No fewer than twenty-four vessels made up the Essex-class group of aircraft carriers serving the United States Navy (USN) in World War 2 (1939-1945) and beyond, such was their value to the war effort and American dominance of the seas in the Pacific. One of their number was USS Hancock (CV-19) who had the distinction of surviving the war and serving long enough to take part in the Vietnam Conflict (1955-1975). Laid down in 1943, the ship was not scrapped until 1976 - covering some thirty years in the process.
Hancock - the forth USN vessel to be named as such - was laid down by Fore River Shipyard on January 26th, 1943 and launched to sea on January 24th, 1944. Commissioned on April 15th, 1944, the warship was ready for the fighting of World War 2 where she would go on to earn 4 total Battle Stars in the process and a further 13 for actions in Vietnam.
As built, the warship displaced 27,100 tons under standard load and held a running length of 888 feet, a beam of 93 feet, and a draught down to 28.6 feet. Power was generated from 8 x boiler units feeding 4 x Westinghouse geared-steam turbines developing 150,000 horsepower to 4 x Shafts astern. The vessel could make headway at 33 knots in ideal conditions.
Aboard was a crew of 3,448 encompassing officers and enlisted personnel.
Armament centered on a purely defensive network of guns involving 4 x 5" (127mm) /38 caliber guns in two twin-gunned mountings, 4 x 5" similar guns in four single-gunned mountings, 8 x 40mm Bofors Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns in two quadruple-gunned mountings, and 46 x 20mm Oerlikon AA guns in single-gunned mountings. The weapons were positioned about the craft to provide the best possible coverage against inbound enemy airplanes.
As completed, the vessel sported a straight-through flight deck running from bow to stern with the island superstructure set to the starboard side. Hangar elevators provided the necessary access to hangar decks below for resupply and rearming of warplanes. The air arm accounted for some 90 to 100 warplanes of various makes and models - typically arranged as fighters, dive bombers, and torpedo bombers to cover most any at-sea threat.
Hancock's career was in the Pacific Theater of World War 2. Her training was undertaken in waters off Trinidad and Venezuela and the warship reached Pearl Harbor via San Diego after transiting the Panama Canal. She was arranged as part of Admiral Halsey's 3rd Fleet at Ulithi during October 1944 under Carrier Task Group 38.2.
The vessel's warships conducted air raids on Japanese positions at Ryukus, Formosa, and the Philippines, softening the enemy prior to all-out invasion. Next followed actions against positions in Northern Luzon followed by Manila. From then on, American airpower assisted ground forces in their advance. December 1944 saw the warship contend with the might of Typhoon Cobra.
In April, she fell victim to a Kamikaze strike which killed 62 of her crew and wounded 71. Despite this, crews valiantly fought the ensuing onboard fires and had the warship ready to go within a half hour. She underwent repairs at Pearl thereafter.
Attacks on Wake Island then followed and the Japanese mainland was next. Hancock joined the American fleet to assail airfields around Tokyo during July 1945. In August of that year, the war ended with the surrender of the Empire of Japan to the Allies. The carrier was part of the "show of force" at Tokyo Bay following the surrender and her planes made their presence known over the citizens of the destroyed capital city.
Hancock then took part in Operation Magic Carpet, bringing thousands of Allied servicemen back stateside to San Diego, California. With her fighting days seemingly over, the warship was decommissioned and placed in reserve at Bremerton, Washington in April 1945.
Through modernization, she became the first USN vessel to feature steam-based catapults for launching a new generation of jet-powered fighters during the early 1950s (she did not take part in the fighting of the Korean War (1950-1953)). The changes led to the ship being reclassified as "CVA-19". What followed was a period of exercises to which point she was once again decommissioned during April 1956 - taking on an angled flight deck during the down time.
Hancock was recommissioned into service on November 15th, 1956 and undertook additional training and deterrence sorties against Communist forces in the Far East. An overhaul followed in 1961 which added improved electronics. Another modernization followed in 1964. That same year, the warship was a deterrence at Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin during the growing American commitment to the Vietnam War. Her warplanes eventually took part in patrols and direct strikes against enemy positions. A night exercise involving a Vought F-8 Crusader crashing into her deck caused a massive fuel fire which damaged the flight deck considerably (no lives were lost). Repairs were hastily made.
Her commitment in the war was temporarily halted in March of 1975 when she made her way to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii for new aircraft. Beyond Operation Eagle Pull and Operation Frequent Wind (the evacuations of Phnom Penh and Saigon, respectively), she ended her fighting days.
USS Hancock was decommissioned for the last time on January 30th, 1976 and struck from the Naval Register on January 31st of that month. Her stripped hulk was sold off for scrapping on September 1st, 1976 and the operation took part the following year.
Beyond the aforementioned Battle Stars (4 during her time in World War 2 and 13 for her commitment in Vietnam), the vessel and her crews earned various navy commendations and medals through their ocean-going career together - making her one of the more decorated warships of American Naval history.
SHORT-HULL GROUP: USS Essex (CV-9); USS Yorktown (CV-10); USS Intrepid (CV-11); USS Hornet (CV-12); USS Franklin (CV-13); USS Lexington (CV-16); USS Bunker Hill (CV-17); USS Wasp (CV-18); USS Bennington (CV-20); Bon Homme Richard (CV-31); Oriskany (CV-34) LONG-HULL GROUP: Ticonderoga (CV-14); Randolph (CV-15); USS Hancock (CV-19); USS Boxer (CV-21); USS Leyte (CV-32); USS Kearsarge (CV-33); USS Reprisal (CV-35); USS Antietam (CV-36); USS Princeton (CV-37); USS Shangri-La (CV-38); USS Lake Champlain (CV-39); USS Tarawa (CV-40); USS Valley Forge (CV-45); USS Iwo Jima (CV-46); USS Philippine Sea (CV-47)
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Flag Ship / Capital Ship
Serving in the fleet Flag Ship role or Capital Ship in older warship designs / terminology.
Onboard systems alert and protect the vessel from airborne, low-flying airborne threats through ballistic and / or missile weaponry.
An Over-the-Horizon operational capability is granted to the vessel, typically through launched fixed-wing / rotary-wing aircraft.
Design capable of launching, recovering, and servicing aircraft to undertake land-attack, airspace deterrence, or resupply sorties.
888.0 ft 270.66 m
93.0 ft 28.35 m
28.6 ft 8.72 m
8 x Boilers with 4 x Westinghouse geared steam turbines developing 150,000 horsepower to 4 x Shafts.
33.0 kts (38.0 mph)
19,999 nm (23,015 mi | 37,039 km)
kts = knots | mph = miles-per-hour | nm = nautical miles | mi = miles | km = kilometers
1 kts = 1.15 mph | 1 nm = 1.15 mi | 1 nm = 1.85 km
4 x 5" (127mm) twin-gunned turrets
4 x 5" (127mm) single-gunned turrets
8 x 40mm Bofors Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns in quad-gunned mountings.
46 x 20mm Oerlikon AA guns in single-gunned mountings.
(Not all weapon types may be represented in the showcase above)
Between 90 and 100 aircraft of various makes and models carried.
Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective naval campaigns / operations / periods.
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