Hornet CV-8 Found on Pacific’s Floor

PaulAllen.com    A research team on board the R/V Petrel discovered the wreckage of the USS Hornet CV-8 earlier this month. The team released this photo of one of the Hornet’s 12 five-inch naval guns that defended the ship from air attack. These guns could fire 16 to 20 rounds per minute. The Hornet CV-8 left the Alameda Naval Air Station on April 1, 1942, to carry out the Doolittle Raid. The Hornet was lost on Oct. 26, 1942, after sustaining heavy damage during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands.

Aircraft carrier left from Alameda, carried Doolittle Raid

Microsoft’s co-founder Paul Allen’s 250-foot research vessel, (R/V) Petrel, discovered the wreck of USS Hornet (CV-8), the predecessor to today’s Hornet (CV-12), some 17,500 feet below the surface of the South Pacific in late January. (“Researchers Discover Doolittle’s Hornet CV-8,” Feb. 14). Sadly the discovery took place some three months after Allen’s death. When R/V Petrel announced its 10-person team had located USS Hornet, it called the ship that launched the Doolittle Raid from Naval Air Station Alameda “one of the most important aircraft carriers in World War II history.”

“Paul Allen was particularly interested in historically significant and capital ships, so this mission and discovery honors his legacy,” Robert Kraft, R/V Petrel’s director of subsea operations, told the Smithsonian Institute. 

R/V Petrel discovered USS Hornet during the first dive mission of its underwater vehicle. Video footage taken aboard the vehicle confirmed the discovery. Team members pieced together data from national and naval archives to locate the aircraft carrier. They also used official deck logs and action reports from other ships engaged in the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands, which USS Hornet was engaged in when the Japanese sunk the carrier in the early morning hours of Oct. 27, 1942. 

Three bombs, two torpedoes and two dive bombers on “suicide dives” on the morning of Oct. 26, 1942, helped bring USS Hornet to its end. When one of these planes hit the flight deck, the force of the crash imbedded the motor and cockpit into the flight deck, leaving a hole in the deck as a result of the crash and the detonation of one of the plane’s bombs. The second bomb was a dud and dropped to the gallery deck.

USS Hornet stands on the list of R/V Petrel’s discoveries that include: 

  • USS Indianapolis that delivered  world’s first operational atomic bomb to the island of Tinian on July 26, 1945. According to the Washington Post’s Kristina Phillips, the ship was on a super-secret mission to deliver the components for the “Little Boy” atomic bomb dropped a week later on Hiroshima, Japan
  • USS Lexington that the Japanese feared. They called the carrier a “ghost” ship because she confronted by the carrier after they thought it had been sunk. USS Lexington’s crew called the aircraft carrier “The Blue Ghost” to match the color of her camouflage scheme.

“We’ve located USS Lexington after she sank 76 years ago. R/V Petrel found the aircraft carrier and planes more than two miles below the Coral Sea near Australia,” Allen Tweeted on March 6, 2018.

  • USS Juneau teamed up with USS Hornet to form TF 61, which ferried fighter aircraft to Guadalcanal. The destroyer sailed with and fought alongside the USS Hornet during the Buin-Faisi-Tonolai Raid; and at the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. Allen lived to see R/V Petrel discover USS Juneau some 13,800 below the surface off the Solomon Islands. 
  • USS Helena, which the Japanese sunk on July 6, 1943, in the Battle of Kula Gulf. R/V Petrel discovered the St. Louis-class cruiser, resting on the floor of the New Georgia Sound off the coast of the Solomon Islands.

R/V Petrel is not disclosing the precise locations of any of these vessels to protect their underwater gravesites.