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Interview with Jack Hancox, March 27, 2003 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Jack Hancox, March 27, 2003
March 27, 2003
Interview with retired Chaplain Jack Hancox.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Hancox, Jack Interviewer:  Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  3/27/2003 Series:  Military Chaplains Length  60 minutes


Zarbock: Good morning. My name is Paul Zarbock, a staff person of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington and the university’s library. Today we’re interviewing Chaplain Jack D. Hancox in his home on Oak Island, North Carolina.

Zarbock: Good morning sir and how are you?

Hancox: Good morning Paul.

Zarbock: I wonder if you would start out telling me why did you go into the ministry and how did you get into the military?

Hancox: Okay, it’s really not very complicated. I’m a World War II Veteran, left the hills of East Tennessee at 18 years old and went into the Navy and ended up in the South Pacific, Southwest Pacific for about 16 months of combat. It was quite a traumatic experience for a young kid from the hills. Once I finished active duty, I was discharged in April ’46 and immediately began my College career at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

My interest was in European History and soon I found myself, after graduating, on a Scholarship at Duke University in their History Department and pretty content with my lot. But in the meanwhile, my first year at Duke, the Korean War began and all my buddies who were at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville were being recalled in active duty, as enlisted men. So I really started thinking about the future in a different way and I ended up trying to decide where I was going with my life.

Here I was, just a few years out and we’re back in another war and it looked like I was going to be in it one way or the other. In the meanwhile, God worked with me through that situation and my studies in European Diplomacy between Munich and Prague lost all their enthusiasm for me. I talked to a former minister friend of mine and ended up feeling that God had called me into the ministry. Had no idea what that meant, but I immediately went to the seminary.

Zarbock: What year was this, please?

Hancox: This was in 1949. I started to Duke and this was in 1950.

Zarbock: And the Korean War started in June of 1950 I believe.

Hancox: Right and so this was some months after the War had started so it was actually ’51 when I was satisfied that was what I had to do and started seminary in 1951.

Zarbock: And what seminary did you attend?

Hancox: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. So I immediately got into my seminary work and we had a Greek Professor who was a chaplain, had been a chaplain and was still a Reserve Chaplain from World War II and we started a Chaplains’ Company. So many of us had been veterans in World War II who were now in seminary and it looked like we may be going again so we began to apply a little pressure and we got a Chaplain Company started. Chaplain Smith was our Director.

Zarbock: What is a Chaplain Company?

Hancox: Well in our case on college campuses, particularly seminary campuses, it was men who were interested in the Chaplaincy formed in a Company and we had regular meetings, discussed the Navy, the Air Force, whatever it happened to be. We were all Navy. When we actually decided that was what we wanted to do, we were commissioned as Ensign Probationaries and remained in the Chaplain Company until we got active duty orders. There’s no such thing as an Ensign Chaplain, but we were Ensigns Probationary depending on if we went on active duty, we got a superceding appointment as a JG, Junior Grade Lieutenant.

But I was about halfway through seminary when the Navy really came back into my life when I got recalled. I was on Stand-by Reserve and was recalled to Active duty as a Radioman. I called Charleston and asked if there was any way I could put that off because I was going through the Seminary.

They asked if I had thought about Chaplaincy and I said I was a member of the Chaplain’s Company. They wanted to know if I had had my physical yet which I said “no” to and they said to” get that physical.” If I passed it and could be commissioned, then they would release me from the Enlisted Reserve to the Officer’s Reserve. That’s what I did in a hurry.

I has able to finish seminary a little bit a head of schedule, about six months early and applied for Superceding Appointment. In July of ’53, I was recalled to Active Duty and went to Newport.

Zarbock: How old were you at that time?

Hancox: Well I was born in ’25. I had been in the Service three years, finished UT in three years and was in my second year of graduate work at Duke when I was called to the ministry. I think I was about 28 when I went on Active Duty. Went straight to sea duty and amazingly the ship…well I arrived at the Naval Station in Norfolk and went to the Ship Locator and climbed up there and asked where the Commander so and so was and what ship was he riding because I was assigned to a squadron.

They said he was riding the Cambria. I asked if that was APA36 and they said “yes it was.” “ Well” I said “ well I had the privilege of going on the other part of the world.” I went in action in World War II in the Saipan Marianas campaign on the USS Cambria APA36 and so sure enough that was the flagship. They were stationed at Little Creek and I was soon aboard ship again, had two years of sea duty primarily on the Cambria.

Also I had a Squadron of ships. I had eight ships all together. I did not relieve the chaplain. I went aboard the Command Ship and was given a list of my ships. They were scattered between Istanbul and Viekas and North Atlantic and Little Creek. The Commodore was a great guy. When I went into meet the Viekas, he was a Captain and later became Vice Admiral. He said, “Well Padre, get your list of ships from the staff secretary and go to work”.

Well this was my first assignment so you can imagine my chagrin because I had no chaplain relief so I worked my program from scratch.

Zarbock: That really wasn’t very extensive orientation, was it? Just go to work.

Hancox: Go to work. Of course I went to Chaplain School in Newport and got some orientation, but to be given a list of ships scattered all over the Atlantic and say” go to work” as my first introduction into the Navy’s Chaplain System. So therefore I was responsible not only for the Protestant services, but I was to assure if there were enough Catholic men aboard to have a rosary, a novena. If there were enough Jewish men aboard, I was to see that they had the supplies and all for their types of services.

You maybe would not see a ship for three months. Well when I went to see the Commander of the Unit, of the Amphibious Division, he said, “I want you to know something right away Padre. My wife is a very proper Episcopalian and she has all the religion in the family. I was brought up a Christian Scientist so don’t bother me with religion” (laughter). So I said “thank you, Captain.”

I assumed responsibilities for the ships. I remember that you’d see one ship, hold a service and then it would be on another operation and you might not see it for three months. I remember once I talked with this young Lieutenant and he knew his wife was pregnant. She was living there in Norfolk. We were actually based at Little Creek.

So I got back to the ship a couple months later and I asked one of the officers if Lieutenant so and so’s wife have a baby. He said “Yeah, she had had it just a few weeks ago.” So I said” well was it a boy or girl?” This guy as sincere as he could be, “Padre, it was one or the other” (laughter). I said I was relieved.

So after two years of sea duty I had at that time a son and a daughter. We lived in Norfolk and we made the Mediterranean Deployment. We carried the 2nd Marines Battalion and went all the way to Istanbul. We made all the European ports and got acquainted with France for the first time. Went into Toulon and got acquainted with the French Navy, briefly.

A Navy Chaplain that I met there who was pastor of the Eglise Reformee in Toulon was a Reserve Navy Chaplain in the French navy and several months later, he was on a goodwill tour, this was a long time ago, a French goodwill tour to the U.S. and came to Norfolk. We had him in our home. Jean Barel was his name. Some years later when I was living in Paris servicing a Mission Board, he was Director of the Bible Society and I got to see him again. I had contact with him a little while and then I got into other stuff and didn't see him anymore.

While we were in Europe, we were with the Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention and I was able to keep up my Reserve commitment because I was the only Reserve Chaplain living in Europe at that time. When the Active Reservist Office and I could almost choose my own two weeks period and I’d go and relieve them. I did three ship reliefs, Forestall the old Tidewater and the Springfield when it was the Flagship for the 6thFleet. I never met any of the chaplains.

Zarbock: They were gone.?

Hancox: They were gone before I got there and I’d take over. I went twice to Morocco, I went to Bremerhaven. I did meet the Chaplain a Bremerhaven because he didn't go far. I made two trips there and I went to Rota, not to Rota, between Rota and Cadahena, Spain where there was an Ammunition Depot and I was chaplain there. So I a had great, great experiences in Europe.

Zarbock: How were you transported from ship to ship?

Hancox: Well from ship to ship was always by highline.

Zarbock: Okay, now this tape is going to be seen sometime in the future. What is a highline?

Hancox: Okay, it’s a memorable experience. One ship comes alongside another ship. I was for example on the APA36 and I transferred to a destroyer. They would fire a line across between the ships and they’d hook it and then they’d have a wench tied up to it. You’d get in a little box type affair and tie it in with your lifejacket on. They’d pull you across to the other ship.

I remember the first time I did it, these guys were saying…it was real rough that day and the ships will tend to yawl and pull apart. So they said they “were going to try to keep me dry”, but they said, “Since you’re a Baptist Chaplain, we’re not going to really worry if you get all wet”. I got my feet wet, but that was all. It was quite an exhilarating experience.

Later on they started using helicopters, amphibious ships, but I never got to go by helicopter. I went the hard way (laughter). It was a great experience. I also had an interesting experience before I went on the Mediterranean cruise to make two trips to old Havana when Batista was still there and got to preach in an English Language Church there and met a missionary family who were evacuated later when Castro took over. I stayed in touch with them and eventually they came to Europe to help us and were missionaries in Spain. I cherish that which I made through the Chaplaincy. I never would have known them otherwise.

All the time I was in Europe as I indicated, I was still in the Reserve. I was way out there so nobody questioned it so I was able to keep my Reserve status and eventually retire. I ended up as a Commander. One interesting story about that, we were living in Paris as a Mission Consultant when the offensive took place in Vietnam. One of my best friends in the Army, he was a Colonel at that time, we had built an English Language Church in Orlean, it used to be a big military base.

I met this young guy and he was an active Baptist Deacon and we built the church together in the community. He had five kids and by that time we had five kids so we were really close. Then he got orders to the States and went to Missouri. Soon after that he got his orders to Nam and I visited him in Missouri.

Well on the offensive, he was Deputy Commander there and went out to inspect the damage and his helicopter was shot down and he was marched with I think a broken arm and whatever all the way to North Vietnam and spent five years in solitary confinement. He’s still my friend today and lives in North Georgia.

During his captivity, I was not real happy in my work in Paris. I was doing administrative work. I like to be out in the field. So we talked about it as a family and I finally requested orders. I was a Lieutenant Commander at the time. In my romantic idea, very unrealistic, was I could get to Nam because I could speak French, I might be able to get some word back to his family. Anyway that was maybe not the noblest motivation, but I did. I wrote the Chief of Chaplains who happened to be a Southern Baptist Chaplain who I had met and known throughout the years.

He was the Chief Chaplain and I didn't hear anything for about a month and then I finally get this letter and the chaplain writes me that he’s sorry, they cannot give me Recall Orders because since I had written my letter, I had been promoted, selected and promoted to Commander and therefore there is no way you can be called to active duty and so forth. He said they did go to the Chief of Naval Personnel and asked for a waiver since my letter. That was when I learned I had actually been promoted.

Zarbock: That’s the height of informality (laughter).

Hancox: Cause usually they post you’re being selected and a few months later you’re promoted. I was totally baffled by that and I did not go on Active Duty. I maintained my Reserve Status in the Chaplaincy until I qualified in 1977, we were in Haiti. We spent our last 10 years as missionaries in Haiti.

I actually got my promotion while I was in Haiti, not my promotion, but my pension started when I was in Haiti. A little interlude in there, when I was in Guadalupe, I was still on Active Reserve and there was a Naval Intelligence something or other, I don’t remember the name of it, security group of some kind on the little island of Antigua.

I was responsible for teaching a course on another island, St. Kitts, I was teaching a course, a Bible course.

Zarbock: To whom?

Hancox: To pastors there, national pastors in St. Kitts, but I couldn’t get there from where I was living. I was in Guadalupe so I had to fly to Antigua and there I could catch a little hop over to the next island. So I’d spend the night in Antigua. There I discovered this Navy Security Group so they made arrangements for me to bring my uniforms and I could go aboard the station and get credit for a drill. So that helped me out a lot because there was no other way I could do that.

We were in Africa for a while and I lost a year and a half of Reserve Credit, but then when we came back to the States for a while I was able to get into the Unit in Alabama. Finally when I had to leave the mission field in 1970, we went to a pastor church in Northern Virginia in Fredricksburg and therefore just down the road from Quanico. So I got back into Active, went to the Navy Yard once a month to get brownie points and all that good stuff.

I ultimately accumulated enough points in 1970 that when I did retire, submit the letter, when I did get to be 60, submit the letter and retired. It was a pleasant experience. It was difficult because I had to maneuver so much to stay active in the program, but I never regretted it.

One interesting experience I’ll share, sort of humorous and yet tragic, I was in my last active naval duty in Memphis. I had a young sailor come in one day and he really looked like the world had ended for him so I asked what was the matter. He said, “Chaplain I have sinned terribly and I’m going to go to hell”. I said, “Oh, that’s interesting. How did you figure that out”. He said he was from a certain denomination and they said if he ever started drinking, he was going to go to hell.

He’d been in the Navy and somebody offered him a beer and he had a couple of beers and all that came to him. He said he had had it. So I was able to give him some assurance that he wasn’t going to go to hell, that if he believed in Jesus Christ and that that was good enough for heaven, you know. But he was really a desperate young man because his church had told him if he ever drank beer, he was going to hell. I appreciated that experience and was grateful to help him.

Another really interesting experience as a chaplain was also at Navy Memphis. A young guy came in to me, a young, brawny Marine and he was having a real difficult problem. He’d just gotten married and what he described was that when they made love, he was through before they began. So I sent him to see a doctor to take care of his little problem for him because I mean he was hurting.

So several months later, my wife and I were in the PX there at Millington. This young Marine kept grinning at me and I didn't recognize him. He had this cute little lady with him about eight months pregnant. So he came over to me and said, “Don’t you remember me, Chaplain?”. “ Oh yes, I remember”. I said “my advice must have been the right kind of advice for him cause it looks like they were expecting anytime soon.” He thanked me very much and went on his way.

The dark side of it was that not long after that another young Marine, actually it was the first suicide I ever dealt with as a minister. We never knew why of course. It was very difficult to find out about what happened in a suicide. He had a wife and two kids and I got called by Security and went to the little trailer outside the camp there and lying in bed, he’d put a gun to his mouth. We had to take care of the wife and the children. They were sent on their way and left my life but I have never forgotten that experience.

I left the Navy and pastured a church, the First Baptist Church of Dayton, Tennessee. The first 18 months I was in that community, I dealt with 13 suicides. I thought that was norm and I talked to an experienced minister friend of mine and he said, “Padre, I haven’t seen that many suicides in 25 years of ministry”.

So I’ve always been sensitive to that and even here, I have ministered several situations primarily through my role as Director or Founder of Compassionate Friends International which is a support group as you know for grieving parents. I’ve had quite a few suicides in the Shallotte, Southport area. So my Navy experience there had opened for me to learn about how to minister in that situation so I cherish that gift.

When I was actually serving the eight ships on active duty, there were times, a few times when I would hold all four services on a Sunday. Of course the sermons were not real long, not a real Baptist sermon (laughter). Before we went on active duty, a couple of big wheels came down from the Bureau of Navy Chaplaincy so I remember, we had already made our minds up, we were the ones that were actually going on active duty.

So they asked us, one of the chaplains, I don’t recall, he said, “What have they told you young men about preaching in the Navy. What have you learned in homiletics”. I said, “Well my homiletics teacher told me or my class that if you haven’t said it in 30 minutes, you might as well shut up”. He said that was fine with stained glass windows and padded seats and choir and organ. He said, “Let me tell you something. On board ship in the Navy down in the mess deck, if you haven’t said it in 15 minutes, they’re never going to give you another chance”.

So I remembered that and that was the rule. It wasn’t a rule, it was just good sense. Say it in 15 minutes and get on out of there. Well when I left the Navy active duty, I went to be the Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dayton, Tennessee, and I never will forget after I’d been there a few weeks, one dear sister came up to me after the service and said, “Pastor, you preach such a good sermon, but they’re so short”. I hadn’t even really thought about it. I said I could take care of that and started adding a little more and pretty soon I was a typical 30 minute sermon preacher (laughter).

Zarbock: That’s re-entry into civilian life.

Hancox: Right, right. I’ve never had anybody say that to me again, that I don’t preach long enough. But that comes out of my Navy experience.

Zarbock: Tell me, did you see or were you ever involved in proselytizing for the Baptist faith?

Hancox: You mean in the Navy?

Zarbock: In the Navy.

Hancox: Oh no, no. I’ve baptized several young men while I was in the Navy.

Zarbock: But they came to you?

Hancox: They came to me, yeah and requested baptism and I got permission from a local Baptist Church to use their Baptistery and that was quite an experience. In fact, this happened before integration. I was in Navy ,Memphis and among other things I was a Brig Chaplain and several guys there approached me and I talked to them about faith. What faith is. They wanted to be baptized so I said I was a Baptist and baptized by emersion, but all the other denominations accept that.

I explained to them why I liked to do it that way. So they said that was great. So I made arrangements with the local Baptist Church there and this was in the 50’s. The pastor was a former Arkansas University basketball star, a great guy. I said I had some black men and some white men to baptize, was that going to be a problem.

Zarbock: All of these people were prisoners in the Brig?

Hancox: Not all of them, but most of them were.

Zarbock: So they came out in handcuffs or something?

Hancox: No, I had checked that out. The Marines ran the Brig. So the ones that were in the Brig, I had to get them out. So I saw the Captain and he said he would go along with it, but I had to check out a .45. I said” I was sorry, that I couldn’t do that. I’d have to be responsible for them and I will be responsible for them and they’ll be back” I told him.

He let me take maybe five or six. So we went down to this Baptist Church in the afternoon. They announced it for the evening. I checked it out with the people and there was no problem because this is Memphis. Well that was quite a moving ceremony, bring out a young white sailor, baptize him, then bring a black one down and baptize him. I think I had 10 or 12 all together.

Zarbock: Was there a Congregation in the church?

Hancox: Oh yes, a big Congregation, at least 100 people there. So after the service, I talked to the pastor and told him” I sure hoped I hadn’t caused him any trouble.” He said “I hadn’t!” He said one guy got up and left, but he would be back. He said the thing that impressed him the most, just looking across the congregation, there was hardly a dry eye in the whole congregation. They’d never seen anything like that. I thought that was great!

Zarbock: This is segregated Memphis.

Hancox: Yeah, late ’55 or early ’56.

Zarbock: Probably 100% white congregation.

Hancox: Oh absolutely.

Zarbock: You bring prisoners out of the Brig and some of them are black and you got to the church service…

Hancox: And baptize them, yeah, great experience.

Zarbock: And they all went back to the Brig, those that were supposed to?

Hancox: Yeah, didn't lose a one (laughter). That was a super experience. I cherished that for a long time and still remember it.

Zarbock: You mentioned an officer suggested I guess that you go armed.

Hancox: That was the Brig Captain.

Zarbock: Okay, in your military experience, were you ever armed?

Hancox: No, never was!! They may have been in Vietnam, I don’t know, but I never was during the Korean thing and of course during World War II, I wasn’t even armed then. I was aboard ship all the time so I didn't carry a sidearm then. I refused that. I said I appreciate it. He said he trusted me, but I was responsible for them. I accepted that. It worked out real well.

Another interesting segregation story is that there were seven of us chaplains at Memphis and a Catholic Chief of Chaplains and there was a Presbyterian, a Methodist, me and another Baptist. So in Memphis of course everything was segregated, but there were a few black pastors that we knew. I didn't know personally, but they were known by other local ministers, that these black ministers wanted to play golf. So we chaplains would designate an afternoon that we’d be available to play golf. On several occasions, I wasn’t a good golfer, but I could play golf, so we’d have the black ministers come out and we’d shoot a round of golf with them on the Military Golf Course so they were happy and we were happy too. That happened several times. This was, as I said, 1953-56. I left there in ’56.

Then my home church in Maryville, Tennessee, near Knoxville, authorized me when I went overseas as a chaplain that if the occasion came for me to baptize men and they wanted a church membership until they got out of the service that they could be members of my church by a letter. They authorized me to do that. Well they didn't know it for years, but that was the first segregated Baptist Church in Tennessee I know.

Zarbock: You mean desegregated?

Hancox: Yes, it was segregated, but they didn't know it was de-segregated. I think before I left active duty, there were six or eight that I baptized overseas and sent their names in and they were included on the church roll and they may still be there for all I know. That was the first desegregated church that I know about in Tennessee and maybe in the South as far as I know.

That was part of my commitment to the Navy, that to the church that sponsored me in a sense, that if I did have men that wanted to be baptized and they needed to have a church connection so they could write to them and encourage them, encourage them to join the church when they get out and settle down after the Military. That was a great experience.

Another interesting experience when we were in Cuba and my roommate aboard ship was a Jewish young man who had converted to the Episcopal Church, really interesting guy. Real New England type, just a wonderful guy, a good roommate. He had made the big National Casino there in Havana which was a big tourist attraction.

So he was telling me this next day, I was out at church somewhere, he was in the casino. He was telling me about this beautiful girl that he met at the casino, a graduate of Smith or Vassar. He said a knockout, you know. They were having a drink together and he found out that she was a call girl. He said to her, he was telling me, how can anyone so beautiful, Smith college educated, good family, how can you live this kind of life. He said she said, “Just lucky I guess” (laughter). That was a memorable experience.

These guys that I got to know, I don’t have a bad memory for one of the guys. Of course there was the wardroom and I took a lot of ribbing being the Padre and all that. Nobody was ever discourteous and I enjoyed it every bit and that’s one of the reasons I stayed in the Reserve because I just enjoyed it.

Zarbock: Were you ever ordered to do something that you felt was a violation of your ethic?

Hancox: One thing, it really wasn’t an ethical issue so much, I had this Commander when we were in the Mediterranean. I had all these tours that you send the servicemen on, you know. He was wanting me to head up the whole thing. I said” I don’t mind meeting with the people, but I do not want to handle the money. In fact, I refuse to handle the money!”

I told him I had too many other things to do and that he could get any storekeeper or Junior Officer and let them handle the money and then I would do it and I’d do a good job. So the Commander said “okay” to that but, that I should be willing to do that too. I said “I just didn't feel it was necessary for me to be fooling with that money when I needed to do a lot of other things.” So that was the only time I recall having to say “no” to the Commodore. That was the same Commodore that the wife had “all the religion in the family”.

Zarbock: How would you describe and define interfaith group chaplains’ conversations?

Hancox: Well actually I did not have a lot of experience that way because I had sort of isolated duty. I didn't associate with any other chaplains. I was aboard ship and I was the only chaplain for this Squadron of ships. In fact when we loaded the Marines and went to the Mediterranean deployment, there was a Chaplain Ernst who was a Roman Catholic and he rode one of the ships and I rode the Flagship. We would exchange services, I’d do the Service for the Protestant men and get him over to our ship to do the Services for the Catholic men.

We went ashore also to do the same thing when they had the training exercises, but I had no real inter-church contact until my year at Memphis. I had a Head Chaplain who was a Roman Catholic. He had an Associate, another Roman Catholic Chaplain and they were just great guys and I never felt any problem with them. Then I had a couple of Methodists and Baptists and Presbyterian. We all got along real well and had plenty of dialogue.

I remember a dialogue with a young Roman Catholic Chaplain, Lieutenant and he had come aboard at Memphis and it was something about,” it wasn’t the year of Mary. The Assumption of Mary became Official Dogma of the Church either 1950 or the early 50’s, I don’t remember exactly when. But somehow I got into a conversation with him about the Assumption, about the Bodily Assumption of Mary and asking him for some explanation on it. I said, “How do you buy into this thing” because I wanted to be able to have a good conversation with my Catholic friends.

I said that” it was recently official” He said, “Catholics have always more or less believed it. Now it’s Official. But we don’t pay too much attention to it”. I thanked him for his honesty. I remember counseling with men who were going to marry a Catholic girl for example and they would come to me and I would use the Roman Catholic Books for Converts who were marrying into the Roman Catholic faith, some of the do’s and don’ts. Of course it was pretty strict back in those days. You had to sign your unborn children to be raised Catholics and bla bla and all that kind of stuff.

So when I talked to the Catholic person, I would always ask them about the…I would ask them two things. I would say, “Explain to your Protestant mate to be what you Catholics mean by the Virgin Birth?”. That was pretty simple. “Well what do you mean about the immaculate conception?”. Well I found out that most Catholic men didn't know what the immaculate conception was! They knew they believed it. I explained to them that it means that Mary, since she was a perfect instrument to be the Mother of God, Jesus, that she had to be Immaculately Conceived in the womb of her mother.

Of course we Protestants don’t believe that. Then about the Assumption, of course they couldn’t explain that. So I’d explain that to them and tell them these two doctrines of the Assumption and Immaculate Conceptions are the ones that are the most difficult for your Protestant mate and you need to be thorough and be sure that they are not accepting something that later on they’ll be sorry about or simply don’t understand it.

So my dialogue primarily was with Catholics in that situation or other religions and not dealing directly with the chaplains because we had very little dialogue or contact except that you sought it out yourself. That was the only shore station I was ever a part of so I didn't have much dialogue.

Zarbock: I interviewed a chaplain in Washington, D.C., who working on an Advanced Graduate Gegree did his Thesis, I think, on the Nature of Morale When the ShipLeft the Dock. Did the morale go up or did the morale go down.?? His findings strongly suggested the individual sailor’s morale went up when they got on the ship and left the dock.

Hancox: (Laughter) That’s interesting!!!!!!

Zarbock: I guess there are some obvious suggestions as to why. They weren’t encumbered with all the nitty-gritty that is our life everyday and every hour of every day.

Hancox: They were taken care of.

Zarbock: That’s right.

Hancox: The wife was okay, the Navy Relief, whatever if something came up, the Red Cross.

Zarbock: They had a very specific task and were trained to do it and they did it.

Hancox: That’s interesting. I never read that interview.

Zarbock: But I was wondering, have you experienced something along this line to support this.

Hancox: From a moral point of view, the most distressing thing I experienced in the Navy were when we started making the liberty ports of course. Some of the young married men would look for a woman and then talk about it around the table. I don’t know how much was talk, but it embarrassed me because some of them, I knew their wives. That was a tough thing to deal with.

Of course we were only gone six months. I missed my wife too. But some of these guys, that’s what they were looking for, Officers as well as Enlisted Men. That was a real negative thing that distressed me. Of course I had to read all of the VD reports, that was part of my chaplain’s job. That was sort of a down side to it, particularly these young married men, Enlisted and Officers who couldn’t be away from their wives three months or two months where they weren’t looking for something.

Zarbock: What about the reverse? Did you, as a chaplain, have the situation of somebody coming in, Enlisted or oOfficer, and saying my wife has been unfaithful to me.

Hancox: Oh yeah.

Zarbock: How would you handle an anguishing situation like that?

Hancox: Well I have to think back real far, but I did have several of those and it’s a very ripping, it just rips you up real badly because here’s a faithful husband. He wasn’t one of the philandering types and he was away. This happens so often. A husband and will go out the front door with a sea bag and somebody comes in the back door and takes his place. That happened all too regularly.

If the husband, the abused husband or husband whose wife was unfaithful, if he were a man of faith, if he had a good, healthy relationship with his church whatever, if he had the resources of forgiveness and all of that and really loved his wife, then I’ve taken them into counsel. But if they’re not willing to forgive, there’s no use even talking about it. So I run a Counseling Service now and that’s one of my premises.

Zarbock: Without asking you to parade all of the difficulties that exist in mankind, I’ve been alerted by other chaplains to the occasional severe problem of alcohol and alcohol consumption not only by the military person, but by the lonesome wife.

Hancox: Yeah, yeah!

Zarbock: Several chaplains said that on their duty station, they would have started several counseling sessions for women who fell into that pattern. Has this generally been your experience?

Hancox: Yes, pretty much. While I was pasturing a church in northern Virginia in Fredricksburg, when I left the for the overseas missionary life after 12 years and came back and pastured a church there, so I was attached to the Navy Yard Chaplain’s Company, therefore I’d go to Quantico for two weeks and that kind of thing. I recall very vividly I was asked because I was active working with AA and doing there, the Marine Corps asked me and a Navy psychiatrist stationed at Quantico, to organize really the first On Base Alcohol Treatment Center I think on the East Coast.

That’s what I was told . I never looked it up. Together we set up a Program where we would meet with the kids, many of them just kids and first the ones with serious alcohol problems about ready to be kicked out of the Navy or Marine Corps. If they would sign up for this Program, on Base Program, and get to a local AA meeting outside the Post, that there was a possibility they wouldn’t be kicked out or Dishonorably Discharged or Administratively Discharged.

So I worked with the psychiatrist. We had a great program with young men and women in this counseling program and encouraged them if there were other members of their household to seek help in an AA program and there are plenty of them in Quantico, in Northern Virginia as you can well imagine. I was involved in it at that level.

Also ,I became very much aware of the alcoholism aboard ship. There wasn’t a whole lot you could do except…you know - working with alcoholics is not easy. You have to win their confidence. They expect most ministers or chaplains to be on their back about their drinking when you want to try to help them break their addiction. But I had that experience of setting up that thing at Quantico.

The Navy I guess introduced me more profoundly to the problem because I had just been at a little country church on the weekend. What I learned in the Navy in ministry particularly in alcohol problems, I owe that to the Chaplaincy. I remember when I was in Northern Virginia another incident involved with the Navy. The local area chaplains, ministers, were invited to attend a clinic on alcoholism conducted by doctors and psychiatrists and psychologists from Bethesda Naval Hospital.

I think we met at the FBI place there at Quantico. It was fantastic. One of the things I learned there that I mention regularly here cause I see it now. I didn't see it then because I went right back overseas for another 10-11 years and have just been back into the stateside situation now for 12 years. They were telling us at this Clinic that the problem today, it was about ’77, that the problem they were facing now was these kids who start drinking beer at 13 years old.

This fact sticks in my head to this day, I use it regularly, that in less than two years time, from binging on the weekend a couple of 6-packs, that in two years’ time that kind of drinking, this 13-year-old can develop the full symptoms of an adult male who had his first drink at 25 and drank for 15 years.

Well I thought hey that’s pretty terrible. Well I’ve been back here and run a counseling service which I organized and started seeing these people in their 20’s and they already had brain damage. They started drinking when they were 13 years old. One of them started drinking vodka left over from her parents. She was a poly-abuser last time I saw her. She was 25 or 26 years old and I’ve seen several like that.

I learned another thing from that, when kids start drinking at that age, one of the first things that’s damaged is vocabulary. Where vocabulary originates in the brain, it will be limited to that period when they started drinking or when they reached that point that they were an alcoholic. I’ve seen it illustrated now by the young guy who was 32 when I saw him and he’d been in the Air Force right out of high school.

He was working out on the boats and a real serious heavy drinker. I got him into a treatment center 10 weeks program and he’d write me letters and he was writing using hip language that was really hip language back in the 80’s. I talked to a psychiatrist and they said that was quite typical. Their vocabulary has reached a saturation point and that no new vocabulary, however that works, it sort of freezes to the vocabulary of their heavy drinking when they start having blackouts and all that stuff. Even though they may be 10 years down the road, they’re still comfortable in that language. I learned that through the Navy.

Zarbock: I wonder if you’d reflect. I’m going to shift here significantly. I ask you to reflect on specific ceremonial days, Christmas, Easter, 4th of July. Do you have any incidents that come to your mind? Christmas must be a very lonesome time if you’re on a ship. You’ve got to keep working.

Hancox: Well it’s not really a holiday on some ships. It depends when you’re underway what your assignment is. If you’re in port, it fluctuates with that. I don’t remember any terribly significant things. It was just another service. We sang all the hymns and all that Christmas stuff, some tears shed and all that. I just don’t have any outstanding experiences when I was on active duty.

One time I was in port and people went home. They went to their home churches. I went ashore after I had a Christmas service on the ship. Went ashore in Toulon. The church was packed and it was not on Sunday. It was on Christmas day. Episcopal church still has something on Christmas day, most other churches have something Christmas eventually. That impressed me.

The Christmas services I remember the most powerfully were when I was enlisted during World War II and we had just escaped the famous battle of Leyte. We were in there discharging troops and it looked like we had been cut off. Then the famous battle of the old battleships that took out Japanese Navy, they had been sunk or damaged at Pearl Harbor. Then we came back to New Guinea to reform for the invasion of Luzon. So we were there in New Guinea.

They had Christmas midnight mass. First time I’d ever been to midnight mass. The guys were sort of hanging from the rafters. The place was absolutely packed. We had just gotten back from a pretty hair-raising experience and now we getting ready to go right up through the middle of the Philippines, take MacArthur back to Luzon.

I don’t remember the sermon, the chaplain, I just remember being with all those guys there in New Guinea and singing Christmas songs, thinking that it was Christmas and what my parents were doing and all that kind of thing. So that stands out to me. As a chaplain, I don’t have any really outstanding experiences that I can recall at this time.

When I went to Europe, when I took my family to Europe as a missionary and we crossed the Atlantic on the US United States, we were underway on Easter. They found out that I was a reverend. So I had the tourist class Easter morning service. That was pretty exciting, being aboard ship, taking my family for five years. In those days when you went overseas, you stayed five years. You did not get to come home for anything.

Speaking of long periods without family, I may be one of the few guys in the Navy, when I left and joined the Navy in July 1943, 21st of July 1943, I went to Chattanooga, got on a train and went all the way to San Diego to start boot camp. From boot camp, no leave, went straight to communications school, no leave. Went aboard ship and then six weeks after aboard ship, I was in combat in Saipan.

Spent the next 18 months overseas. Did not get home for the first time for my parents to even see me in uniform until three months after the war was over. Never got a leave. I got one 36 hour pass when I was in California. Then went straight overseas, no leave from boot camp, no leave from service school, no leave from amphibious school, straight aboard ship and straight into combat. That’s a record I hope many people don’t have.

Zarbock: Pastor you have children, how many grandchildren do you have.


Zarbock: Okay look right into the camera and in conclusion of this interview, tell your grandchildren what did you really learn being in the military? What did it all mean?

Hancox: I guess for someone with my background, I had a good background. My people are very racially tolerant. Being from east Tennessee, that’s not too hard to understand. They didn't come out of the old south with slavery and all that stuff. But I learned firsthand how to deal with people from other races and I cherish that as an enlisted man and as an officer. And also to be tolerant with people of other religious persuasions.

I felt comfortable and always have been, even I know some of my colleagues as Baptists are very intolerant with other people, but I’m grateful and give the Navy credit for that, that I am always active in all the interchurch, interfaith organizations. I have many friends in the other denominations and other faiths. Even as an enlisted during the war, that that came out of that to be who I am. Then my experience in the Navy as a chaplain simply enhanced it or entrenched it. I think that’s the biggest lesson I’d give my kids.

Zarbock: Thank you.

Hancox: Yes sir.

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