projected completion data has been announced.

Also up in the air are the Navy’s plans for the ultimate size of its amphibious fleet. A long-awaited study is still under consideration, Secretary Carlos Del Toro said at the Marine Barracks Washington. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger has called for a Gator fleet of at least 31 ships.

LHA-9 will be named for two 2004 battles in the Iraqi city: an April-May battle launched in part to retaliate for the deaths of four U.S. contractors; and a larger November-December fight to retake the city from insurgent forces.

Of the second battle, a Navy press release said: “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.”

In his speech, Del Toro said the warship would memorialize the battles and those who fought them.

“It is an honor for me and for our nation, to memorialize the Marines, the soldiers, and coalition forces that fought valiantly, and those who sacrificed their lives during both battles of Fallujah,” he said. “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, the courage, and commitment to freedom displayed by those who fought in those battles.”

Del Toro made the announcement during the promotion ceremony of Chesty XVI, the Marine Corps’ English bulldog mascot.

The ship’s sponsor will be Donna Berger, the commandant’s spouse.

In the audience during the announcement was Lt. Gen. Gregg Olson, the director of the Marine Corps staff, who fought in the April Battle of Fallujah as the commander of 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, according to his official biography

Olson said the naming was validation for him as a veteran of Fallujah and a recognition by the Navy secretary of the bravery of the Marines he served with.

“It just absolutely makes me swell with pride to think of the accomplishments of those young men, many of whom gave the last full measure of devotion or had their lives changed, some significantly. Their bravery, their love for each other, their dedication to the mission,” he said.

It will be “truly fitting” to carry Marines into operations aboard an amphibious ship named after these historic battles, Olson said.

“The amphibious ship is the defining capability of the Navy-Marine Corps team. We need them. We need them in sufficient numbers to be operationally available. And we've demonstrated time and time again,” he said. “I was there in 2001 when Marines went 400 nautical miles into the country of Afghanistan from the deck of an amphibious ship. We're the only nation in the world that can do that. And we can only do it because we have this amphibious capability.”