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USS Bataan


USS Bataan crest
USS Bataan [LHD-5]

As hurricane Katrina moved up the Gulf taking aim at New Orleans, Captain Nora Tyson and the crew of the USS Bataan were right behind it.

By coincidence this vessel, based in Norfolk, Virginia, was operating in the Gulf. Jo Fish might know of another class of US vessel that was better, but I can’t imagine anything more suited to aiding coastal cities.

The Bataan is a multipurpose amphibious assault ship. She was designed to support landing Marines on a shore. She has a flight deck for her helicopters and VTOL aircraft, she has amphibious landing craft, she has a 600-bed hospital, and she can generate 100,000 gallons of drinking water a day. Everything that was needed was there: food, water, medical care, transportation, communications, mobile generators, everything was on that ship and it arrived within range as Katrina hit New Orleans.

Northern Command, the area command for US operations, was ready to go. They put people on alert to leap into action. All they needed was the word from the President.

The helicopters from the Bataan rushed in with Coast Guard helicopters on search and rescue [SAR] missions, but no one was transferred to the hospital and none of her supplies was used in New Orleans.

At some point, someone in FEMA made the decision that the way to deal with New Orleans was to evacuate the city, so there was no need for supplies in the city. Not being clear on geography, that “no aid” decision was apparently applied to all of the parishes around New Orleans.

The Bataan was later shifted East and helped support operations on the Mississippi coast, but she could have held the patients from all of the hospitals and nursing homes in the area. She could have supplied water to the people of New Orleans and a lot of food. She could have saved a lot more people if she had been allowed to do what she was capable of doing.

I hope that the Navy and DoD are generous with awards for the vessel and her crew. They did their duty and would have done a lot more if they had been allowed.