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Mercy II (AH-8)


Mercy was given a name in keeping with the mission of hospital ships. 

(AH‑8: displacement 11,250 (limiting); length 416'; beam 60'2"; draft 24'6" (limiting); speed 15.3 knots; complement 516; class Comfort; type C1‑B)

The second Mercy (AH‑8) was laid down on 4 February 1943 at Wilmington, Calif., by the Consolidated Steel Corp., under a Maritime Commission contract (M.C. Hull 2022) ; acquired by the Navy from the Maritime Commission on 25 March 1943; launched the same day; sponsored by Lt. (j.g.) Doris M. Yetter, NC, USN, who had been a prisoner of war on Guam in 1941; converted from a cargo ship to a hospital ship by Los Angeles Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., San Pedro, Calif.; and commissioned on 7 August 1944, Capt. Thomas A. Esling, USNR, in command.

After shakedown beginning the 17th, Mercy, staffed by the Army's 214th Hospital Ship personnel, was assigned to the Naval Transport Service to operate with the Fifth and Seventh Fleets. She departed San Pedro on 31 August for the South Pacific and, after calls at Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, and Eniwetok, in the Marshall Islands, arrived at Hollandia, New Guinea, on 14 October. Five days later, the hospital ship departed for the Philippines for the initial landings at Leyte on 20 October, arriving off Leyte Gulf the morning of 25 October to find the Battle for Leyte Gulf still raging for another day.

Mercy moved to San Pedro Bay later the same day and began embarking some 400 casualties, mostly from tank landing ships moored alongside. On the 26th she sailed for the Admiralties, via Kossol Roads, Palaus, Carolines, arriving at Manus to disembark the wounded for transfer to base hospitals. During the next five months, Mercy completed seven more voyages from Leyte to Manus, or Hollandia. She also transported the Third Field Hospital from New Guinea to Tacloban, Philippines, early in January 1945.

On 19 March 1945 Mercy reported to the Fifth Fleet at Ulithi, Carolines, for service during the Okinawa campaign, beginning with the landings on 1 April. She arrived off Okinawa the morning of 19 April in company with Solace (AH‑5) to remain for four days at Hagushi Beach embarking patients despite frequent air raids and threat of Kamikazes. The hospital ship then got underway for Saipan, Marianas, on 23 April. She made two more voyages to Okinawa, returning from the latter to Saipan on 24 May.

Mercy next carried wounded from Leyte and Manila on two voyages to Biak, Schouten Islands, returning to Manila on 23 June 1945 for two months' duty as station hospital ship. On 19 August she embarked the 227th Station Hospital assigned to the Korean Occupation Forces, and three days later departed for Korea via Okinawa, arriving at Jinsen on 9 September.

On 19 October 1945 the hospital ship departed for Manila and San Pedro, Calif., arriving on 14 November. She got underway for the central Pacific on 4 February 1946, arriving at Pearl Harbor on the 12th for duty until 2 April when she returned to California.

Mercy was decommissioned at San Francisco on 17 May 1946, was delivered to the War Department the same day, and transferred to the U.S. Army on 20 June for further service as a hospital ship. On 25 September 1946 she was stricken from the Navy Register.

Placed in the Reserve Fleet, James River group, at noon on 6 February 1950, Mercy was transferred, under a general agency agreement, to the Polarus Steamship Co., Inc., for repairs at 1445 on 24 March 1956, then, three days later, was transferred to the custody of Bethlehem Steel Co., at Brooklyn, N.Y., at 1330 that day. Bethlehem Steel carried out the conversion of the vessel to a training ship, and at 0800 on 23 May 1956 was loaned to the New York Maritime Academy. Renamed Empire State III, she operated as a training ship for over three years, until custody was transferred at the Bronx at noon on 28 December 1959.

Returned to the Reserve Fleet at 1230 on 3 June 1960, this time to the Hudson River group, the ship was purchased by Aguilar y Peris, S.L., of Valencia, Spain, on 23 November 1970, and was delivered to her purchaser at 0830 on 11 February 1971.

Mercy received two battle stars for her World War II service in the Pacific Theater, for her participation in the Leyte (22 October-16 December 1944)  and Okinawa (19 April-17 May 1945) campaigns.

Updated, Robert J. Cressman

1 April 2020 

Published: Mon Apr 06 18:07:35 EDT 2020