Return to DANFS IndexImage of an anchorReturn to Naval Historical Center homepage
flag banner
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships banner
DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

Helvetia

 

A former name retained.

 

(SP-3096: dp. 499; l.157'4" ; b. 36'2''; dr. 12')

 

Helvetia, a schooner, was built by I. L. Snow & Co., Rockland, Maine, and purchased by the Navy from her owner, R. K. Snow. She was taken over and simultaneously commissioned 19 July 1918 at Norfolk, Va.

 

Initially assigned to the 5th Naval District, Helvetia acted as a stores and mother ship for submarines at Norfolk until November 1918, when she was transferred to During the next few years, she also performed ceremonial duties, embarking a congressional party to observe fleet maneuvers in the Caribbean in the Spring of 1923, and carrying President Harding on an inspection tour of Alaska. The President called at Wrangell, Juneau, and Sitka, reviewed the fleet off Seattle from the deck of Henderson, and departed 27 July 1923, only 5 days before his death.

 

During Fleet Problem # 3 in early 1924, Henderson participated in a mock amphibious invasion of the Panama Canal Zone. This major training operation by the fleet led not only to perfected assault techniques but improved landing craft as well. She carried out many of these important exercises during the inter-war years, helping to develop the techniques which were to insure victory in World War II. The ship also aided in the protection of American interests in the volatile Caribbean states and in the Far Bast.

 

Henderson arrived Shanghai 2 May 1927 with Marines for the garrison there, and remained in China for 6 months protecting American nationals in the war-torn country. Here members of her crew became the originators of the Golden Dragons. Membership in this deep sea organization is dependent upon crossing the international date line. She was constantly engaged in carrying replacements for the fleet including troops to and from the various trouble spots in China. Until 1941 she operated on a regular pattern of voyages from San Francisco to the Philippines and other Pacific islands, carrying the fighting men of the sea, their dependents, and equipment.

 

With the outbreak of the war in 1941, Henderson took up duty as a transport between California and Hawaii, making over 20 such voyages with fighting men, civilian passengers, and cargo for the Pacific War. On her last voyage she departed Port Hueneme 18 July 1943 and arrived Noumea with 71 much-needed nurses. The transport then sailed to the Solomon Islands with SeaBees before returning to San Francisco 24 September 1943.

 

Henderson decommissioned 13 October 1943 for conversion to a hospital ship at General Engineering & Dry Dock Co., Oakland, Calif. She commissioned as Bountiful (AH-9) 23 March 1944, Comdr. G. L. Burns in command.

 

Bountiful departed San Francisco 1 April 1944 for Honolulu, returned later that month, and sailed once more 1 May for the western Pacific. After brief service at Honolulu and Eniwetok the ship arrived 18 June off the Saipan invasion beaches. She made three passages to the hospitals on Kwajalein with casualties of the Marianas invasions, as American forces continued their victorious sweep across the Pacific to Japan. About this time Bountiful established one of the few blood banks in a Naval ship. The life-saving blood bank proved to be self-supporting.

 

The floating hospital remained at Manus until 17 September when she sailed for the Palaus to bring casualties of the Peleliu landing to hospitals in the Solomons. After November Bountiful operated between Leyte and the rear bases carrying veterans of the Philippines campaign. She departed Manus 24 February 1945 for Ulithi and Saipan to receive casualties of the bitter Iwo Jima assault, and in the next months sailed to rendezvous with the fleet to take on wounded from Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and the fleet units themselves. Returning to Leyte Gulf 15 June, she remained until 21 July, and then got underway for California. Bountiful arrived after war's end, sailing into San Francisco Bay 21 August 1945.

 

Bountiful was assigned as hospital ship at Yokosuka, Japan, departing 1 November 1945. She arrived 24 November to support the occupation forces, and remained until 27 March 1946 when she sailed for San Francisco. After delivering her patients, the ship sailed 26 May for the atomic tests at Bikini Atoll, and after observing the history-making series of nuclear experiments of Operation "Crossroads" returned to Seattle 15 August 1946. She decommissioned 13 September 1946, and was sold for scrap by the Maritime Commission 28 January 1948 to Consolidated Builders, Inc., Seattle.

 

Bountiful received four battle stars for World War II service