The Aircraft Carrier USS Hornet Discovered at the Bottom of the South Pacific

first published on February 13, 2019 by

The famed WWII aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) has been discovered by the research vessel Petrel in the South Pacific Ocean. Chilling underwater photos and video have been released of the iconic ship, resting beneath the waves for over 75 years.

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The Research Vessel (RV) Petrel has done it again. Discovering yet another WWII naval ship on the vast sea floor over three miles down and shedding light on some of the most crucial moments in world history. Initiated by billionaire philanthropist Paul Allen, who sadly passed away this past year, the RV Petrel has located the resting place of some twenty warships on the bottom of both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Including the discoveries of the USS Indianapolis in 2017 and USS Lexington nearly a year ago.

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The USS Hornet had a legendary but brief service history in the pacific theater, launching the symbolic and daring “Doolittle Raid” against the Japanese home islands in April of 1942. The carrier managed to launch a flight of ground-based B-25 bombers under the command Lt. Col. James Doolittle from its flight deck and bomb multiple targets in Japan, including a bold fly over of the imperial palace. It then steamed towards the South Pacific attempting to join carriers Yorktown and Lexington in the battle of the Coral Sea. However, it arrived too late to participate in the action.

Launching of B-25 during the Doolittle raid. National Archives

In June of 1942, the Hornet would take part in the US’s stunning victory at the battle of Midway. Initiating the battle with an unsupported and ultimately doomed flight of torpedo bombers from the Hornet, Yorktown, and Enterprise, the Japanese carriers would be caught unaware of approaching American dive bombers. In just a few glorious minutes, US aircraft would deal a death blow to the cream of the Japanese Navy and immediately sink three carriers. The Hornet’s aircrews would help destroy several Japanese warships and numerous aircraft over the course of the three-day battle; with the Japanese navy ultimately losing four aircraft carriers to the American loss of the carrier Yorktown. The battle of Midway is widely considered to be one of the most decisive naval battles in history.

USS Hornet attacked by Japanese aircraft. National Archives

A few months later, after the commencement of the Solomon campaign and amphibious landings on Guadalcanal in August of 1942, the Hornet would arrive to support naval operations and guard against Japanese attacks. The Solomon campaign would be mired in ferocious fighting on both land and sea, with a series of extremely violent naval battles fought, often at night, against the Japanese Navy. The Hornet would meet her watery fate during the battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in late October. After repeated air attacks, she was struck by several torpedoes and the resulting explosions would kill 140 members of her crew. With the threat of an approaching Japanese surface fleet, Hornet was ordered to be scuttled. A number of US ships torpedoed the listing carrier and she slipped beneath waves until her discovery by the RV Petrel.


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