World War II: USS Hancock (CV-19)

USS Hancock in 1944
USS Hancock (CV-19), December 1944. Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command

USS Hancock (CV-19) - Overview:

  • Nation: United States
  • Type: Aircraft Carrier
  • Shipyard: Fore River Shipyard
  • Laid Down: January 26, 1943
  • Launched: January 24, 1944
  • Commissioned: April 15, 1944
  • Fate: Sold for scrap, September 1, 1976

USS Hancock (CV-19) - Specifications

  • Displacement: 27,100 tons
  • Length: 888 ft.
  • Beam: 93 ft.
  • Draft: 28 ft., 7 in.
  • Propulsion: 8 × boilers, 4 × Westinghouse geared steam turbines, 4 × shafts
  • Speed: 33 knots
  • Complement: 3,448 men

USS Hancock (CV-19) - Armament

  • 4 × twin 5 inch 38 caliber guns
  • 4 × single 5 inch 38 caliber guns
  • 8 × quadruple 40 mm 56 caliber guns
  • 46 × single 20 mm 78 caliber guns

Aircraft

  • 90-100 aircraft

USS Hancock - Design & Construction:

Designed in the 1920s and early 1930s, the US Navy's Lexington- and Yorktown-class aircraft carriers were planned to meet to the restrictions set forth by the Washington Naval Treaty. This agreement placed limitations on the tonnage of various types of warships as well as capped each signatory's total tonnage. These types of restrictions were reaffirmed in the 1930 London Naval Treaty. As global tensions rose, Japan and Italy departed the treaty structure in 1936. With the collapse of the system, the US Navy began developing a new, larger type of aircraft carrier and one which drew from experience gleaned from the Yorktown-class. The resulting type was longer and wider as well as possessed a deck-edge elevator.

This had been employed earlier on USS Wasp (CV-7). In addition to carrying a greater number of aircraft, the new design mounted an enlarged anti-aircraft armament.

Designated the Essex-class, the lead ship, USS Essex (CV-9), was laid down in April 1941. This was followed by several additional vessels including USS Ticonderoga (CV-19) which was laid down at Bethlehem Steel in Quincy, MA on January 26, 1943.

  On May 1, the name of the carrier was changed to Hancock following a successful war bond drive conducted by John Hancock Insurance.  As a result, the name Ticonderoga was transferred to CV-14 then under construction at Newport News, VA.  Construction progressed over the next year and on January 24, 1944, Hancock slid down the ways with Juanita Gabriel-Ramsey, wife of Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics Rear Admiral DeWitt Ramsey, serving as sponsor.  With World War II raging, workers pushed to complete the carrier and it entered commission on April 15, 1944, with Captain Fred C. Dickey in command.

USS Hancock - World War II:

Completing trials and shake-down operations in the Caribbean later that spring, Hancock departed for service in the Pacific on July 31.  Passing through Pearl Harbor, the carrier joined Admiral William "Bull" Halsey's 3rd Fleet at Ulithi on October 5.  Assigned to Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher's Task Force 38 (Fast Carrier Task Force), Hancock took part in raids against the Ryukyus, Formosa, and the Philippines.  Successful in these efforts, the carrier, sailing as part of Vice Admiral John McCain's Task Group 38.1, retired towards Ulithi on October 19 as General Douglas MacArthur's forces were landing on Leyte.

  Four days later, as the Battle of Leyte Gulf was commencing, McCain's carriers were recalled by Halsey.  Returning to the area, Hancock and its consorts launched attacks against the Japanese as they departed the area via the San Bernardino Strait on October 25.

Remaining in the Philippines, Hancock struck targets around the archipelago and became flagship of the Fast Carrier Task Force on November 17.  After replenishing at Ulithi in late November, the carrier returned to operations in the Philippines and in December rode out Typhoon Cobra.  The following month, Hancock attacked targets on Luzon before raiding through the South China Sea with strikes against Formosa and Indochina.  On January 21, tragedy struck when an aircraft exploded near the carrier's island killing 50 and injuring 75.

  Despite this incident, operations were not curtailed and attacks were launched against Okinawa the next day.

In February, the Fast Carrier Task Force launched strikes on the Japanese home islands before turning south to support the invasion of Iwo Jima.  Taking station off the island, Hancock's air group provided tactical support to troops ashore until February 22.  Returning north, American carriers continued their raids on Honshu and Kyushu.  During these operations, Hancock repelled a kamikaze attack on March 20.  Steaming south later in the month, it provided cover and support for the invasion of Okinawa.  While executing this mission on April 7, Hancock sustained a kamikaze hit that caused a large explosion and killed 62 and wounded 71.  Though remaining in action, it received orders to depart for Pearl Harbor two days later for repairs.  

Resuming combat operations on June 13, Hancock attacked Wake Island before rejoining American carriers for raids on Japan.  Hancock continued these operations until notification of the Japanese surrender on August 15.  On September 2, the carrier's planes flew over Tokyo Bay as the Japanese formally surrendered aboard USS Missouri (BB-63).  Departing Japanese waters on September 30, Hancock embarked passengers at Okinawa before sailing for San Pedro, CA.  Arriving in late October, the carrier was fitted out for use in Operation Magic Carpet.  Over the next six months, Hancock saw duty returning American servicemen and equipment from overseas.

  Ordered to Seattle, Hancock arrived there on April 29, 1946 and prepared to move into the reserve fleet at Bremerton.

USS Hancock (CV-19) - Modernization:

On December 15, 1951, Hancock departed the reserve fleet to undergo a SCB-27C modernization.  This saw the installation of steam catapults and other equipment to allow it to operate the US Navy's newest jet aircraft.  Recommissioned February 15, 1954, Hancock operated off the West Coast and tested a variety of new jet and missile technologies.  In March 1956, it entered the yard in San Diego for a SCB-125 upgrade.  This saw the addition of an angled flight deck, enclosed hurricane bow, optical landing system, and other technological enhancements.  Rejoining the fleet that November, Hancock deployed for the first of several Far East assignments in April 1957.  The following year, it formed part of an American force sent to protect Quemoy and Matsu when the islands were threatened by the Communist Chinese. 

A stalwart of the 7th Fleet, Hancock took part in the Communication Moon Relay project in February 1960 which saw US Navy engineers experiment with reflecting ultra high frequency waves off the Moon.  Overhauled in March 1961, Hancock returned to the South China Sea the following year as tensions mounted in Southeast Asia.  After further cruises in the Far East, the carrier entered Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in January 1964 for a major overhaul.  Completed a few months later, Hancock briefly operated along the West Coast before sailing for the Far East on October 21.

  Reaching Japan in November, it then assumed a position at Yankee Station off the Vietnamese coast where it largely remained until early spring 1965.

USS Hancock (CV-19) - Vietnam War:

With the US escalation of the Vietnam War, Hancock returned to Yankee Station that December and commenced launching strikes against North Vietnamese targets.  With the exception of brief respites in nearby ports, it remained on station into July.  The carrier's efforts during this period earned it the Navy Unit Commendation.  Returning to Alameda, CA in August, Hancock stayed in home waters through fall before departing for Vietnam in early 1967.  On station until July, it again returned to the West Coast where it remained for much of the next year.  After this pause in combat operations, Hancock resumed attacks over Vietnam in July 1968.  Subsequent assignments to Vietnam occurred in 1969/70, 1970/71, and 1972.  During the 1972 deployment, Hancock's aircraft helped slow the North Vietnamese Easter Offensive

With the US departure from the conflict, Hancock resumed peacetime activities.  In March 1975, with the fall of Saigon looming, the carrier's air group was offloaded at Pearl Harbor and replaced by Marine Heavy Lift Helicopter Squadron HMH-463.  Sent back to Vietnamese waters, it served as a platform for the evacuation of Phnom Penh and Saigon in April.  Completing these duties, the carrier returned home.  An aging ship, Hancock was decommissioned on January 30, 1976.  Stricken from the Navy List, it was sold for scrap on September 1. 

Selected Sources