Researchers Discover Doolittle’s Hornet CV-8


At the end of last month a research ship located the remains of the aircraft carrier that took Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle and his “Raiders” to Japan. 

Today USS Hornet (CV-12) welcomes guests from all over the world. This aircraft carrier made history for the role its officers and crew played in recovering Apollo 11 astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. after their epic landing on the moon. USS Hornet (CV-12) traces its lineage to a merchant sloop that the two-month-old United States Navy chartered from Captain William Stone in December 1775. Stone and his crew fitted out the first Hornet with 10 nine-pounder guns at Baltimore, Md., and set sail on Feb. 3, 1776.

In 1922, when the Navy added aircraft carriers to its fleet, it chose the letters CV to identify a ship as a carrier. USS Langley was the first to carry the new designation as CV-1. Two carriers named USS Hornet have had the CV designation: CV-8 went into service on Oct. 20, 1941, and CV-12 replaced CV-8 on Nov. 20, 1943. 

USS Hornet (CV-8) became part of legend and lore when it carried Doolittle’s planes, pilots and crew on their bombing mission over Japan in April 1942. Two months later the now-famous USS Hornet (CV-8) joined two other carriers — USS Enterprise (CV-6) and USS Yorktown (CV-5) — at the Battle of Midway. 

USS Hornet (CV-8) played a key role in what the Navy calls a “turning point in the Pacific Campaign.” Aviators from all three carriers attacked the numerically superior Imperial Japanese Navy and sunk all four of the Japanese carriers while paying the price of losing USS Yorktown (CV-5)

Victory at the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands four months later cost the Navy USS Hornet (CV-8). “The carrier weathered a withering barrage from Japanese dive bombers and torpedo planes — but the crew eventually had to abandon ship, leaving the Hornet to its sinking,” the Navy later reported. 

An estimated 140 of USS Hornet (CV-8)’s 2,200 sailors and air crew members paid with their lives for what the Navy called a “tactical victory.” 

The Navy tried to sink USS Hornet (CV-8) with nine torpedoes and more than 400 rounds of 5-inch shellfire from its own destroyers USS Mustin (DD 413) and USS Anderson (DD 411). Although ablaze from stem to stern, the wounded carrier refused to sink. 

“The destroyers had to retire from the scene upon the arrival of (two) Japanese destroyers,” the Navy reported. “The Japanese administered the coup de grace to USS Hornet (CV-8) by firing four 24-inch torpedoes at her blazing hull, finally sending her to the bottom at 1:35 a.m., Oct. 27, 1942.” 

USS Hornet (CV-8) served the Navy for a year and six days. She was the last American carrier sunk by enemy fire. In addition to the battles of Midway and the Santa Cruz Islands, officers and crewmembers aboard USS Hornet (CV-8) participated in the Buin-Faisi-Tonolai Raid, the Solomon Islands Campaign and the capture and defense of Guadalcanal. 

After Japanese torpedoes sent USS Hornet (CV-8) to the bottom, the carrier lay untouched and undiscovered at a depth of nearly 17,500 feet until late January. The late Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen funded the research vessel Petrel that made the discovery. 

The Sun will cover more of this developing story next week.