USS Hornet (CV-8)

The seventh USS|Hornet|CV-8 of the United States Navy was a Sclass|Yorktown|aircraft carrier of World War II, notable for launching the Doolittle Raid, as a participant in the Battle of Midway, and for action in the Solomons before being irreparably damaged and sunk in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands.

She was launched 14 December 1940 by Newport News Shipbuilding of Newport News, Virginia (sponsored by Annie Reid Knox, wife of Secretary of the Navy Frank M. Knox), and commissioned at Norfolk 20 October 1941, Captain Marc A. Mitscher in command.

During the uneasy period before the attack on Pearl Harbor, "Hornet" trained out of Norfolk. Her armament was upgraded in her January 1942 yard period, deleting all .50 caliber machine guns and replacing them with 30 × 20mm Oerlikon AA guns. A hint of a future mission occurred 2 February 1942 when "Hornet" departed Norfolk with two Army Air Force B-25 Mitchell medium bombers on deck. Once at sea, the planes were launched to the surprise and amazement of "Hornet"'s crew. Her men were unaware of the meaning of this experiment, as "Hornet" returned to Norfolk, prepared to leave for combat, and on 4 March sailed for the West Coast "via" the Panama Canal.

Doolittle Raid, April 1942

"Hornet" arrived at Alameda, California 20 March 1942. With her own planes on the hangar deck, she loaded 16 Army Air Force B-25 bombers on the flight deck. Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, 70 officers and 64 enlisted men reported aboard. In company of her escort, "Hornet" departed Alameda 2 April under sealed orders. That afternoon, Captain Marc Mitscher informed his men of their mission: a bombing raid on Japan.

Eleven days later, "Hornet" joined USS|Enterprise|CV-6 off Midway, and Task Force 16 turned toward Japan. With "Enterprise" providing combat air cover, "Hornet" was to steam deep into enemy waters. Originally, the task force intended to proceed to within convert|400|mi|km|-2 of the Japanese coast; however, on the morning of 18 April a Japanese patrol boat, "No. 23 Nitto Maru", sighted the American task force. The cruiser USS|Nashville|CL-43 sank the patrol boat. Amid concers that the Japanese had been made aware of their presence, Doolittle and his raiders were forced to launch prematurely from convert|600|mi|km|-1 out instead of the planned convert|450|mi|km|-1. Because of this decision, none of the 16 planes made it to their designated landing strip in China. After the war, it was found that the Japanese ship was sunk before it could contact the Japanese mainland.

As "Hornet" swung about and prepared to launch the bombers, which had been readied for take-off the previous day, a gale of more than convert|40|kn|mph km/h|-1 churned the sea with convert|30|ft|m|0|sing=on crests; heavy swells, which caused the ship to pitch violently, shipped sea and spray over the bow, wet the flight deck and drenched the deck crews. The lead plane, commanded by Colonel Doolittle, had only convert|467|ft|m of flight deck, while the last B-25 hung it's twin rudders far out over the fantail. Doolittle, timing himself against the rise and fall of the ship's bow, lumbered down the flight deck, circled "Hornet" after take-off, and set course for Japan. By 09:20, all 16 were airborne, heading for the first American air strike against Japan.

"Hornet" brought her own planes on deck as TF16 steamed at full speed for Pearl Harbor. Intercepted broadcasts, both in Japanese and English, confirmed at 14:46 the success of the raids. Exactly one week to the hour after launching the B-25s, "Hornet" sailed into Pearl Harbor. "Hornet"'s mission was kept an official secret for a year; until then President Roosevelt referred to the base the bombers started from only as "Shangri-La". Several years later, the USN would give this name to an aircraft carrier.

"Hornet" steamed from Pearl Harbor 30 April, to aid USS|Yorktown|CV-5 and USS|Lexington|CV-2 at the Battle of the Coral Sea, but the battle ended before she reached the scene. She returned to Hawaii 26 May, and sailed 2 days later to help repulse an expected Japanese assault on Midway.

Battle of Midway, June 1942

Japanese carrier-based planes were reported headed for Midway in the early morning of 4 June 1942. "Hornet", "Yorktown", and "Enterprise" launched aircraft, just as the Japanese carriers struck their planes below to prepare for a second attack on Midway. "Hornet" dive bombers were unable to locate their targets, but 15 torpedo bombers of her Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8) found their enemy and pressed home their attacks. They were met by overwhelming fighter opposition about convert|8|mi|km|0 out and were shot down one by one. Ensign George H. Gay, USNR, was the only survivor of thirty men.

Of 41 torpedo planes launched by the three American carriers, only six returned. But their sacrifice drew enemy fighters away from the dive bombers of "Enterprise" and "Yorktown"; these aircraft sank three Japanese carriers, with an indirect but crucial assist from submarine USS|Nautilus|SS-168. The fourth Japanese carrier, "Hiryū", was hit late in the afternoon of 4 June and sank in the early hours of the morning on the following day. "Yorktown" was lost to combined aerial and submarine attack.

"Hornet"’s planes (this time assisted by submarine USS|Tambor|SS-198 attacked the fleeing Japanese fleet on 6 June 1942, and assisted in sinking the cruiser "Mikuma", damaging a destroyer, and left the cruiser "Mogami" aflame and heavily damaged; hits were also made on other ships. "Hornet's" attack on "Mogami" ended one of the decisive battles of history. Midway was saved as an important base for operations into the western Pacific. Of greatest importance was the crippling of Japan's carrier strength, a severe blow from which she never fully recovered. Additionally, the four large carriers carried with them to the bottom some 250 planes and a high percentage of Japan's most highly trained and battle-experienced carrier pilots. The victory at Midway is widely seen as a turning point in the battle for the Pacific.

Solomons campaign, August–October, 1942

Following the battle of Midway, "Hornet" had a new CXAM radar installed atop her tripod mast, and her SC radar was relocated to the mainmast, an additional convert|1.1|in|mm|sing=on quad mount was added at the bow, her 20mm complement was increased from 30 to 32 mounts, her athwartships hangar deck catapult was removed, and she trained out of Pearl Harbor. She sailed 17 August 1942 to guard the sea approaches to bitterly-contested Guadalcanal in the Solomons. Bomb damage to "Enterprise" (24 August), torpedo damage to USS|Saratoga|CV-3 (31 August), and loss of USS|Wasp|CV-7 (15 September) reduced carriers in the South Pacific to one: "Hornet". She bore the brunt of air cover in the Solomons until 24 October 1942 when she joined "Enterprise" northwest of the New Hebrides and steamed to intercept a Japanese carrier/battleship force bearing down on Guadalcanal.

The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands took place 26 October 1942 without contact between surface ships of the opposing forces. That morning "Enterprise" planes bombed carrier "Zuihō". Planes from "Hornet" severely damaged carrier "Shōkaku", and cruiser "Chikuma". Two other cruisers were also attacked by "Hornet" aircraft. Meanwhile, "Hornet" was attacked by a coordinated dive bombing and torpedo plane attack. In a 15-minute period, "Hornet" took three bomb hits from Aichi D3A "Val" dive bombers, another bomb hit (followed by the Val itself crashing into the deck), two torpedo hits from Nakajima B5N "Kate"s, and one more Val crashing into the deck.

Rear Admiral Murray ordered USS|Northampton|CA-26 to tow the damaged "Hornet". Since the Japanese were attacking "Enterrprise", it allowed "Northampton" to tow at about convert|5|kn. "Hornet", while under tow, came under attack again from another wave of torpedo bombers later in the day. One more Kate scored a torpedo hit, and "abandon ship" was ordered. Captain Charles P. Mason, the last man on board, climbed over the side, and survivors were soon picked up by destroyers.

U.S. forces then attempted to scuttle the abandoned "Hornet", which stubbornly absorbed nine torpedoes and more than 400 convert|5|in|mm|abbr=on rounds from destroyers USS|Mustin|DD-413 and USS|Anderson|DD-411. "Mustin" and "Anderson" moved off when Japanese naval forces appeared in the area. Japanese destroyers then finished the "Hornet" with four convert|24|in|mm|0|sing=on torpedoes. At 01:35, 27 October 1942, the gallant carrier finally sank. She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register 13 January 1943, but her name was revived.

"Hornet" received four battle stars for World War II service. Torpedo Squadron 8 was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation "for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service beyond the call of duty" in the Battle of Midway.




External links

* [ Navy photographs of "Hornet" (CV-8)]
* [ Maritimequest USS Hornet CV-8 Photo Gallery]
* [ More detail on last hours of Hornet.]
* [ CV-8 Personnel Roster at]

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