The United States Navy is well known for participating in wars and famous battles and defending our country’s interests and democratic values around the world. The average person may be less familiar with the Navy’s continual humanitarian efforts at home and abroad. These activities include rescues at sea, transport of emergency personnel and materials, and community outreach often involving medical treatment and construction programs. This critical part of the Navy’s mission does not always receive as much media attention as it did in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita that devastated the Gulf Coast. The Navy served as one of the leading military services participating in rescue and relief operations.
Fifty years ago in August 1959, USS Thetis Bay (LPH-6), an amphibious assault ship, became part of this legacy. After this vessel left Long Beach, California for a six month Western Pacific Cruise on 22 April, it visited the Yokosuka Naval Base in Tokyo Bay and went on to Borneo to participate in the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO)’s exercise Operation SADDLE UP. Thetis Bay’s schedule was interrupted when a typhoon hit Formosa, known as Taiwan today, creating some of the worst flood damage to date. The ship arrived at the disaster area on 14 August 1959 and remained there using its helicopters to fly in much needed aide. By 20 August, 897 assistance trips had been completed and 1.6 million pounds of supplies and 850 refuges had been airlifted. Captain Charles E. Gibson, the commanding officer of this ship and his crew saved lives and helped survivors begin to rebuild theirs.