The Angel of Mercy
Pictures of the USS Repose taken by Ronnie Thrasher, USN.
Photos submitted by Harold Thrasher.
AH-16 USS REPOSE
USS Repose Vietnam War Service
Departed San Francisco 3 January 1966, arrived Pearl Harbor on 9 January for underway training. She then steamed for Subic Bay, arriving on 3 February 1966 to take on supplies and to accomplish voyage repairs. Sailing on 14 February for Vietnam, she arrived on the line two days later and commenced medical support off Chu Lai. Repose was permanently deployed to Southeast Asia from October 1966 on. The 721-bed floating hospital operated mainly in the I Corps area, which included Da Nang, Chu Lai, Phu Bai, Dong Ha, and Quang Tri.
After treating more than 9,000 battle casualties and admitting over 24,000 patients for inpatient care in Southeast Asian waters, Repose departed Vietnam on 14 March 1970, for the United States, where she was decommissioned and placed in reserve in May.
Near Riot on the U.S.S. Repose
During May of 1967, many Charlie Company Marines were aboard the hospital ship U.S.S. Repose to receive care and to recover from wounds received from the heavy fighting on Hill 110 on May 10, 1967. We joined those already aboard from other hostile actions and more would join us in the days ahead.
The Repose and her sister ship, the U.S.S. Sanctuary, would alternate duty cruising off Dong Ha near the DMZ, northern I Corps, while the other ship would remain in Da Nang Harbor . It was my understanding that the ships would rotate with one another every three days. Then every three months one of the ships would set sail for Subic Bay Naval Base in the Philippines for maintenance.
The Repose, where I spent 17 days of my 18-day confinement in the hospital, was a very beautiful ship. I will never forget the first time I saw the ship during the early morning hours of May 11, 1967. I flew out by helicopter, landing on the helicopter pad on deck while Repose was anchored in the South China Sea . It stood out from its surroundings, as it was painted white and had the familiar red crosses painted on its sides and its smoke stack.
After being on a ration of two C-Rations per day for longer than I care to remember during Operation Union I, every chow call aboard the hospital ship seemed like a banquet. I remember loading my plate down with soooo much food. But forgetting that my stomach had shrunk, much food went to waste as I couldn't get it all down. I slowly learned that my portions had to be much smaller than my appetite.
The ship had a PX on board, a barber, a soda fountain, and showers with hot water, bunks and what seemed to be all the comforts of home. Nightly there was a movie played on deck when weather permitted. It was in a new world compared to the harsh conditions that I had lived with since my arrival in Vietnam on March 25, 1967.
The Navy, like the Marines, had rules that were to be followed. One of the rules was no food or drink on deck. Well, someone broke the rule and was caught eating peanuts on deck of the ship while the movie was being played. Not a big crime but one that nearly cost the Navy a riot on board their hospital ship.
As a result, all of us were punished with the movie being secured. That didn't set well with those of us on board. We were hollering and calling the Navy some names that I won't repeat here. As most of us didn't get to see many movies during our tour in Vietnam , this action was a call to war and our enemies were those men dressed in white wearing those funny covers, especially the young Navy man that had secured the movie. There were some calls to use the young Navy man as shark bait. But he knew he had messed with the wrong bunch of guys and disappeared. We were looking in every nook and cranny for him, but he couldn't be found. We were hoping that somebody had already tossed him overboard.
Marines in wheelchairs, on crutches, those having a body cast, arm cast, leg cast, and bandaged bodies but still walking were in hot pursuit of this young man's whereabouts. This might have been his first night in Vietnam and he was feeling it would be his last. I give him the benefit of the doubt, he didn't know better than to mess with Marines straight out of the field. Finally, a Marine Gunny came up on the deck to try to calm us down. First, he said the movie would continue, which calmed down the yelling, name calling and our hate for one particular man in white. Second, he said that if we threw all the Navy overboard, we would be in trouble as we didn't know how to run the ship. This got us laughing and things finally returned to normal. Never did see that young Navy man again!
Excerpt from The Fourragère, Volume III, Edition 2, ©1/5 Vietnam Veterans Unit, 1stMarDiv Assoc.