Joy Bright Hancock

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Joy Bright Hancock
LCDR Joy Bright Hancock 80-G-40428.jpg
LCDR Joy Bright Hancock, c.1943
Born (1898-05-04)May 4, 1898
Wildwood, New Jersey
Died August 20, 1986(1986-08-20) (aged 88)
Bethesda, Maryland
Buried at Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy United States Naval Reserve
Years of service 1918, 1942–1953
Rank US-O6 insignia.svg Captain
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Spouse(s) LT Charles G. Little USN (?-1921)
LT Lewis Hancock, Jr. USN (1924–25)
VADM Ralph A. Ofstie (1954–56)

Joy Bright Hancock (4 May 1898 – 20 August 1986), a veteran of both the First and Second World Wars, was one of the first women officers of the United States Navy.


Joy Bright was born in Wildwood, New Jersey on 4 May 1898. During World War I, after attending business school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she enlisted in the Navy as a Yeoman (F), serving at Camden, New Jersey and at Naval Air Station Wildwood.[1]

Joy Bright Hancock, February 1918

Following the war, she married Lieutenant Charles Gray Little, who was killed in the crash of the airship ZR-2 in 1921. A year later, she obtained employment with the Bureau of Aeronautics, where her duties including editing the Bureau's News Letter, which later evolved into the magazine Naval Aviation News. In 1924, she left the Bureau to marry Lieutenant Commander Lewis Hancock, Jr., who lost his life when Shenandoah (ZR-1) crashed in September 1925.

Joy Bright Hancock returned to the Bureau after attending Foreign Service School and obtaining a private pilot's license. For more than a decade before World War II and into the first year of that conflict, she was responsible for the Bureau's public affairs activities.

On October 15, 1942, she was commissioned as a lieutenant in the newly formed Women's Reserve, commonly known as Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES). She initially served as WAVES representative in the Bureau of Aeronautics and later in a similar position for the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Air). She was promoted to lieutenant commander on November 26, 1943 and to the rank of commander by the end of the War.

In February 1946, Commander Hancock became the Assistant Director (Plans) of the Women's Reserve and was promoted to WAVES' Director in July of that year. She was promoted to the rank of captain on October 15, 1948.[2] Her promotion to captain after only 6 years of service was one of fastest progressions to that rank in the Navy's history.

She guided the WAVES through the difficult years of Naval contraction in the later 1940s and the expansion of the early 1950s, a period that also saw the Navy's women achieve status as part of the Regular Navy. Captain Hancock retired from active duty in June 1953.

The next year, she married Vice Admiral Ralph A. Ofstie and accompanied him on his 1955–56 tour as Commander, Sixth Fleet. Following her husband's death in late 1956, she lived in the Washington, D.C., area and in the Virgin Islands.

Hancock published her autobiography, Lady in the Navy: A Personal Reminiscence, in 1972.

She died on 20 August 1986, aged 88, in Bethesda, Maryland. She was buried with her husband, Admiral Ofstie, at Arlington National Cemetery.


Captain Joy Bright Hancock, USN; portrait by David Komuro, c. 1953.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Laurie, Maxine N.; and Mappen, Marc; Encyclopedia of New Jersey: Rutgers University Press; 2004/2005. p. 558.
  2. ^ Register of Commissioned Officers of the U.S. Navy. 1950. pg. 21.

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