USS Hancock was a Ticonderoga class aircraft carrier constructed in Quincy, Massachusetts. Weighing in at over 27,000 tons, she was commissioned in April of 1944 during the climax of the Second World War.
Action in World War II
Arriving in the Pacific in the summer, the USS Hancock conducted her initial combat operations during the raid of the Ryukyu Islands, Formosa and the Philippines. Her planes also hit Japanese battleships in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and the Hancock continued to engage targets in the Philippines for the remainder of the year. This was in spite of suffering moderate damage from a kamikaze plane and a typhoon during the peak of winter.
In January of 1945, a tragic accident on the flight deck of the USS Hancock killed 50 members of her crew. However, this did not deter her from assisting in a number of military operations, including Task Force 38’s raid into the South China Sea and an airplane attack on Okinawa. In the following months the carrier would attack targets on the Japanese mainland as well as Iwo Jima and Okinawa. A series of suicide planes would damage her hull during the Okinawa operation, resulting in the death of 62 crewmen, and a return to the United States for repairs. In July of 1945, USS Oklahoma returned to the western Pacific and attacked Wake Island and other Japanese targets as the war came to an end. She also supported occupation efforts, and then was called back to the U.S. to help transport men and aircraft.
After the War
From April of 1946 to February of 1954, the USS Hancock was placed on inactive duty. In the interim she was modernized and refitted to operate larger, higher grade aircraft. This included a pair of steam catapults, the first of their kind to be installed on a U.S. Navy carrier. Recommissioned and reclassified CVA-19, she was once again deployed to the Far East in 1955, where she was modernized once more with an angular flight deck and enclosed bow.
In the winter of 1956, USS Hancock was sent back into service, where for nearly two decades she performed Pacific Fleet operations, including seven combat deployments during the Vietnam War. During her final Western Pacific tour, she helped with the evacuation of South Vietnamese refugees. In June of 1975, Hancock was decommissioned and re-designated CV-19. She was sold for scrapping later that year.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, even today, aircraft carriers also pose a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were common, especially on older ships, because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with these ships should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.