Benevolence was given a name in keeping with the mission of hospital ships.
(AH-13: displacement 15,400 (limiting); length 520'0"; beam 71'6"; draft 24'0"; speed 17.5 knots; complement 574; class Haven; type C4-S-B2)
Marine Lion was laid down on 26 July 1943 at Chester, Pa., by the Sun Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co. under a Maritime Commission contract (M.C. Hull 744); renamed Benevolence and designated a hospital ship AH-13 on 22 June 1944; launched on 10 July 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Daisy Hunter; delivered to the Navy on 31 July 1944; converted to naval service at Brooklyn, N.Y., by Todd Erie Basin Shipyard, Inc.; and commissioned on 12 May 1945, Capt. Clyde C. Laws in command.
The hospital ship spent about a month taking on stores and conducting shakedown training in Chesapeake Bay. On 17 June 1945, the ship passed between Capes Henry and Charles into the Atlantic Ocean on her way to duty with the Pacific Fleet. She transited the Panama Canal on 22 June and continued her voyage west to Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii. She arrived at the Oahu naval base on 6 July and laid over there until the 17th when she sailed for the Marshall Islands. On 25 July, Benevolence entered the lagoon at Eniwetok Atoll and remained there through the end of hostilities, ministering to the sick and the wounded. On 16 August, Benevolence stood out of Eniwetok on her way to join Task Group (TG) 30.8, the Third Fleet support group. For about two weeks, she operated in the area set aside for hospital ships providing readily available medical support. On 29 August, the ship anchored at the Yokosuka Naval Base on the island of Honshu in Japan. There, she ministered to many of the liberated prisoners of war and civilian internees.
That and similar duty filled her days and nights until 27 November 1945 when, with about 1,000 passengers embarked, Benevolence began the voyage back to the United States. She brought her precious human cargo safely into San Francisco, Calif., on 12 December. During the following two months, the hospital ship made three round-trip voyages between San Francisco and Pearl Harbor, transporting homeward-bound servicemen on the last leg of their journey across the Pacific Ocean. She concluded her third Magic Carpet voyage at San Francisco on 15 February 1946 and began a six week upkeep period.
On 1 April 1946, Benevolence was assigned to Service Division (ServDiv) 11, Service Squadron (ServRon) 3, Pacific Fleet, and began preparations for duty with Joint Task Force 1, the task organization charged with prosecuting Operation Crossroads, the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. On 27 April, she stood out of San Francisco on her way to the Marshalls. The hospital ship anchored in the lagoon at Kwajalein Atoll, the staging area for the tests, on 9 May. Twelve days later, Benevolence moved on to the site of the tests in company with the ships of TG 1.8. She remained in the vicinity of Bikini Atoll through the duration of the tests providing medical support services. On 29 August, the hospital ship departed the area for home. She arrived back in San Francisco on 8 September.
Benevolence remained at San Francisco for 19 days. On 27 September 1946, she headed back to the Far East. Arriving in Tsingtao, China, on 14 October, she served as station hospital ship there until 3 March 1947. Benevolence departed Tsingtao on 3 March and arrived at Oakland, Calif., on the 18th. On 1 April 1947, she began inactivation overhaul at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. The hospital ship was placed out of commission in reserve. Assigned to the Pacific Reserve Fleet, she lay berthed at Mare Island, Calif., for almost three years.
In the summer of 1950, the outbreak of hostilities in Korea prompted the recall of many reserve ships to active service, and Benevolence returned to duty as a unit of the Military Sea Transportation Service during the latter part of August 1950. However, on 25 August 1950, while returning to San Francisco from a trial run in a dense fog, Benevolence was struck by the merchant ship Mary Luckenbach. The hospital ship sank within 20 minutes, about four miles off the Golden Gate. Human losses totaled 18 dead and 13 unaccounted for, both civilian and naval personnel. Her name was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 20 December 1950 after salvage attempts ended in failure.
Raymond A. Mann
7 February 2006