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Painting, Navy ship behind sailboat
Operational Archives Branch
Naval Historical Center
805 Kidder Breese Street SE
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5060


Records Relating to Hospital Ships and USNS Comfort during
Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm,
1906-1991



Historical Note

The Navy's floating surgical hospitals have played a vital role throughout the history of the U.S. Navy by providing acute medical and surgical care to readiness forces throughout the world. The U.S. Navy used hospital ships during the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The 75-year history of Comfort provides an excellent example of the vital role hospital ships play in support of the Navy's mission.

William Cramp and Sons Ship and Engine Building Company of Philadelphia constructed the first Comfort (AH-3) in 1906. It served initially as the passenger vessel Havana, before being requisitioned by the War Department at the start of World War I for use as an Army transport. On 17 July 1917, the ship was transferred to the Navy for duty as a hospital ship. Outfitted at the New York Navy Yard by John M. Robins Company of Brooklyn, the ship was renamed Comfort (AH-3) on 14 March 1918 and commissioned on 18 March.

The second Comfort (AH-6) was launched 18 March 1943 by Consolidated Steel Corporation, Wilmington, California, under a Maritime Commission contract. She was transferred to the Navy the same day, and converted to a hospital ship by Bethlehem Steel Company, San Pedro, California. The ship was commissioned on 5 May 1944.

The third Comfort was delivered to the Navy on 1 December 1987. The National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, San Diego, designed and converted the San Clemente class tanker for service as a hospital ship. Christened USNS Comfort (TAH-20) on 15 August 1987, she was deployed to Baltimore for lay berthing on 17 June 1988. On 8 August 1990, the day after President Bush ordered deployment of 200,000 American troops to Saudi Arabia in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, Comfort was ordered activated for duty in the Middle East.

In 1992 the Operational Archives Branch of the Naval Historical Center acquired a collection of historical materials relating to hospital ships. The bulk of the collection is comprised of documentation relating to the service of USNS Comfort during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, August 1990 through April 1991.


Scope and Content Note

The collection dates from 1906 to 1991 and is comprised of approximately 5.0 linear feet of historical materials relating to hospital ships and USNS Comfort (TAH-20) during Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

Items relating to the history of hospital ships, 1906-1989, comprise 0.5 linear feet of documentation. Included are brief histories of various hospital ships and their naval service; a TAH hospital ship manual; and files on USS Comfort (AH-6), USNS Comfort (TAH-20), and USNS Mercy (TAH-19).

There are 2.0 linear feet of subject files relating to the service of USNS Comfort (TAH-20) during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Materials include deployment preparation information, communication logs, personal journals and letters, message traffic, situation reports, lessons learned reports, deployment statistics, news clippings and articles, and a post-deployment data.

Mail sent to USNS Comfort during its deployment to the Middle East comprises 0.5 linear feet and includes banners of various sizes, letters to "Any Service Member," and greetings and Christmas notes from school children.

Photographs, 0.25 linear feet, provide visual documentation of World War I Comfort (AH-3), World War II Comfort (AH-6), USNS Mercy (TAH-19), and USNS Comfort (TAH-20). Also included are photographs of crewmembers that furnished oral histories relating to their naval service on USNS Comfort during its deployment to the Middle East.

Miscellaneous files, 0.25 linear feet, provide information on the Navy Nurse Corps' personnel policies between the years 1909 and 1977.

The remaining material, 1.5 linear feet, consists of videotapes relating to USNS Comfort's participation in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The subject matter of the videotapes includes Briefs/VIP visits, greetings, operations, public affairs, social and recreational events, and training.


Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as Records Relating to Hospital Ships and USNS Comfort during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Center, Washington, D.C.


Subject Headings (LCSH)

Hospital Ships--United States.
Operation Desert Shield, 1990-1991.
Persian Gulf War, 1991.
Comfort (Hospital Ship)
Comfort (Ship : T-AH-20)
Mercy (Ship : T-AH-19)
United States. Navy--Medical Care.
United States. Navy--Nurses.
United States. Navy--History--Sources.


Extent

5 cubic feet


17 October 2002