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Convoy Nurses

The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941; nineteen US Navy ships, including 8 battleships were destroyed or damaged; the attack killed 2,403 US personnel, including 68 civilians, and the wounded numbered 1,178. The leading causes of casualties were burns, compound fractures, flesh wounds (gunshots, shell, and shrapnel) and penetrating abdominal wounds. “The command decided that patients who would need more than 3 months treatment should be transferred. Some were very bad and probably should not have been moved.”

“(T)he Hawaii Chapter of the American Red Cross requested the Nursing Service Bureau to obtain the services of seventeen nurses to leave on a ship for a port.” “This call came at 11:30 am. At 1:00 pm seventeen nurses, in uniform, with bags hurriedly packed, leaving families, Christmas trees and packages, were at the Mabel Smyth building.” The first convoy was formed and the evacuation of the wounded began 11-days after the attack. “The way in which (the nurses) volunteered and their performance of duty showed them to be true followers of Florence Nightingale. … without their services, (the patients) could not have received the attention they did.” (Captain R Hayden to Margaret Rasmussen, Nursing Service Bureau, January 3, 1942)”

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She started as the Iroquois and designed for luxury liner service. touted as the largest and fastest vessel in service between Florida and New York. She could carry 640 passengers in first class and 114 in steerage. In mid-1940, she was purchased by the US Navy and was extensively modified her internally, creating a hospital ship with a capacity for 418 patients and accommodations for a complement of 466, including a small cadre of nurses – and renamed the Solace. She arrived at Pearl Harbor on October 27, 1941. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941,) the Solace was the only hospital ship operating in the Pacific.

“About 0820 hours, boat loads of casualties began to arrive … All hands worked most energetically to handle the casualty cases. … They boarded the burning Arizona, while its crew was abandoning ship, and they rescued the burned and injured casualties found on its deck, some very close to the flames, and three casualties on a camel and one man swimming in oily water that was aflame.” “Assisting the ship during the most difficult time were about six medical officers from other ships, one civilian doctor (USPHS,) five volunteer nurses part of first day and eleven part of second day”. Solace served in the Pacific Theatre of Operations throughout the entire war. Following the was she was sold to the government-owned Turkish Maritime Lines and renamed Ankara.

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