For the third time in its service history, the USNS Comfort docked in New York City to cheers – and to some ill-advised crowds. The ship brings much needed support for non-Covid-19 patients as the beleaguered city continues its fight against the pandemic.
The hospital ship is equipped with “12 operating rooms, [up to 1,000] hospital beds, a medical laboratory, a pharmacy, an optometry lab, digital radiology, a CAT scan, two oxygen-producing plants and a helicopter deck,” a DoD release stated.
Commissioned in 1987, the ship’s service record includes Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, aiding NYC following the September 11 attacks, and Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in 2005.
The USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) is actually the third hospital ship in U.S. Naval history to be named thusly and follows an impressive lineage.
The first Comfort I (AH-3) was commissioned on March 18, 1918 and worked mainly as a transport ship to bring wounded men home from the European theater during World War I. The ship was briefly stationed in New York City writes André B. Sobocinski, where it “took care of overflow patients from the 3rd Naval District.”
The second USNS Comfort (AH-6) operated during World War II and served at Leyte Gulf and Okinawa. On April 23, 1945, while operating near the coast of Okinawa, the hospital ship was struck by a kamikaze, killing 29, including six doctors and six nurses.
Considerable damage was done to the ship and required a temporary patch up in Guam before limping back to Los Angeles for further repair. Decommissioned in 1946, Comfort was sold for scrap in 1967.
For more than 100 years the USNS Comfort has provided critical services to our nation in times of war and peace. And as the third iteration of the hospital ship docks in New York Harbor – emblazoned with red crosses – the Comfort remains for many, writes Sobocinski, a powerful symbol “of medical care and hope during the darkest times.”