During operation Utah, the Repose - the navy's only active hospital ship-was stationed fifteen miles off shore.
During operation Utah, the Repose - the navy's only active hospital ship-was stationed fifteen miles off shore. Marines wounded in the fighting were ferried out to her by helicopter. The most remote first aid station was only ten minutes away by this means.
The Repose contains exceedingly modern equipment, including a heart-lung machine-there are only 12 like it in the world. The casualties she received from Utah were largely abdominal and chest casualties caused by rifle, machine gun and recoilless rifle fire. During the engagement, her 24 doctors and 14 nurses worked for three days without stopping; the surgeons in her three modern operating rooms worked without a pause for 36 hours.
A Marine sent to the Repose spends a maximum of 60 days aboard. He is then sent back to the United States for further treatment or recovery. Many of the casualties received, of course, spend less time aboard. Some die; the others go back to duty.
A second hospital ship is being readied by the Navy at Norfolk Virginia; she too is going to Viet Nam.
Authorities say the rapid handling of casualties through facilities like the Repose and through the extensive use of evacuation helicopters has reduced the percentage of deaths as compared to men in action substantially.