The current USNS Mercy, T-AH 19, is the third US Navy ship to bear the name. She is named for the virtue of compassion.
The first MERCY (AH 4) was built in 1907 as SARATOGA by William Cramp & Sons, Philadelphia, PA. An Army troop transport in the first nine months of World War I, she was renamed MERCY and converted to a hospital ship at New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y.
She was commissioned on 24 January 1918. MERCY initially operated in the Chesapeake Bay, homeported in Yorktown, VA. She attended war wounded and transported them from ships to shore hospitals.
On 3 November 1918, MERCY departed New York City, making four round trips to France, returning 1,977 casualties by March 1919. For 15 years following World War I, MERCY served off the East Coast, homeported in Philadelphia.
From December 1924 until September 1926, she was in reduced commission. MERCY was loaned to the Philadelphia branch of the Public Relief Administration in March 1934.
The second MERCY (AH 8) was a troop ship built by Consolidated Steel Corp., Wilmington, CA, beginning 4 February 1943. Launched on 25 March 1943, she was sponsored by LT(JG) Doris M. Yetter, NC, USN, a prisoner of war on Guam in 1941. MERCY was converted by Los Angeles Shipbuilding & Drydocking Co., San Pedro, CA.
She was commissioned 7 August 1944, staffed by the Army's 214th Station Hospital. Departing on 31 August, she arrived in the Leyte Gulf, Phillipines, on 25 October during the Battle for Leyte Gulf. Embarking 400 casualties, she transported the wounded to base hospitals in New Guinea.
Over the next five months, MERCY made seven more voyages from Leyte to New Guinea, including transporting the Army's 3rd Field Hospital from New Guinea to the Philippines in January 1945.
In March 1945, MERCY reported for service in the Okinawa campaign. She and USS SOLACE (AH 5) arrived on 19 April at Hagushi Beach, Okinawa, embarking patients for four days despite frequent air raids and threat of Japanese Kamikazes. MERCY then transferred the wounded to Saipan, Marianas. She made two more voyages from Saipan to Okinawa the following month. MERCY next made two voyages carrying wounded from Leyte and Manila to New Guinea. She reported to Manila in June for two months duty as station hospital ship.
In August, she transported the Army's 227th Station Hospital to Korea as part of the occupation forces. In October 1945, MERCY returned to San Pedro, CA. She transferred to the U.S. Army on 20 June 1946 for further service as a hospital ship. MERCY received two battle stars for World War II service. She was struck from the Navy List on 25 September 1946.
The third MERCY (T-AH 19) was built as an oil tanker, SS WORTH, by National Steel and Shipbuilding Co., San Diego , in 1976. Starting in July 1984, she was renamed and converted to a hospital ship by the same company. Launched on 20 July 1985 , USNS MERCY was commissioned 8 November 1986.
On 27 February 1987 , MERCY began a training and humanitarian cruise to the Phillippines and the South Pacific. The staff included U.S. Navy, Army, and Air Force active duty and reserve personnel; U.S. Public Health service; medical providers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines; and MSC civilian mariners. Over 62,000 outpatients and almost 1,000 inpatients were treated at seven Philippine and South pacific ports. MERCY returned to Oakland, CA , on 13 July 1987.
On 9 August 1990 , MERCY was activated in support of Operation Desert Shield. Departing on 15 August, she arrived in the Arabian Gulf on 15 September. For the next six months, MERCY provided support to the multinational allied forces. She admitted 690 patients and performed almost 300 surgeries. After treating the 21 American and two Italian repatriated prisoners of war, she departed for home on 16 March 1991 , arriving in Oakland on 23 April. USNS MERCY is currently homeported in San Diego, California.
Since that time MERCY has been kept quite active. She has participated in Operation Unified Assistance (2004), Pacific Partnership (2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2018), Rim of the Pacific Exercise (2014, 2018), activated for Operation Dimayan (Philipine Typhoon Aftermath 2013), and most recently in support of COVID-19 DCSA Response, Task Force Los Angeles in March of 2020.