When armed conflict takes place on land, medics can rush to a wounded soldier’s aid, and transport him to a field hospital if necessary. When the fighting is primarily on the open ocean, providing medical treatment to the injured can be far more complicated. That’s where hospital ships become lifesavers.
The Hospital Ships of World War II
These are the American hospital ships that served in the Pacific Theater.
USS Solace (AH-5)
Launched in 1927 as the passenger ship SS Iroquois, USS Solace was acquired by the US Navy and commissioned as a hospital ship on August 9th, 1941. Solace was present at the December 7th, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Footage of USS Arizona (BB-39) exploding after being struck by a Japanese bomb was taken from Solace’s deck before she sent out stretcher parties to assist the stricken battleship. Solace continued service throughout World War II in the Pacific.
USS Solace was decommissioned in March of 1946, and struck from the Naval Vessel Register on May 21st.
USS Comfort (AH-6)
USS Comfort joined the war in the Pacific in 1944, the first of a new class of hospital ships. Her service took her to Brisbane, Australia and Hollandia, New Guinea, where she assisted a major Army hospital.
In April of 1945, she evacuated wounded from Guam before sailing to Okinawa, where she was hit by a Japanese kamikaze. Twenty-eight were killed and 48 were wounded in the attack, but Comfort remained afloat. For her service, she received two battle stars before her decommissioning on April 19th, 1946.
USS Hope (AH-7)
A Comfort-class hospital ship, USS Hope was commissioned into service in 1944 under the command of Commander A. E. Richards. Like USS Comfort, Hope’s medical staff were Army personnel.
Hope sailed to the Philippines, Leyte Gulf, and Okinawa, aiding wounded soldiers at each island. During an operation at Leyte on December 3rd, 1944, Hope came under attack by a Japanese torpedo plane. Three days later, another Japanese warplane attempted to bomb her. In both cases, she avoided taking damage.
USS Hope was decommissioned on May 9th, 1946.
USS Mercy (AH-8)
Commissioned into service on August 7th, 1944, USS Mercy was the third of the Comfort-class of hospital ships. Much of her service was spent in Hollandia, the Leyte Gulf, San Pedro Bay, and Pearl Harbor, before eventually sailing to join the 5th Fleet at Ulithi, Caroline Islands. She assisted with the wounded during the Battle of Okinawa, ferrying soldiers even as Japanese kamikaze flew overhead.
USS Mercy was decommissioned and transferred to the Army before being struck from the Naval Vessel Register on September 25th, 1946.
USS Bountiful (AH-9)
USS Bountiful started her service as a transport vessel for the Navy, USS Henderson (AP-1). In 1943, she was decommissioned as a transport ship and converted to a hospital ship, under the name USS Bountiful.
For the next two years, Bountiful operated out of Honolulu and sailed to Saipan, the Marianas Islands, Yokosuka, Japan, and eventually assisted with the Iwo Jima invasion. After participating in Operation Crossroads, she was decommissioned for the last time on September 13th, 1946.
USS Samaritan (AH-10)
The oldest of the hospital ships that served in the Pacific, USS Samaritan underwent several changes since her initial launch in 1920. She was initially known as the USAT Chaumont during her initial service as an Army transport ship, and later transferred to the Navy as USS Chaumont (AP-5). After her conversion into a hospital ship in March of 1944, she was recommissioned USS Samaritan and given a new hull designation. Samaritan evacuated wounded from Guam, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. The Battle of Okinawa was her last taste of war before she was decommissioned on June 25th, 1946 and sold for scrap in January of 1948.
USS Refuge (AH-11)
USS Refuge was first launched in 1921 under the name SS Blue Hen State. Within a year, she was renamed SS President Garfield and, eight years later, SS President Madison. Before becoming a hospital ship in 1944, she served as a transport vessel, USS Kenmore (AP-62).
As a hospital ship, Refuge served in both the Atlantic and Pacific, joining the Service Force, 7th Fleet sailing between the Philippines, China, and Saipan. USS Refuge was decommissioned on April 2nd, 1946 and sold for scrap on February 2nd, 1948.