The late Paul Allen’s research vessel, Petrel, has found another of our great warships that went down in the Pacific during WWII. This time it was the aircraft carrier, USS Hornet (CV-8). She was found some 3.3 miles beneath the sea’s surface resting on the sea floor, surprisingly much intact.
The Hornet was famous for being the flattop from which General Doolittle launched his B-17 bombers in the first bombing raid over Tokyo, on April 18, 1942, only a few months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Doolittle’s raid over Tokyo made the Japanese realize exactly what their famous Admiral Yamamoto had feared; they had “awakened a sleeping giant,” and that their great capital was not safe from our reach.
In October of that same year, Hornet was part of the U.S. fleet that was ordered to the Solomons to provide air support for the U.S. troops fighting a seesaw battle on the island of Guadalcanal. On Oct. 26, 1942 the Hornet was involved in an aircraft carrier duel with Japanese naval forces.
During that fierce battle, the Hornet came under coordinated attack by waves of Japanese bombers and torpedo planes. She absorbed hits from three bombs and two torpedoes at that time and within 10 minutes she went dead in the water, her power and her communications abilities had been disrupted.
The Japanese were using armor piercing bombs. One survivor said you could hear the bombs hit the flight deck and then pierce through several decks before they exploded. This is the reason her power plant was destroyed. Her anti-aircraft guns were also taken out by another bomb while yet another bomb struck Hornet’s island, and a torpedo went into her port side.
But she was still afloat.
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The heavy cruiser, Northampton, had her under tow when another wave of Japanese planes off of a Japanese carrier attacked her again. At this time she took a torpedo in her starboard side, and she began to list at 14 degrees.
Over the next 35 minutes, 11 more Japanese planes continued their attack on the Hornet. Thirty two minutes after the last bomb exploded on her flight deck, Capt. Charles P. Mason, her commanding officer gave the signal to abandon ship while the Japanese continued their aerial attack, this time scoring a direct hit on her forward hangar.
But she still didn’t sink.
During a lull in the attack, two American ships were ordered to scuttle the Hornet. They fired 16 torpedoes into her, and she still refused to go down. A new wave of Japanese planes were spotted on radar coming their way, so they hit her with shell fire and set her afire and left the Hornet alone, still floating.
The next day, Oct. 27th, two Japanese destroyers approached her and fired on her. She finally gave up the ghost and slipped below the sea, taking the bodies of 140 of her sailors with her.
Now, almost 77 years later, she has been found. The pictures that have been taken of her on the seafloor, 3.3 miles down, are stunning. You can still see the tractors that moved aircraft around in the hangar bay, and gun mounts, as if they were still ready to fight. The researchers say that the great depth she lies in has preserved her better than other wrecks at shallower depths.
The Veterans Site sends its deepest respect and thanks to those who served on the mighty USS Hornet (CV-8). We thank those who served on her and who remain with us still today.
The USS Hornet will always be remembered for her great and noble role in the history of WWII, and we will never forget the ultimate sacrifice of the souls that went down with her during the Battle of Santa Cruz Island during the Solomon Island/Guadalcanal campaign.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.