Richard E. Roberts, GMT3, W-Division, USN Retired
USS Hancock CVA-19 - '63-'67
I Remember you USS Hancock CVA-19...
...I remember you well; I was TAD waiting for you to make port the day John F. Kennedy died, I was in my rack on a Sunday morning reading the paper when someone said the President is dead; first time I ever cried in front of other men I really don't remember but I think some of them were crying too.
John F. Kennedy, 35th President
When you made port in Subic I was fresh out of weapons training and a whole year and a half out of High School I thought I knew it all. I was glad to see you because I had lost a lot of money playing poker in the TAD barracks and was stepping on deck with a real "Goon" chasing me. I was scared and I did not have the money. I came aboard and met some of the guys in W-Division. I told them my story and they really watched my back, it turns out the guy who was whipping me out of all my money was being mustered out for being a pro gambler and was really slick. I was in desperate need of growing up for sure and you provided the beginning, I'm still working on it.
You took us to Yokosuka and the big Ginza in Tokyo. You took us to Hong Kong (twice) while I served with you, I even played folk music on my guitar at the University there.
We had to wipe our trays of all our uneaten food into huge plastic bags. The Chinese who came alongside and painted you from the waterline up to the flight deck got the food. My Mother really wasn't kidding when she said there were people starving in China. I had never seen poverty like that before; there I was cleaning my plate for starving Chinese people right in China. Hancock, your crew chipped in and with the money built a noodle factory there in Hong Kong.
U.S.S. Hancock on her way to WestPac '63
I Remember how the pressed ducks hung in front of the little food shops looking just like flat frying pans with little feet. Walking out of the China Fleet Club in '65, I ran into a guy from my home town of Melbourne, Florida, the best friend of my High School sweet heart's brother, what a great surprise; there we were more than half way round the world - old surfing partners, passing each other on the steps of a bar in Hong Kong - both Fleet Sailors.
Hancock you were a CVA - you traveled fast, you traveled all day and you traveled all night, your catapults launched hour after hour, you hurried to battle and you served the cause of freedom and the men who rode you well.
U.S.S. Hancock CVA-19 leaves for WestPac '63
Shore leave in Olongapo, going to Manila with the old salt of the division "Baseball" John Gross, I remember you Hancock. You took me to visit Sasebo, Pearl, Alameda, Hunters Point, San Francisco; where I first saw the big redwood trees, manning the rails under the golden gate, San Diego, Our baseball team won the trophy, the coach gave me the award for team spirit, I couldn't play but I could yell. Side trips to Tijuana, Albuquerque, Chicago, where else could an 18 year old "red neck boy" from Melbourne, nowhere, Florida find a way to see the world and afford a place to sleep on the way?
I remember CVA-19 when you took us to "Yankee Station" 180 days at Sea, we slept on the catwalks at night when flight ops were off, on folded thin wool blankets. It was so damn hot bare feet would stick to the flight deck in the daytime if you were crazy enough to take off your brogans. Ran bombs up and down elevators, chain falls, bomb carts, to and from below deck bays to the flight deck, to the aircraft, working 12 and 14-hour shifts, so the flyboys would have something to do.
My most vivid memory besides the terminal boredom of the many months at sea was that of a storm. Remember how you had to run before the big Typhoon with those towering waves washing your flight deck, all the way around to the lee side of the big Island of the Philippines? No one who rode you through that storm could have been surprised at the movie the "Perfect storm". None who served aboard you in that period can ever doubt the power and the might of the sea. We had some real bad weather - huge seas but you brought us through. We came back through some place called Leyte Gulf, just like a big river, we could see the banana trees and the jungle in the sunshine on the Islands on both sides of you. I was surprised that it was deep enough for you to sail.
Some tough times those full strike 24-hour days at war, running it up into the wind to launch. The "spad" jockeys taking off with more bombs than they could practically carry. Brave men, all who flew from your flight deck. Even braver still those who left it all on the beach and never came back. Some came in, shot full of holes; some came and landed in the sea. Good men died, but you carried on Hancock, old and proud, you saw it all.
We remember you CVA Hancock! You served us; we served with you. Hancock you fought war at full throttle, cat condition one, F-8's on go, 50 miles from Hanoi. We were alone out there with a few destroyers for months at a time. With you we were the masters of the South China Sea.
The enlisted crew riding the cattle cars to the gate "Give me Liberty and make mine a beer." What a place Olongapo, the virtual gate to hell itself, what fun, machine guns on wire-thin uniformed flips, Jeepnies of every color and description with at least 500 pounds of any gaudy decoration known to man, surrounded by 1000 bars with loud music and monkey meat on a stick. San Magoo. Watch out for the Benny boys, Sweet little brown skinned jungle girls, and no sleeping it off if you had duty. I was never sure why we had watch in our office at 4:00 am; no one ever called. We even had a Marine in a cage at the top of the stairs carrying a gun. Come to think of it perhaps that was why we had to be there.
Hancock, you were Tailor shops in Hong Kong...Singing 'Do-wop' music on the fantail, Capt. Brassfield turning out the smoking lamp on the Fantail- what was his problem any way? Poker and pinochle round the clock during long weekends at sea. Movies with cigarette smoke so thick you could cut it with a knife; made even less entertaining by some yahoo from Oklahoma named David talking to the movies like they were alive. The brothers and the homies jiving, Harris talking jive about his Duker's A.C. the big boxer from Newark forging the beginning of the black experience "Black and damn proud of it".
Man overboard -some sailor sleeping on the catwalk rolled a little too far and fell into the South China Sea. He spent nine hours in the water without even a pair of skivvies, swimming toward the ship all the time, we finally found him before the sharks did, when the chopper came down with him a big crowd came up on deck cheering, he was a sun burned tired hero...
Memories...Hancock you have a hold in our minds and the hatches are dogged and watertight, you're not a ghost you are real in our memories. We can still see those red shirts bust'n the chow line...general quarters...our special weapons guys with the Marine Detachment 'jar heads' leading the 'A Bombs' through the hanger deck with weapons at the ready.... your contingent of A6's, F8's, Whales, CODs, Spads, helicopters, all in camera in our minds as you stood at the ready in Pearl for us to make a fast run to war , a war that in the end no one wanted or even understood but we went, we fought and we made a difference. You brought us all back - those that died are still there and those of us who were able are thankful.
Thanks Hancock CVA-19! I'll always remember you as an Attack Carrier. Thanks USS Hancock CVA-19! You were a good place to have for this "red neck boy" to grow up. You moved around to a whole bunch of cool places and best of all - you provided a lot of men who came before me and those who came after, the opportunity to be just that: men doing a sometimes-boring, no-getting-out-of it job.... Our bunch rode you to war and we fought together.... I'll always remember you as you were, a Lady, a citadel, a fortress, a war ship, a proud tradition, and home for a while, a home full of friends...friends who now are traveling a road on which we may never meet again, but you live on USS Hancock CVA 19!
Richard E. "Rick" Roberts, GMT 3, W Division, USS Hancock CVA-19, 1963-67
Rick's story above is also available on this Website as a MS Word Document. You may download it by clicking here.
Note from the Yeoman: Rick provided for us some of the most eloquent words about our common experience on CVA-19, that your Yeoman has yet to read. I hope his words touch your own sensibilities like they did mine. Here, I thought I was alone in my deep feelings about a time in my own passage to manhood that I once regarded barely worth a casual recollection. What is it about time when we grow older that we can look fondly back to a less-than-pleasant time in our youth with so much reverie and with such longing? Maybe it is true that 'hind sight is 20-20? I know now, after the 7 years that this Website had its 'shake down' - that the thought of being alone with my feelings about the Hancock was much unfounded. I am thankful to men such as Rick, LCdr Garvey and the Rest of you, who visit here and agree that these times were worth keeping in our hearts. Thank you Rick, so very much, thank you! Make sure you read LCdr D. Garvey's poetic view of CVA-19 below ~ Jake
Submitted some years before 2003, but I
regret I did not date his story then - Jake
To write this author, send your message to Jake in Admin and ask to have your Message forwarded.
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USS Hancock Vietnam War Deployment History - 1964 - 1975
Bits and Pieces of our
Collective Hancock Experience
that makes up the Hancock Mystique
* The Clown mentioned here was none other than Roy Deardorf. Read a bit about this turn of events that turned out to be a 'Lucky' turn of events for Roy...
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