USS HANCOCK CV 19
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The fourth USS Hancock (CV 19) was laid down as Ticonderoga January 26, 1943 by the Bethlehem Steel Co., Quincy, Mass.; renamed Hancock May 1st, launched January 24, 1944; sponsored by Mrs. DeWitt C. Ramsey, wife of Rear Adm. Ramsey, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics; and commissioned April 15, 1944, Captain Fred C. Dickey in command.
After fitting out in the Boston Navy Yard and shake-down training off Trinidad and Venezuela, USS Hancock returned to Boston for alterations July 9. She departed Boston July 31st en route to Pearl Harbor via the Panama Canal and San Diego, and from there sailed September 24 to join Adm. W. F. Halsey's Third Fleet at Ulithi October 5th. She was assigned to Rear Adm. Bogan's Carrier Task Group 38.2.
USS Hancock got underway the following afternoon for a rendezvous point 375 miles west of the Marianas where units of Vice Adm. Mitscher's Fast Carrier Task Force 38 were assembling in preparation for the daring cruise to raid Japanese air and sea bases in the Ryukyus, Formosa, and the Philippines. Thus enemy air power was paralyzed during General MacArthur's invasion of Leyte. When the armada arrived off the Ryukyu Islands October 10, 1944, Hancock's planes rose off her deck to wreak destruction upon Okinawan airfields and shipping. Her planes destroyed seven enemy aircraft on the ground and assisted in the destruction of a submarine tender, 12 torpedo boats, two midget submarines, four cargo ships, and a number of sampans. Next on the agenda were Formosan air bases where October 12th Hancock's pilots downed six enemy planes and destroyed nine more on the ground. She also reported one cargo ship definitely sunk, three probably destroyed, and several others damaged.
As they repelled an enemy air raid that evening, Hancock's gunners accounted for a Japanese plane and drove countless others off during seven hours of uninterrupted general quarters. The following morning her planes resumed their assault, knocking out ammunition dumps, hangars, barracks, and industrial plants ashore and damaging an enemy transport. As Japanese planes again attacked the Americans during their second night off Formosa, Hancock's antiaircraft fire brought down another raider which splashed about 500 yards off her flight deck. On the morning of the third day of operations against this enemy stronghold, USS Hancock lashed out again at airfields and shipping before retiring to the southeast with her task force. As the American ships withdrew, a heavy force of Japanese aircraft roared in for a parting crack. One dropped a bomb off Hancock's port bow a few seconds before the carrier's guns splashed the attacker into the sea. Another bomb penetrated a gun platform but exploded harmlessly in the water. The surviving attackers then turned tail, and the task force was thereafter unmolested as they sailed toward the Philippines to support the landings at Leyte.
On October 18, 1944, she launched planes against airfields and shipping at Laoag, Aparri, and Camiguin Island in Northern Luzon. Her planes struck the islands of Cebu, Panay, Negros, and Masbate, pounding enemy airfields and shipping. The next day she retired toward Ulithi with Vice Admiral John S. McCain's Carrier Task Group 38.1.
USS Hancock received orders October 23rd to turn back to the area off Samar to assist in the search for units of the Japanese fleet reportedly closing Leyte to challenge the American fleet and to destroy amphibious forces which were struggling to take the island from Japan. USS Hancock did not reach Samar in time to assist the heroic escort carriers and destroyers of "Taffy 3" during the main action of the Battle off Samar but her planes did manage to lash the fleeing Japanese Center Force as it passed through the San Bernardino Straits. USS Hancock then rejoined Rear Adm. Bogan's Task Group with which she struck airfields and shipping in the vicinity of Manila October 29, 1944. During operations through November 19, her planes gave direct support to advancing Army troops and attacked Japanese shipping over a 350-mile area. She became flagship of Fast Carrier Task Force 38, November 17, 1944 when Vice Adm. McCain came on board.
Unfavorable weather prevented operations until November 25 when an enemy aircraft roared toward Hancock in a suicide dive out of the sun. Antiaircraft fire exploded the plane some 300 feet above the ship but a section of its fuselage landed amid ships and a part of the wing hit the flight deck and burst into flames. Prompt and skillful teamwork quickly extinguished the blaze and prevented serious damage.
USS Hancock returned to Ulithi November 27, 1944 and departed from that island with her task group to maintain air patrol over enemy airfields on Luzon to prevent enemy suicide attacks on amphibious vessels of the landing force in Mindoro. The first strikes were launched December 14 against Clark and Angeles Airfields as well as enemy ground targets on Salvador Island. The next day her planes struck installations at Masinloc, San Fernando, and Cabatuan, while fighter patrols kept the Japanese airmen down. Her planes also attacked shipping in Manila Bay.
USS Hancock encountered a severe typhoon on 17th and rode out the storm in waves which broke over her flight deck, some 55 feet above her waterline. She put into Ulithi December 24 and got underway six days later to attack airfields and shipping around the South China Sea. Her planes struck hard blows at Luzon airfields January 7 and 8, 1945 and turned their attention back to Formosa on 9th hitting fiercely at airfields and the Tokyo Seaplane Station. An enemy convoy north of Camranh Bay, Indochina, was the next victim with two ships sunk and 11 damaged. That afternoon USS Hancock launched strikes against airfields at Saigon and shipping on the northeastern bulge of French Indochina. Strikes by the fast and mobile carrier force continued through January 16, hitting Hainan Island in the Gulf of Tonkin, the Pescadores Islands, and shipping in the harbor of Hong Kong. Raids against Formosa were resumed January 20, 1945. The next afternoon one of her planes returning from a sortie made a normal landing, taxied to a point abreast of the island, and disintegrated in a blinding explosion which killed 50 men and injured 75 others. Again outstanding work quickly brought the fires under control in time to land other planes which were still aloft. She returned to formation and launched strikes against Okinawa the next morning.
USS Hancock reached Ulithi January 25, 1945 where Vice Adm. McCain left the ship and relinquished command of the 5th Fleet. She sortied with the ships of her task group February 10, and launched strikes against airfields in the vicinity of Tokyo February 16. During that day her air group downed 71 enemy planes, and accounted for 12 more the next. Her planes hit the enemy naval bases at Chichi Jima and Haha Jima February 19. These raids were conducted to isolate Iwo Jima from air and sea support when Marines hit the beaches of that island to begin one of the most bloody and fierce campaigns of the war. USS Hancock took station off this island to provide tactical support through February 22nd, hitting enemy airfields and strafing Japanese troops ashore.
Returning to waters off the enemy home islands, USS Hancock launched her planes against targets on northern Honshu, making a diversionary raid on the Nansei-shoto islands March 1st before returning to Ulithi on 4th.
Back in Japanese waters USS Hancock joined other carriers in strikes against Kyushu airfields, southwestern Honshu and shipping in the Inland Sea of Japan, March 18, 1945. Hancock was refueling the destroyer USS Halsey Powell (DD 686) on 20th when suicide planes attacked the task force. One plane dove for the two ships but was disintegrated by gunfire when about 700 feet overhead. Fragments of the plane hit Hancock's deck while its engine and bomb crashed the fantail of the destroyer. Hancock's gunners shot down another plane as it neared the release point of its bombing run on the carrier. Hancock was reassigned to Carrier Task Group 58.3 with which she struck the Nansei-shoto islands March 23-27 and Minami Daito Jima and Kyushu at the end of the month.
When the 10th Army landed on the western coast of Okinawa April 1st, USS Hancock was on hand to provide close air support. A suicide plane cartwheeled across her flight deck April 7 and crashed into a group of planes while its bomb hit the port catapult to cause a tremendous explosion. Although 62 men were killed and 71 wounded, heroic efforts doused the fires within half an hour enabling her to be back in action before an hour had passed.
USS Hancock was detached from her task group April 9, 1945 and steamed to Pearl Harbor for repairs. She sailed back into action June 13 and left lethal calling cards at Wake Island June 20 en route to the Philippines. Hancock sailed from San Pedro Bay with the other carriers July 1 and attacked Tokyo airfields on 10th. She continued to operate in Japanese waters until she received confirmation of Japan's capitulation August 15, 1945, when she recalled her planes from their deadly missions before they reached their targets. However planes of her photo division were attacked by seven enemy aircraft over Sagami Wan. Three were shot down and a fourth escaped in a trail of smoke. Later that afternoon planes of Hancock's air patrol shot down a Japanese torpedo plane as it dived on a British task force. Her planes flew missions over Japan in search of prison camps, dropping supplies and medicine, August 25th. Information collected during these flights led to landings under command of Commodore R. W. Simpson which brought doctors and supplies to all Allied prisoner of war encampments.
When the formal surrender of the Japanese Imperial Government was signed on board battleship USS Missouri, Hancock's planes flew overhead. The carrier entered Tokyo Bay September 10, 1945 and sailed September 30th embarking 1,500 passengers at Okinawa for transportation to San Pedro, Calif., where she arrived October 21. USS Hancock was fitted out for "Magic Carpet" duty at San Pedro and sailed for Seeadler Harbor, Manus Admiralty Islands, November 2. On her return voyage she carried 4,000 passengers who were debarked at San Diego 4 December. A week later USS Hancock departed for her second "Magic Carpet" voyage, embarking 3,773 passengers at Manila for return to Alameda, Calif., January 20, 1946. She embarked Air Group 7 at San Diego February 18 for air operations off the coast of California. She sailed from San Diego March 11th to embark men of two air groups and aircraft at Pearl Harbor for transportation to Saipan, arriving April 1, 1946. After receiving two other air groups on board at Saipan, she loaded a cargo of aircraft at Guam and steamed by way of Pearl Harbor to Alameda, Calif., arriving April 23, 1946. She then steamed to Seattle, Wash., April 29 to await inactivation. The proud ship decommissioned and entered the reserve fleet at Bremerton, Wash.
USS Hancock commenced conversion and modernization to an attack aircraft carrier in Puget Sound December 15, 1951 and was reclassified CVA 19, October 1, 1952. She was recommissioned February 15, 1954, Captain W. S. Butts in command. It was the first carrier of the United States Fleet with steam catapults capable of launching high performance jets.
She was off San Diego May 7, 1954 for operations along the coast of California that included the launching June 17 of the first aircraft to take off from a United States carrier by means of a steam catapult. After a year of operations along the Pacific coast that included testing of Sparrow I and Regulus missiles and Cutlass jet aircraft, she sailed August 10, 1955 for 7th Fleet operations ranging from the shores of Japan to the Philippines and Okinawa. She returned to San Diego March 15, 1956 and decommissioned April 13 for conversion that included the installation of an angled flight deck.
USS Hancock recommissioned November 15, 1956 for training out of San Diego until April 6, 1957 when she again sailed for Hawaii and the Far East. She returned to San Diego September 18, 1957 and again departed for Japan February 15, 1958. She was a unit of powerful carrier task groups taking station off Taiwan when the Nationalist Chinese islands of Quemoy and Matsu were threatened with Communist invasion in August 1958. The carrier returned to San Diego October 2, 1958 for overhaul in the San Francisco Naval Shipyard, followed by rigorous at-sea training out of San Diego. On August 1, 1959, she sailed to reinforce the 7th Fleet as troubles in Laos demanded the watchful presence of powerful American forces in water off southeast Asia. She returned to San Francisco January 18, 1960 and put to sea early in February to participate in a new demonstration of communications by reflecting ultra-high-frequency waves off the moon. She again departed in August to steam with the 7th Fleet in waters off Laos until lessening of tension in that area permitted operations ranging from Japan to the Philippines.
USS Hancock returned to San Francisco March 18, 1961, then entered the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for an overhaul that gave her new electronics gear and many other improvements. She again set sail for Far Eastern waters February 2, 1962, patrolling in the South China Sea as crisis and strife mounted both in Laos and in South Vietnam. She again appeared off Quemoy and Matsu in June 1962 to stem a threatened Communist invasion there, then trained along the coast of Japan and in waters reaching to Okinawa. She returned to San Francisco October 7, 1962, made a brief cruise to the coast of Hawaii while qualifying pilots then again sailed June 7, 1963 for the Far East.
USS Hancock joined in combined defense exercises along the coast of South Korea, then deployed off the coast of South Vietnam after the coup which resulted in the death of President Diem. She entered the Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard January 16, 1964 for modernization that included installation of a new ordnance system, hull repairs, and aluminum decking for her flight deck. She celebrated her 20th birthday June 2nd while visiting San Diego. The carrier made a training cruise to Hawaii, then departed Alameda October 21, 1964 for another tour of duty with the 7th Fleet in the Far East.
USS Hancock reached Japan November 19th and soon was on patrol at Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin. She remained active in Vietnamese waters fighting to thwart Communist aggression until heading for home early in the spring of 1965.
November found the carrier steaming back to the war zone. She was on patrol off Vietnam December 16, 1965; and, but for brief respites at Hong Kong, the Philippines, or Japan, Hancock remained on station launching her planes for strikes at enemy positions ashore until returning to Alameda, Calif., August 1, 1966. Her outstanding record during this combat tour won her the Navy Unit Commendation.
Following operations off the west coast, USS Hancock returned to Vietnam early in 1967 and resumed her strikes against Communist positions. After fighting during most of the first half of 1967, she returned to Alameda July 22 and promptly began preparations for returning to battle.
Aircraft from USS Hancock, along with those from USS Ranger and USS Oriskany, joined with other planes for air strikes against North Vietnamese missile and antiaircraft sites south of the 19th parallel in response to attacks on unarmed U.S. reconnaissance aircraft on November 21-22, 1970. USS Hancock alternated with Ranger and with USS Kitty Hawk on Yankee station until May 10, 1971 when she was relieved by USS Midway.
USS Hancock, along with USS Coral Sea, was back on Yankee station by March 30, 1972 when North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam. In response to the invasion, Naval aircraft from Hancock and other carriers flew tactical sorties during Operation Freedom Train against military and logistics targets in the southern part of North Vietnam. By the end of April, the strikes covered more areas in North Vietnam throughout the area below 20° 25'N. Between April 25 and 30th, aircraft from Hancock's VA-55, VA-164, and VA-211 struck enemy-held territory around Kontum and Pleiku.
USS Hancock was again deployed to the waters off South Vietnam again in 1975. Departing Subic Bay, R.P., March 23, she, along with the carriers USS Coral Sea, USS Midway, USS Enterprise and the amphibious assault ship USS Okinawa, stood by for the possible evacuation of refugees after North Vietnam overran two-thirds of the south. Nearly 9,000 were evacuated: 1,373 U.S. personnel and 6,422 of other nationalities. On May 12-14, she was alerted, although not utilized, for the recovery of SS Mayaguez, a U.S. merchantman with 39 crew, seized in international waters on May 12th by the Communist Khmer Rouge.
USS Hancock was decommissioned January 30, 1976. She was stricken from the Navy list the following day, and sold for scrap by the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service (DRMS) September 1, 1976.