There sometimes is confusion over the angled deck Essex design. Modelers will want a new model of the angled deck Essex with a Hurricane bow and call it a 27C. That is incorrect. The SCB-27A modifications started on the ships of the Essex class in 1948. In June 1951 the Hornet CVA-12 and Randolph CVA-15 were the last two to go to the yards for SCB-27A modifications. On July 17, 1951 the first two ships to receive SCB-27C modifications, Hancock CVA-19 and Ticonderoga CVA-14, went to the yard, followed in September by Intrepid CVA-11. After completion, Hancock still had an axial deck and open bow. In addition to the changes of SCB-27A, the two most noticeable changes for SCB-27C were widening of the ship with blisters and the replacement of the aft centerline elevator with a starboard aft side elevator. The angled deck and enclosed "Hurricane" bow were actually part of the SCB-125 modifications. While the majority of the angled deck Essexes received their SCB-27C and SCB-125 modifications in the same yard period, Hancock, Intrepid, and Ticonderoga had one yard period for the SCB-27C, followed by a duty tour, followed by a second yard period for the SCB-125 modifications. Also ships that had already been finished under the SCB-27A modifications were brought up to the SCB-27C standards during their SCB-125. Anyway, in 1957 the USS Hancock CVA-19 was fresh from the yards after receiving her new bow and angled deck as part of her SCB-125 refit, from August 1955 to November 1956. For her far eastern cruise, she carried Carrier Air Task Group 2. A hot new fighter was also included in the mix for this tour.
This cruise book could have been subtitled "Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue". For "Something Old", the tried and true AD Douglas Skyraider is present with Attack Squadron 55 (VA-55). Although the F4U Corsairs carried a few years earlier are long gone, there still is a connection with Marine Fighter Squadron VMF (AW)-214, better known as the Black Sheep. Of course the Marines are flying Navy handoffs in the form of the Banshee. For "Something New" we have the new SCB-125 modifications to the Hancock. However, the ship is not the only spanking new item found for this cruise. Gone are the Grumman Panthers and Cougars and appearing with the fleet, is that twin tailed terror, the futuristic Vought F7U Cutlass, oddly enough fielded by an Attack Squadron VA-116. For "Something Borrowed" there is the North American FJ Fury, the naval version of the USAF F-86 Sabre. For "Something Blue", well... the glossy blue paint schemes of Korean War Essex Air Groups are gone. Even the Spads are sporting light gray paint. However, the sky and sea are still blue, as you can see from the color photographs found throughout this cruise book.
The tried and true 5-inch/38 single gun open mounts are still present but the Bofors are gone. Starting with the SCB-27A ships, the World War Two vintage quadruple 40mm guns were replaced by twin three-inch (76mm) guns. You'll notice that these new AA guns have their own radar attached to the gun mounts.
There is a nice assortment of photos of various equipment, mostly tractors, found in the book. At the end of the section is a photograph of the new mirror landing system fielded with the SCB-125 modifications.
This cruise book only has a few photographs of underway replenishment shots, far fewer than normally found. However, it also contained photographs of merchant ships found at the port of Kobe. Actually, one of my favorite photographs is the last one with that great big Buick.
Here it is! I know that you have been waiting for this beauty! The Panther couldn't cut it against the MiG-15 and the Cougar was just a Panther with new wings slapped on it. What the USN needed was a cutting edge fighter design and that cutting edge in 1957 was the Vought F7U Cutlass. Not many cruise books are found with squadrons of the Cutlass but "Strike", the 1957 Hancock book has them. Only a Caddy could rival the beauty of those twin tails. In the era before computer assisted flight, the Cutlass proved more dangerous for her own pilots than for MiGs. The design was very difficult to fly, with low power engines subject to flameout in rain and had a very high accident rate. It was quickly pulled as the USN went on to another new hot fighter design. The navy had a lot of those hot new fighter designs that had a very short life span between the Panther of 1950 and the Phantom of the 1960s. As mentioned above, for this tour it was an attack squadron, VA-116, that fielded the Cutlass for this tour, not a fighter squadron (VF).
Hey Admiral! Against the MiGs, our Panthers stink! Boy Howdy, we sure could use some of those Sabres that the air force flyboys have. All of them are becoming aces and getting all of the girls, while the only people that will dance with us are Marines! The F-86 Sabre was the outstanding US fighter of the Korean War. The navy had almost always gone with their traditional aircraft manufacturers, primarily Grumman, but in the Korean War the navy had no design remotely equal in performance to the MiG-15. Even if the F-86 was an USAF design, the navy tried its own version called the FJ Fury. In 1957 one fighter squadron assigned to Hancock flew the Fury, the Fighting 143.
Time for Black Sheep Banjo Music as Marine Fighter Squadron VMF (AW)-214 of Pappy Boynton and Solomon Islands Fame is on the Hancock. The AW in the designation shows that it is all weather, as the McDonnell F2H Banshee, which could fly at night and in the worst weather, was still around after the Panther and Cougar day fighters had disappeared. The USN still had the Banshee for photo-reconnaissance work, as can be seen in some of the photos with both versions flying side-by-side. The Marine fighter version has the WE tail markings, while the navy long nose photographic bird has the PP tail markings.
The Douglas AD Skyraider was an anachronism, a propeller driven aircraft in the age of jets. However, it was the radial Wright R-3350 Cyclone, which produced up to 2,800 hp, that made the Skyraider so valuable as a strike aircraft. This power plant was the most powerful piston engine put into a USN service aircraft and allowed the Able Dog to carry up to 8,000 pounds of ordnance. It is ironic that in the early jet age, jet designs came and went like the fall fashions but the big, burley Skyraider continued to fly on and on in service. For the 1957 cruise Hancock had one attack squadron of Skyraiders, Attack Squadron 55. The Skyraiders of VA-55 served alongside of the Panthers and Cougars on Essex in 1953-1954 (click for Essex 1953-1954 cruise book) and although the fast movers were replaced by the Cutlass and Fury, the old chugging AD was still there.
Skyraiders of VA-55
Two other units flew special variants of the Skyraider,. The AD-5Q Guppies of VAW-11 Detachment India provided airborne early warning, while the Skyraiders of VC-35 Detachment Item (VAAW-25) provided night and all weather attack capability. Both of these units had also sailed on the Essex in 1953 but by 1957 had slight name changes, VC-11 Team Item to VAW-11 Detachment India and VAN-25 to VAAW-25.
To fight the USAF in the budget battles in Congress, the USN needed its own nuclear attack capability. Although the navy was developing the ballistic missile submarine, the carriers needed their own little boomers. The first machine that could be carried by a carrier and that was capable of carrying the bulky nuclear bombs of the period was the North American AJ Savage. The Savage was the airframe used in the USN nuclear capable Heavy Attack Squadrons from 1950 to 1957. They were supplanted by the twin jet Douglas A3D Skywarrior in the late 1950s.
There were two new faces for the utility aircraft. Gone was the elegant Sikorsky Dragonfly with the appearance of the new two rotor Piasecki H-25 HUP Retriever. Also making an appearance is the long-serving COD.
Another interesting feature found in this book is color graphic art used throughout the volume. A full page color print is found at the start of each section. So far this is the best example of graphic art that I have seen in a 1950's cruise book. The last print shown in this section brings home that even in a peacetime environment, naval aviation can be deadly. Two pilots, AD and Banshee, were lost, along with a deck crewman.
The USS Hancock CVA-19 "Strike" 1957 Far Eastern Cruise Book is an excellent volume on the ship as she was commissioned after her SCB-125 modifications. In addition to the new angled deck and Hurricane bow, Hancock fielded that hot new twin tailed terror, the Vought F7U Cutlass. The volume has a good selection of color photographs and an early example of graphic arts.