USS Bataan (LHD 5) memorializes the valiant resistance of American and Filipino troops on the Bataan Peninsula in the dawning days of World War II. Fighting on the Philippine Islands of Luzon and Corregidor began just 10 short hours after the raid on Pearl Harbor. After weeks of Japanese air raids and beach landings on the north of Luzon, Gen. Douglas MacArthur ordered withdrawal from the fortified north to the narrow jungle peninsula Dec. 23, 1941. There, combined Army, Navy, Marine Corps and American-trained Filipino forces opposed teeming Japanese aggressors.
Despite rampant disease, malnutrition, insufficient supplies and ammunition, the “Battling Bastards of Bataan” defended the peninsula until April 16, 1942. Corregidor fell shortly after on May 6, 1942. During combat, some units absorbed as high as 80 percent casualties. Tens of thousands of American service members died either in battle or during the unconscionable “Bataan Death March.” The 65-mile “Death March” alone claimed the lives of more than 21,000 allies in less than a week and is marked as one of the greatest tragedies of World War II. Those who survived the march faced starvation and disease aboard “hell ships” during transportation and later in prison camps until Japan's formal surrender in 1945. Two of every three Americans who defended Bataan and Corregidor never returned home.
Bataan was the last American stronghold in the Pacific theater to fall until MacArthur fulfilled his famed prophecy, “I shall return,” by reconquering the Philippine Islands two-and-one-half years later. The battle of Bataan and ensuing “Death March” are widely regarded as one of the greatest examples of allied courage, endurance and sacrifice in the history of military conflict.
USS Bataan (LHD 5) was commissioned Sept. 20, 1997. Bataan is the fifth ship in the Wasp-class of U.S. Navy multipurpose amphibious assault ships. The mission of Bataan is to enable the Navy and Marine Corps team to accomplish a seamless transition from the sea to a land battle, as the lead ship and centerpiece of an amphibious readiness group (ARG). A multi-mission ARG is capable of amphibious assault, advance force, and special purpose operations, as well as non-combatant evacuation and other humanitarian assistance missions.
Bataan, homeported in Norfolk, Virginia., made its maiden voyage during a Mediterranean deployment in September 1999. From Sept. 19, 2001 to April 2002, Bataan deployed to the Mediterranean, North Arabian Sea, and Persian Gulf to participate in Operation Bright Star and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). During OEF, the ship set numerous records such as; 118 consecutive days off the coast of Pakistan while the 26th MEU embarked on Bataan, marched nearly 700 nautical miles into Afghanistan in support of the War on Terrorism.
Nine months later, from January to June 2003, the ship deployed again, as part of Amphibious Task Force East. During the six-month deployment, Bataan along with USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) carried 24 AV-8B Harriers, becoming one of Task Force 51’s “Harrier Carriers,” launching air strikes and close air support missions during the major combat phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Just six months later, from January to March 2004, the ship deployed for the third time in 28 months, in support of OIF troop rotation.
In 2005, Bataan was called upon to support Joint Task Force Katrina search, rescue and relief efforts in the New Orleans, Louisiana, and Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi, areas. Bataan as the first Navy ship on scene Aug. 30, after Katrina, a category-4 hurricane, made landfall the previous day. Bataan spent 19 days supporting the relief efforts by moving more than 1,600 people to safety and delivering more than 160,000 pounds of supplies to the Gulf Coast states.
Bataan made regularly scheduled deployments to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibilities in 2007 and 2009 to support maritime security operations. Thirty four days after Bataan’s return from her deployment in December 2009, the ship and crew were underway again to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief support to Operation Unified Response in Haiti after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the island nation. Bataan's Navy/Marine Corps Team delivered and transported more than 1,000 pallets of relief supplies ashore and treating close to 1,000 Haitians both aboard Bataan in the ship’s medical facility and working side-by-side with local and volunteer physicians at clinics throughout Haiti.
In 2011, Bataan deployed three months ahead of their original schedule to complete a 10-and-a-half-month deployment in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn, OEF and OIF in the 5th and 6th Fleet Areas of Responsibility. The 2011-2012 deployment is marked as the longest deployment by a U.S. Navy ship since 1973.
In February 2014, Bataan deployed on a regularly scheduled deployment as the flagship of the Bataan ARG with the 22nd MEU to conduct maritime security operations, crisis response, theater security cooperation and provide a forward naval presence in the U.S. Navy’s 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation. During this deployment Bataan was involved in two rescues-at-sea; rescuing two Turkish mariners from their sinking cargo ship in the Aegean Sea, and rescuing 282 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea after their small vessel sank. Also, during this deployment the Bataan and the 22nd MEU supported an assessment of humanitarian options in support of displaced Iraqi civilians trapped on Sinjar Mountain by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
From March to September 2017, Bataan completed a regularly scheduled deployment as the flagship of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group along with the embarked 24th MEU. While deployed to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet area of operations the ARG and MEU participated in exercises; Spanish Amphibious, Eager Lion and Alligator Dagger in support of maritime security operations designed to reassure allies and partners, and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.