The USS Hancock: Asbestos Exposure Aboard the “Fighting Hannah”

Image of military personnel aboard an aircraft carrier, representing the crews who may have been exposed to asbestos while serving or working on the various missions of the USS Hancock and how Nemeroff Law Firm can help determine whether those suffering from asbestos-related illnesses as a result of that exposure are entitled to compensation.

The USS Hancock (CV/CVA-19) was an aircraft carrier of the Essex class built during World War II. The “Fighting Hannah” or simply “Hanna” served in World War II and the Vietnam War. The ship participated in critical operations in both conflicts as well as additional operations in the Pacific.

Like many of the ships built during the World War II era, asbestos on the Hancock is sadly a part of the craft’s history.

Service at Sea on the USS Hancock

Aircraft carriers have played an important role in United States history since they were first introduced into the U.S. Navy in 1922. The massive ships continue to be essential to American security today. The Hancock served proudly in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1976.

Construction of USS Hancock and World War II Service

The Hancock was ordered for the U.S. Navy during World War II. Originally planned as the USS Ticonderoga, construction began at Bethlehem Steel in Quincy, Massachusetts on January 26, 1943. After launching on January 24, 1944, the ship was commissioned on April 15, 1944 under the command of Captain Fred C. Dickey.

The Hancock became the flagship for Rear Admiral Gerald Bogan on October 5, 1944, joining the Pacific Third Fleet at Ulithi in the Caroline Islands. The ship assisted in air strikes against the Ryukyu Islands, Formosa, the Philippines, and Okinawa, which greatly weakened Japanese forces.

On November 25, 1944, the Hancock was attacked by a kamikaze. The plane was destroyed by anti-aircraft fire, but remains of the bomber crashed into the ship’s deck and exploded. The fire was extinguished quickly, so damage was minimal.

After supporting operations in the Pacific islands throughout November and December of 1944, the aircraft carrier rode out a typhoon on December 17. On January 21, 1945, a plane on the ship’s deck exploded. The blast killed fifty crewmen and injured another 75. The ship remained to strike at Okinawa the following day before heading to Ulithi on January 25.

In February 1945, the Hancock launched air strikes against Tokyo and provided tactical support for the Iwo Jima campaign. On March 18, the vessel was attacked again by kamikazes. Fragments of one plane that was shot down hit the carrier’s deck, but the ship escaped any major damage.

The Hancock provided air reinforcements for the Army landings at Okinawa on April 1, 1945. Six days later, a kamikaze struck the deck of the ship, destroying planes and igniting a large explosion that killed 62 men and injured 71. The aircraft carrier headed back to Pearl Harbor for repairs on April 9, 1945.

Back in action on June 13, 1945, the Hancock continued to launch strikes on Japanese airfields and other targets. After Japan’s surrender on August 15, 1945, the ship’s aircraft searched for prisoner of war camps and dropped desperately needed supplies and medicine to the prisoners.

Aircraft from the Hancock flew over the USS Missouri as the Japanese formally surrendered to the United States on September 2, 1945. The Hancock then brought thousands of troops home during Operation Magic Carpet. The ship was decommissioned on April 29, 1946.

A New Life as CVA-19

The USS Hancock was reclassified as an attack aircraft carrier, CVA-19, and recommissioned on February 15, 1954. Under the command of Captain W. S. Butts, the ship participated in a number of testing operations. In 1954, the Hancock became the first aircraft carrier with the ability to launch high-performance jets from its deck with the use of steam catapults. The craft was decommissioned again for further modifications on April 13, 1956.

Recommissioned once again on November 15, 1956, the Hancock participated in training exercises before several more deployments in the Pacific. In 1960, the carrier returned to San Francisco for several months to participate in the Communication Moon Relay project, demonstrating new possibilities for communication with ultra-high frequency waves.

On November 19, 1964, the Hancock arrived at Japan en route to Yankee Station near Vietnam. The ship spent several deployments supporting United Nations Peacekeeping Forces during the Vietnam War, earning Navy Unit Commendations and other military accolades. The carrier’s aircrews conducted thousands of strikes against North Vietnamese targets, and the ship helped evacuate American personnel when Saigon fell to North Vietnam in 1975.

The USS Hancock was decommissioned for the last time on January 30, 1976. The craft was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on January 31, 1976, and sold for scrap on September 1 of the same year. In addition to a Navy Unit Commendation from the Vietnam War, the aircraft carrier earned four battle stars for service in World War II. She was the last wooden-decked aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy, and she was the location for the filming of Elvis Presley’s appearance on The Milton Berle Show on April 3, 1956.

Asbestos on the USS Hancock

Like virtually all ships built during World War II, the Hancock was constructed using many asbestos-containing components. Asbestos was known for its resistance to heat, fire, water, and corrosion, so it could be found in nearly every part of the ship as well as in the 90 to 100 aircraft the vessel carried. Anyone who served aboard the Hancock or participated in the carrier’s repair and overhaul was put at risk for developing asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma, a dangerous form of cancer that attacks the protective lining surrounding the lungs and other organs.

Next Steps for Workers and Crew

Those who served or worked on the Hancock should monitor their health carefully. Those who were around the workers exposed to asbestos may also be at risk based on second-hand exposure. Anyone experiencing symptoms associated with mesothelioma, asbestosis, or other asbestos-related diseases should consult a doctor.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease after service or work on the USS Hancock, you should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss whether the affected person may be entitled to compensation. The Nemeroff Law Firm is a nationwide firm with experience in handling cases of mesothelioma and other diseases caused by asbestos exposure. Contact us today at 866-342-1929 for a free and confidential case evaluation or complete our online form now.

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