USNHS Rescue (AH-18)

The Evacuation of POWs in 1945
United States Navy Hospital Ships

Contributions by Joseph J. Carter and Arthur Boyer

Main About Us

Remembering the Gallant Work
of the
Men and Women of the USNHS Rescue

The hospital ships were a taste of heaven to the POWs after having spent nearly four years of slavery and torture in Imperial Japanese prison camps. Not only were these weakened men given medical treatment for their multitude of maladies and food for their frail and wearied bodies, they were undoubtedly enraptured by the angelic women nurses who took care of them. Little do we realize what healing processes occurred on these hospital ships, physically, mentally and spiritually. The remarkable efforts of those evacuating our POWs from the infamous camps deserve to be made known.

We are grateful to Joseph Carter and Arthur Boyer for sharing the following photos and files, some taken from existing sources online.

"My late father, Howard N. Carter, served as Yeoman 2nd Class in the Atlantic on the USS Antaeus (AG-67), and in the Pacific on the USNHS Rescue (AH-18) during WWII. He was sent to Stenographer School in Rhode Island and Sampson, NY, while the USS Antaeus was undergoing conversion to become the USNHS Rescue in Brooklyn Navy Yard (Dec. 1944 - Jan. 1945).

"My father was the yeoman to Captain Robert Twining (ret-active), who commanded the Rescue from January 1945 to surrender (when he was relieved of duty and shipped back to CONUS for re-retirement). Captain Twining was the eldest of three military brothers: Robert Twining, Captain USN; Nathan F. Twining, General USAAC/USAF; and Merrill G. Twining, LtGen USMC.

"I have scanned all of my father’s collection of USN photos that he got while stationed on the USNHS Rescue (AH-18) in 1945. The ship participated in evac of wounded from the Battle for Okinawa, and the evac of Allied POWs from the Japanese home islands after the surrender. My Dad was assigned to debrief the POWs as they boarded the ship. Their condition and their stories made him physically sick. I have also scanned a war diary from an ex-corpsman including the “guestbook” that he kept of the POWs and other corpsmen of the USNHS Rescue.

"I know of two surviving crewmen of the USNHS Rescue: Mr. Arthur Boyer, who worked in the engine room, and Dr. Jack Cowger, who worked as a scrub-nurse. Both men are in their 80’s, but still sharp! UPDATE: Dr. John (Jack) Leland Cowger, 94, passed away peacefully on Sunday, November 8, 2020. He was the last surviving crewman of the USNHS Rescue that I am aware of. He stayed aboard the USS Rescue (APH-118) until April 24, 1946 (14 months). The USS Rescue (AH-18/APH-118) was decommissioned and mothballed on April 29 in Bremerton, WA." --Joseph J. Carter

John "Jack" L. Cowger Collection (PDF) - Article on HA3 Jack Cowger - "Frisco veteran recalls WWII" (from Nov. 11, 2010 issue of the Summit Daily News); San Francisco news photos from 2016 and 2017 Veterans' Day specials; NavPers605b forms showing the day (02/09/45) Jack reported aboard, and the day (04/26/46) Jack was transferred. He was in the last report of non-essential personnel to be transferred prior to decommissioning in Olympia/Bremerton.

SS Saint John 1940
AS-21 USS Antaeus in Philadelphia Jun43
AG-67 USS Antaeus 27Nov44
AH-18 USNHS Rescue in Pacific Mar45
AH-18 USNHS Rescue - San Francisco CA Nov45
AH-18 USNHS Rescue - San Francisco CA Mar46

Ship - Cruise Map Jan-Dec 1945

Crew - Capt Robt B Twining & staff

Captain Robert Barber Twining USN (Ret-Act) and staff:
rear: Chaplain Rev RS Hutchison (P), Madden, Anderson (hidden by hat), Ens. Bell, Davis.
mid: Vrobel, Lapinsky, Raschke, CO Capt Robt B. Twining, XO Lt Francis Hoague, Snyder, Wiles.
front: Nagle, Musselwhite, Eichna, Chaplain Father JE Sheridan (RC), Hartford, Gray.
Change of Commanding Officer - CDR Leo Keating USNR relieves Capt Robert Twining USN as Commanding Officer of USNHS Rescue on VJ Day (Captain Twining reverted to “retired” status) Jan-Sep45
New CO CDR Leo Keating USNR & new XO LtCDR Robert Burch USNR Sep-Dec 1945
Crew - CPOs
Crew - Division A
Crew - Division B
Crew - Division C - CPO Ed Wulf
Crew - Division E
Crew - Division H-1
Crew - Division H-2
Crew - Division H-3

Hospital Staff - Nurses:
Seated front: Haggerty, McCaferty, Stanaitis, Davis (Ch. Nurse), Shaw, Douglass, Kearnes, De Borra.
Standing rear: Clement, Partheymuller, Paul, Hansen, Kohler, Hall, Moats, Rubash, Hoag, Todora, Marouski, Greer, Trup, Kerren, Cayia, Randall, Rankin, Rhodes.
Crew - Division I
Crew - Division M
Crew - Division N
Crew - Division R

Division 3 – Propulsion
Kneeling/sitting front: Fraker, Lee, Notter, Colton, Gilliam, Brown, Coneway, Collins, Russell.
Standing mid rows: CPO King, Brinkley, Bell, Zink, Warren, Esposito, Lampassi, Wolf, Hall, Wright, FM Anthony Nicosia, WT Arthur Boyer, Bogart, Turrisi, Turkon, CPO Zuroski.
Standing back row: Cohen, Petrasek, Baily, Osheik, Wolf, Van Ormer, Voight, Lynn, Herman.
Crew - Division S-1
Crew - Division S-2
Crew - Yeomen of USNHS Rescue

Yeomen of USNHS Rescue (all worked in the Executive Office except Y2 HN Carter (in whites) who was Captain Twining’s yeoman):
Front kneeling: Dionne, Black, Meyers, & Gill.
Rear standing: Coup, Howard N Carter, Chief Yeoman Harris?, Eppervary.

Executive Office

Yeomen Eppervary, Coup, Black, Gill, and Meyers are the Executive Office "typing pool." My father, Y2 HN Carter, was the Captain's yeoman & court stenographer (for Captains Mast).
Sorting first mail in 55 days by mailmen Paul & Bledsoe.
Lt. Laskowski DDS talking with patient with broken jaw. Battle of Okinawa casualty. Patient could be Billy Sulcer of DD-591 USS Twiggs, a casualty of the Japanese kamikaze attacks on the attacking US Forces. Sulcer was referred as a patient on the USNHS Rescue in the “war diary” left by HA Neighbors.
Surgical Supply room:

HA1 Schlegal & Lt Hall RN. Note drying rack for reusable rubber surgical gloves.
Nurses Partheymuller and Hansen care for a wounded soldier/sailor in Ward C-1. Third Fleet activity off Japan Jun-Aug 1945.

Hospital - De-Lousing
POW children Tokyo Harbor Sept45

HA1 Campbell bathes the children of POWs after their release from Sendai POW camp.

Dr Zupanec screens incoming POWs in Ward C-4.
Two POW stretcher-cases from Sendai POW Camp are registered by HA1 Wells before being hospitalized on USNHS Rescue.
Lt Hall RN chats with POWs in masks (for contagious disease), LSM, Sendai area. TB, Beri-beri, lice, dysentery, etc. were common in the POW camps.
Stretcher-borne POWs from the Sendai POW Camp are loaded aboard USNHS Rescue.
POW children Tokyo Harbor Sept45b

Aboard USNHS Rescue, Lts Hoag & Hall (RNs) help the POW children from Maisaka Camp with new garments before their repatriation.
POW processing Sept45
POW processing Sept45
POW processing Sept45. Mr. Barker supervising, Miss Rhoads and Jenning in front of Red Cross Office.
POW processing Sept45. Chief Harris, at left.
POW shuttle to Yokahama Sept45

USNHS Rescue overloaded with POWs. Sendai POWs sleep on decks during transport back to Yokohama for repatriation processing. USNHS Rescue has beds for 800 patients.
POWs arrive USNHS Rescue Sept45

LSM unloading Sendai POWs onto USNHS Rescue for transport to Yokohama for further processing. Sendai was a large center for POW camps.
POWs arrive USNHS Rescue Sept45

Allied POWs, in new clothing, from Maisaka POW Camp, boarding USNHS Rescue. LSM brings POWs to ship gangway.
POWs dining on USNHS Rescue Sept45

Allied POWs from Maisaka POW Camp dining aboard USNHS Rescue.
POWs dining on USNHS Rescue Sept45

Processing POWs from Maisaka Japan. HA1 Grant serves POWs from Maisaka.

Refueling the USNHS Rescue Aug45
USNHS Rescue - Tokyo Harbor Sept45

Captain Robert B Twining, Ens. Wiles, Japanese Pilot, Cmdr Leo C Keating, OD Ens. Bell on bridge entering Tokyo Harbor for surrender & USNHS Rescue change-of-command ceremony. 29 Aug 1945.
On 20 Sept 1945, US Army band plays for the departure ceremony at Yokohama (Tokyo Harbor). USNHS Rescue departs Japan loaded with 750+ POWs bound for Guam, Hawaii, & San Francisco. Arrives San Francisco 08Oct45.

Crews from USNHS Benevolence (AH-13) & USAHS Marigold join the crew of the USNHS Rescue for this shore party in Yokohama, Japan. Sept 1945. Beer (2 can limit) can be consumed on shore.
USNHS Benevolence & Rescue - Yokohama Sep45

USNHS Mercy in Guam May45
HNC to RAL Tokyo Bay Sept45
PDF Antaeus to Rescue
(from U.S. Army Medical Dept., Office of Medical History website)
Corpsmans Diary Jul-Sep45 (PDF - text version below)
Crew - Hospitalmen Mar-Oct45 (PDF - text version in PDF)
POW Guest List Sep-Oct45 (PDF - text version in PDF) "Prisoners of war that we took home from Japan"
"The POWs identified in the 'guest book' were British (East Surry Regt), Canadian, and American (200th Coastal Artillery (AA), 31st Infantry, USN, USAAF, & 20th Century Fox Corp). They landed in San Francisco on October 8, 1945. They used two dates, depending upon the sailor who secured the signatures: the day they were liberated (starting September 4th) from camp, or the day they arrived at San Francisco (October 8)."
Regulations for POWs, from "Commander of the Prisoner Escort, Navy of the Great Japanese Empire" Sep45 (PDF - text version below)
POW evacuee rosters, Sept. 1945 - Maisaka and Sendai (see below for explanation)
USS Rescue History and War Diary, Jan. to Sept. 1945
PDF Chapter 4: Relief of Prisoners of War and Internees
(from Army Military History website)

List of Places I Have Seen in the Pacific
(USNHS Rescue War Diary)
HA2 John Douglas “Doug” Neighbors USNR
High Point, NC

1. Panama (Canal)
2. Hawaii
3. Ulithi Fleet Anchorage - Caroline Islands
4. Okinawa - Ryukus Islands
5. Guam - Marianas Islands
6. Saipan - Marianas Islands
7. Japan!! August 30 to September 1945: Sagami Bay to Tokyo Bay, Nagoya, Yokosuka, Maiasaka, Shiogama, Kamaishu, Yokohama harbor, Sendai.

Coast of Japan
July 16, 1945

Today is July 16th.

We, the members of the USS Rescue, are lying off the Coast of Japan. Our position runs latitudinal with Honshu. We are members of Admiral Halsey’s 3rd Fleet. Our ship is the (AH-18) Auxiliary Hospital Ship “RESCUE”. This ship was formerly the (troop) transport “ANTAEUS”. She was converted in February of 1945. We left Brooklyn (Navy Yard) on March 3rd, 1945.

From there, we went to Norfolk, VA. We loaded some supplies there and left on a nine (9)-day trip to Panama. We spent two days in Panama, where I took one liberty in Balboa, one of the Panamanian cities. Liberty was the best and more like liberty in the States there than any place I have seen yet, including Hawaii.

From there, we went to Hawaii (Pearl Harbor). We spent about 6 weeks there, installing hoists, etc. for hoisting patients onto the ship. Also, a lot of supplies were loaded onto the ship there. The ship was also painted again there. I spent many liberties in Honolulu and Waikiki Beach there. I started an album of pictures, etc.

After leaving Pearl Harbor, we set out for Ulithi (Atoll), a Fleet Anchorage about 3-4 days from Okinawa. I saw almost as many ships there as I saw in Brooklyn. There was //one line missed in copier// as far as you could see around you. In our trip from Hawaii, we bypassed a couple little islands; one of them was Wake, still held by the Japs. Recently, a Japanese Hospital Ship (“Awa Maru”) took over one thousand (1000) patients from Wake. She was given free passage by America, since she was a Ship of Mercy and was of no military importance. All of the patients on the Jap hospital ship from Wake were suffering from malnutrition. This island which is left stranded without medical aid or food supplies will, no doubt, starve to death. She is still held by the Japs, but, no doubt, will finally give up. She is of no military value to us and was not worth wasting the lives of our men to take back. We are much farther advanced toward Japan, anyhow. The Jap doctors on the Japanese hospital ship estimated that 15% of their 1000 or more patients would die before they could get back to the Jap mainland with them. The Jap hospital ship was investigated by men from one of our destroyers.

But, getting back to Ulithi, the Fleet Anchorage, we took patients from several of the ships (anchored) there before leaving for Okinawa. When we arrived at Okinawa in the middle of June, the Marines and Army were having trouble there. They had no opposition there at first when they landed, but on the southern end of the island, they were still fighting heavily, and were still fighting for a few days after we left there with a load of patients.

When we arrived at Okinawa, we saw several battlewagons, cruisers, destroyers, etc. lying off shore firing salvos into the Jap positions. When we arrived at our anchoring place, about a mile from shore and a couple miles from the fighting, we saw the USN Hospital Ship “Solace” (AH-5), which was already loaded, and did pull out the next day. We were loading patients there 4 or 5 days and worked like hell. When we worked like hell all day long for 14 hours, we sure did fell like hitting the “old sack” at night, but there was no rest for the weary, because every time we got to sleep, the Japs gave us a raid with suicide planes, of course, or bombs. And we would have to go to our attack quarters. Of course, this wasn’t too good on our patients, either, because they were wounded & sick men. They were very good patients, though.

One night, the Japs nearly hit us off the starboard bow with bombs. They found shrapnel all over the deck the next morning, and I think that three men on a ship next to us were wounded by shrapnel from those bombs. I can’t say I wasn’t scared that night because I sure as hell was. The Japs sank the destroyer “USS Twiggs” (DD-591) and we got several patients from her. She was hit by a suicide plane.

We got one patient with a compound fracture of the mandible (lower jaw) and other cuts and lacerations, from the “USS Twiggs”. His name was Billy Sulcer, and he was from Alabama. He was a good kid, and I was given a special watch on him, more or less. Of course, all these kids out here are good kids, and they’re all doing their job, a better job than I am doing because I’m in the Medical Corps. But we do our job, too, and I think we have done a swell job so far.

One morning while Sulcer was in the shower, he complained that his head hurt, and I looked at his head, which had quite a large laceration. I cut his hair and shaved his head around the wound, and then applied treatment and bandage. He took a liking to me, and said that he would send me a quart of whiskey when he gets back to the States. I’m still looking for it! By the way, I certainly would like to have a drink right now.

We went through bombings every night at Okinawa, sometimes three or four raids a night. When we finally were filled with patients, we went on a four-day trip to Guam, one of the Mariana Islands. We unloaded all our patients there, and incidentally there was one thing more that I forgot to mention (about Okinawa). I met a buddy from my home town, who was with the 8th Marine Regiment on Okinawa. He was not a victim of the Japanese, but one of his own buddies accidentally fell on his toe with a knife and severed it right below the nail of the toe. Not serious, but enough to get him out of action with part of his toe gone, since he couldn’t carry on as usual. He was also from High Point, NC. His name was Jack Smith. We had a big laugh out of it, and was ashamed of his wound, but nevertheless it might have been a good thing, since he had been out here (Pacific Theater) for 30 months, and had seen all the campaigns out here: Tarawa, Saipan, Tinian, etc. I imagine that he was sent back to the States from Guam.

From Guam, we went to Saipan, where I went ashore looking around for souvenirs, and drank my usual three cans of beer. After a couple days, we went back to Guam for a few days and on July 5th, we left Guam for a rendezvous with the 3rd Fleet.

The 3rd Fleet is now bombing and shelling holy hell out of Tokyo and every other Japanese city. We (USNHS Rescue) are lying here, or rather, we are moving around in a circle, waiting for this naval force (3rd Fleet) to return and to take their patients, if they have any, from this daring attack by the 3rd Fleet of Admiral Halsey on the Jap mainland. They aren’t getting much opposition from the Japs at present.

There is one other incident I wish to tell you about and that is concerning the suicide plane attack on the (USNHS) Comfort (AH-6) in May (1945). Perhaps there is a reason for this inhumanly act. If you recall back in April, the “Awa Maru”, a Japanese relief ship, exchanging prisoners with us was granted free movement in our waters. She was sunk with a loss of over 1000 lives to the Japanese, by one of (our) submarines, due to the fact that she could not be recognized because of a fog. This information concerning the “Awa Maru” was just recently revealed to us. So since the Japanese relief ship was sunk by us, the Japs attacked our hospital ship. I know we are constantly observed by the Japs, but so far, so good, they haven’t given us any trouble as yet. But they are being pretty well occupied by the Fleet in and around Tokyo Bay and Hokkaido.

"August 15th"

Japan accepts the Potsdam Ultimatum and the “Rising Sun” has set on a land that has caused not only America, death and destruction, but also to themselves. With the Atomic Bomb, the Russian entry into the war, and the bombardment by the 3rd Fleet of the Jap homeland, no doubt ended the war a lot sooner than we all thought. Peace was signed officially on September 2nd. Thank God! The world is once more at peace and we can return home and be civilians once more.

Commander of the Prisoner Escort
Navy of the Great Japanese Empire

Regulations for Prisoners

1. The prisoners disobeying the following orders will be punished with immediate death.

a) Those disobeying orders and instructions.
b) Those showing a motion of antagonism and raising a sign of opposition.
c) Those disobeying the regulations by individualism, egoism, thinking only about yourself, rushing for your own goods.
d) Those talking without permission and raising loud voices.
e) Those walking and moving without order.
f) Those carrying unnecessary baggage in embarking.
g) Those resisting mutually.
h) Those touching the boat’s materials, wires, electric lights, tools, switches, etc.
i) Those climbing ladder without order.
j) Those showing action of running away from the room or boat.
k) Those trying to take more meal than given to them.
l) Those using more than two blankets.

2. Since the boat is not well equiped and inside being narrow, food being scarce and poor you’ll feel uncomfortable during the short time on the boat. Those losing patience and disordering the regulation will be heavily punished for the reason of not being able to escort.

3. Be sure to finish your “nature’s call”, evacuate the bowels and urine, before embarking.

4. Meal will be given twice a day. One plate only to one prisoner. The prisoners called by the guard will give out the meal quick as possible and honestly. The remaining prisoners will stay in their places quietly and wait for your plate. Those moving from their places reaching for your plate without order will be heavily punished. Same orders will be applied in handling plates after meal.

5. Toilet will be fixed at the four corners of the room. The buckets and cans will be placed. When filled up a guard will appoint a prisoner. The prisoner called will take the buckets to the center of the room. The buckets will be pulled up by the derrick and thrown away. Toilet papers will be given. Everyone must cooperate to make the room sanitary. Those being careless will be punished.

6. Navy of the Great Japanese Empire will not try to punish you all with death. Those obeying all the rules and regulations, and believing the action and purpose of the Japanese Navy, cooperating with Japan in constructing the “New Order of the Great Asia” which lead to the world’s peace will be well treated.

The End.

Evacuation of POWs from Maisaka and Sendai - courtesy of Joseph Carter

I have only downloaded USNHS RESCUE files to the point of their departure from GUAM on 24 Sept 1945. It didn’t look like they transported many POWs directly from Maisaka (4-7 Sept) and Sendai (11-15 Sept), and those they transferred to the BENEVOLANCE upon arrival in Yokohama, but when they prep’d on Sept 16-19 to depart for CONUS via Guam and Hawaii, they really loaded up with “patients” from the USAHS MARIGOLD & USNHS BENEVOLENCE and area hospitals. They evac’d only 27 e.m. plus 1 officer from Maisaka, and 17 e.m. plus 2 officers from Sendai, but the RESCUE departed Japan on Sept 19th, they were loaded with 360 e.m. and 30 officer patients bound for either Guam, Hawaii, or CONUS. In Guam, they were receiving and transferring patients, and I stopped there temporarily. I haven’t gotten to the arrival in Hawaii, and the final arrival in San Francisco. I did look ahead to the “end of the book” and noted that as of 1 Jan 1946, the designator of the USNHS Rescue (AH-18) changed to USS Rescue (APH-118). The ship made two more trips to Hawaii (1 in 1945, and 1 in 1946) under the “Magic Carpet” operation before being put into “mothballs” at Bremerton WA.

It looked like the BENEVOLENCE was permanently stationed in Yokohama to receive and treat patients from ambulance hospital ships like RESCUE. The repatriation operation must have been huge. I know from the photographs that the RESCUE treated POW children but they were not noted in the official “muster rolls” as being transported to Yokohama. They may have been simply treated on RESCUE and transported on another, faster ship or by aircraft.

Sendai POW evacuee reports from the RESCUE muster rolls: All were transported to Yokohama and turned over to the BENEVOLENCE on 15 Sept 1945. From 16 to 19 Sept, RESCUE took on 360 enlisted and 30 officer patients for transport back to CONUS (via Guam and Hawaii). RESCUE departed Japan on 19 September and spent 20-24 Sept at Guam receiving and transferring patients before moving on to Hawaii.