Carrier Capsules furnished by Rudolf J. Friederich
this collection are cameos of Hancock Operations only.
HANCOCK, CV 19, June 12, 1944
Fighting Hannah had not received her nickname yet. This date she is beginning her abbreviated shakedown cruise from Norfolk. Operations were held in the Atlantic and Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Paria. One port of call was Port au Prince, Trinidad, BWI. "…where it was too much work and not enough to play to allow us to try Port of Spain and the famed 'Rum and Coca Cola'. We did get ashore once or twice, to small but beautiful Scotland Bay, where we swam in crystal waters". HANCOCK returned to South Boston Navy Yard on Jul 04 for post shakedown repairs. Here, the last leaves were given before she went off to war.
HANCOCK, CVA 19 Apr 29 75
Operation Frequent Wind, the Evacuation of Saigon and Vietnam. Along with MIDWAY CVA 41; CORAL SEA CVA 43; and ENTERPRISE, CVAN 65; HANCOCK had one of her finest moments. Rushed from Operation Eagle Pull she began evacuations early on the morning of the 29th. Marine helicopters went to shore to pick up evacuees from the American embassy. As they left incoming Vietnam Air Force planes began to arrive en masse. General quarters was called. NCCM Cortland R. "Corky" Johnson, former Ass't Coordinator, ACSG, aboard HANCOCK at the time wrote this account for ACSG. These are excerpts from a 3-page article.
"South Vietnamese pilots began to land, their first and only carrier quals. Their last flight for their country. Ton Son Nhut was burning, and large black clouds of smoke were billowing into the sky. As soon as they touched down, we met them, disarmed them, and escorted them and their passengers below. ... I was in charge of a processing detail. It soon became almost too much. After a delousing spray their names and personal data was taken by ENs and PNs. At first it was a mass of disorganized, frightened, and confused humanity: people of every age, color and description: military people, old people, sick people, babies, etc. I still marvel at the magnificent job our great sailors and marines did in caring for them." At 1952 hours, † Apr 29, the last helicopter lifted off the embassy roof carrying Marine security guards.
If You Can See the Smoke It's Hancock CVA 19
Apr 29 75
This submission is from an officer who was at the evacuation scene off Saigon, Vietnam. See CarCaps No. 16 for related capsule on HANCOCK.
"I was the officer of the deck aboard the flagship BLUE RIDGE, LCC 19. She was the amphibious command ship during Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of Saigon. There were not enough helicopters in theater to support the refugee evacuation so Hancock was hustled out from the West Coast with a deck load of helicopters she left her air wing behind. MIDWAY, CVA 41, had also been sent to the operation without her air wing in order to provide another flight deck for refugee ops.
"We were anxiously awaiting Hancock's arrival on the morning of the 28th of April (if I recall correctly). This ship had a peculiarity that always stuck in my mind - it seems that every time I ever saw her, she was making black smoke (ships are not supposed to do this normally). Anyway, while I was on watch we were tracking a surface radar contact closing the force at high speed. When the contact was at about 28 miles looked through my binoculars and saw a plume of smoke on the contact's bearing (visual range from the bridge was about 9 miles). I called the Captain and told him that I had Hancock in sight. He replied that she was not due for another hour yet; how could I possibly see her? I just told him that Hancock was the only ship that I had ever seen that could make enough smoke to be seen 28 miles away. An hour later, Hancock joined up.
"As a sidelight, some of the helicopters were USAF. They were instructed to land aboard MIDWAY, CVA 41, only. MIDWAY had the largest flight deck (area-wise) of any carrier in the fleet and the admiral figured that the Air Force guys had a better chance of landing safely there than aboard a frigate or something". Submitted by Rick Quijada."
Rudolf J. "Rudy" Friederich, Coordinator
Aircraft Carrier Study Group Knoxville, TN 37923
1539 Fox Meadow Circle
Knoxvile, TN 37923
† Jake's comment: Regarding the last helicopter to arrive from the Embassy, my brother-in-law, Gunnery Sgt Ernest Lee Pace, USMC, was among those onboard. His picture was taken as the helicopter left the Embassy, clinging to the skids.