Rescue IV (AH-18)
The fourth Rescue was assigned a name that reflected the mission of a hospital ship.
(AH-18: displacement 8,350; length 402'11"; beam 61'; draft 20'2"; speed 20 knots; complement 440; class Rescue)
Saint John was completed in 1932 by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., Newport News, Va.; and operated by the Eastern Steamship Lines, Inc., of Boston, Mass; in the coastwise passenger and cargo trade. Acquired by the Navy on 18 April 1941 for $2,732,500 of which $1,271,600 went to the Maritime Commission as mortgage and the remainder went to the shipping line; renamed Antaeus and designated as a submarine tender AS-21: and placed in commission on 17 May 1941, Cmdr. Richard S. Morse in command.
Antaeus entered the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y., on 28 December 1944, three days after Christmas, where she underwent conversion to a hospital ship. On 18 January 1945, she was renamed Rescue and redesignated AH-18. Following sea trials, the new hospital ship got underway for the Pacific Theater.
She arrived off Okinawa on 13 June, embarked men wounded in the fighting ashore, survived unscathed despite almost constant Japanese air attack against Allied shipping in the area, and delivered her patients to a hospital on Guam.
After a short upkeep period, Rescue joined the Third Fleet on 5 July 1945. She supported Third Fleet ships conducting carrier strikes and bombardment of the Japanese home islands. The ship would rendezvous with the combatant vessels and take on casualties by breeches buoy both at night and under battle conditions. Upon the conclusion of hostilities in the Pacific, Rescue steamed into Tokyo Bay with the Third Fleet and began the medical screening of Allied prisoners of war (POW) and shuttled them from various prison camps to Yokohama.
In late September 1945, Rescue arrived at Guam where she discharged a few former POWs whose home had been on that island, after which she then proceeded to San Francisco, Calif., where she was decommissioned on 29 June 1946. She was transferred to the Maritime Commission, entering the Reserve Fleet at Olympia, Wash.. Her name was stricken from the Navy Register on 15 August 1946.
Ex-Rescue, placed in Permanent Reserve on 28 September 1948, was ultimately advertised for sale on 12 September 1958, and bids opened on 8 October 1958. The following day [9 October 1958], the vessel was sold to Dulien Steel Products, Inc., of Washington [state], as a scrap hull. The former passenger liner, submarine tender, and hospital ship, her wooden decks rotting and with damaged equipment on board, was withdrawn from the Reserve Fleet at 0950 on 31 October 1958 and broken up subsequently.
Rescue earned two battle stars for her World War II service, commemorating her participation in the Okinawa campaign (13-19 June 1945) and her support of Third Fleet operations against Japan (10 July-15 August 1945).
LuAnn Parsons; Updated Robert J. Cressman
2 April 2020