To Italian Line.
To Saturnia.

Frances Y. Slanger

The Saturnia was renamed Frances Y. Slanger when serving as an allied hospital ship towards the end of WWII. Below is a brief history of her career by Steve Miner, who is looking for information on the ship and contacts with anyone with a connection to her during this time.


(US Army Signal Corps photo 1945)

The Saturnia was taken by her crew to the United States in October 1943 to prevent the ship from being destroyed by wartime conflict in the Mediterranean. The Wartime Shipping Administration (WSA) leased the ship and her Italian crew during 1944 for use as a troop transport between the New York City Port of Embarkation (NYPE) and Europe, operating as the US Army Transport (USAT) Saturnia. Until the bureaucratic red tape was eliminated, the Italian crew worked at great personal risk without pay or insurance by operating the Saturnia in the Atlantic war zone for several voyages! At the time the only US crew aboard were US Navy Armed Guard unit members. Infantry troops were successfully ferried to England and France in 1944. At the end of 1944 it was decided to convert the Saturnia into a hospital ship. The conversion took place at the Todd-Erie Basin shipyard in Brooklyn from January 1945 until June 1945. During her military service, veterans say that the ship's luxurious appointments were either removed, covered with plywood, or obscured in military grey paint.

As a hospital ship, the Saturnia was known as the HS Frances Y. Slanger, and was operated under the US Army Transportation Corps from June until December 1945. Unit members wore the distinctive wheel patch. The medical unit aboard was the 235th Hospital Ship Complement (HSC) consisting of approximately 400 people with 60 nurses and was commanded for much of the time by Col. Gilbert Saynes, a surgeon from the University of Pittsburgh. The 235th HSC was formed in spring 1945 and was stationed at Camp Kilmer, NJ while waiting for the ship's conversion. Various members of the medical unit commuted to the Brooklyn shipyard to oversee portions of the medical equipment installation during that period. The Frances Y. Slanger was retrofitted to accommodate approximately 1600 patients and 500 crewmembers. The ship contained operating rooms, dental surgery suites, XRay, lab services, pharmacy and commissary and recreation room accommodations. Approximately five trips were made to Europe to carry patients back to the US between June and November 1945, between NYC and Southampton, England or Cherbourg, France. Typical trips took about three to four weeks per turnaround, including reprovisioning and loading/unloading of patients. During this period the US Merchant Marine operated the ship. In December of 1945 HS Frances Y. Slanger was deactivated from service as a hospital ship.

In January 1946, the Frances Y. Slanger was quickly reconverted to a transport and was again known as the USAT Saturnia. Operating between NYC and Southampton and Cherbourg between January and June 1946, Saturnia was used to carry servicemen and women and their families back from Europe to the U.S. via New York. The unit responsible for ship transport activities was the 9222 TSC TU NYPE and its crew included a doctor and several nurses. In late 1946, after a public uproar helped to defeat an attempt by the USSR to seize the Saturnia for war reparations owed by Italy, the Saturnia was returned to the Italian government.

As a surviving family member of an Army nurse assigned to Saturnia, I have conducted extensive research to obtain information about the wartime service of the Saturnia and Frances Y. Slanger. Very little information and drawings remain of the ship, her conversion, or her medical unit's members and activities. I have so far located six surviving crewmembers of the ship's wartime service: 1 MD, 1 RN, 2 medical technicians, 1 signalman, and 1 mess attendant. These veterans have provided invaluable information and photographs about a ship that made a valuable contribution to the WWII allied transport and medical efforts. I hope to acquire enough information to recreate the ship's history for inclusion in the National Archives, Transportation Museum, US Army Heritage Center and elsewhere. Already, another surviving family member who has located me through this website has generously provided copies of his mother's files, containing rare medical crewmember information.

Please help!
I am still currently seeking information about the Saturnia and Frances Y. Slanger wartime service. At this time, surviving family members of crewmembers, patients, or troops who were aboard the ship between 1943-1946 are especially needed to help acquire and provide information. Todd Erie Brooklyn shipyard workers or NYPE dock workers and their family members are also encouraged to provide any information they may have. Anyone who can contribute information or contact names is urged to contact me at the following email address: fyslanger_saturnia@earthlink.net. Especially important are any ship or technical drawings that can be located. Apparently the US government has discarded all of its drawings and conversion information on the Frances Y. Slanger because she was not a US built vessel. No piece of information is too small, no drawing, snapshot, or momento too insignificant. In the event a family member has artifacts, I wish to arrange for photographs and descriptions to be generated. It is by working together with other interested parties that I will be able to fill in the missing day to day history picture about the USAT Saturnia and HS Frances Y. Slanger. I also welcome inquiries by family members or veterans seeking more information about the ship and her units.

Steve Miner

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Information sources credits:
National Archives
"Troopships of WWII" by Roland W. Charles, Army Transportation Association, 1947
"Hospital Ships of World War II" by Emory A. Massman, McFarland & Company, 1999
Crewmember personal accounts

Please contact fyslanger_saturnia@earthlink.net for errors or omissions.

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Click photos for larger views
To larger view To larger view To larger view
(All photos courtesy of Robert Joy Collection, AHEC)

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Click to view a document with general information on travelling to America on the USAT Saturnia.
It was issued on March 17, 1946 and saved by a war bride from Scotland.
(Courtesy of Bob Jewell)

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This page last updated January 15, 2011.

Frances Y. Slanger page © Steve Miner & Björn Larsson
No photos may be used without prior permission by contacting Steve Miner at the above e-mail address.