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USS Relief (AH-1) on 4 June 1927
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Class: RELIEF (AH-1)
Design Navy AH-1
Displacement (tons): 7,237 light, 9,800 full
Dimensions (feet): 483.8' oa, 460.0' pp x 60.9' wl x 19.8' mx, 19.6' mn
Original Armament: None
Later armaments: --
Complement 396 (1929)
Speed (kts.): 16
Propulsion (HP): 5,250
Machinery: Parsons geared turbines, 2 screws
||29 Aug 16
||14 Jul 17
||23 Dec 19
||28 Dec 20
||11 Jun 46
||19 Jul 46
||1 Aug 46
||31 Dec 47
FY 1917 (Act of 29 Aug 16). The Naval Appropriation Act for FY 1917 that became law on 29 Aug 16 authorized a three-year building program of ten battleships, six battle cruisers, ten scout cruisers, fifty torpedo-boat destroyers, nine fleet submarines, fifty-eight coast submarines, one experimental (Neff) submarine, and two gunboats. To support these combatants it also authorized three fuel ships (oilers), one repair ship, one transport, one hospital ship, two destroyer tenders, one fleet submarine tender, and two ammunition ships. Sixty-six of these ships including one fuel ship, the hospital ship, and one ammunition ship were to be begun during FY 1917, the others were to be funded and begun during the following two fiscal years.
On 7 Dec 08 the General Board forwarded a recommendation of the proportional number of non-military auxiliaries deemed necessary as compared to battleships and other military units of the fleet. The 21 non-military auxiliaries (including 10 colliers) needed to support a fleet of 16 battleships included two hospital ships. On 26 Oct 10 the Board forwarded its first characteristics for hospital ships, although it deferred to the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery concerning the special features of the vessel and attached a detailed report from Surgeon Braisted (who in 1916 was Chief of BuMed) based on his observations of the Japanese in 1904-5 as guidance. After forwarding characteristics in 1913 and 1914 for potential FY 1915 and FY 1916 hospital ships the Board forwarded on 25 Aug 15 general characteristics for all FY 1917 auxiliaries and followed these on 2 Oct 1915 with specific characteristics for the hospital ship. The general characteristics called for ships of about 8,000 miles radius and 14 knots sustained speed and specified the use of twin screws housed under the stern. The special characteristics called for normal accommodations for about 25 officers and 320 enlisted men under treatment capable of emergency expansion to accommodate about 500 patients in all by installing berths in other spaces. The ship was to have laboratories, operating rooms, examining rooms and other professional features as desired by the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. The interior finish throughout the ship was to be plain and simple, with angles, corners, and dead spaces eliminated wherever practical. Particular attention was to be given to interior ventilation, illumination, and mosquito screening, and the ship was to have a complete vacuum cleaning system. She was also to be designed with special reference to steadiness at sea and freedom from vibration.
On 6 Apr 16 the Bureau of Construction and Repair forwarded to the Department via BuMed a preliminary design arrangement plan developed in accordance with the General Board's characteristics of 2 Oct 15. The form of the vessel was the same as Transport No. 1 (HENDERSON), the same machinery installation was contemplated, and the somewhat lighter displacement of the hospital ship design led the Bureau to expect that a speed above the 14 knots specified by the Board would be obtained. The use of the transport hull resulted in a vessel somewhat larger in overall dimensions than the one proposed by BuMed, but the cubic space in desirable locations well above the waterline in a smaller vessel would not be sufficient to permit an arrangement of hospital spaces as efficient and satisfactory as that provided in the proposed vessel. Use of the HENDERSON hull design would also permit a considerable saving in time in the preparation of the design and possibly produce some cost savings in the ship's construction. Since the cargo requirements for a hospital ship were relatively small, involving only field hospital equipment in addition to consumable stores for the vessel herself, there was a considerable amount of excess space below the waterline, which the Bureau used to increase the cruising radius of the ship from the specified 8,000 miles to 14,000 miles and to provide a large fresh water supply. The General Board on 18 Apr 16 recommended approval of the design. BuC&R forwarded to the General Board the contract plans for the ship on 23 Aug 16 and six days later ordered the Philadelphia Navy Yard, which was then building HENDERSON, to build the similar hospital ship.
Although HENDERSON and RELIEF were overall very similar in appearance, three features made it easy to distinguish between them. The hospital ship lacked the heavy boom on the after mast that the transport used to handle her numerous boats. On the other hand the hospital ship had immediately under her bridge an irregularly shaped structure with many round windows that was her main operating room. (The windows were plated over in 1941.) The most obvious difference was that the transport was painted gray and the hospital ship white. RELIEF was completed with Geneva Convention markings, including a broad stripe the length of the white hull and red crosses on the hull side amidships and on the smokestack, but on 10 Nov 21 SecNav ordered that these markings should be removed from all Navy hospital ships and not restored except in time of war and after the ship was duly designated a hospital ship in accordance with the 1907 Hague Convention. This followed decisions earlier in 1921 that line officers should command hospital ships instead of the Medical Corps officers who had commanded them since 1908 and that hospital ships should, in time of peace, be administered in all respects as Navy auxiliary vessels.
By January 1922 the Navy had only two hospital ships in service, RELIEF with the Fleet Train in the Atlantic and MERCY with the Train in the Pacific. In 1923 the two ships traded fleet assignments, and after MERCY was decommissioned on 6 Aug 29 RELIEF carried on alone until SOLACE (AH-5) was commissioned in August 1941. By this time American hospital ships including RELIEF were again wearing Geneva Convention markings. RELIEF shifted to the Atlantic Fleet in June 1941 and returned in early 1943 to the Pacific where she evacuated nearly 10,000 servicemen as patients from combat zones before the end of the war. CNO on 8 Nov 45 authorized CinCPac to use her in general transportation service without change of special markings, although she was to use the temporary designation APH-11. She brought a combination of patients and returning veterans to San Francisco from the western Pacific in early February 1946 and was still using her temporary designation when she reported for disposal on 29 Mar 46.
||To buyer 23 Mar 48, scrapped by 27 Jun 49.
Compiled: 28 Jul 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012