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Ward G: 1918

Ward G: 1918

New York, June 1918. "Ward G aboard hospital ship Comfort." Evidently some sort of allegory representing the age-old tension between faith-based and ukulele-based schools of healing. Bain News Service. View full size.


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USS Comfort AH-3

This version of the USS Comfort started life as the Ward Line steamer SS Havana. Launched in October 1906, she was initially acquired as an Army Transport in May 1917 but after one trip was transferred to the Navy and commissioned as a hospital ship in March 1918 along with her sister ship Saratoga (renamed Mercy). She served as a floating hospital in New York harbour from July 25, 1918 to October 1918 before returning to sea to transport wounded soldier from Europe. She was placed "in ordinary" in September 1919 and was decommissioned in 1921.

Between the wars she returned to the Ward Line and was twice renamed, first as Yucatan in 1935 and as Agwileon in 1940. At the beginning of World War II she was reacquired by the US Army as the USAT Agwileon and was reclassifies as a Hospital Ship USAHS Shamrock in August 1943. She was withdrawn from service in February 1946 and sold for scrap in 1948.

Caption winner!

I agree with Austin. Could be Dave's finest caption ever.

Other end of the deck vents

The two upside down cones are the other end of the upper deck vents that are so often seen top side of ships. The vents kept fresh air below decks as it would be stagnant and full of fumes.

USS Comfort 1919

Heres a photo of the Comfort taken in 1919 as she lay at dock in Havana, Cuba.

Best Caption Ever

I had to register just to give my congratulations on such a clever caption. Well done, sir.

Comfy Quarters

Those look like very comfortable accommodations for the period. The ventilation ducts also look remarkably modern for 1918. Although it was common in those days to stage photos I don't think this one was. It's entirely possible that the boys in the photo are casualties from France. Another possibility (if it was taken in June the time frame would be right) is that they could be influenza patients. The first wave of a global influenza pandemic swept through the armies hard that summer. The initial wave was highly contagious and practically stopped a German offensive all by itself. But it was not especially deadly.

By contrast the second wave that broke out on the East Coast of the US in September was highly lethal. In a little over three months it killed around 700,000 people in the US alone and probably upwards of 50 million globally.

Edit: On greater reflection I doubt that these men are influenza patients. No one is wearing a face or mouth and nose mask which was standard practice for communicable illness even in those days.

Spanish Influenza

As June 1918 was during the world-wide epidemic which largely targeted heathy and thriving young people between 20 and 35, it's likely that the sweet music provided by a pal and his ukulele or prayers offered in their behalf may have been among the last earthly sounds some of these sailors ever heard.

[This is a posed photo-op. The sailor sitting up is seen in several of these pictures. - Dave]

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