Austintown veteran looks back on 20 years of Navy service | News, Sports, Jobs
AUSTINTOWN — When Kenneth W. Bancroft graduated from Mineral Ridge High School in 1957, he knew he was going to be drafted into the military.
What he didn’t know at the time was that he would continue to re-enlist and spend 20 years in the Navy.
“There was a draft at the time, and I decided I didn’t want to crawl somewhere on my stomach,” he said. “I decided the Navy was a better option than the Army – and it was. It’s something I’ve never regretted and I’m proud of my time in the Navy. married at 18 and joined the Navy at 19.
Before enlisting in 1958, Bancroft married his wife, Verna, and the two moved to Florida with him reporting to Naval Air Station Whiting Field.
“We were in Florida and I was trying to find a job in Cape Canaveral,” Bancroft said. “I didn’t understand, so I signed up for another four years.”
In the Navy, Bancroft was trained to be an aircraft mechanic.
He was sent to Naval Air Station Lemoore in California, and his squadron was assigned in 1963 to the USS Ranger, which was in the South China Sea during the Vietnam War.
“You’re not afraid of what’s happening or what might happen,” Bancroft said. “You have to go. You’re just doing your job. You fix the planes, put them back in order and send the pilots on their way.
Bancroft said he worked 12-hour days seven days a week while on the Ranger.
“It was exhausting,” he said. “We were there for probably 30, 40 days straight and went to the Philippines for a week or two off and then we were out for another 30, 40 days. All you did was work, sleep and eat.
The work was so tiring, Bancroft said, that his sleeping quarters were three feet below the flight deck where repair work was carried out on planes and he slept well despite the loud noise.
“The only thing that woke you up was the call to work,” he said.
Bancroft said he continued to re-enlist because “I was happy in the Navy. I liked that.”
Bancroft was transferred in September 1965 to the USS Enterprise and remained in the South China Sea until February 1966.
The Navy then transferred Bancroft to Naval Air Station Memphis in Tennessee to learn how to be an instructor in refrigeration, ventilation, and air conditioning repair work.
“It was nice to have stability in Memphis with my family,” he said.
He remained there until 1970, when he was transferred to Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland for five years, where he performed repair work on C-130 aircraft as part of a mission for Joint Chiefs of Staff.
C-130 planes would fly to submarines and send them encrypted messages, Bancroft said.
He ended his time in the Navy with a squadron of C-130s at a base in Rota, Spain.
“My wife and kids came with me and it was a great experience,” Bancroft said. “It was a transport squad, so they were transporting supplies to other naval bases in Europe.”
Bancroft decided in 1978 it was time to leave the Navy.
“I got tired of moving,” he said. “You didn’t know where you were going next. It was a good experience. We liked it, but it was time.
Because Bancroft and his wife’s families were in the Mahoning Valley, they moved to Austintown and he went to work at the General Motors plant in Lordstown.
He first worked on the assembly line and then moved to the materials section, retiring in 2001.
“I retired when I was 62,” Bancroft said. “I think that was enough. We enjoyed the retreat. We’ve been to Hawaii half a dozen times.
Kenneth W. Bancroft
BRANCH OF SERVICE: Navy
MILITARY HONOURS: Good Conduct Medal, Vietnam Service Award
OCCUPATION: Navy for 20 years then worked for General Motors in Lordstown for 22 years
FAMILY: Wife, Verna; son, Kenneth and daughter, Kelly