History of the USS Repose*

REPOSE was built in 1944 as a C-4 cargo ship at Chester, Pennsylvania, by the Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company.  She was converted to a hospital ship at the Bethlehem Steel Company’s Shipbuilding Division, Brooklyn Yard, and commissioned in the U.S. Navy in May, 1945.  During the remainder of World War II, she transported combat casualties in the Pacific area.

At the end of World War II, REPOSE remained in the western Pacific where she served until 1949 as the station hospital at Hong Kong, British Crown Colony, and at Shanghai and Tsingtao.  In April, 1949, REPOSE treated battle casualties from the HMS LONDON.  These men had been wounded when the HMS LONDON was fired on by shore batteries as she was enroute to the relief of the HMS AMETHYST, which was aground and under attack on the upper Yangtse River.

REPOSE returned to the United States after serving in the Pacific and was decommissioned in 1949.  She was recommissioned in 1951 for service in Korea. During 1951-53, REPOSE served in Korea as casualty evacuation ship and as station hospital at Inchon and Pusan.  She was awarded the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.  REPOSE again returned to the United States and was decommissioned in 1954.

Recommissioned the second time on 16 October 1965, REPOSE sailed on 3 January 1966 for Viet Nam where she has provided mobile hospital services to the United States and Free World Military forces in the I Corps Tactical Zone of the Republic of Viet Nam.  She is being presented the Navy Unit Commendation this date for service in Viet Nam in 1966 and 1967.

* History of REPOSE from construction through the year I was on REPOSE.

June 12, 1967: Collision in Da Nang Harbor

This day was the most memorable of the year.  The REPOSE was being refueled by the TAPPAHANNOCK.  I talked on the phone to an officer on the oiler whom I had met at Subic Bay, Philippines.  After the conversation, I returned to my office.  An announcement came over the speaker, “Left full rudder”.  A patient in my office looked out of my porthole and shouted, “We’re heading toward the middle of the oiler”.

Crew members were running all over the ship.  I stood there thinking, “we’re really not going to ram that ship”.  In seconds the announcement was made, “Collision, this is not a drill”!  I grabbed a pole in my office and held on for dear life as we collided head on into the middle of the oiler.  Every one was afraid of fire, but thankfully neither ship caught on fire.

Apparently our steering was faulty and we could not have prevented the accident.  We broke the railing on the oiler and knocked over a pole that fell on the TAPPAHANNOCK Captain’s boat.  Fortunately only one person on the oiler was injured.  The REPOSE had a 7′ crack in her bow.

Rumors began to spread immediately that we would have to go to Japan for 4 weeks for repairs.  Everyone was excited about spending 4 weeks in Japan; however, we would have to go to Subic first to assess the damage.  We soon received the disappointing news that the REPOSE could be repaired at Subic.

When we pulled into Subic, the TAPPAHANNOCK was docked.  They had put up two huge bandages on the stern of their ship.  When they saw us approaching, their CO called “General Quarters”  and announced over the ship’s loudspeaker  “They’re coming after us again”.  The ironic thing for us was that the TAPPANHANOCK was leaving the next day for repairs in Japan and we were stuck in Subic for 3-4 weeks.

April 29, 1967: Personal Feelings

We are back in Da Nang and discharged 150 patients.  We met our sister hospital ship, USS Sanctuary, in the harbor.  The captain said she was moving out of the harbor because of the danger of being fired on from the beach.  I suppose it was okay for us to be there because we anchored.  The army had moved up to Chu Lai and the Marines were moving further north in preparation for some big operation in the area.  It didn’t appear that things were getting better.

I felt so depressed about saying goodbye to so many patients who had become my friends.  During the weeks they were on the ship, many had poured out their hearts and told me stories of combat, suffering, fear, and courage.  I had so much respect for the Marine Corp after getting to know these men.  I hated to think of them going back to the DMZ where they would be mortared every night and many would be wounded again or killed.

There was always such a void when they left because I had seen them on ship every day, talked with, and played games with many.  I got frequent letters from former patients thanking me and telling me that I reminded them of a sister, daughter, wife, or sweetheart.  It was hard not to be depressed, but we had to move on because new patients were arriving daily.  I always felt like I was needed and appreciated and felt guilty about complaining about little inconveniences.

May 24, 1967: Letter From a Mother of a Patient

Dear Barbara:

You will never know how much comfort I received from the letter you wrote for Jeffrey Curtis.  Your services are invaluable and I know many servicemen and their families are very grateful for people like you.

Please accept this message as a small token of my appreciation for an invaluable service you are performing.  May God bless you.

A Thankful Mother,
Mrs. Ann Goodrich

March 3, 1967: Casualties Mount

I spent most of the day writing letters for patients in the ICU.  The wounds were almost too much to bear.  I helped a patient write who couldn’t talk because he had been shot in the jaw and head.  One patient lost both legs and one arm, was shot in the face and stomach, and did not live long.  My admiration for the nurses and corpsmen on that Ward grows with each visit.

I visited the Surgical Ward where most patients have multiple wounds, but would probably live.  One patient was at Da Nang airport when it was bombed and said all he could remember was walking out to the truck after he was hit.  He was shot in the head, both arms, twice in the stomach, and somehow managed to walk in that condition.  He wanted me to write a letter to his wife.  He was shot on her birthday and just broke down and cried.  I almost cried too!

Patients keep pouring in and the hospital in filled to capacity.  The staff is trying to find more beds.  I continued to visit new patients and wrote letters until my fingers hurt.  We have so many patients that the chapel has been converted into a Ward and a third level added to the bunks.

November 29, 1966: A poem written and
given to me by a 19 year-old Marine PFC

“Freedom is Near”

As the haze it did lift and the fog it did rise
The image of a man appeared in my eyes
This image was average as plain as could be
This man of green was simple to me

The expression painted all over his face
Was of pride, and this man, he held no disgrace
With head held high, clothes clad all in green,
This man I could tell was a U.S. Marine

Prestige at its utmost, this man could he be
Just so plain and so simple, like you or like me
He was sent not at will, but came anyway
To fight against communism, the American way

At home they do protest because we all are here
Demonstration upon demonstration is all we do hear
But those people at home do not understand
The reason we are here is to protect our homeland

Little do they know what life is like
All they do learn is from sight and from ear
But if they were here in this hell of a place
They would stop demonstrating because of disgrace

With pride and tradition this man was he
This image of man, this marine, would be
This man, This Marine, This image I see,
Makes me proud to serve my country, and proud to serve Thee

So let them demonstrate and go on their way
Cause we fight here for freedom the American way
As the image now fades, and vaguely I hear
Down with communism, Freedom is Near

-Roger E, Gelzunas


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