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History of the USS Benewah following its distinguished service in the United States Navy


Photo courtesy of Captain JG Pizarro from the collection of COL LUIS VIZCARRA MC (PN) (retd)

The following account has been verified by several on the crew including Captain JG Pizarro MC (Philippine Navy).  Captain Pizarro states: "I spoke to two (2) CPOs here in my unit, one of whom was (of all people) my own POIC in the Operating Room. They both confirmed what was written in the Philippine Navy history book.

According to Captain Pizarro the Benewah was converted into a hospital ship for the Philippine Navy. The AH-3 Ospital ng Tulungan ( formerly the USS Benewah) was indeed improved, repaired, even repainted white with a red cross at the middle hull, and stocked with supplies and medicines. 

While all this refurbishing was going on at the Mariveles, Bataan Shipyards, an acetylene tank blew up inside the ship which caused a fire, thus severely damaging the AH-3.  Apparently, after stocking the ship, it was never used as a hospital ship after the explosion and fire. Captain Pizarro further states "My POIC further informed me that after that (the fire), there were no more attempts to repair the ship - it was towed somewhere to the Southern Philippines and was, according to him, used as a barracks ship but where and for how long, he could not remember." He further states "Maybe after the fire, the Benewah was indeed sunk and used as a barrier reef, but I don't know where."

I just thought you might want to know what fate did your ship did actually have after it left the service of the USN.

Happy Halloween and best regards sir!

CPT JG PIZARRO MC (PN)

The above account was verified by crew member Harold Hugo who wrote the following:

"I WAS TOLD THAT THE BENEWAH WAS BEING CONVERTED TO A HOSPITAL SHIP BY RANDY ELLIS, WHO WAS HER ENGINEERING OFFICER IN 1952/53, WHEN I RELIEVED HIM UNDERWAY TO NAPLES ITALY IN 1953. HE SUBSEQUENTLY WORKED FOR THE NAVY DEPARTMENT, AND SAW THE SHIP IN SUBIC BAY, AND EVEN MADE A PHOTO THERE, AND GAVE IT TO ME.

THIS CAN BE VERIFIED BY CONTACTING HIM VIA TELEPHONE AT  207-474-0576.

I USED TO HAVE HIS EMAIL ADDRESS BUT CAN'T FIND IT NOW."

The following is an updated email regarding more on the Benewah's history in the PI:

Hello Albert!

I had a patient who I interviewed for data about his previous unit, the Presidential Security Group. In the course of our discussions, I showed him old pics of the PN Floating Clinic (not the Benewah) and I told him I was also looking for data on the PN Floating Hospital (The Benewah). He casually answered me what did I want to know of the Benewah (AH-3 in PN service) for he had been the radioman of the ship! Talk about lucky!

He told me the AH3 had been heavily modified after receipt of the PN from the USN. A boom over the bow was placed, to be able to lift ambulances from shore to ship; a heli-pad over the length of the ship, capable to receive the BO-105 light helicopter the PN used (and still uses) was built with an elevator somewhere near the rear! Also included to be able to bring patients from the heli-pad to the clinics inside the hull. This elevator greatly altered the center of gravity of the ship and in sea trials, this was very evident. To counter the imbalance, cement was placed somewhere below decks, and this greatly increased the weight of the ship. One day, one crewman who was releasing the bilge pumps forgot to shut it off causing a reverse flow of water back to the ship causing some flooding. This caused damaged to the engines which resulted to the ship being repaired. A week later, while drydocked, the fire broke out below decks at around 6 pm, with the acetylene igniting paints stored below and fumes and smoke causing more damage to both crew and ship. He said that the ship also was in danger of tilting on one side, due to its weight but 2 other LST's came to her rescue and moored beside her to prevent her from tilting over, this due to its imbalance and weight gain. So after that, my patient said the ship was eventually towed away to the south to be used as a barracks ship (notice that part of the story always surfaces so it must be true...).

I'll try to have a longer chat with him but if you are asking for pictures, there are none. But I'll still try my best to gather more data if only to complete the story and saga of the RPS Hospital ng Tulungan / USS Benewah.

Best regards,

Jeff

AH-3 in the Philippines in 1975


Clipping courtesy of Captain JG Pizarro, found at the Philippine National Library by Raymond Banaga, MD




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