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Joy Bright Hancock
Captain Joy Bright Hancock, USN; portrait by David Komuro, c. 1953.
Born (1898-05-04)May 4, 1898
Died August 20, 1986(1986-08-20) (aged 88)
Place of birth Wildwood, New Jersey
Place of death Bethesda, Maryland
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Naval Reserve
Years of service 1918, 1942 – 1953
Rank Captain

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]

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. In October 1942, she was commissioned a Lieutenant in the new Women's Reserve (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), rising 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, with the rank of Captain, in July of that year. 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, 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.

See also[]


  1. Laurie, Maxine N.; and Mappen, Marc; Encyclopedia of New Jersey: Rutgers University Press; 2004/2005. p. 558.

External links[]

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