Navy Hospital Ships

USNS Comfort (T-AH-20)
USNS Comfort (T-AH-20).

Prior to the second Geneva Convention of 1906 and the Hague Convention of 1907, in which Hospital Ships were recognized as having a special status, the Navy had at least 6 designated hospital ships –

USS Intrepid (1798), a captured ketch in the United States Navy during the First Barbary War. 

USS Ben Morgan (1826), a schooner acquired by the Union Navy during the American Civil War.

USS Pawnee (1859), a sloop-of-war in the United States Navy during the American Civil War.

USS Red Rover (1859), a 650-ton Confederate States of America steamer that the United States Navy captured and repurposed.

USS Home (1862), a large steamship purchased by the Union Navy during the American Civil War.

USS Relief (1896), which started out as the passenger ship John Englis that was purchased by the United States Army and in 1902 acquired by the Navy.  In 1918, she was renamed Repose to allow the name Relief to be assigned to AH-1 USS Relief.

As well, in the Civil War, there was steamship Star of the West which was used by the Confederate States Navy as CSS Saint Philip, serving as a naval station and hospital ship.

During the first World War (aka “The Great War”), between November 1918 and March 1919, three US Navy-operated and staffed Hospital Ships, (USS Comfort, USS Mercy and USS Solace) evacuated patients from Europe to the United States.

Since the Geneva Conventions, the Navy has only had 20 Hospital Ships.

  Some were used for a short time, some put into lay-up and reactivated when needed.  Most were in service during WWII.

The first ship of the U.S. Navy designed and built from the keel up as a hospital ship was the previously mentioned AH-1 USS Relief, commissioned in 1920 on 28 December.  At the time, Relief was one of the world's most modern and best equipped hospital ships with all the facilities of a modern shore hospital, and with a bed capacity of 550 patients.

 

The list, with some details:

AH-1 USS Relief (1920–1946) - designed and built in 1918 as a Hospital Ship with capacity for 500 patients.

AH-2 USS Solace (1898–1905, 1908–1909, 1909–1921) - former merchant steamship Creole, converted into a hospital ship with capacity for approximately 200 patients.  Noted as being the first Navy ship to fly the Geneva Red Cross flag.

AH-3 USS Comfort (1907–1917) - former USAT Havana, transferred from the Army to the Navy and converted into a hospital ship with capacity for 500 patients.  Noted as one of the two first Navy hospital ships to have female nurses aboard.

AH-4 USS Mercy (1917) – former USAT Saratoga, converted into a hospital ship with capacity for 500 patients.  Noted as one of the two first Navy hospital ships to have female nurses aboard.

AH-5 USS Solace (1941–1946) – former passenger ship Iroquois, converted into a hospital ship with capacity for 450 patients.

AH-6 USS Comfort (1944–1946) – former freighter, converted into a hospital ship with capacity for 400 patients.

AH-7 USS Hope (1944–1946) – former freighter, converted into a hospital ship with capacity for 400 patients.

AH-8 USS Mercy (1944–1946) – former freighter, converted into a hospital ship with capacity for 400 patients.

AH-9 USS Bountiful (1944–1946) – former troopship Henderson, converted into a hospital ship with capacity for 477 patients.

AH-10 USS Samaritan (1944–1946) – former troop transport USS Chaumont (AP-5), converted into a hospital ship with capacity for 394 patients.

AH-11 USS Refuge (1944–1946) – former passenger ship Kenmore, converted into a hospital ship with capacity for 626 patients.

AH-12 USS Haven (1945–1947*), (1950–1957) – former freighter Marine Hawk, converted into a hospital ship with capacity for 802 patients .

AH-13 USS Benevolence (1945–1947*) – former freighter Marine Lion, converted into a hospital ship with capacity for 800 patients.

AH-14 USS Tranquility (1945–1946*) – former freighter Marine Dolphin, converted into a hospital ship with capacity for 802 patients.

AH-15 USS Consolation (1945–1946*, 1950–1955) – former freighter Marine Walrus, converted into a hospital ship with capacity for 800 patients.

AH-16 USS Repose (1945–1950, 1950–1954, 1965–1970) – former freighter, converted into a hospital ship with capacity for 800 patients.

AH-17 USS Sanctuary (1945–1946*, 1966–1971, 1972–1975) – former freighter Marine Owl, converted into a hospital ship with capacity for 796 patients.

AH-18 USS Rescue (1945–1946*) – former passenger ship Saint John, converted into a hospital ship with capacity for 792 patients.

T-AH-19 USNS Mercy (1986-present) – former San Clemente-class supertanker Worth, converted into hospital ship with 12 fully equipped operating rooms, a 1,000-bed hospital facility, digital radiological services, a medical laboratory, a pharmacy, an optometry lab, an intensive care ward, dental services, a CT scanner, a morgue, and two oxygen-producing plants.

T-AH-20 USNS Comfort (1987-present) – former San Clemente-class supertanker Rose City, converted into hospital ship with 12 fully equipped operating rooms, a 1,000-bed hospital facility, digital radiological services, a medical laboratory, a pharmacy, an optometry lab, an intensive care ward, dental services, a CT scanner, a morgue, and two oxygen-producing plants.

More detail on the two current Navy Hospital Ships, Mercy and Comfort.  Both ships are equipped with a helicopter deck capable of landing large military helicopters (such as the CH-53D, CH-53E and MH-53E Sea Stallions – as well as the Mi-17 Hip). The ships also have side ports to take on patients at sea.  They're huge, equivalent to the height of a 10-story building and almost the length of three football fields (just a tad shy, at 894 feet long), and displace 69,360 tons.  The ships are operated by Military Sealift Command.

* These noted ships bore a temporary designation of APH from November, 1945 to January, 1946, as part of Operation Magic Carpet.  Their hull numbers were also temporarily changed -, AH-12 as APH-112, AH-13 as APH-113, AH-14 as APH-114, AH-15 as APH-115, AH-17 as APH-117, and AH-18 as APH-118.

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