I had a great opportunity to take a personal tour of the USS Essex while it was docked in San Francisco for Fleet Week. Well, the opportunity came from my friend who grew up with the commander on that ship. Before boarding, I was thinking about the many fond memories I have of walking on ships, seeing the galley, and sleeping quarters, and those stairs…ladders really, just to get between decks. I told my friend, make sure you watch your head and not bump it. I know this because hitting my head while going through doors is part of my memory. Hitting it while climbing up and down the stairs is part of that memory too.
The USS Essex, I’m getting this info first hand and backing it up with the wiki page, is an amphibious assault ship. The purpose of this ship is to land and support ground forces on enemy territory. At the same time, the Essex looks a little like a miniature aircraft carrier with the huge deck. While an aircraft carrier is more than 1000 feet long, this ship is about 844′ short. This size is great for helicopters and Harrier fighters (those cool planes that can go up and down to land and take off). This ship was made in 1992 and it definitely shows it age with its steam engine. Being an amphibious assault ship, the stern of the ship opens up to deploy all types of vehicles like a Landing Craft Air Cushion…a hoover craft.
Approaching this monster gator of a ship really puts you in your place. This boat is huge! I know the specs but when you really approach it, it’s truly magnificent. Once on board, you can see how this is really just a small city on the water. I remember hearing that they can hold up to 5,000 people with 8 rounds of food service at a time.
The first thing on the tour, the landing platform. On this deck, they showcased a helicopter and a bunch of LCUs. I thought I had on good shoes but apparently I didn’t since I was slipping and sliding all over.
LCU (Landing Craft Unit)
Slippery floors! Oil! Yep, totally forgot about that memory until it happened again where I slipped. How’s that for the motto, Take Notice! The LCUs, while a newer model, reminded me of those duck boat tour vehicles. I want one! All those wheels then drives in the water and then floats and rides like a boat! I mean, really. Every boy wants one. Although, I was told that they aren’t the best vehicle and many people get sick sitting in the back. I still want that marine diesel engine!
RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile
The RAM missiles were pretty impressive. I guess I’ve only been on destroyers with those big WWII guns. From what I could tell, they seem pretty easy to load if you have 4 people to do it. I just like how they look more technical than those big cannons.
Close-in weapon system
Now this is the weapon I love. How can you not love a gun with radars, computers, multi-barrel, with rotary rapid-fire cannons (2,000 rounds a minute) on a rotating platform! From the crew, that gun is really loud. I have nothing but respect for that gun.
It reminds me of that scene in Predator.
The Rest of the Ship
Going back to what I’m used to seeing. The galley, looked like a galley. I think it was nice to see that they were using table cloths or maybe it was just special for Fleet Week. The impressive thing was sick bay. I guess I never noticed it before but sick bay is a hospital on the water. The facilities can handle 600 patients.
It was an honor and a privilege to tour the USS Essex. This is more a salute to my dad for his 24 years of service in the Navy. This tour has been a heart-warming memory to my childhood.