USS Solace (AH-5)
|Builder:||Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Newport News, Virginia|
|Acquired:||22 July 1940|
|Commissioned:||9 August 1941|
|Decommissioned:||27 March 1946|
|Struck:||21 May 1946|
|7 battle stars (World War II)|
|Fate:||Sold for commercial service, 16 April 1948, Scrapped 1981|
|Displacement:||8,900 long tons (9,000 t)|
|Length:||409 ft 4 in (124.76 m)|
|Beam:||62 ft (19 m)|
|Draft:||20 ft 7 in (6.27 m)|
|Speed:||18 kn (21 mph; 33 km/h)|
The second USS Solace (AH-5) was built in 1927 as the passenger ship SS Iroquois by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Newport News, Virginia. The liner was acquired by the Navy from the Clyde Mallory Steamship Line on 22 July 1940, renamed Solace (AH-5); converted into a hospital ship at the Atlantic Basin Iron Works, Brooklyn, N.Y., and was commissioned on 9 August 1941, Capt. Benjamin Perlman in command.
World War II
Solace was at Pearl Harbor during the attack of 7 December 1941. A crew member filming from the deck of that ship, an Army medical Doctor named Eric Haakenson, captured the precise moment of the USS Arizona's explosion. She immediately sent her motor launches with stretcher parties to the stricken and burning battleship Arizona to evacuate the wounded, and pulled men from the water which was covered in burning oil. After several trips to Arizona and West Virginia, the boat crews then assisted Oklahoma.
In March 1942, Solace was ordered to the South Pacific and preceded to Pago Pago, Samoa. From there, she sailed to the Tonga Islands, arrived at Tongatapu on 15 April, and remained there until 4 August. On that day, she got underway and steamed, via Noumea, New Caledonia, to New Zealand. She arrived at Auckland on the 19th and discharged her patients. From then until May 1943, Solace shuttled between New Zealand, Australia, New Caledonia, Espiritu Santo, the New Hebrides, and the Fiji Islands, caring for fleet casualties and servicemen wounded in the island campaigns. Patients whom she could not return to duty shortly were evacuated to hospitals for more prolonged care.
From June–August, she operated as a station hospital ship at Nouméa. On 30 August, Solace sailed to Efate, New Hebrides, and performed the same duties at that port until sailing for Auckland on 3 October. On the 22nd, the hospital ship departed New Zealand and proceeded via Pearl Harbor to the west coast of the United States. She arrived at San Francisco on 9 November; disembarked her patients; and, on the 12th, sailed for the Gilberts.
Solace arrived at Abemama Island on the 24th, embarked casualties from the Tarawa campaign, sailed the same day for Hawaii, and arrived at Pearl Harbor on 2 December.
Solace remained in San Diego until she sailed on 15 January 1944 for the Marshall Islands. She arrived at Roi on 3 February and departed the next day with a load of wounded for Pearl Harbor. She was there for one day, returned to Roi on 18 February, then proceeded toward Eniwetok on the 21st. After picking up 391 casualties (of whom 125 had been brought by landing craft directly from the beachheads at Eniwetok and Parry Island), she returned to Pearl Harbor on 3 March.
Solace was next ordered to Espiritu Santo and arrived there on 20 March. During the next nine weeks, she shuttled between New Guinea, the Admiralty Islands, and Australia. She was back at Roi on 6 June and departed there nine days later for the Marianas. The hospital ship anchored in Charan-Kanoa Anchorage, Saipan, on 18 June. While the shores and hills were still under bombardment, she began taking on battle casualties, many directly from the front lines. When she sailed for Guadalcanal on the 20th, all of her hospital beds were filled, and there were patients in the crew's quarters. Altogether, the ship was caring for 584 men. Solace returned to Saipan from 2–5 July and embarked another load of wounded whom she took to the Solomons. From there, she was routed to the Marshalls arriving at Eniwetok on the 19th. Two days later, she sailed for Guam. Between 24 and 26 July, she took on board wounded from various ships and the beachhead for evacuation to Kwajalein. Solace was back at Guam from 5–15 August where she picked up 502 casualties for evacuation to Pearl Harbor.
Solace was at Pearl Harbor from 26 August – 7 September, when she left for the Marshalls. She arrived at Eniwetok on the 14th. Three days later, she was ordered to sail immediately for the Palaus. She arrived off Peleliu on the 22nd, anchored 2,000 yd (1,800 m) from the beach, and began loading wounded. All stretcher cases (542) were put on board Solace. She headed for Nouméa on the 25th and arrived on 4 October. The ship was back at Peleliu from 16 to 27 October tending wounded and then sailed to Manus.
Solace stood out of Seeadler Harbor on 29 October, bound for the Caroline Islands. From 1 November 1944 – 18 February 1945, she served as a station hospital ship at Ulithi, providing medical and dental care for the 3rd and 5th Fleets. She proceeded to Guam and was dispatched from there to Iwo Jima, arriving on 23 February. Solace anchored within 2,000 yards of the beach, but enemy shells fell within 100 yd (91 m) of her, and she was forced to move further out. The first wounded were brought on board within 45 minutes of her arrival, and she sailed for Saipan the next day, loaded to capacity. She made three evacuation trips from Iwo Jima to base hospitals at Guam and Saipan, carrying almost 2,000 patients, by 12 March. The island was declared secure on the 15th.
Solace steamed to Ulithi and joined the invasion fleet for Okinawa Gunto. She arrived at Kerama Retto on the morning of 27 March and began bringing patients on board from various ships. In the next three months, the ship evacuated seven loads of casualties to the Marianas. On 1 July, she sailed from Guam to the west coast, via Pearl Harbor. Solace arrived at San Francisco on 22 July and was routed to Portland, Oregon, for an overhaul that lasted until 12 September. She was then assigned to "Operation Magic Carpet", transporting homecoming veterans from Pearl Harbor to San Francisco. She returned to San Francisco from her last voyage on 16 January 1946 and was routed to Hampton Roads, Virginia.
Decommissioning and sale
Solace was decommissioned at Norfolk on 27 March 1946, struck from the Navy List on 21 May, and returned to the War Shipping Administration on 18 July. She was sold to the Turkish Maritime Lines on 16 April 1948 and operated as the SS Ankara. external link about scrap in 1981
- USS Arizona explosion and fire. Accessed December 7, 2012.
- "Pearl Harbor Attack: USS Solace (AH-5) Action Report". Naval Historical Center. Retrieved 2009-11-01.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
- Photo gallery of USS Solace at NavSource Naval History