USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) is the first purpose-built expeditionary sea base vessel for the United States Navy. Its namesake is Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller, who served in the United States Marine Corps from 1918-1955, retiring as a lieutenant general. Beginning his career fighting guerillas in Haiti and Nicaragua as part of the Banana Wars, he later served with distinction in World War II and the Korean War as a senior officer. He is the most decorated Marine in American history, receiving five Navy Crosses and one Army Distinguished Service Cross during his career.
USS Lewis B. Puller was commissioned on Aug. 17, 2017 in Bahrain, and is the only U.S. vessel to be commissioned in a foreign port. The ship's prefix changed from USNS to USS and hull designation changed from T-ESB-3 to ESB-3. The ship is permanently operating in U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, serving to support a variety of low-intensity missions. USS Lewis B. Puller is a hybrid-manned platform whose crew is comprised of a rotational military crew and Military Sealift Command civilian mariners.
Lt. Gen. Lewis "Chesty" Burwell Puller, colorful veteran of the Korean fighting, four World War II campaigns and expeditionary service in China, Nicaragua and Haiti, was one of the most decorated Marines in the Corps, and the only Leatherneck ever to win the Navy Cross five times for heroism and gallantry in action. Promoted to his final rank and placed on the temporary disability retired list Nov. 1 1955, he died on Oct. 11, 1971 in Hampton, Virginia after a long illness.
The general's last active duty station was Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where he was commanding the 2d Marine Division when he became seriously ill in August 1954. After that he served as Deputy Camp Commander until his illness forced him to retire.
A Marine officer and enlisted man for 37 years, Lt. Gen. Puller served at sea or overseas for all but ten of those years, including a hitch as commander of the "Horse Marines" in China. Excluding medals from foreign governments, he won a total of 14 personal decorations in combat, plus a long list of campaign medals, unit citation ribbons, and other awards. In addition to his Navy Crosses (the next-highest decoration to the Medal of Honor for Naval personnel), he holds its Army equivalent, the Distinguished Service Cross.
He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and his fifth Navy Cross for heroism in action as commander of the 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division, during the bitter fight to break out of Korea's Chosin Reservoir area.