USS Tripoli comes to Brownsville for scrapping

BY STEVE CLARK/The Brownsville Herald

Article published Thursday, July 19, 2018

Fifty-three years after it was launched from the Ingalls Shipbuilding yard in Pascagoula, Miss., the 598-foot amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LPH 10) is now in for dismantling by International Shipbreaking LLC, part of the EMR Group.

The vessel was decommissioned and struck from the naval register in 1995 after nearly 30 years in service. The Tripoli was one of seven Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ships, the first vessels of their type designed as helicopter carriers. LPH stands for “Landing Platform Helicopter.” The first ship of the class, the Iwo Jima (LPH 2), was scrapped in 1996 in Brownsville.

The Tripoli completed three deployments to Vietnam during its career and was the first amphibious warship to carry a full squadron of AV-8 Harrier short-takeoff/vertical-landing ground-attack jets.

The ship was deployed in late 1990 to the Persian Gulf in response to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. In February 1991, the Tripoli was struck by an Iraqi mine, which tore a massive hole in the ship’s starboard bow. Following one month of repairs, the Tripoli returned to the Persian Gulf to spearhead U.N. minesweeping operations.

In December 1992, the ship was sent to Somalia to wrest control of the city of Mogadishu from Somali warlords in Operation Restore Hope, the Tripoli’s Marines going ashore in a night landing to secure the city’s airports and seaports.

Two years later, the ship was back in the Persian Gulf as an initial U.S. show of force in response to Iraq again massing troops along the Kuwaiti border. The presence of the Tripoli and other U.S. warships as part of Operation Vigilant Warrior resulted in Iraq withdrawing its forces from the border.

The Tripoli earned 19 awards during its career, including four Navy Unit Commendations, three Combat Action Ribbons, three Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals, the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and Southwest Asia Service Medal.

The ship was loaned to the Army after decommissioning, and in 2006 was towed to Pearl Harbor for use as a launch platform in ballistic missile tests. The Tripoli was berthed in San Francisco until joining the Beaumont Reserve Fleet in April 2015. On May 26, it arrived in Brownsville from Beaumont.

In August 2016, the U.S. Maritime Administration designated the Tripoli for scrapping.

Among the many Navy ships International Shipbreaking has dismantled are the aircraft carriers USS Constellation and USS Ranger. Work on the USS Independence is underway.

Chris Green, International Shipbreaking senior manager, acknowledged that the Tripoli has “significant sentimental meaning to the men and women who served our country and spent a part of their lives with her.”

“She will be recycled in a safe, respectful and environmentally responsible manner,” he said.