Interview of Jack Hancox
Trancript Number 032
INTRODUCTION: This is Steven Heffner interviewing radioman second class Jack Hancox, a veteran of World War II in connection with the World War II Veterans Oral History Preservation Project being held today June 11, 2000, at 9:08 a.m. at the Barbee Sr. Branch Library in Oak Island, North Carolina.
INTERVIEWER: Jack would you give us your current address and date of birth.
HANCOX: I presently live at 310 Wambull Street in Oak Island, North Carolina and I am 75 years old. I was born May 6, 1925.
INTERVIEWER: And you are a veteran of World War II.
HANCOX: Yes, I am a veteran of World War II.
INTERVIEWER: And what branch of the service did you serve in?
HANCOX: I served in the Navy.
INTERVIEWER: United States Navy.
HANCOX: U.S. Navy, yes sir.
INTERVIEWER: Do you recall where you were living at the time World War II broke out?
HANCOX: Yes, I was living with my parents. I was in high school in Maryville, Tennessee at 610 Washington Avenue on the road to the Smoky Mountains. I remember very well the day the war began.
INTERVIEWER: Do you know what you were doing at that time.
HANCOX: Yes, I was working in a drug store as a delivery boy and it was a Sunday morning and me and my friend, who was later killed in the Army, were listening to the radio for some reason and we didn't know where Pearl Harbor was or anything, but it sounded really terrible and of course the next day the papers had all the terrible pictures of the ships that were destroyed and all the damage done at Pearl Harbor. So that's the way I was introduced to World War II.
INTERVIEWER: Were you living at home with your parents?
HANCOX: Yes, I was a sophomore in high school.
INTERVIEWER: Did you subsequently enlist or were you drafted into the service?
HANCOX: I tried to enlist in the Air Force at age 17. They told me to go home and put on some weight and then I went back the second time and they said, well look your number will be coming up soon and we'll guarantee you you can go in the Navy so I went to the draft board and told them to call me as quickly as I got out of high school. I graduated high school the first week of May and in July I had passed my examinations and was on the way to boot camp.
INTERVIEWER: Okay and where did you get inducted into service?
HANCOX: In Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, just outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee, went there on a bus and went through all the exams, went to the crowd that went with the Navy, sent home for a week and told my parents goodbye and on the 28th day of July 1943, I boarded the train in Chattanooga and 96 hours later, I was in San Diego, California naval training station there.
INTERVIEWER: How long were you there?
HANCOX: Well actual boot camp was cut down to five weeks at that time and then I qualified for class A communications school, radio school, and remained at the same place, just crossed the grounds to another barracks and that school was 16 weeks long. I completed that and was assigned to amphibious training at Coronado which was just 15-20 minutes from where the boot camp was located and there I was trained for combat and getting ready to go overseas. That lasted several weeks. I don't remember exactly, but I do know that we sailed for Pearl Harbor early May and we arrived on my 19th birthday which was the 6th of May 1944.
INTERVIEWER: So your training was mostly in California?
HANCOX: It was all in California.
INTERVIEWER: And what was your rating at this time and what was your specialty?
HANCOX: Well when I finished radio school, I was qualified as a seaman first class radio specialty and then we went to the amphib training and got another kind of specialty and then we were chosen to be a part of a new outfit called air support for the ground troops on the islands, called command air support units and we were divided into teams and trained on voice communication, we were trained to read maps and to plot targets to communicate back to the air strikes and we went through that intensive training. Then we went aboard ship, got to Hawaii on the 6th of May and immediately went into training on the coast of Hawaii.
INTERVIEWER: Do you remember anything significant about that first sea crossing to Hawaii?
HANCOX: No I had been aboard ship before and it was quite uneventful and I don't remember much about it, but I do remember that we were assigned to the ship, the U.S.S. Cambria which is an APA36 and we trained aboard her off Hawaii for several weeks through May and then we were underway for Saipan about the same time the Normandy invasion was getting prepared.
INTERVIEWER: Well let's go back now. You got to Hawaii.
HANCOX: Immediately went into training for combat.
INTERVIEWER: In May of 1943?
INTERVIEWER: And you enlisted in...
HANCOX: July '43.
INTERVIEWER: So it was almost a year before you got overseas.
HANCOX: Several months, 9-10 months.
INTERVIEWER: And what was your first seaboard duty, was what kind of ship and where?
HANCOX: First seaboard was a training ship called the U.S. American Legion #1, it was a converted, I guess you call, cruise ship but with radio gear, we rigged it ourselves, and then we trained up and down the California coast during that amphibious training I mentioned earlier. So we were already familiar with our equipment and so when we went aboard the Cambria, which would be a command ship for the invasion of Saipan, we were already familiar and trained in our equipment.
INTERVIEWER: And your duty was radioman's duty which involved communications with what?
HANCOX: Well we stood watch with the regular ship's radiomen just to break the monotony, but our primary skills were voice communication techniques dealing with pilots who were sending in on striking and bombing targets in the combat area.
INTERVIEWER: So you would assist the flyers in carrying out their missions by giving them logistical or geographical kind of information?
HANCOX: Right, help them pinpoint the target and what kind of ammunition needed to be, bombs, strafing, whatever and we would communicate that to them and then they would go in on the strike and get back on patrol and then we would bring them back in to another strike. That was our main job.
INTERVIEWER: And you had a place on the ship to which you were assigned, what a wireless?
HANCOX: We had a combat air room and we shared that with other radiomen, but our group was in the radio combat room and we had a couple of officers in charge of us and we stood all our duty, our general quarters duties and all our duties were in this particular radio shack on the third deck I believe it was.
INTERVIEWER: Third deck of the ship?
HANCOX: From the water line.
INTERVIEWER: And did some officer hand you something to transcribe, send out over the radio waves?
HANCOX: Right, the air officer would give us, we were on duty and he would say, here we need so many planes to strike this area. We'd locate it, call back the coordinates and the other information to the pilot. He'd radio back that he got the information and that he would go in on the strike.
INTERVIEWER: Did you personally communicate with the pilot in the airplane?
HANCOX: Yes, yes.
INTERVIEWER: And he with you?
INTERVIEWER: You communicated with each other by Morse code?
HANCOX: Voice radio, this was all voice radio.
INTERVIEWER: Oh voice radio, wasn't there any security problems with the Japanese?
HANCOX: Not when you're in the middle of a bombardment, it was very short range and so we just directed the pilot in on the target.
INTERVIEWER: You only did this then in a combat situation?
INTERVIEWER: You were somewhere at sea and the pilot was heading for some land based or sea target?
HANCOX: Primarily land base. We were supporting the various invasions and we were on duty when they would start the air strikes and when the island was secure, then we were secured and we usually, I guess I had 8 or 10 different ships. When we would complete an invasion, then my group would get some out by plane, boat, ship to the next invasion and they would do the same thing again. Then when that was completed, then we were looking for someplace else to go. So we were in combat almost constantly for about 16 months, just in between landing sites.
INTERVIEWER: But on different ships. What were the other ships that you served on?
HANCOX: Started out on the APA36 Cambria.
INTERVIEWER: What does APA stand for?
HANCOX: It's a tac(tical) transport, one that carries Marines and Army (personnel), has small boats. But ours did that, but also it was a command ship. We had an admiral aboard who was in charge of the invasion. Then we served on AGC's, Blue Ridge, Wasatch, Estes, which were especially designed as command ships. Earlier in the war, they had to use converted APAs, but we started using the, actually designed command ships.
INTERVIEWER: What does AGC stand for?
HANCOX: It's command. It directed the other ships going in on the invasion.
INTERVIEWER: You didn't tell us what fleet you were attached with, what unit, what division, whatever they refer to in the Navy.
HANCOX: Well we were with CASU which is the CASU-4. I was always with the flag, wherever the admiral was for the invasion. So wherever he went, where the new flag went, well we went with them. So the only unit I was ever involved in was this CASU Command Air Support Unit and we were #4, the numbers changed sometimes. But we always went with the flag. We were never ship's company. So I lost count of how many ships we actually served aboard, whether it was 8 or 10. Were on destroyers, U.S.S. Hughes one time, on a Coast Guard cutter that was rigged up as communication ship. The Spencer, we made one of the island invasions on it. I was on the Wasatch which was another AGC and then the Cambria was an APA. One time I was on an old high speed transport. It was a converted World War I destroyer that cut off the four stacks, only had one left, but it was a high speed transport. We would take in frogmen and people like us and put us on the beach and pull out real quick. That was an interesting ride.
INTERVIEWER: What admirals did you serve under?
HANCOX: Admiral Hill was the one I remembered, Daniel Hill, and Daniel Barbee, that was an interesting name because of the Barbee Library. I don't know whether there is any connection or not. Those are the two I remember.
INTERVIEWER: And this was the United States Navy Pacific fleet, was that your APO?
HANCOX: Yes, yes, just APO Pacific. We were constantly aboard ship. We rarely were on the beach so we really had a hard time with the mail catching up with us.
INTERVIEWER: Now you served on 8 or 10 ships during this time. You kept getting transferred from one ship to another as needed?
HANCOX: Yes, strictly a sea bag Navy?
INTERVIEWER: And same duty, always assigned to the radio room?
HANCOX: Right, right.
INTERVIEWER: And the air supports specifically, not ground support or Navy support, just air support, helping the pilots with their mission with direct radio contact, voice to voice, person to person.
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever get to know any of the flyers?
HANCOX: No, no. They were flying off the carriers and we were out there in what they called the gator Navy so we had very little contact except by voice radio.
INTERVIEWER: Now how many months did you say this went on?
HANCOX: We were actually in combat about 16 months. We went from Saipan, Guam, I made all the major invasions of the Philippines. When we went back the second time, we went to Luzon. We followed the Nashville which was General McArthur's flag ship and that was a thrill to me. Of course, we with Leyte, when General Doug went back in on the island of Leyte, we were there.
INTERVIEWER: When McArthur returned to the Philippines?
HANCOX: We were right there with him.
INTERVIEWER: That was some time in 1945, wasn't it?
HANCOX: It was October '44.
INTERVIEWER: Now this sea duty that you had, was it continuous with no shore leave or breaks?
HANCOX: Actually before I went overseas, I had one 36-hour weekend. From the time I left home in Tennessee on the 28th of July until I got home, four months after the war was over, I had not had any leave of any kind except one 36-hour before I left the States. And I went to rest camp for a few days after about a year of combat on the little island of Maui in a Quonset hut right on the water. That was hardly leave, that was just we had been in combat so long, they gave us a break and let us get off the ship. But I was aboard ship all that 16 months. There was a beer party every now and on at some little isolated place and that was, you know, you'd be off the ship a few hours. That was it.
INTERVIEWER: Did the ships ever return to port or did they stay at sea constantly?
HANCOX: We were rarely in port. The only time I remember being in port, the ships would wait til we'd get there. The longest we were in port the entire time I was in the Pacific was in Hollandia, New Guinea, where we formed to go to Leyte, came back after Leyte, had a few weeks at Christmas there and then the first of the year, we started back up to the Philippines and I was constantly aboard ship until I came back to the States.
INTERVIEWER: Now you said while you were at sea, there were battles raging around you. You were two decks below the top deck, would that be where the third deck would be?
INTERVIEWER: Did you experience personally any enemy fire or bombs or any other kind of combat experience.
HANCOX: We were bombed frequently in the early stages until America got really control of the air. During the Saipan operation, the Japanese threw a lot of their planes at us. That's when we were first introduced to kamikazes and I was out on deck enough that I was scared enough that I did see some kamikazes take out ships. We them close to us, but we were never hit either by bombs or by kamikaze in the six major engagements I took part in.
INTERVIEWER: What were the six major engagements?
HANCOX: The Saipan, Tinian, Guam, two of the Philippines, Leyte and the Luzon when we went back to Bataan and Corregidor and then the Halmahera in the Dutch New Guinea and there was another little one that I forgot the name of it. Six combat stars and I have them written down somewhere but those are the ones I remember.
INTERVIEWER: Did you receive any promotions in your time in service?
HANCOX: Well went from boot camp an ordinary able bodied seaman, seaman apprentice to second class petty officer.
INTERVIEWER: Radio man?
HANCOX: Yes, second class petty officer, specialty radio. You had the sparks on your sleeve.
INTERVIEWER: So none of the ships you were on, although they might have been under attack, were ever seriously damaged.
HANCOX: Not while I was aboard. A couple of the ships I had served on, the destroyer Hughes took a kamikaze, survived, but was seriously damaged but at the time of combat, the ships I rode were never hit.
INTERVIEWER: So you didn't get any purple hearts or anything like that.
HANCOX: No, no way. That's one thing I'm glad about.
INTERVIEWER: And all your ships sailed peacefully on their duties.
INTERVIEWER: And when did your active service end, when was that?
HANCOX: Well we were training for the Japanese homeland invasion while I was in rest camp we were learning Japanese terms, identifying on the maps various places when the Japanese surrendered.
INTERVIEWER: That would be in September of 1945?
INTERVIEWER: What ship were you on at that time?
HANCOX: I was on the ground. I was at rest camp and training for the invasion.
INTERVIEWER: You had finished your last sea duty?
INTERVIEWER: How long before that had you finished it?
HANCOX: Just weeks, probably less than a month.
INTERVIEWER: So you served on ships right up almost until the end of the Pacific war.
HANCOX: Right. However, we thought, hey we get to go home now. So within a matter of days, we got orders, but not to the States. We were sent back to the Philippines and I served aboard ship. I served on shore patrol and that kind of thing in the central islands in the Philippines and then we finally got orders to go back to Pearl and we worked our way back to Pearl on a couple of ships. We were sort of stragglers because we were a small outfit and we got back to Pearl in December, very early December, last of November '45. Then I was privileged to ride the old Nevada, the reconstructed Nevada battle ship to Long Beach, California and got on the train and went back to Tennessee and got home before Christmas '45 for my first visit since I left to join the Navy in July '43.
INTERVIEWER: The Nevada was a ship that was sunk or damaged at Pearl Harbor, wasn't it?
HANCOX: That's correct.
INTERVIEWER: And had been reconstructed by the time of 1945.
HANCOX: I rode her all the way back home.
HANCOX: Pearl Harbor.
INTERVIEWER: Pearl Harbor back to?
HANCOX: Long Beach, California.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, and when were you officially discharged from service?
HANCOX: Well when I got home for that 30 day rehab leave, I though surely on the point system, I figured I had about four months to go so I was a sure, so sure that I would get shore duty some place like New Orleans or Norfolk or some place close to my home, that I picked up my orders in Nashville and went back to California by train to San Francisco and stayed in a receiving ship at Mare Island.
INTERVIEWER: Where's that?
HANCOX: It's in the Bay of San Francisco, and waited every day to see if I had a reassignment and after a month or six weeks, I saw my name appeared on the board and hey man, I'm getting to go home, but it was a set of orders putting me aboard an LST sitting out on the hook in the middle of San Francisco Bay that was being decommissioned so my last three months I was aboard ship again and we had to take a whale boat, a motor whale boat, to get to the beach to go on liberty and so my last three months were spent on this LST. I was at last ship's company after all those years of sea duty.
INTERVIEWER: And you were discharged on what date?
HANCOX: April 4, 1946.
INTERVIEWER: Which was a good 6 months after the war against Japan had ended. Did you receive any commendations or battle medals?
HANCOX: Well I had six battle stars and a unit citation. I don't even remember what it was called, but I have it on my uniform.
INTERVIEWER: All the ships that you served on were armed, weren't they?
HANCOX: Oh yeah.
INTERVIEWER: What kind of armaments?
HANCOX: Of course, the old attack transports had 5" guns, 20 mm and 40 mm, which is very minimal equipment, but for low flying kamikazes, they were pretty handy.
INTERVIEWER: All defensive type weapons. No big cannons?
HANCOX: No, 5" 30 were the biggest thing we had.
INTERVIEWER: To ward off the Japanese planes that tried to sink your ship.
HANCOX: Right, right. Of course the main offense weapon that we had were the small boats, the Higgins boats, which sent the troops in to land on the beach. That was our main purpose.
INTERVIEWER: Were those the LST's, the landing craft kind of boats?
HANCOX: Well no, the transports carried the small boats aboard ship and then they drop them down in the water and then the Marines would go down the rope ladders and get aboard the ships and headed for the beach.
INTERVIEWER: These were the ships you served on?
HANCOX: Right. I did ride LSTs a couple of times, but I never served aboard them. They open up and the tanks and all that come out.
INTERVIEWER: Getting back to your actual duties as a radioman, was it a constant 5 or 6 hours that you would be on the radio with the air pilots or were there breaks or how did it go on a typical day?
HANCOX: Well typically you're supposed to do 4 on and 4 off, hours, but during combat, you stayed with it and then you'd be relieved by one of the other guys for a few minutes to go to the head or get a bite to eat, but you may be at your post all day, 8 hours, 10 hours, whatever.
INTERVIEWER: What would a typical conversation be between you and a pilot that was attacking or on a mission?
HANCOX: Well he would report it when he was in position. They would circle at a certain point and when we would get a request, we had a unit on the beach and they would call into us aboard ship and say, our troops are held up at this this point. We'd find the point. There's a bunker, or there's a tank in a coconut grove or whatever and then we would relay that information back to the aircraft commander and he would send which ever planes were up to be sent, you know. We just said here's the target and here's the information and then it was his job to arrange his pilots, his plane in a sequence in which they would dive and destroy the target.
INTERVIEWER: What would you say to the pilot typically and he to you when he was attacking a target?
HANCOX: Well it would be a very technical kind of conversation. We'd say, we have this target. It looks like a tank in a grove of trees. There seems to be maybe a bunker in behind it and we have no idea how many troops are there, but we know they've got our troops pinned down at this point so your orders are to go in and destroy that placement. And he would simply repeat back the information we'd given him, the location of the target and then he'd roger that into us and then we would check it off and he'd go in and then he would report back how he observed his attack, whether he got a direct hit or he missed or they blew up or he would give us that information back. So that was the extent of the conversation.
INTERVIEWER: Was that a typical kind of conversation you had with the pilot?
HANCOX: That's right. It was strictly, we talked to them only when we had a target to report to them. They would roger back, wilco back that they had the actual information correct as we had given it to them and then they would zoom in on the target and report back to us how they, the results of their dive because we were so far out, we couldn't even see it from where we were. But then our radio group on the beach would send them servers out and say you got a good hit or you missed it a mile or whatever and we would give that information to them. It looks like you'll have to go back because nobody hit the target and so we'd give them the same target again and they'd go back a second time or a third time to hit it.
INTERVIEWER: Any idea what kind of aircraft you were dealing with?
HANCOX: Primarily they were the old Corsairs that the Marines flew, at least in Saipan, we had a lot of Corsairs and 4FU's, the Hellcat and Wildcat is a little later, all carrier based aircraft.
INTERVIEWER: Bomb carrying.
HANCOX: All could carry 500 pound bombs.
INTERVIEWER: And their duty was bombing and strafing, strafing enemy positions.
HANCOX: Any supply lines, trucks, anything that was posing our parameters, then we could send them in. And of course the requests always came from the commander who was pinned down or couldn't move his troops so he would go back to our shore group and the shore group would relay that into us. Then we would sound the target and the planes would go in after.
INTERVIEWER: And you did this for six major campaigns, these islands in the South Pacific that you mentioned. Now what did you do in between assignments, in between battles. There were times that there were no battles.
HANCOX: Well we were usually going from one place to another to get ready for another. We had very very little time to play around. I can remember when we were in New Guinea, I do remember we had the Bob Hope group down there one time and Jerry Colonna, but we were so far away, you could barely see the performers. It was aboard ship, but you had to sit way back in the boonies almost to see what was going on.
INTERVIEWER: Was this on land?
HANCOX: No this was aboard ship. And then one time on land, we went ashore at some Army facility I remember for a USO show. I think I saw two and other than that we were just aboard ship.
INTERVIEWER: And you didn't have any other duties like swabbing the deck or anything else in between battles?
HANCOX: No, no, we were petty officers by that time and we trained and we studied the next campaign, maps, terrain, that was our main...
INTERVIEWER: What were your quarters like on ship, did you have a hammock or a bunk below decks.
HANCOX: Being a flag complement, meaning that we were not ship's company. We were attached to the flag, the admiral, the commodore, and so when he moved, we moved. So we lived out of sea bags the entire time I was in the Navy. We lived out of a sea bag, all your belongings in one bag. We never had a locker. We just had to find a place to store the sea bag and keep what little stuff. And we were always stationed in the troop quarters which was a terrible thing for us Navy men. We had to sleep in the quarters that the soldiers slept in which means there were bunks stacked 5 or 6 high and you had to climb up there. So that's where we slept for the entire period I was in combat and I never got ship's duty, ship's company until several months after the war was over I told you I went out on San Francisco harbor and went aboard an LST which was being decommissioned and for the first time in the Navy, I had a locker with a key and I could keep my stuff in the locker.
INTERVIEWER: How old were you when the war ended?
HANCOX: Well when I got home on April 4th, I was 21 May the 6th, a month later so I was 20 years old actually.
INTERVIEWER: Are there any particular events that stand out in your mind of your years at sea in combat when you served in the Navy, anything particularly outstanding that you remember vividly.
HANCOX: I remember a funny thing rather vividly. We were always scared of course. We were very vulnerable being in that type of ship, but our air officer, the guy in charge of us, had been a flyer of the old timey observation plane that was on a float. There weren't many of those left, but some of the cruisers had them, the battle ships had them. The Battleship of North Carolina has a float plane as part of their equipment and this guy had a handlebar red moustache and some of the guys, this is when we were going into Saipan, first combat for most of us, and a couple of guys came crashing into the radio shack, said hey we're being strafed, we're being strafed and the commander didn't even look up. He kept twirling his moustache, strafe in hell boys, those were 500 pound bombs that just hit offside the ship. And everybody looked real sheepish and that broke up the tension because it was our first combat. After that, it was so routine, I don't really remember anything vividly except seeing those kamikaze go down the stacks of certain ships. I saw an Australian cruiser take one right in the stack and saw some more.
INTERVIEWER: Got sunk?
HANCOX: No it didn't sink. It blew up, but they kept it afloat. It's hard for a kamikaze to sink a major ship. Now if three or four hit like a carrier and then the gasoline explodes, that's the way we lost some carriers.
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever personally see any shipmates wounded or killed in battle?
HANCOX: No. I was privileged in that I did not see that.
INTERVIEWER: Now getting back to when you first joined the service, is there anything that stood out in your mind about your training, your basic training and then your specialty training.
HANCOX: Not really that stands out. I just having been a very active young guy. I was an Eagle Scout, lived near the Smoky Mountains and I hiked and I was pretty much an outdoor type person who did a lot of sports and so boot camp for me was really a snap. I had no trouble with any of it. I already knew the Morse code, semaphore code from my scouting days so I had an advantage of most of the guys who just came off the farm or out of the factory because I was in good shape physically. I finished high school and I qualified for Annapolis from the written exams and so I was, boot camp was no big problem for me and we did it for five weeks and I completed everything. The radio school was very boring because you sat for eight hours a day at a typewriter listening to tapes and typing the Morse code and learning procedure and how to repair equipment. That wasn't too exciting for me, but I did it and qualified for my rating and got my, ended up as a second-class petty officer.
INTERVIEWER: Would you describe your training as adequate, good, excellent?
HANCOX: Oh yeah, for what we did, it was all right. I mean we knew what to do and had little problem with it.
INTERVIEWER: How about the officers that you served under at sea and in combat, when you were on ship. Were they good at their job?
HANCOX: I feel from what I've heard other servicemen say that I was perhaps quite lucky. Perhaps part of it was due to the fact that we served with an Admiral and he had maybe the pick of the crop. We worked with some Annapolis graduates and then most of them were, you know, officer's training school, 90-day wonders or people who come up from the ranks and were made commissioned right at the beginning of the war. But I have no complaints against our officers, our NCOs. I guess the nature of our mission, that they picked the best men they could get because we had that kind of a job, so I had no bad experiences with officers or NCOs as far as that is concerned.
INTERVIEWER: Did you make any friends?
HANCOX: Oh yeah. We stayed together quite a long time after the war. I saw a few of them, but we were such a small unit and then we were scattered and broken out into several other units that it was really hard to keep up with everybody. At this present time, I'm not in touch with any of the guys that I served aboard ship with. I was for many years.
INTERVIEWER: Never went to any reunions of your buddies?
HANCOX: No, we never had any reunions. I used to envy those guys that served aboard a ship for three years and they still have reunions, but because there would be 12-15 in our unit and some would go somewhere and others would go someplace else and we'd get a couple of new guys with the next invasion, so we didn't have that cohesion like you would have with a ship's company if you stayed with the same ship and made this invasion and that invasion. So we just pulled up, served aboard a ship for a few weeks, make an invasion, get off the ship, sent to another ship and so you just didn't have much cohesion in the unit. But for a while after the war, I saw a few of the guys individually, but never in a reunion or anything.
INTERVIEWER: How would you describe the morale of your fellow sailors stateside and combat?
HANCOX: Of course the war was running in '43 and just really started the Pacific campaigns and everybody was scared and knew they were going to be in the middle of it, but once we got into combat, we had high spirits. I don't remember any slackers, guys did their jobs. We all pulled together. That was the only way to get through this thing and so I have nothing but really good memories as far as the morale and cooperation of my shipmates, both ship's company as well as our unit that was always visiting aboard ship in every ship's company.
INTERVIEWER: What about your opinion of the flyers that you dealt with in your radio communications? How do you feel about them?
HANCOX: Well we appreciate them very much. As I said, we had no personal contact with any of them, but they did their job and of course we rejoiced with that because when they knocked out a target, that meant the end of that invasion, it was closer to a conclusion, so we appreciated them being up there and I do remember two very scary and interesting things. We were in Saipan when the famous Marietta turkey shoot took place. When the Japanese launched about every plane they had and therefore in several hours, the Americans knocked out some 200-300 Japanese planes and we could see that from shipboard at occasion when they would come into the area. We almost broke the back of the Japanese air fleet and it was an exciting time and then we were trapped in Leyte Gulf. You may remember the Battle of? _________ Surgeon Straits when all the landing force was in off the waters of Haiti and two Japanese fleets were coming in to head us off and Halsey ran, the task force that was supposed to be supporting us was lured off by Japanese fake movement and left us very vulnerable to the Japanese fleet. Several battleships, carriers, were creeping in on us in Leyte Gulf. And then the high water mark was the old battleships, the last great naval sea battle fought and the Tennessee and the Mississippi and several of those that had been destroyed by the Japanese were resurrected and headed off the Japanese fleet and sunk them as they were trying to get into the Leyte gulf.
INTERVIEWER: Did you see that?
HANCOX: I could see it from a distance. Several of our little carrier, G-carriers got destroyed. We monitored all those nets simply for information for our own command so we heard most of it on the radio as the kamikazes were still coming in and then our battleships, our destroyers also and PT boats just like in the John Wayne movies, they really did perform. The classical destroyer movements where they'd go in, cut, release torpedoes and ship after ship blew up and it was really, I think the war ended about then because we sunk all their effective Navy as they were trying to cut us off at Leyte gulf and of course we went back and took Manilla, Luzon, Corregidor, Bataan, and sort of wiped it up right then. But the Battle of Leyte, I was right in the middle of that and I never will forget that.
INTERVIEWER: You never witnessed on your ships any individual acts of heroism or bravery?
HANCOX: No, not from my ship.
INTERVIEWER: Because you were below deck, is that right?
HANCOX: Well I was above deck quite a bit too, but the guys right at their gun mounts and the little boats were carrying in the troops and discharging them and coming back for more so we did not observe any unusual acts of heroism. Everybody just doing their job.
INTERVIEWER: And you never saw the enemy, the Japanese soldiers?
HANCOX: Only those, in Saipan, our ship was an auxiliary hospital ship and so they brought several Japanese prisoners who were badly burned by the flamethrowers for our medics to do something for them and of course, not many of them survived and we just buried them over the deck, dropped them into the drink. That's the only real contact I had with the enemy.
INTERVIEWER: Now when you returned home, did you go back to live with your folks?
HANCOX: Yes, started college immediately.
INTERVIEWER: Where was that?
HANCOX: A little Presbyterian college called Maryville College.
INTERVIEWER: What town?
HANCOX: In my hometown of Maryville, Tennessee. I went there for a couple of years, met a young lady, we married and I finished at the University of Tennessee in 1949 and then went to Duke University Graduate School immediately. Started there in '49. Then I went into seminary later, back in the Navy during the Korean War as a chaplain and served three years and then stayed in Reserve until I retired as a commander in 1977.
INTERVIEWER: The United States Naval Reserve?
INTERVIEWER: Where assigned, whereabouts, in Tennessee?
HANCOX: No when I went to active duty, I went back aboard the same ship, the APA36, carried Marines to the Mediterranean during the end of the Korean War and then I served at the Naval air station in Memphis and then I went off active duty and stayed in the active Reserve. All the time I was in Europe as a missionary, I kept my Navy Reserve status and did my two weeks all over Europe until about 1970 when we transferred to Africa and there were no Navy Reserve units there so I lost out for a while, but when I came back to the States, I was able to complete my, I think, 23 years all together of active enlisted officer and so forth and could retire as a commander.
INTERVIEWER: That was your last rank, commander, which is below captain?
HANCOX: It's next to captain. It's the same as a colonel in the Army, same insignia, a silver eagle.
INTERVIEWER: So you were both an enlisted man and an officer, but during the war, a petty officer, which is considered an NCO.
HANCOX: Yes, a noncommissioned officer.
INTERVIEWER: Like a sergeant in the Army.
HANCOX: I think it's an E5 which is a sergeant in the Army, same grade. It was $115 a month with combat pay (laughter). Big time money.
INTERVIEWER: And when you mustered out, do you remember how much money they gave you?
HANCOX: No I don't have any idea, it wasn't very much. Whatever my pay was that day.
INTERVIEWER: Okay Mr. Hancox, I think we just about concluded this interview on June 12, 2000 at the Barbee Branch Library. It is now 9:48 in the morning and we thank you very much.
HANCOX: You're quite welcome.