Hospital Ships in the U.S. Navy

Last week, my husband and I were in San Diego having lunch in Coronado at Peohe’s Restaurant.  While we were eating our Avacado-Crab-Mango stacks, a huge white ship with several Red Crosses glided past us on it’s way out of San Diego Bay.

USNS Mercy gliding out of San Diego Harbor

It was the USNS (United States Naval Ship)  Mercy (T-AH-10).  From Wikiepedia,

Mercy was built as an San Clemente-class oil tanker, SS Worth, by National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, San Diego, in 1976. Starting in July 1984, she was renamed and converted to a hospital ship by the same company. Launched on 20 July 1985, USNS Mercy was placed in service on 8 November 1986. She has a raised forecastle, a transom stern, a bulbous bow, an extended deckhouse with a forward bridge, and a helicopter-landing deck with a flight control facility. The Mercy class hospital ships are the third largest ships in the U.S. Navy Fleet by length, surpassed only by the nuclear-powered Nimitz-class and Gerald R. Ford-class supercarriers

Her primary mission is to provide rapid, flexible, and mobile acute medical and surgical services to support Marine Corps Air/Ground Task Forces deployed ashore, Army and Air Force units deployed ashore, and naval amphibious task forces and battle forces afloat. Secondarily, she provides mobile surgical hospital service for use by appropriate US Government agencies in disaster or humanitarian relief or limited humanitarian care incident to these missions or peacetime military operations.[3]

USNS Mercy, homeported in San Diego, is normally in reduced operating status. Her crew remains a part of the staff of Naval Medical Center San Diego until ordered to sea, at which time they have five days to fully activate the ship to a NATO Role III Medical Treatment Facility, the highest only to shore based fixed facilities outside of the theater of operations.[3][4] Like most “USNS” Ships, Mariners from the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command are responsible for navigation, propulsion, and most deck duties on board.[1] Mercy is as of 2012 part of MSC’s Service Support Program. However, the “Medical Treatment Facility”, or hospital on the ship, is commanded by a Captain of the Navy Medical Corps or Navy Nurse Corps.

The hospital ship on the East Coast is the USNS Comfort (T-AH-20), homeported in Norfok, VA.  She  was placed in service in 1987.

Hospital ships of many types have been part of the United States Navy at least since 1798. Their special status has been internationally recognised under the second Geneva Convention of 1906 and the Hague Convention of 1907.They also saved many lives.

In this list, the particular roles of some hospital ships are identified, e.g. as ambulance vessels, rescue ships, and evacuation ships. Also included are ships that had a dual role, also serving as barracks ships, receiving ships, supply ships or guard ships.


11 thoughts on “Hospital Ships in the U.S. Navy”

    1. Most fortuitous indeed, GP. I had seen her docked at the Naval Station but had never seen her underway. I’d love to tour her some time. I’m aware that her sister, USNS Comfort, has participated in humanitarian efforts in the Caribbean. I think the capacity of some of our capital ships like the hospital ships and aircraft carriers do not get enough credit for their capabilities to help civilians in times of crisis. A carrier can generate enough water and power to a town or small city.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Very possible. I know it was a troopship because the Bedford Boys from Bedford, VA (which is why the D-Day museum is in that small town) sailed to England on the Queen Mary. Not exactly deluxe accommodations according to the book I read.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I did not get to sail on her. A Virginia National Guard Troop including a group of soldiers from Bedford, Virginia were one of the first American troops to sail to England for a possible landing in Europe. Since they got to England in 1942, by 1944 they were among the better-trained troops and were consequently selected to land on Omaha Beach on D-Day.


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