Captain (USN Ret.) John Hancock fought in the Battle of Coral Sea and later the Battle of Midway, as a crewman aboard the USS Yorktown.
He finished US Navy basic training on 5 December, 1941, and two days later, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Immediately returning to Newport News, Virginia, and despite having orders for flight training as a pilot, he found himself deployed as an enlisted crewman two week later, heading to the Pacific Fleet.
A few short months later, during the Battle of Midway, an enemy plane crashed into an anti-aircraft gun emplacement just below his position, killing his best friend and several other crewmen. Later, he was wounded and evacuated to Pearl Harbor, and the Yorktown was sunk.
Arriving on the dock at Pearl Harbor, he was met by Admiral Nimitz, the Pacific Fleet commander. When asked "How are you doing sailor?", he replied "Not too good admiral. The Japanese killed my best friend, and sunk my ship. On top of that I should have been in flight school!"
Two months later he found himself in flight school, and flew as an enlisted pilot the remainder of the war. He participated in the Iwo Jima and Okinawa campaigns, as a Corsair pilot.
After the war and while attending Clemson University, he was recruited to join the Naval Reserves as an officer. He served a total of 30 years, and retired as a naval Captain.
Later living in Florida, he became head of the state-wide Republican Party.
While attending a formal military party after the war, there were Japanese representatives in the audience, and when a toast was made in their honor, he refused to stand...along with an admiral in the audience.
Photographed in his driveway in Athens, Georgia.