Richard A. Kirsch, PH3, USNR

Recommissioning Crew - Key Runner and Photo Lab 1953- '55

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Rich Kirsch on the F7U Cutlass and how he was assigned to the Photo Lab on Hannah...

Rich Kirsch comes aboard the Hancock for the First time…
Young 19 year old Rich Kirsch
I didn't go to the photo school with the navy. I got most of my training at John Muir college in Pasadena Ca. It was a summer school session in 1952. We did use the SpeedGraphic among other Cameras including ones that were 8x10. At the time I was in the Naval Air Reserve. After graduation I attended the University of California at Santa Barbara. While there my grades reflected the party atmosphere that existed at that University, and I was "Drafted." My reserve unit activated me and I was sent to Bremerton, WA.

I was assigned to the Hancock as a "
Key runner" and my duty station happened to be the Photo Lab. A Key Runner is someone who unlocks work spaces for the Yard Birds. They routinely keep all spaces locked down during Refitting when no Crew is living aboard, in which case they need someone to go unlock the spaces that are being worked in at the time. This is how I became very familiar with most spaces on the Hancock, from Stem to Stern, from masthead to double bottoms. There was no space aboard the ship that I didn't see or know where it was. It was a very "informative job" if nothing else. I probably have seen more of the ship than any other member of our Crew living or dead today.

Since the ship had no photo personnel yet I was able to get transferred to the lab when the ship was commissioned.

I have always been a lucky. We had a lot of onboard training with the Mitchell 35 mm movie cameras and the 16 mm. Most of my time was spent with the A20 a 4x5 roll film camera. The camera you see me holding in the picture to the right.

Most of my time aboard the ship was shake down cruise's. As you know we were the first US ship with the Steam Catapult and the Mark7 Arresting Gear.

We had cameras running full time while underway. All Flight operations had a full complement of cameras running. High speed move cameras for speed calibrations on take offs and landings. Still cameras for posterity. During the busy months we would be on deck at sun up to sun down taking pictures and up until 2 am developing and printing. Still I would stand in line to do it all over again.

A Question posted to Rich on the F7U Cutlass invoked this response from Rich, which your Yeoman felt should be added to this section…

Hi Jake,

You asked if we had the F7U Cutlass aboard in a Squadron. Yes, we tested the Cutlass. Better known as the Gutless.

I can't say for sure if we ever had Cutlass' aboard as an operating Squadron during normal Air Operations, but we did have it aboard for testing.

When we had the Cutlass aboard it was the first twin jet with afterburners to be launched from a carrier.

On its first attempted launch it had to be aborted because it started to burn the wooden deck.

The next launch attempt had firemen lying on their stomachs spraying water into the jet wash.

Firemen are spayiing water to cool Deck for this Cutlass Launch

F7U Cutlass being prepared for Launch - Deck Crew sprays water to cool deck
I was watching "Sea Wings" on TV awhile back and I think I have this incident recorded. This wet-down was only done twice. They reinforced the deck with steel plating in front of the deflector shields.

The first launch with the water spray was almost my undoing. My camera station was behind and above the deflector screen on a little perch attached to the superstructure. When they turned on the water during the run-up, it turned to steam leaving me breathless, useless and helpless. I tried to jump overboard but my headphones kept me from reaching the railing. The ship quivered and I knew then that the plane was gone. I went to sickbay and was treated for a burn on my wrist and under my eye where my goggles didn't cover my face. I was shaken, scalded some, but otherwise OK. However, I refused to man that station as it was until things were changed. The next launch I was given an extension cord to operate the camera from a safer location.

Rich Kirsch

Rich now has a Website which pays tribute to his time aboard the Fighting Hannah..

When you are finished your Tour on this Memorial, make sure you visit PH3 Richard A. Kirsch's Fighting Hannah. A tribute to the Middle Years Hannah - from 1945-1956 When she finally got her Angled Deck and Hurricane Bow.

This Gallery is given to you from the perspective of a Photographer's Mate who was busy snapping pictures and running the 16 mm Camera taking Movies that you see so much these days on YOUTUBE.COM.

Visit the Op Division - 1953-1956