Iwo Jima Class Amphibious Assault Ship (Helicopter):
USS NEW ORLEANS was laid down on March 1, 1966 at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was launched on February 3, 1968 and sponsored by Mrs. Arthur A. De la Houssaye. She was commissioned on November 16, 1968 with Captain G.M. Even in command.
NEW ORLEANS made her first appearance in the Western Pacific in August of 1969 as flagship for Amphibious Ready Group Bravo. Her embarked Marine helicopter squadron and battalion leading team were ready to be landed within hours. In October, she hosted the Eighth Vietnamese Awards. Later that month, she participated in Keystone Cardinal Operation, a retrograde movement of Marines out of Vietnam. The ship's first deployment terminated in March of 1970. After having participated in five amphibious exercises, conducted many weeks of Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) maneuvers in the South China Sea, and visiting such ports as Hong Kong, Manila, Subic Bay, Okinawa, and Taipei, NEW ORLEANS returned to San Diego.
Two other interesting assignments were given to NEW ORLEANS prior to her next Western Pacific deployment. In August of 1970, she became flagship for Commander First Fleet and provided support for President Richard Nixon's visit to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and made a port call to Acapulco. Then, in late 1970, she prepared for the recovery of Apollo 14. On February 9, 1971, she picked up astronauts Alan Shepard, Stuart Roosa, and Ed Mitchell some 900 miles south of American Samoa.
In May of 1971, NEW ORLEANS made her second Western Pacific appearance, conducting various contingency exercises, a multi-national cruising exercise simulating a convoy under combat conditions, and a simulated assault with the Marines on the island of Mindoro, Republic of the Philippines. This deployment was completed in November of that same year.
Following a rather extensive yard period, NEW ORLEANS began her next Western Pacific deployment on July 17, 1972 under the command of Captain R.W. Carius. She became flagship for Amphibious Squadron Three and later Amphibious Ready Group Alfa under Commodore W.H. Ellis. During late July and early August, NEW ORLEANS and her embarked units participated in the Philippine flood relief operations, earning the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation.
The helicopter carrier became engaged in contingency operations again with the ready group off the coast of Vietnam until early February of 1973, at which time she became the flagship for Commander Task Force 78 and the control ship for Operation End Sweep. CTF 78, headed by Rear Admiral Brian McCauley, was tasked with de-mining operations for the coast and harbors of North Vietnam. She ceased operations in Haiphong Harbor on April 17, 1973.
NEW ORLEANS next participated in recovery operations for the Skylab II and Skylab III missions. She was also present for the recovery of astronauts Stafford, Slayton, and Brand during the joint American-Soviet Apollo-Soyuz mission of July 5, 1975.
In 1978 the New Orleans went on a short West Pac Visiting Ports in Phillipines Subic Bay and Cebu. and Hong Kong.
In 1980, the ship deployed and spent several months in the Indian Ocean during the Iran hostage crisis. She completed a major overhaul at Bremerton Naval Shipyard in 1981. Deployments and exercises in 1982 and 1983 included RIMPAC '82, Exercise Kernel Usher '83-1, and WESTPAC '83. From May to December of 1984, NEW ORLEANS sailed the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific, participating in eight major amphibious operations. While on WESTPAC in 1986, she served in an alert status off the Philippine coast during that country's national elections. She also served as the medical and communications support ship for President Ronald Reagan's trip to Bali, Indonesia.
Upon her return to home port, NEW ORLEANS participated in two major exercises leading to her thirteenth deployment to the Western Pacific. During this time, she participated in four amphibious exercises, including Cobra Gold '88, Valiant Usher '89-1, and Valiant Blitz '89-1. The ship called on the port of Perth, Australia, during that country's bicentennial. In 1989, she made port visits to Mazatlan, Mexico, and Seattle, Washington, for the Seattle Sea Fair. She also conducted a humanitarian relief effort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Following completion of a phased maintenance availability in January of 1990, NEW ORLEANS sailed the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Persian Gulf in support of Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield from December 1, 1990 to August 28, 1991. She served as a member of CTG-36/CTF-156, the largest amphibious task force to deploy from the West Coast of the United States in 25 years. Significant accomplishments included the off-load of 1,700 Marine combat troops on G-Day and aviation mine countermeasures in the North Arabian Gulf, ten nautical miles off the coast of Kuwait.
In November of 1991, NEW ORLEANS returned to San Diego for a six month overhaul. In October of 1992, she hosted festivities at Fleet Week '92 in San Francisco. After returning to San Diego, she was the first LPH to go through Afloat Training Group Pacific's "Tailored Ship's Training Availability" and was instrumental in developing a training track for LPH-class ships. In September of 1993, NEW ORLEANS deployed on her fifteenth WESTPAC cruise where she participated in Exercise Valiant Usher '93 and was a member of the Amphibious Ready Group that conducted operations in support of Operation Restore Hope at Mogadishu, Somalia.
LPH 11 next sailed onto the movie screen in November of 1994 when astronaut Captain Jim Lovell, USN, director Ron Howard, and actors Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton came aboard to film several portions of the Oscar-winning movie "Apollo 13."
June of 1995 saw NEW ORLEANS underway again for WESTPAC operations. She was present to support the Marine raid on the Al Hamra Facility on October 24 of that year. She returned to San Diego on December 22, 1995, after embarking 198 Sea Scouts as part of a "Tiger Cruise" during the last leg of her journey from Pearl Harbor to San Diego. The ship got underway again on January 31, 1997, for another WESTPAC cruise before returning to port on May 2.
NEW ORLEANS was decommissioned and placed in reserve in San Diego,California, in October of 1997. She was the proud recipient of the Navy Unit Commendation, four Battle Efficiency Awards, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Navy Expeditionary Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Southwest Asia Campaign Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Kuwait Liberation Medal.