Rich Kirsch's "Fighting Hannah"
U.S.S. Hancock CVA-19
OA/OP Division Photo Lab

THIS IS THE NEW SITE rickkirschsfightinghannah.com

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Jake the Yeoman of the U.S.S. Hancock CV/CVA-19 Memorial
Introduces Richard A. Kirsch, PH3, USNR

Meet Jake the Yeoman - Click HereHello, I am Jake Jaccard, Web Yeoman of Jake's 'Yankee Station' - U.S.S. Hancock CV/CVA-19 Memorial. I am the Webmaster of several Veteran's Memorials, and this one is Special for it is a gift to my dear friend and shipmate, Richard A. Kirsch, which I began in 2007 and placed under Commission 31 May 2008.

Since his galleries were on the Hancock Memorial Site, I've opted to create a Website for Rich and place his valuable Gallery on it's own Server and Domain Name that day and let it grow there under his control and design.

So I'd like to introduce you to Rich, a former Photo Lab Third Class Petty Officer, who served in the U.S.S. Hancock CVA-19, from 1953-1955 - An important period of her "rebirth" as a continuing Force for Peace in a troubled world.

As stated above, Rich has been Middle Years Coordinator in our Admin Department and Officiator for our Middle Years Galleries on the Hancock Memorial for a number of years now.

He will continue to act as our Middle Years Gallery Host on the Hancock Memorial, but this location will be his to continue the Hancock Tradition, which has always been a Tradition of Excellence with the "Rich Kirsch Flavor" added in.

Therefore, it is with great pride that I introduce you to Rich Kirsch, from Indio, California. His legacy is laid out here for you all to enjoy.

Rich Kirsch has a great outlook on life, and one I have enjoyed now for some years since our meeting back in 2004. He was soon called to be our Middle Years Historan and Coordinator. I've discovered Rich's great sense of humor; his love of a good joke, good pictures and you will see by this photo - he's taught his sweet wife, Gail, how to compose a great photo - especially if he's in it -

Rich by a highway overlook near Mamouth Lake, California
Click the Image for a 'Close-up' or Click
here for the widescreen image (takes time on a dial-up connection - but is well worth the time).
The picture was taken with his new wide-screen Digital camera.

Click Image for a closer look..

I really think we all could take some of his advice, and get out and see some our country's beauty. A good day-trip or an extended tour like Rich does; that would help us to keep out of the dumps, which we visit on occasion in our lives. Keeping a Positive mental outlook is necessary to get us through the rough times. So, lets enjoy a good joke; or go dancing like he loves to do, or go for a short spin down the road and see some of America - it does a great boost to your outlook.

I'd like to say thank you to Rich for your friendship and for providing such a wonderful and informative Gallery of our Ship during the 'Middle Years' of her career. Both the later generation Hancock Crew and the Earlier World War II Crew can easily relate to Rich's gallery, because his time was not far removed from the Vietnam War Era, nor was it far removed from the World War II Era, for during his time aboard, she still sported the straight deck, open bow and double gun turrets, as WWII shipmates relate to, yet she is beginning her modernization that will in time become the Vietnam Era Hannah with the angle deck and hurricane bow. Another year after Rich left ship, she was back in the Yards for a Major refitting, and this time (1956) she received that angled deck and closed Hurricane Bow, which now is the 'Earmark' of any Aircraft Carrier in our Modern Navy.

So now you have a closer knowledge of who is behind this Website and Gallery, and it will help you to understand who played such a major role in the Construction of the USS Hancock CV/CVA-19 Memorial Middle Years Extended Gallery.

Jake Jaccard, YN3, USNR-R '61 - '67

Note that Background Music on this and other pages of Rich's Galleries reflect the Popular Music of the time - America was discovering Rock 'n Roll music - which was a very good extension of the Jitter-bugging Music of the Big Band Era.. great music! But kids of the Early Rock 'n Roll era would have to say, 'Hey, our Music really Rocks!' But there's no denying that the '40's really started it all - they just called their music by a different name: Swing. No matter how you call it, the Music of '30's, '40's and '50's really did Rock just like the Old Hannah did in rough seas.

My Navy Days Story

This is me on the Port Catwalk near one of my
Photo Stations

Rich Kirsch on the Port Catwalk Photo Station on USS Hancock CVA-19

And now a little bit of my personal history, so you know how I come to be in the OA/OP Division, assigned to the Photo Lab:

I first Joined the Naval Reserves in an Airdale Reserve unit, Fasron 776, a Naval Patrol Squadron. We were stationed at Los Alamitos Naval Air Station near Long Beach California. The year I joined was 1951 when I was a freshman going to Pasadena City College. My first two years I was a weekend warrior, the term used for those who were in the reserves. We spent two weeks of active duty on base every summer. Our time was not unlike Basic training, but not as rigorous or as long. My original training was as a radioman on a PV-2, a World War 2 Naval dive bomber. Go to Warbirds and Airshows - Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon Photo Gallery to see what this plane looked like. I had the time of my life when we took practice runs over San Clamente Island with dummy bombs.

I didn't go to the photo school with the Navy. I got most of my training at John Muir college in Pasadena Ca. It was a summer school session in 1952. We did use the SpeedGraphic among other Cameras including ones that were 8x10. At the time I was in the Naval Air Reserve. After graduation I attended the University of California at Santa Barbara. While there my grades reflected the party atmosphere that existed at that University, and I was "Drafted." My reserve unit activated me and I was sent to Bremerton, WA.

I was assigned to the Hancock as a "Key runner" and my duty station happened to be the Photo Lab. A Key Runner is someone who unlocks work spaces for the "Yard Birds". They routinely keep all spaces locked down during Refitting when no crew is living aboard, in which case they need someone to go unlock the spaces that are being worked in at the time. This is how I became very familiar with most spaces on the Hancock, from Stem to Stern, from masthead to double bottoms. There was no space aboard the ship that I didn't see or know where it was. It was a very "informative job" if nothing else. I probably have seen more of the ship than any other member of our Crew living or dead today.

Since the ship had no photo personnel yet I was able to get transferred to the lab when the ship was commissioned.

I have always been lucky. We had a lot of onboard training with the Mitchell 35 mm movie cameras and the 16 mm. Most of my time was spent with the A20 - a 4x5 roll film camera. The camera you see me holding in the picture to the right.

Most of my time aboard the ship was shake down cruise's. As you know we were the first US ship with the Steam Catapult and the Mark7 Arresting Gear.

We had cameras running full time while underway. All Flight operations had a full complement of cameras running. High speed movie cameras for speed calibrations on take-off's and landings. Still cameras for posterity. During the busy months we would be on deck at sun up to sun down taking pictures and up until 0200 (2 A.M) developing and printing. Still, I would stand in line to do it all over again.

We also had other kinds of training as well, such as being called to General Quarters (GQ) constantly. Although drills, we still needed to be ready for any kind of emergency, as all Navy ships do, so we trained and drilled constantly during sea trials and the following photo shows us during such a Drill.

Click for a Closeup
Rich is third from Right - rear row.

Hannah finally goes to Sea again after a long period in Mothballs -
and then another long time during modernization and Refitting Period

After the commissioning ceremonies on 15 February 1954, the fun begins. I now have the dream duty. I have a front row seat on one of the Navy's premier Aircraft Carriers. We have photo stations in the catwalks, and in front and sides of the super structure. All we have to do is observe and photograph the events. Every exciting event that will take place on the flight deck is ours to forever remember. The morning we left Bremerton for its first journey to sea seemed to be an event in itself. As we inched away from the dock we all knew we were part of a very special day. The Hanna was reborn. She seemed to be like a new mother, proud of her new steam catapults and arresting gear, and eager to show them off. As we passed the tree lined shore of Washington's Puget Sound the tall evergreens seemed to take note of a passing legend.

Continuing through the strait of Juan de Fuca, captain Butts kept her harnessed, because she knew the open sea awaited her. Once in the open, the captain let her loose. He gave her a short burst of speed and then reeled her in. He let her turn to port then to starboard ever increasing its angle. Soon we were zigzagging with ever increasing speed. Wow! She was incredible. All aboard were impressed. She passed muster and knew it. Now it was back to Bremerton for minor adjustments.

Our next cruise was to San Diego which was to be our new home port. The first weeks at sea were without aircraft and the sea trials went off without a hitch. We were not restricted to the photo lab so we were allowed to get familiar with most of the non- restricted areas. During this period we got ourselves familiar with the photo equipment, Enlargers, darkrooms, cameras, chemicals, dryers, to name a few. We read instruction books and manuals so we were not completely idle before the aircraft came aboard. I can't remember if this period was called our shakedown cruise or Sea Trials.

When we got to San Diego the ship took on a new personality. She was transformed into the Fighting Hanna again. With planes aboard, her attitude changed: She seemed faster and had a purpose. That may have been a reflection of her crew.

Now we were ready. Our first planes were flown on and we were really an aircraft carrier.

Since everything was new, all flight operations were photographed from every angle and even calibrated the movie cameras, making sure they were up to speed before the launch was initiated. We had civilian engineers all over the place making sure every aspect of the tests were correct.

With all the activity during the day we were busy at night developing the movie film, and printing the stills. Many times our days would start before dawn and not end until 0200 (2 a.m.) when the last film was developed.

During this time we had all sorts of different aircraft aboard. They would come aboard to be tested with the steam catapults. We didn't get squadrons for almost a year later. The variety seemed to be endless. Every type of aircraft the Navy had was tested. Some to this day I haven't figured out what they were. One unusual plane that stood out was a twin piston engine craft with a cigar shaped fuselage with a jet engine running through it.

By May our initial testing was over and we headed back to Bremerton via San Francisco. They had one surprise for us. We got to take our personal cars back with us. I had a yellow '49 Ford convertible. It had a V8 flat head engine with twin pipes. And it did roar!

My '49 Ford Convertible -
Boy was I proud of it!

Click picture for larger view
View Recommissioning Ceremony Program

One last word from Jake, Rich's Web Yeoman:

A Question posted to Rich on the F7U Cutlass on the Hancock Memorial's Oral History Website, invoked this response from Rich, which your Yeoman felt should be added to this section…

"Hi Jake,

You asked if we had the F7U Cutlass aboard in a Squadron. Yes, we tested the Cutlass, better known as the "Guttless".

I can't say for sure if we ever had Cutlass' aboard as an operating Squadron during normal Air Operations, but we did have it aboard for testing.

When we had the Cutlass aboard it was the first twin jet with afterburners to be launched from a carrier.

On its first attempted launch it had to be aborted because it started to burn the wooden deck.

The next launch attempt had firemen lying on their stomachs spraying water into the jet wash.

A F7U in a Failed Launch
due to causing a fire on the Flight Deck.

Click Image for Larger View
Firemen are spraying water to cool Deck for this Cutlass Launch

"I was watching "Sea Wings" on TV awhile back and I think I have this incident recorded. This wet-down was only done twice. They reinforced the deck with steel plating in front of the deflector shields.

The first launch with the water spray was almost my undoing. My camera station was behind and above the deflector screen on a little perch attached to the superstructure. When they turned on the water during the run-up, it turned to steam leaving me breathless, useless and helpless. I tried to jump overboard but my headphones kept me from reaching the railing. The ship quivered and I knew then that the plane was gone. I went to sickbay and was treated for a burn on my wrist and under my eye where my goggles didn't cover my face. I was shaken, scalded some, but otherwise OK. However, I refused to man that station as it was until things were changed. The next launch I was given an extension cord to operate the camera from a safer location."

Rich Kirsch

Please write Rich for more information on this event

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 31 May 2008