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.
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.
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. Like most “USNS” Ships, Mariners from the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command are responsible for navigation, propulsion, and most deck duties on board. 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.