Dennis F. Milliken
"N" (Navigation) Division Quartermaster
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The following letter was sent to me by a former shipmate who had been searching for some years, hoping to find someone he served with on the USS Hancock (CVA-19), and following a search on the WWW, he found Jake's 'Yankee Station'... But before you read this letter, I suggest you first get some background by reading my own personal memoirs of my Navy days. You can't fully appreciate what Dennis says here until you first read my story. If you have already read my memoirs, then you can continue on here.
This is Dennis F. Milliken as a young Sailor
This is what Dennis Milliken had to say...
After searching cyber space for nearly15 years in an effort to make contact with veterans or someone associated with the USS Hancock and/or Sangley Pt. Naval Air Station, during the "Early Bird Years; and searching for information on the USS Hancock's early evolvement in that conflict, circa. 1962-1963, First Contact has been rewardingly received through your Home Page devoted to your tour of duty aboard the Hancock. Also, through a few years of honing my skills in web surfing, I stumbled onto the Hancock Association page and recently the Naval Historical Site pages which really brought out some definitive information on the Hancock's involvement during my 1962 and 1963 deployments aboard the Hancock.
"Jake, when you were composing your narrative on the time spent aboard the Hancock; little did you know that you could have well been writing about another Sailor's experiences aboard the USS Hancock. And an even more chilling aspect of our time spent on the Hancock, is the close proximity that both of us stood some of our Watches. Forgive me if I generate a little suspense here, but I can't help it!!
"Let me set a hypothetical situation. Sometime during the 1963 cruise, maybe after the emergency recall out of Hong Kong, BCC, November, your standing the 0800-1200 Captain's bridge phone talker watch; looking out the Bridge windows forward you see a mass of ships assembled, helo's taking off from the Hancock and landing on another carrier (possibly an LPH). In order to get a better view, or maybe to ask the Officer of Deck the composition of the Task force or its designation, a slender somewhat acne face sailor makes his way from the Pilot house location of the QMOW (Quartermaster of the Watch) stand-up desk where the Deck log was maintained..!! Bingo Jake! I stood Bridge watches during this period of time and the rest of 1963 cruise, and I just know we must have, in passing, talked or at least made eye contact!!!!
"Another eerie event I recall from a Bridge watch stood a long-long time ago, was the concern of some bridge watch personnel during a heavy storm (Typhoon in the vicinity) observing a person trudging the flight deck aft disappearing under the folded up wings of the A1Hs' parked there. COULD IT BE ??????
"You also mention some of the fatalities of Hancock crewmen.. The F8 pilot who lost power right after being catapulted..
"The Airdale that backed into the props of a plane being positioned for launch (I was up in Pri-fly setting a clock when that happened) The other airman that was driving the liquid oxygen cart/truck that exploded on Starboard side of the Island structure, right beneath the bridge. My recollection was that he was burned beyond recognition; not a man overboard, although man Overboard was called.
"Well anyway Jake, your page stunned me so bad that it took almost three months to respond. Every time I sat down to compose some E-mail to you, I rambled on too much, just like now.
"My Naval career consisted of enlisting in May of 1961, right out of high school, some navy schooling, assigned to the Navigation Dept. on the Hancock October 1961-Feb. 1964. Then guess what ? I extended my enlistment for glory to be able to accept orders to join the staff of Commander in Chief Naval Forces Philippines at Sangley Pt. near Manila and spent two years and five months . I held the record there for being stationed the longest time at an overseas duty station . I fell into the cracks of EPDOPAC. When I received orders to Sangley, I had only one year and four months left, need eighteen. They wouldn't just extend you four months had to be a year. Then guess what happened in October of 1965??? They suspended normal regular navy discharge time (involuntary extension of active duty time) . I didnít know when I was going to be let out until around February 1966. It was supposed to be April of 1966). They finally let people out in 1-3-4 monthly increments, until everyone was finally getting discharged on their regular dates. I made it out in July 1966. That was definitely a stressful time for me. A non-married sailor's tour of over-seas duty was supposed to be eighteen months. After that time expired, they told I wouldn't be able to go anywhere else because I had (up until Oct. 1966), not enough time to qualify for another transfer.
"WELL, enough of this, I will keep on viewing your page and the Hancock Association. Page to keep from growing any older, I hope. This has been an interesting year or two for me Presidential wise. For the first time, I'm older than a sitting President; and the first presidential candidate I voted for just died (Barry Goldwater).
"Bye for now Jake, time for lights out.
Dennis F. Milliken"
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More of Dennis to Enjoy...
To start with, your Home Page/Hancock tribute site is looking Five by Five. It definitely makes a person feel like the ship is still out there with the fleet and not just a memory. Sometimes I get the sensation, that when we end our respective cruises in life, we will somehow have a similar ending that Rose had in the Titanic movie."
Now on to some sea stories. You previously ask if I ever encountered the wrath of the Skipper. Yes..Yes I did!
"I was standing a Helm watch during a Air Defense Condition One or Two. The ship was also recovering aircraft. The sea state was extremely calm, with little or no wind coming across the Bow of the ship and the fight deck. It was extremely important to have a certain amount of wind coming down the fight deck for good recovery operations. It must of helped the pilots keep control of their aircraft during the final seconds of landing, which amounted to not much more than a controlled crash.
"In order to keep a sufficient amount of wind coming down the flight deck, the Hancock was kicking out as many knots as the old girl could muster. Also, the Officer that had the Con was using the wind gauges to try and keep the ship heading as closely into the wind as possible. To accomplish this task, the Con officer was constantly relaying small degrees of course changes, anywhere from 3-5 degrees.
"With the sea state being extremely calm, no wind to speak of, and the rate of speed the Hanna was maintaining, the slightest degree of rudder angle change would quickly alter the course of the ship. As soon as I would receive a new heading to steer, I would be required to use just the right amount of rudder angle change to slowly bring the ship to the new heading. If I would apply too much rudder, and I did, the ship would change course too quickly. Then, in an attempt to hopefully steady up on the desired course heading, I applied too much rudder in the opposite direction. This resulted in never steadying up on the required heading. The Con officer was still trying to keep the wind dead ahead and continued to give me new headings to steer. While trying to steady up on any one of the constant course changes, and over compensating on opposite rudder angles to accomplish this task, I had the Happy Hanna bouncing all over the South China Sea (better known as fish-tailing). The fan tail of the ship was constantly moving back and forth making it difficult for good recovery of aircraft.
"And then came along the Skipper, bursting out of his at sea cabin after just receiving a call from Pri-Fly (the air-ops bridge), wanting to know what the &*%*%^&$ was going on. He didn't confront me personally, but he did berate the officer who had the Con and instructed everyone in charge to quickly get me off the Helm. He then just as quickly left the Bridge. Both myself and the Coning officer were relieved of our respective duties that day. Surpassingly the officer was back standing another bridge watch a few days later, when I was also on the QMOW duties. We did confer and agreed that we both had a bad experience on that day, with both of us accepting or respective share of fault."
And now for a more rewarding experience at the helm of the Hancock!
Bill Shipley's account of an emergency breakaway brought back another memorable experience onboard the Hancock....
"During a underway replenishment, I was standing the Aft-steering watch. Aft-steering was located adjacent to the compartment that held the Rudder mechanisms. It was located a deck or two below the water line. Aft-steering consisted of two Electro-hydraulic steering engines. One was always engaged. Each unit had a wheel(helm) for steering, a steering compass, and a rudder angle indicator, which included a rudder angle telegraph. When steering was shifted from the bridge to aft-steering, the bridge could give complete control to the QM on duty by relaying the desired course to be maintained, along with ship's speed, wind direction, and sea state. All of this information was passed along through the sound-powered phone system. Generally the only time that steering control was passed down to Aft-steering was during the routine rotation of the steering engines, that usually took place during the mid-watch. The bridge would either pass word down using the the sound-powered phones to take control of the rudder and switch steering engines and then steer for awhile. Or the bridge could activated the alarm that would sound in Aft-steering and then the QM would quickly engage the rudder controls, test the rudder by moving the wheel a few inches to the left or right to see if the rudder angle indicator moved accordingly. You could also hear the rudder gear groan and moan behind you anytime the wheel was moved. If the bridge wanted to have some control over the helmsman in aft-steering, they could use the rudder angle telegraph. The rudder angle indicator had two needles. One was controlled from the pilot house by the helmsman. The Aft-steering helmsman would move his helm/wheel just enough to match the degree of rudder requested by the bridge.
Now for the excitement!
"Standing watch in Aft-steering during underway replenishment normally was very boring and uneventful. There I was trying to pass the time in less than desirable conditions of heat, sweat, and the constant droning of the steering engine and associated ship's rumbling, and the secure feeling that having another ship along side there would be no action in aft-steering on this watch.
"YEA.....RIGHT!!!! The Lost control of the Rudder on the bridge alarm goes off...Knowing there is no accidental way the alarm could be activated, I went through the required procedures of taking control of the rudder. First. pulling a lever on the steering engine working at the time, the Electrician's mate switches electric controls to aft-steering along with main-control doing something, and then suddenly remembering the Hanna still had a replenishment taking place, I gingerly had to test the rudder to verify that aft-steering had positive control of the rudder and reporting the same to the bridge via the sound-powered phone system.
"The sound-powered phone system, the noise factor in aft-steering, the excitement on the bridge and my own concerns of what was actually happening turned into a sea-story worth telling.
"Once I established control of the rudder, I started receiving orders via the sound-powered phones, course to steer etc.,.etc!
"However, the sailor on the other end got excited and wasn't passing on clear commands. Along with the sound phones being less than effective at the time because of the noise, he couldn't relay to the Officer of the Deck and Coning Officer that I had indeed had control of the rudder. I guess he sort of froze up on the bridge phones and another more commanding voice came on line. After verifying I had control of the rudder and was steering the last relayed course heading, the bridge decided to use the rudder angle telegraph feature to pass down steering commands. Still having a ship along side, it was more efficient and easier to keep the ship on a steady heading. During underway replenishment, having the commands passed from the officer in control to the phone talker, acknowledged by the phone talker, then passed on to aft-steering and then acknowledged in reverse fashion would have led to a lot of confusion. During this time the Hancock and the ship along side initiated "emergency break-away" procedures, not to the extreme related in Bill Shipley's encounter, but reportedly in a more controlled fashion. The whole event took place near the end of the underway replenishment process.
"It was never determined why the helmsman reported that he lost control of the rudder on the bridge. It could have been a number of things. Sometimes the wheel and the rudder indicator don't react as quickly as they should. When turning the wheel, it may of felt loose or free wheeling indicating that something was not right with the steering system. As with anything mechanical, things can and will go wrong.
"Later in the day I did get a atta-boy from the division officer on the way I handled my end of the events in aft-steering. It sort of wiped the slate clean in respect to the 'Skipper Episode'."
One final sea story Jake! This one will clearly be a shocker!!!!??
"Remember in the late sixties or early seventies, when draftees were looking for a way out of being inducted? With that in mind here is a little tid-bit on my journey to the Hancock.
"My induction date into the Navy was May 28th, 1961. Prior to my arrival at the recruitment/induction center in Boise, Idaho, from Pocatello, ID. I weighed in at a strapping 112 pounds. I took all exams and filled out all the paper work required for induction. However, after all that was completed, I was called into the Doctor's office and I was told I did not have the required weight for my height, which was 5' 10". The required weight for that height was around 120 pounds.
"The time was approximately 12 noon, and I was informed that some boys have gone home and went on a special diet of water and Bananas, etc., to gain the required weight and have come back in a week or so and passed the weight guidelines for the physical. Sometimes, I was told, that had been accomplished in less time.
Not to be left out on continuing on to boot camp with the group I traveled with from Pocatello, here is what transpired....
"I left the induction center and found a Walgreen's Drug store with a lunch counter. Requesting and receiving an empty rootbeer syrup mix jug and then having it filled with water, I then found a Albertson's grocery store and purchased 10 pounds of bananas!! The State Capital grounds was about two blocks. I took my jug of water and the bananas and found a comfortable spot under a big shade tree. For about 3-4 hours, I indulged myself in a noble attempt to gain 8 to 9 pounds of weight. A 2 1/2 gal. jug of water and 10 pounds of bananas would do the trick. I really can't remember if I consumed the entire amount of water and bananas. A friend finally found me and saw what I was up too. He went and found the drug store across the street from the induction center. The drug store hand a weight scale, the kind you would put in a nickel or penny. He came back and drug me to the scales and it showed me weighing 122 pounds!! How accurate it was we didn't know. We proceeded to the induction center, which was just about ready to close, found the Doctor, he put me on the government scales. Bingo!!!120 pounds. The Doctor said the weight scale reading in the late morning must of been off. No one could gain that much weight in that short of time. He signed the papers. A few hours later I was sworn in, in company with the friends I traveled with from Pocatello. And Yes, I never ate a Banana split or even looked at a banana for some time. I have since introduced bananas into to my lunch diet. When someone at work comments about my 8:30 am banana break, I respond. "do you want to hear my banana-navy story"? Although I usually tell the story as if it were about someone else, and there perseverance in joining the Navy.
"Well, this should about wrap up most of my sea stories. What's the old saying? Five years in the Navy...five hours of noteworthy experiences....and five minutes to tell them all.!!!
Dennis F. Milliken"
Comment from Jake: What a great story these were, Dennis! I hope everyone enjoys them as much as I did.
About Aft-Steerage. I once bunked just above the aft-steerage compartment. This berthing compartment was assigned to the X-Division POs. I snuck in there, to sleep, because there were some empty bunks there, and lots of privacy. Read about Jake's story about Privacy sometime.
The compartment was small, tidy and comfy, except it was terribly noisy. When Dennis refreshed my memory about the noise, the groans and creeks that came from Aft-steerage below, my memory was tweeked about that little compartment where I slept for a time, before getting bumped out of there (I was only a Seaman at the time, and had no right to be there, as it was PO country).. but a great place to be in a typhoon, specially when the screws came out of the water and shook the ship till you thought all the rivets in her side would pop out! I'm sure anyone who's been at sea, and in a Typhoon knows exactly what I mean, and what goes through one's mind during these tenuous moments! ~ Jake
Our XO, Dennis Milliken, has continued his contribution to this site wonderfully by his narrative on how Time was kept onboard the Hancock and all other Navy ships of that Era.. Read about how Hanna kept time, ALL THE TIME...
Hanna Keeps Time