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USS Solace (AH-5)
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Class: SOLACE (AH-5)
Design: Passenger, 1927
Displacement (tons): 6,237 light, 8,900 lim.
Dimensions (feet): 409.3' oa, 394.5' wl x 62.0' e x 20.6' lim.
Original Armament: None
Later armaments: --
Complement: 424 (1944)
Speed (kts.): 18
Propulsion (HP): 8,500
Machinery: Newport News turbines, 2 screws
||22 Jul 40
||Newport News SB & DD
||9 Aug 41
||27 Mar 46
||21 May 46
||18 Jul 46
||16 Apr 48
FY 1941. On 27 Sep 33 the Secretary of the Navy wrote to the Navy's General Board, stating that the latest military characteristics of naval auxiliaries had been drawn up in 1914-1917 and directing that these characteristics be brought up to date in preparation for the impending expansion of the combatant fleet. Hospital ships (AH) were among the eight types of large auxiliaries that had been built during World War I, and on 8 Jan 35 the General Board promulgated new characteristics that called for a twin-screw ship with a speed of 18 knots sustained (increased from the original 15 knots at the insistence of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, which wanted up to 24 knots), an endurance of 12,000 miles at 15 knots, and accommodations for about 25 officers and 320 men under treatment in rooms and wards and the ability to accommodate in an emergency a total of about 500 patients by installing berths in other spaces. However the new construction auxiliaries of the 1930s were intended mainly to support the expanding peacetime fleet, and a combination of limited funding and low priority relative to other auxiliaries kept AH's out of the annual peacetime building programs.
The Navy's war plans called for wartime requirements for auxiliaries to be handled by conversions of merchant ships rather than by new construction, and as the world crisis deepened the Navy turned to its extensive prewar mobilization studies of the U. S. merchant marine for new AH's. In 1927 the Clyde S.S. Co. had taken delivery of two new coastal passenger ships, IROQUOIS (ID-4805) and SHAWNEE (ID-4806), for its service between New York and Florida, and on 2 Dec 38 BuC&R sent to the other bureaus preliminary plans for the conversion of these two vessels to hospital ships in the event of a future national emergency. BuMed approved the design on 15 Dec 38 and on 3 Apr 39 BuC&R distributed the final plans to the Naval Districts for retention in their mobilization files.
On 20 Jun 40 CNO, acting as Secretary of the Navy, wrote to the Maritime Commission stating that world conditions made it necessary for the Navy to acquire 18 additional auxiliary vessels, ranging in size and type from transports to tugs. He noted that the Navy could not build them quickly enough to meet requirements and desired instead to acquire them from the Merchant Marine. He asked the Maritime Commission to consider the attached list of candidate ships and advise the Navy as to which of them might be available and at what price. On 28 Jun 40, at CNO's request, SecNav authorized the Bureau of Ships to acquire and convert seven of these auxiliaries, presumably those for which funds were then available, which became AP 8-11 (later APA 2-5), AS-13, AV-8, and AH-5. For the hospital ship the Navy had proposed IROQUOIS or SHAWNEE, and IROQUOIS proved to be available. Her conversion began on 30 Sep 40 and was completed on 1 Sep 41. Her after smokestack, a dummy, was removed during the conversion. The Army chartered SHAWNEE from her owners in December 1941. The same owners' slightly smaller CHEROKEE, SEMINOLE, MOHAWK, and ALGONQUIN were generally similar to IROQUOIS and SHAWNEE but had only one stack.
SOLACE served for the entire duration of World War II, from handling casualties at Pearl Harbor in December 1941 to supporting the invasion of Okinawa in 1945. She admitted over 25,000 patients, about 70% of whom were battle casualties, possibly a record for a single hospital ship. After a shipyard overhaul (her first) in mid-1945, she was assigned to Operation Magic Carpet to help bring servicemen home from the western Pacific. On 8 November 1945 CNO authorized Commander, Pacific Fleet to use Navy hospital ships in general transport service without changing their special markings but their designation was to be changed to APH. They would revert to the AH designation upon termination of this duty. At this time CNO made the temporary designation of APH-15 effective for SOLACE. She presumably reverted to AH-5 upon the completion of her Magic Carpet duty in January 1946.
||Ex merc. IROQUOIS (ID-4806, completed 22 Jun 27). Converted by Atlantic Basin IW, Brooklyn, N.Y. To ANKARA (Turkish) 1948 (delivered 28 Apr 48). Scrapped 1981.
Compiled: 26 Oct 2008
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2008