USS Sanctuary Photo Wikipedia 1973
1 September 2011, USA: The former hospital ship USS Sanctuary (AH-17) arrived at Brownsville in Texas for scrapping on 1 September. She was the last of six Haven class vessels to remain in service.
Originally named SS Marine Owl, she was launched as a cargo ship on 15 August 1944 by Sun Ship Building & Dry Dock Company, Chester, Pennsylvania. She was acquired by the US Navy one month later and converted to a hospital ship by Todd Shipyards at Hoboken, New Jersey.
She commissioned on 20 June 1945 and set sail for the Pacific. She arrived at Pearl Harbor four days after the Japanese surrender. She was used to treat and repatriate Allied prisoners of war that had been held in Japan. She continued in this role until February 1946 when she was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet. She decommissioned in August 1946 to join the Atlantic Reserve Fleet.
She recommissioned from Reserve in November 1966 to serve in Vietnam and at one time (in March 1970) was the only hospital ship stationed there. She left Vietnam in April 1971.
She was then converted to a dependent’s support ship and recommissioned on 18 November 1972. She became the first US Navy ship to have a mixed-sex crew (although previously female nurses had been assigned to hospital ships and transports) when she sailed on a goodwill cruise to South America, setting a precedent to later hospital ships in providing medical treatment for persons from impoverished nations.
She decommissioned finally on 28 March 1975 to be laid up in Maritime Administration Reserve in Philadelphia.
She was stricken on 16 February 1989 when she was sold to the Life International Group for $10. She was towed to Baltimore for conversion to a rehabilitation and training facility for drug addicts. However legal and regulation difficulties prevented the vessel fulfilling that purpose and the vessel was left idle for several years. During a storm in February 2007, the vessel sprung her mooring lines and proceeded on an unmanned tour of Baltimore harbor. Project Life (the successor to Life International) was sued by the Maryland Port Authority for towing and berthing fees which Project Life could not pay. The Sanctuary was subsequently seized by the Maryland Port Authority and auctioned off, to cover the claimed costs, and sold to Potomac Navigation for $50,000 who intended to convert her to a floating hotel and tow her to Greece. However objections to this were raised due to concerns over the presence of PCBs and the vessel never left her mooring at Locust Point, Baltimore.
The vessel displaced 15,400 tons full load and before conversion to a dependent’s support ship had a maximum capacity of 760 beds.