A US Navy Hospital Ship is Recommissioned With Honor

October 16, 1965

After more than a decade with the reserve fleet at Suisun Bay in northern California, the United States Navy hospital ship USS Repose (AH-16) was recommissioned for service in the Vietnam War. The vessel dated back to the World War II era, having been built in 1943 by the Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Company and launched the following year. 

Originally named Marine Beaver, she was delivered to the Navy for completion as a hospital ship and commissioned USS Repose in May 1945. She ended up in the Pacific theater, where her duties included transporting sick and injured troops from and to various ports. The ship remained in that region of the world for the most part until July 1949.

Repose was decommissioned in January 1950, but reactivated that August for medical service in the Korean War. She served in that military theater until early 1954, and was decommissioned in December of the same year.

In the following decade, the ship’s Vietnam War experience reflected and even helped define state-of-the-art hospital ships. Repose was routinely anchored in waters within combat zones in order to quickly bring casualties aboard for immediate medical treatment. 

A 1966 issue of the Navy magazine All Hands provided an overview of what was on board the ship. “Repose is now fitted out with the latest in diagnostic and treatment equipment, including a frozen blood bank facility; a heart-lung machine; a sonar echo-encephalograph and a recompression chamber,” reported the magazine. “It is a modern, floating 750-bed hospital manned by 24 doctors, 30 nurses and 256 hospital corpsmen.”

Repose also contained three operating rooms, a laboratory, and x-ray facilities. More than 24,000 patients, including 9,000 casualties, received medical care on the ship. Approximately 8,000 surgical operations took place on Repose. The ship served not only military personnel but also Vietnamese civilians.

Repose remained in Southeast Asian waters until March 1970. She was decommissioned two months later. The ship was sold for scrap in 1975. For information on USS Repose (AH-16), please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Repose_(AH-16).

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