WEBMASTER: Dalton R. Phillips, HTCS (SW) - Retired, U.S. Navy


I retired from the U.S. Navy in 1987 as a Senior Chief Petty Officer, after twenty-three years of service. I worked for several Military Contractors out of Jacksonville, Florida until October of 2004. My last employer was Bath Iron Works, one of the few remaining major shipbuilders with headquarters in Bath, Maine. I was part of their fleet liaison and support team in Mayport, Florida. I provided on site configuration management and logistics support services to the surface warfare ships homeported there.

I am a disabled veteran, now totally retired. With this website, I hope to share some of my memories as a young sailor serving on the aged aircraft carrier USS HANCOCK (CVA-19) from 1964 to 1968, during the Vietnam War.

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Last updated 11/21/2018





USS HANCOCK (CVA-19) was an ESSEX CLASS aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy.  Commissioned in 1944, HANCOCK saw service during World War Two and was struck by a Japanese Kamikaze off Okinawa in 1945. in the early 1950's, It was the first U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier to be modified to include the angled flight deck and equipped with steam catapults. The HANCOCK made seven combat deployments to Vietnam between 1965 and 1972. It was engaged in the evacuation when the war finally ended in 1975. It was decommissioned and sold for scrap in 1976.


The Days of Long Hair and Short Skirts!

We were not war heroes. Most of us never fired a shot at the enemy and we were not shot at while we served on HANCOCK. We were just ordinary sailors, doing what we were ordered to do.  Most of us were between the ages of 17 and 24 years old. We worked hard doing our jobs to keep that old ship running so we could stay on the line. Our main reason for being there was to launch and recover our aircraft in support of the war effort in Vietnam. Our aircraft provided support for friendly forces in South Vietnam and bombed selected military targets in North Vietnam, in coordination with the U.S. Air Force. We came from all over the U.S.A.  Most of us came from small towns in the heartland regions of America.  Some came from the big cities - New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Atlanta, Houston and Seattle - among others. it was the first time some of us white boys from the south had ever associated with Negroes and it was the first time many of them had associated with whites. It was "The Age of Aquarius" - the world was being turned upside down by changes brought about by Dr. Martin Luther King and his followers, the "Now Generation", the "British Invasion" and the "Hippie Revolution".  For the most part, it was all "cool and groovy" but there were some sad and tragic times.  The U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War was a point of controversy from the start. We were young and high spirited - full of energy and new ideas, ready to meet all of the challenges and changes.  We were also gullible and very naive. It was a learning experience for all of us. On the HANCOCK  we were a close knit bunch and we  all stood together to get the job done.





(Pictures are taken from the 1966 and 1967 cruise books.)


It takes many people to keep an Aircraft Carrier operating.  On the HANCOCK, there were over fifteen hundred men in the "Ship's Company".  Most of us had nothing to do with working on the Flight Deck, around the aircraft. We were the "worker bees" who did the routine work that had to be done all over the ship - the clerks, cooks, medics, technicians, mechanics, electricians and other craftsmen of all kinds. We kept all of the wheels turning.

 I served in the Repair Division, under a Warrant Officer who - was always called "the Carpenter".  That seemed odd to me, since there are very few items made of wood on Navy ships with steel hulls. We worked all over the ship. We were the "grunts" who did the heavy lifting - jacks of all trades, masters of none. We were assigned to the Engineering Department, since much of the repair work we did was in the main machinery spaces. The main propulsion engineers didnít claim us until something broke down and they needed our services to fix it. We were known as "fresh air snipes". When something on the ship was broke down and had to be fixed, the Repair Division was usually the first to be called in. I did welding jobs near the top of the main mast, about ten stories above the flight deck. I also did repair work in the dark and dirty keel bottom tanks - eight or nine decks below the flight deck. I Earned my stripes back in those days.

A few notes of interest about Navy history and tradition: In the sailing ship days of the 1600's and 1700's in the British Navy, the Carpenter was an important figure on all ships. He was primarily responsible to the Captain for the maintenance of the wooden hull, to maintain its strength and water tightness. He was an important player in the Captainís Team. He also assisted the Ship's Bo'sun in maintaining the boats, repairing the masts, platforms and riggings. In battle, he sometimes even assisted the Ship's Surgeon, by sawing off the limbs of sailors who were badly wounded.  These special assistants were basically civilian contractors - older men who were all very experienced in their fields. The Carpenter supervised the loading of the vessel, to make sure it stayed in "proper trim" in order to be sea worthy. He took charge of all repairs to everything made of wood. He was the main player when it came to keeping the ship afloat. Several seamen worked under the Carpenter. They did the heavy lifting and performed the tasks the Carpenter ordered them to do. In battle, they were responsible for fighting fires, evacuating the wounded, controlling flooding, removing wreckage and repairing battle damage.

In sailing ship days, the organization of the new American Navy was patterned after the British Navy. Typically, a ship had a commissioned Captain, a commissioned Lieutenant (First Mate), a few midshipmen in training and several assistants, civilians who served under special warrants. The assistants (later Navy Corps Officers or Warrant Officers) included the Surgeon (doctor), Chaplain, Purser, Sailing Master (sail maker), Boatswain (bo'sun), Gunner, Carpenter and some others. A pool of several seamen worked under these assistants, sometimes rotating around among them, when it was necessary.

Things became more specialized in the U.S. Navy starting in the early 1800's - seamen could choose to become "strikers" so they could eventually become Boatswain's Mates, Gunner's Mates, Carpenter's Mates, etc.  Earning the designation as a "Mate" was a very important milestone for them.

In the U.S. Navy, the Carpenter's Mates later became the Damage Controlmen and Blacksmiths (shipfitters). 

In keeping with tradition, a U.S. Navy Warrant Officer with the designation "Ship Repair Technician" is still called "the Carpenter". Things hadn't changed much since the days of the sailing ships when I was on the HANCOCK. The main concern for the Damage Controlmen and Shipfitters was still keeping the hull in good shape to maintain watertight integrity and seaworthiness. Those ratings were later combined to create a new rating - "Hull Maintenance Technician", which is what I was when I retired in 1987.

The hull is a ships most important component - whether it is made of wood or metal or plastic or titanium. That hasn't changed since the days of sailing ships and it never will change. 

On the HANCOCK, those of us in the Repair Division were a rough and rowdy bunch. Throughout the Navy, the DC's and SF's were generally known to have more muscles than brains. We prided ourselves for being carousing hard drinking bad-asses. As I look back at the pictures of us in the old cruise books, I see mostly a bunch of kids. That is really what we were. That is the way it was for all of the soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors who served in the Vietnam War - we were just a bunch of scared kids placed in a bad situation and we were all trying to make the best of it. We did our duty and we stood up for each other. I am proud of my service. Although I did not see combat, by doing my job on the USS HANCOCK I helped keep the planes flying. Our planes were there to provide support to our soldiers and marines, helping to get them out of some tough scrapes out in the bush in South Vietnam. They were there to ward off attacks by the Viet Cong and North Vietnam regular army forces on friendly villages in South Vietnam, and helped save the lives of innocent people in South Vietnam. They were there to take the war to North Vietnam. I have to say that I would do it all over again. Jane Fonda has her opinion and I have mine.





James C. Donaldson, Jr., Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy (retired) died May 27, 1994





Chief Warrant Officer Mathiasen was the Ship's Carpenter and Fire Marshall. He was a veteran of World War Two. Tall, proud and distinguished looking, he was one of the most senior Warrant Officers on the ship and demanded respect.  Not too many of the other officers on the ship wanted to mess with him because he always stood up for what he thought was right, even if it meant locking horns with a senior officer. He set very high standards but he always stood up for us and took good care of us.

Senior Chief Empey was the Division Leading Chief. He had little to say to us - unless we needed special attention. He was a very tough man who believed in "fan room counseling". That means he would take you to a secluded space for counseling.  It would just be the two of you, with no witnesses around - this kind of counseling sometimes included being slapped up beside the face a few times by the Senior Chief, as he gave you a good loud cussing out. He had been a boxer and wrestler as a younger man and he could still throw a mean punch.  I am not sure counseling is the right word for it - the Senior Chief did all of the talking and we stood at attention and listened to what he had to say. He usually got his point across, his way. It sounds crude but that kind of old Navy discipline was fairly common in those days.  It was also effective because none of us wanted to be counselled by Senior Chief Empey. He was relieved by Senior Chief Hennessey. Chief Hollis ran the Pipe Shop. He was an easy going man with a quiet fatherly bearing. He was ready to retire. He spent a lot of time with John Wayne when he visited the ship. Chief Wilson ran the Damage Control gang. He was high strung and liked to holler a lot but he took good care of his sailors. He was quite wheeler and dealer - a cumshaw artist who  knew how to make deals with the Chiefs from the other divisions, to get us the things we needed. Shipfitter First Class Benoit ran the Metalsmith's Shop. He was a no nonsense supervisor that we all respected, although many of the guys did not like him or his way of running things. He was a New Englander and had very little sense of humor. Everything was done by the book, his way.  We all lined up around a long work table in the shop for morning musters, standing at attention. Petty Officer Benoit then read the Plan of the Day to us  and made the daily work assignments. He expected us to follow his instructions to the letter and things had to done his way. I heard he was promoted to Chief shortly after leaving the Hancock, after he was relieved by Chief Zywicki.

    (Rene "Ben" Benoit died February 14, 2011 in San Diego, California)


Harold Preston "Jeep" Streeper, Captain, U.S. Navy (retired) died June 23, 2011 in North Carolina




Warrant Officer Hayes was the Ship's Carpenter and Fire Marshall. He relieved Chief Warrant Officer Mathiasen and had some big shoes to fill. He previously served on the HANCOCK only a few years earlier as a First Class Petty Officer, before he was selected to be a Warrant Officer. Many of the crew had known him when he was a First Class Petty Officer. This was his first assignment as a Warrant Officer and he did the job well. He earned our respect with his hands on approach but I think some of the Chiefs resented him, for the same reason. He sometimes tried to be "the Chief" and they did not like that, especially since he never served as a Chief Petty Officer.

         (Lon L. Hayes died July 8, 2010 in Ohio)

Senior Chief Hennessey was the Division Leading Chief and also ran the Pipe Ship. He was a New Yorker who told stories about growing up on the tough streets of New York City. As a boy, he was very poor and had little formal schooling before joining the Navy. He took full advantage of the Navy's programs to continue his education. Coming from that background, he was driven to succeed and he drove all of us just as hard. He was young to be a Senior Chief.  He was an intelligent and high energy leader who always had a 'can do" attitude.  He was sometimes cocky and flamboyant  -  very egotistical and too demanding. He was quick to criticize and slow to offer praise - qualities that I did not particularly like. Still, I respected him for being the dynamic and self confidant leader that he was, to keep us charged up. Although I did not like some of his ways,  I learned a lot from him. Chief Lawley ran the Damage Control gang. He was quiet spoken and knew his business. He was a father figure to the young sailors that worked under him. Chief Zywicki ran the Metalsmith's Shop. He came on board as a First Class Petty Officer and was promoted to Chief shortly after he arrived on board. Before coming to the HANCOCK he served on a yard tender in Danang, South Vietnam - which came under hostile fire several times. He was glad to be on the aircraft carrier, where he was not being shot at. He was an expert sheetmetal mechanic and liked to show us how it was done. He was usually jovial and easy going but was also subject to temper outbursts, especially if he thought you were not paying attention during his teaching sessions.

*John Henry King died September 12, 1967, from injuries received in a car wreck. He was on leave in Texas.


We had a good mix of people at the senior levels within the Repair Division. Our morale was high and we were highly motivated to work hard to do our jobs well.

As I advanced in the Navy through the years that followed, I patterned my own leadership style based in large part on what I observed and learned from the senior people I served under on the HANCOCK during the first four years of my service. I tried to pick out the good qualities that all of them had and avoid the bad qualities they all had - I am not sure that I accomplished that.








** Some terminology used by sailors when talking about other sailors and stuff**

AIREDALES - sailors in the aviation branch of the Navy

BLACK SHOES - a term used by the airedales to describe all other sailors

BB STACKERS -  gunner's mates

BUBBLEHEADS - submariners

CHARLIE OSCAR - the Captain (Commanding Officer)

COFFIN MAKERS - damage controlmen (carpenters)

DECK APES - boatswain's mates

GEAR HEADS - enginemen

MONKEY MATES - machinist's mates

OSCAR - The floatable dummy thrown overboard to practice boat recoveries during Man Overboard Drills.

SKIMMERS -  a term used by submariners to describe the surface ship sailors

SKIVVIE WAVERS - signalmen

SNIPES - sailors in the engineering ratings

SPOOKS - Communications Technicians


TIN BENDERS - shipfitters (metalsmiths)

TURD CHASERS - shipfitters (pipefitters)

WOOD BUTCHERS - damage controlmen (carpenters)

ZERO - officer






(technically - ocean going vessels in the U.S. Navy are ships. That includes submarines.)


Submarines are called boats - Navy surface ships are never called boats

All types of aircraft carriers (CVA,CVS, LPH) were called "Flat Tops"

The oldest attack aircraft carriers (CVA) used during the Vietnam War were almost as long as 3 football fields -Today's super aircraft carriers are over 200 feet longer than those older Vietnam War era CVA's.