Donald Wilson: USS Hancock CV-19 Launched

The keel for the CV-19 had been laid down January 26, 1943, eight days after Donald and Rose Wilson were married in Washington State. The USS Hancock was built at the Bethlehem Steel Company Shipyard at Quincy, Massachusetts.

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Donald Wilson had survived the loss of the USS Yorktown (CV-5) at the Battle of Midway. After helping bake out engines on the USS California (BB-44), which had been sunk at Pearl Harbor, refloated, and sailed to the Puget Sound Navy Yard at Bremerton, Washington. Donald was selected to attend an Interior Communications Electrical School in Washington, DC. He also played a little baseball.

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Donald is second from left in the back row.

Donald and Rose had gone to a movie New Year’s Eve, and noted that a lot of people were celebrating New Years, but he didn’t see “a damn thing to celebrate about yet.” Don’s brother Delbert was also going to school there. In January, 1944, both couples visited the Smithsonian together.

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Donald had just finished up Interior Communications Electrical School, and would be leaving Washington, DC. Graduation was January 24, 1944, the same day the Hancock was launched.

After graduation practice, they were assigned their ships. Donald’s choices were a new aircraft carrier or a receiving station at either Boston or San Francisco for further transfer. He chose the USS Hancock in Boston, figuring it would take awhile before commissioning.

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Two days later Don and Rose left for Boston.

Donald was kept busy making up record and test sheets, preparing lists of tools and instruments they’d need. His younger brother Dale had been Missing in Action since the end of November. Don decided not to write any more letters to him, as he figured his squadron in New Guinea probably had plenty of mail to handle.

He didn’t know if there were many islands along the north coast of New Guinea, but sure hoped Dale and his bomber crew had made it to land. “If they got out of their plane Ok they would be about a mile out from the New Guinea coast from the place they attacked. That’s not so good, unless they weren’t seen by the Japs.”

The Hancock was about a hundred feet longer than the Yorktown, he wrote. “More armored decks, etc. With the odds in our favor out there now, should be a letter better than the last time–on the Yorktown.”

After weeks organizing and settling in, the ship was commissioned in a ceremony April 15–less than 15 months after the keel was laid. Rose got to attend the commissioning. Destined for the Pacific Fleet, the “Hannah’s” training exercises were held in the Atlantic, where U-boats and mines still lurked.

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Hancock shakedown. CEM Donald Wilson is third from left in the third row.

The Fighting Hannah: A War History of the U.S.S. Hancock CV-19 by E. G. Hines, USNR (Nashville: Battery Press, 1946)


    • I’d only heard about the Yorktown, so was really surprised to learn how much more combat he ended up in when we were just babies. From about October 1944 through the end of the war!

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