Bull Durham

Donald Wilson survived the sinking of the USS Yorktown (CV-5) at Midway in June of 1942. He helped bake out engines on the refloated battleship USS California (BB-44) at Pearl Harbor and at the Puget Sound Navy Yard on the west coast. He received a citation for being part of the attempt to savage the Yorktown and was promoted to Chief Electrician’s Mate that fall.

After insisting that the Navy was no place for a married man, he married Rose, a Bremerton, Washington “woman of middle age” he wrote home to his folks in January of 1943.

Eight days after they were married, the keel the fourth USS Hancock (CV-19) was laid down in January 1943 by the Bethlehem Steel Company Shipyard at Quincy, Massachusetts.  

Don was selected for a Naval Interior Communications School on the east coast. He and Rose traveled across the country by train and stopping in Iowa to meet all of Don’s relatives.

After several months in Washington, DC,  Don’s graduation was January 24, 1944, the same day the USS Hancock was launched. When the graduated were assigned their ships, he chose the new carrier which was still in Boston, figuring it would take awhile before commissioning.

Plank Owner

A plank owner is crew member of a ship when placed in commission. This was the second time Donald Wilson became a plank owner of an aircraft carrier. CV-19 denotes that the Hancock was the nineteenth carrier built. The Yorktown was the CV-5, so you can see how quickly the U.S. began to build aircraft carriers during the war.

A new ship always goes through a shake-down cruise (theirs was held off Trinidad and Venezuela), returning for alterations, so Donald didn’t return to the west coast and combat until the fall of 1944. The ship joined Admiral W. F. Halsey’s Third Fleet in October at Ulithi atoll, where the fleet returned after several days of battle to refuel and reprovision, and the crew receive mail and relax.

CEM Donald Wilson, age 26

Admiral McCain

The USS Hancock, or Hannah–as they affectionately called the carrier–took part in nearly every major naval battle during the rest of the war. She became flagship of Fast Carrier Task Force 38 on November 17, 1944, when Vice Adm. John Sidney “Slew” McCain came on board.

McCain (2)

Admiral McCain asked CEM Donald Wilson to relocate his telephone on the carrier. While working on it, Don noticed quite a bit of tobacco on the carpet of the admiral’s cabin.

Cigarettes on board the ship were only forty cents a carton, but Admiral McCain rolled his own.

Bull Durham.

The “Fighting Hannah”: A War History of the U.S.S. Hancock CV-19 by E. G. Hines, USNR, 1946.

Uncle Don’s letter to me about Adm. McCain.


  1. This is great to see for the Hancock. Slew McCain, John the Sr. My Dad’s ship was caught in same typhoon they were in … Jan ’45 I think.
    His son, Adm John McCain II, was my CINCPAC Fleet overall commander of Pacific forces when I arrived at Schofield on Oahu in’72. Then I got an autographed copy of John III’s ” Faith of my Fathers” when was here in 2000. In April 2009, my son got to hear John McCain address a luncheon put on by the American Chamber of Commerce… in Hanoi.
    We have 3 generations of connection with the McCains.

    • Fascinating history with the McCains, Dave. Thanks for adding that. The typhoon was December 18, 1944. My blog post for a book about it about it is scheduled for December 11. Uncle Don put me onto that book, too.

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