World War II had started but the United States had not yet entered the fight when it launched the hospital ship SOLACE in August 1941. The ship, formerly the liner IRIQUOIS, was converted to a hospital ship for the US Navy by the Atlantic Basin Iron Works company. During WWII many ships were converted to military transport ships by the shipyards and related marine companies that operated in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
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"Hospital Ship Solace Placed in Commission," Brooklyn Eagle, August 10, 1941
With a grim warning that the enemy in the past has fired on ships flying the Red Cross, the Navy's new hospital ship Solace was placed in commission yesterday at the Atlantic Basin Iron Works docks at the foot of Conover St.
First hospital ship to be added to the Navy since World War days and the second in the naval service, the commission pennant, a thin four-foot flag bearing seven stars and two stripes, was hoisted to the aft mast before the ship's full complement of officers, men and 100 invited guests. The commissioning order was read by Capt. Benjamin Perlman, the new commander.
The warning that life on a mercy ship is not all "beer and skittles" was delivered by. Rear Admiral Charles M. Oman of the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.
Hard Task Ahead
"In these times," he said, "a Red Cross draws missiles and bombs instead of keeping them away. In London, hospitals bearing the Red Cross have often been hit. You still have some troubles ahead of you”
Captain Perlman said the reconditioned vessel, the former Clyde-Mallory liner Iriquois was now a full-fledged ship of mercy and its primary service is to "mitigate the evils of war."
"We are unarmed, are carrying the Red Cross and are not liable to capture if we behave according to international law. You men have a hard task ahead of you but you have a fine ship. I hope we will all be able to deliver the goods for Uncle Sam," he said.
The Solace is the second hospital ship of its name in the service. The first Solace was commissioned in 1896 and was retired from the service on Aug. 6, 1930. The only other hospital ship in service now is the U.S.S. Relief, commissioned in 1919