Wednesday, February 13, 2019

In Memoriam: USS Hornet (CV-8)

USS Hornet (CV-8) cruising off Hampton Roads in October 1941.
She carried the Doolittle Raid to Japan, launching twin-engined B-25 bombers from her flight deck.

She was there at the Battle of Midway. Though her air group lost heavily in the early stages of the battle, her warbirds were there when U.S. Navy aircraft found, and sank, the Japanese heavy cruiser Mikuma. They also damaged a Japanese destroyer, and left the Mikuma's sister ship Mogami smoking and limping away from the battle, the last act of the battle of Midway. (Mogami would survive and be repaired, only to go to the bottom at the Battle of the Surigao Strait in 1944.)

She was there for the Solomons Campaign, for a time she was the only operational carrier in the entire Pacific theater what with USS Enterprise (CV-6) and USS Saratoga (CV-3) undergoing repairs for, respectively, bomb and torpedo damage, and with USS Wasp (CV-7) having been sunk off Guadalcanal.

She was there for the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands where she met her end...
The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands took place on 26 October 1942 without contact between surface ships of the opposing forces. That morning, Enterprise's planes bombed the carrier Zuihō, while planes from Hornet severely damaged the carrier Shōkaku and the heavy cruiser Chikuma. Two other cruisers were also attacked by Hornet's warplanes. Meanwhile, Hornet was attacked by a coordinated dive bomber and torpedo plane attack. In a 15-minute period, Hornet was hit by three bombs from Aichi D3A "Val" dive bombers. One "Val," after being heavily damaged by anti-aircraft fire while approaching Hornet, crashed into the carrier's island, killing seven men and spreading burning aviation gas (Avgas) over the deck. Meanwhile, a flight of Nakajima B5N "Kate" torpedo planes attacked Hornet and scored two hits, which seriously damaged the electrical systems and engines. As the carrier came to a halt, another damaged "Val" deliberately crashed into Hornet's port side near the bow.

With power knocked out to her engines, Hornet was unable to launch or land aircraft, forcing its aviators to either land on Enterprise or ditch in the ocean. Rear Admiral George D. Murray ordered the heavy cruiser Northampton to tow Hornet clear of the action. Since the Japanese planes were attacking Enterprise, this allowed Northampton to tow Hornet at a speed of about five knots (9 km/h; 6 mph). Repair crews were on the verge of restoring power when another flight of nine "Kate" torpedo planes attacked. Eight of these aircraft were either shot down or failed to score hits, but the ninth scored a fatal hit on the starboard side. The torpedo hit destroyed the repairs to the electrical system and caused a 14-degree list. After being informed that Japanese surface forces were approaching and that further towing efforts were futile, Vice Admiral William Halsey ordered Hornet sunk, and an order of "abandon ship" was issued. Captain Charles P. Mason, the last man on board, climbed over the side, and the survivors were soon picked up by the escorting destroyers.

American warships next attempted to scuttle the stricken carrier, which absorbed nine torpedoes, many of which failed to explode, and more than 400 5-inch (130 mm) rounds from the destroyers Mustin and Anderson. The destroyers steamed away when a Japanese surface force entered the area. The Japanese destroyers Makigumo and Akigumo finally finished off Hornet with four 24-inch (610 mm) Long Lance torpedoes. At 01:35 on 27 October, Hornet was finally sunk with the loss of 140 of her sailors. (Source)
USS Hornet under attack during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands.
 The grave of USS Hornet has been located by the research organization founded by the late Paul Allen. She lies in 17,500 feet of water where she met her end. A fine ship, a proud ship, may her memory live on, may the valor of her crew be ever remembered.





Immortal Valor






* A tip of the hat to my old buddy EK, 12-Bravo, for alerting me to this story.

66 comments:

  1. I was looking at some of the photos. There was a Wildcat whose landing gear was perpendicular to where they should be. HORNET was moving at a good clip when she hit bottom!

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    1. Well, it's a long trip to the bottom at 17,500 feet.

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  2. USS Hornet was a fighting ship with a fighting crew alright. Impressive that they found her and she seems in decent shape after a descent to 17,500 feet, all the battle damage, and all this time that has gone by since she sank.

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    1. R/V Petrel does some amazing work, apparently they've also found a Japanese battleship Hiei, the first one sunk by American forces.

      Shame that Paul Allen is no longer alive to see all this.

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  3. Surprised to see a tow tractor still upright in full view after an almost three mile drop. Hornet's torpedo squadron lost all 15 planes during the Midway battle, there were brave men in those crap planes and lack of fighter escort helped doom them. Those pre-war fleet carriers were good looking ships.

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    1. I was surprised to be able to read the manufacturer's name plate on the side of that tractor. Looks like you could just clean it up and it would fire right up. I've always like International Harvester vehicles, we had a number of them in Korea.

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  4. The Japanese torpedoes worked...

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    1. They have a Long Lance torpedo on display at the Naval Academy. Suckers are HUGE!

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    2. They were also more prone to detonation when subject to external shock, so IJN captains would often choose to jettison them when they came under air attack.

      At least a couple heavy cruisers (Chōkai, Suzuya) were actually sunk due to the explosions of their own torpedoes.

      The Japanese gambled that the benefits outweighed the drawbacks, though.

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    3. Things that go "boom" are often finicky. K-141 Kursk was sunk by the detonation of one of her torpedoes as well.

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    4. US torpedoes at the start of WW II were a scandal and the bureaucrats defending what had been developed should have been hanged, IMO.

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    5. The ImpJapanese used an explosive mixture that tended to be more volatile, packing more bang for the buck, but also had the tendency to be more unstable, especially when exposed to salt water. They gambled big, and it usually paid off.

      Which makes diving off ImpJap ships a rather dangerous thing.

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    6. IJN "long lances" used pure oxygen as well, oxidizer for the combustion engines, compared to air in other nation torps
      it gave less visible bubbles trail and more energy per fuel mass unit
      they also have been larger, with 609mm (24 inches) caliber comapred to standard 21 inches of other navies.
      the warhead was big, around half metric ton, almost twice of other nation torps and range was also enormous
      Some specification examples of ranges by speed:

      22,000 m (24,000 yd) at 48 to 50 kn (89 to 93 km/h; 55 to 58 mph)
      33,000 m (36,000 yd) at 37 to 39 kn (69 to 72 km/h; 43 to 45 mph)
      40,400 m (44,200 yd) at 33 to 35 kn (61 to 65 km/h; 38 to 40 mph)

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    7. And the IJN made darned sure it worked and worked right before issuing it to the sailors.

      Unlike the USN.

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    8. And IJN trained the hell of the crews to operate it at maximum efficiency
      Tanaka at Tassafaronga probably best showed the deadly proficiency of IJN torps.

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    9. After the collision, the damage control officer of the Mogami made the decision to jettison that ship's Long Lances. The Mikuma's didn't, and the ship and crew paid the price when the air attack came.

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  5. As a kid, I joined a cult called the "Military Book Club". For a dollar you could order 4 or 5 poorly bound books, and another one showed up each month, unless you managed to call it off before it shipped. Had to order so many to be eligible to quit...

    One of the books I got was a 2 volume set about submarines in WW2. Silent Victory. We didn't have reliable torpedoes until way on in the war. Navy doctrine only allowed them to set it to explode magnetically, under the target. But that didn't work. One of the sub captains fired a war shot at a cliff, and it failed to detonate. So contact didn't work either. And we lost subs because of that... D.C. couldn't be wrong, so we went to war with unusable weapons that weren't addressed for far too long....

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    1. Germans had similar problems with the magnetic "pistols" on their torpedoes. So they switched to using contact only, which worked. I don't think the boffins were involved like they were with the U.S. Navy.

      What can you do when the "scientists" claim that an item has been fully tested so it can't be at fault. The end user always gets blamed, "somehow, you're doing it wrong."

      I wish I could say that we don't do that anymore.

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    2. Problem proven by sub gangs at Pearl dropping a torp from heights. When they went to the earlier non-magnetic contact primers, successful bangs became more frequent.

      Besides the magnetic fuses, we also had a problem with our torpedoes circling. We lost at least one sub to it's own torpedo.

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    3. I remember the circling problem. Not good at all!

      Gyroscope problem? I seem to remember something about that.

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    4. Well, according to the 'Net, the Mk 14 Torpedo was chock-full of no-goodness.

      Torpedoes ran too deep, proven by Lockwood. Duh, the test warhead weighed less than the real warhead, so the system for warshot just sank farther. D'oh!

      Magnetic fuses tended to be too sensitive, and exploded prematurely. Those that didn't exploded postmaturely. Few outside of test conditions exploded just right. That's what you get when you have 3 bears testing torpedoes...

      Contact exploder didn't explode. Proven by Lockwood and his gang by first firing live torpedoes at the Hawaiian coastline, and then dropping warheads full of sand from a crane onto a dock. The contact fuse would get crushed and not blow up. Simple solution was to strike the target with a glancing blow, thus jarring the contact fuse instead of striking the contact fuse. Simple from miles away, right?

      And the circling issue, not really addressed except by better quality control. Either union employees, Jap dust bunnies or lazy workers (see union employees.)

      Once they fixed all the issues, it became a surprisingly agile and deadly weapon. Too bad they didn't do all the trials and finagling of issues before we lost so many good submariners to its faults.

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    5. They had a tendency to porpoise as well, which could cause the torpedo to broach the surface. There'd be next to zero chance of that torpedo hitting the target and it alerted all and sundry that a sub and running torpedoes were about -- unless you're a modern USN DDG which apparently any old freighter can sneak up on. I fear my father's Navy (shaped by still-serving vets of WWII, refreshed by horrific carrier fires of the Vietnam era, and with an ever-present potential near-peer [in some waters] foe), is dead. I suspect our Navy is setting itself up (if it hasn't already done so) for a repeat of the USN's Asiatic Fleet of WWII, or worse (if the rot isn't corrected) the Spanish fleet of 1898.

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    6. Somewhat off-topic: I once noted to Dad after a show about the Forrestal fire that the carrier fires happened years after the vast majority of WWII vets would've retired, and those that were left were so high up they had no real touch with what actual ship crews were doing. He thought a minute, and ventured that that might well have led to the loss of focus on damage control. Peacetime military pays with blood for peacetime ways. That was my big beef with the Philippines when I was there in the Air Force -- it reeked of pre-07DEC41 mentality. As if we wouldn't be hit if it came to war...

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  6. I bought a model kit of Hornet as a kid, because it came with a passel of little B-25’s to put on the deck.

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    1. I believe the operation plan for the Doolittle Raid specifically called for a "passel" of B-25s. Passel apparently means 16 in this instance. ;)

      Tamiya still offers a model (1/700 scale) of USS Hornet with B-25s to place on the flight deck. Sort of ironic I guess, Tamiya being a Japanese company.

      (Do a search on "model of USS Hornet.")

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    2. Pretty sure it was this kit, I remember the picture on the box:

      https://www.oldmodelkits.com/index.php?detail=29053&erl=Revell-1-490-USS-Hornet-CV-8-with-B-25s-5223

      Probably got it in the early 1990s, cheap at the local hobby shop. Do those places sill exist anymore?

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    3. Nice.

      I remember going to college in Fort Collins, I used to spend an inordinate amount of time at the local hobby shop. Gone, no doubt forever. While I do shop online, it's for things that I know I want, there is very little browsing involved. I loved the ability to just go and look around. I do that now at Barnes & Noble, I never know what I want until I see it. The new generations seem to like their convenience, I think they are slowly being enslaved.

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    4. e have a Hobby Lobby and Hobby Town, along with a specialist RC/slot car shop up where the airport used to be.

      I *think* there's a Mom 'N Pop place in Old Town, but I'd have to look again.

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    5. drjim - it's good to know that Fort Collins still has a few hobby shops left. The place I used to go was in a residential neighborhood (as near as I can remember) somewhere off Prospect. It's been a long time but I seem to remember going down S. Taft Hill Rd then turning on to Prospect. Seems it was south of Prospect.

      Like I said, it's been a long time.

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  7. Thank you for a nice rendition of the USS Hornet story.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

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  8. Let us hope 3 miles down is far enough to protect her from the salvage pirates that have raped so many WWII wrecks in the Pacific already.

    Rest in piece, Dear Lady.

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    1. Grrr, salvage pirates, we hates them!

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    2. Whether actual free-range pirates or government-sponsored privateers, the illegal salvagers have raped too many ships. Fingers do tend to point to the land of Han, go figure...

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    3. Point away, I won't disagree. The Middle Kingdom has been pissing me off lately anyway.

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  9. This link takes you to the BUSHIPS report on Hornet's loss dated 08JUL43.
    http://ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/WarDamageReports/WarDamageReportCV8/WarDamageReportCV8.html

    I suggest starting the Navy Hymn, and then watch the Hornet video full screen as it plays.

    Very good post.


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    1. Great link, John, thanks!

      I did just as you suggested when I was going through final edits on the post.

      It got dusty, real fast.

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    2. I looked at the incredible photos of the ship sitting upright on the bottom, and I wonder if everyone that made that the trip to the ocean floor was dead when the ship sank.
      Considering the number of compartments, and the chaos, I think that not everyone made it off the ship before it sank.
      And that made the dust effect worse than usual.





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    3. I had much the same thought, John.

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    4. One hopes that the Navy did it's usual best and got every survivor off. One hopes.

      The early carrier war years were bad for us. We were lucky to survive it. Too many didn't.

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    5. We were extraordinarily lucky (or blessed?) that our carriers were 'out of town' on 7 DEC 41!

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    6. Oh, most certainly. Total luck that day.

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  10. One thing is, many criticism were levelled at USN higher command for being overly cautious with CV in the Solomons.
    But we should consider that USN lost Wasp and Hornet there, and the Big E had close call.
    Even after Midway IJN had some strong CV force, and with Essex still many months off from deployment a dose of caution was needed. Had the USN CV force be wiped out, Henderson Field could be subdued by remaining IJN CVs and surface forces. Eventually marines would be doomed. It was a very close run campaign, from the moment luckily for Turner Mikawa turned back after Savo. Losing all the transports and many unloaded marines off Guadalcanal in very start would be crippling...

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    1. Yes, the Navy was very cautious in the area, it pissed off the Marines but Admiral Turner wasn't going to be the man who lost the remaining carriers.

      Smart move as you point out.

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    2. And that's the issue with capital ships of all kinds. Long lead times, huge budgets, huge crews. Do you commit and go for it all, like the IJN did at Leyte Gulf, or do you play it cautious, thus ending up with Jutland and post Jutland.

      Considering how quickly the USN adopted the carrier as the primary strike element, the needs to horde them until such time that the next wave of construction came available was the right choice. A painful, bloody choice, and possibly not the most effective one, but it would have been much worse to lose them all.

      Too often in the early Pacific War the US only had barely one effective carrier. The truly amazing thing is the USN did hold the IJN. Held them long enough that the swarm of escort, light and fleet carriers and the crews could equip and train up to become the vengeful fist of doom. (I particularly love the picture of all the Essex class carriers in "Murderer's Row" as found here: http://www.navyhistory.org/2015/09/historical-murderers-row-photograph-at-ulithi-update/

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    3. And part of me is glad that Yamamoto never got to see the Essex horde. In many ways he was truly a gentleman. An enemy, but a gentleman

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    4. "...like the IJN did at Leyte Gulf, or do you play it cautious, thus ending up with Jutland and post Jutland."

      Andrew; The IJN at Leyte Gulf was the very opposite of bold. They successfully lured Admiral Halsey away, then the force headed to destroy the transports let themselves be turned away by a few of the smallest carriers in the fleet. " Go for it all " my backside.

      Paul

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    5. The partially empty and poorly equipped carriers and their escorts pulled Halsey away north. Leaving the battlewagons, cruisers and destroyers to push for a suicide run in order to try to break the USN. The Jeep Carriers and their escorts paid dearly, but in the end the USN won the day in the last real gun vs gun fight.

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    6. "...last real gun vs gun fight."

      Well, some guns ( unless you are counting the machine guns on the aircraft ) and some aircraft ( albeit, not armed for anti-ship work ). Nevertheless, the IJN showed a distinct lack of fortitude in the attack on those U.S. forces screening the transports, especially considering the ships the INJ had in that attacking force. I also question your characterization of it as a " suicide run ".

      Paul

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    7. Don't forget the guys on those destroyers going in against the Japanese heavies. There was gun to gun action there.

      Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors is a must read on the topic.

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    8. "Well, some guns ( unless you are counting the machine guns on the aircraft )..."

      Did you not read that as meaning the destroyers screening the escort carriers? Those were the guns to which I was referring. No doubt the few larger caliber guns ( as well as all the other guns of any caliber which could see the IJN ships [ whether or not they were in range ] on the carriers were firing also, but it was the destroyers that I had in mind as I wrote that line.

      Paul

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    9. "Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors is a must read on the topic."

      Y,IHRTB.

      Paul

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    10. Paul @3:15 - Gomenasai, I misread that.

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    11. Paul @3:17 - Nice, new acronym. I even understood it!

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    12. "Nice, new acronym. I even understood it!"

      Thanks for the accolade, however I noticed that it is not yet listed on the acronym page.

      Paul

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    13. I shall take care of that forthwith, I have indeed been remiss in my duties!

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  11. It breaks my heart to read about storied ships and planes having earned battle streamers that wind up being cut up for scrap. But I understand. It was the sentiment of the times.

    I spent my Army hitch working in the Small Arms Repair shop. After my discharge, you could not have given me and M-16 (well ok, I would have accepted on as a gift). But I just had no interest in them. If the Army had suddenly decided to return to the M-14 and to melt all the M-16's into beer cans and toasters, I would have just shrugged. That was 1977. 20 years later, I started building AR-15's for my fellow civilians. Still do.

    So perhaps it is fitting that this gallant Fighting Lady lies where she is, entombed as she died, and a lasting reminder and memorial.

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    1. I am still in mourning over the scrapping of USS Enterprise (CVN-65), my son-in-law did two combat tours on that ship. I saw her arrive at the pier in Norfolk from her last deployment. She looked old and proud.

      Sad to see them get broken up.

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  12. Hey AFSarge;

    Escellent Post, I saw the story last night and I was thrilled. I did notice something, on the video, looking at the wildcat fighter, you notice the "national insignia". Well we used to have the red circle inside the star and as I recall, they removed that before Coral sea to keep confusion with the red circle getting mixed up with the "Meatball" on the Japanese airplanes. Seeing that red circle showed me that they just used white paint to cover up the little red circle and the new paint wasn't as durable as the old factory paint was. Funny what I notice, LOL

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  13. One of the most sobering things about USS HORNET is that she was only in commission for 371 days, after taking 25 months to build. An incredible amount of action was crammed into those 371 days:

    25 September 1939 - Keel of USS HORNET laid down at Newport News, VA.
    20 October 1941 - Commissioned at Norfolk Naval Station, VA
    28 December 1941 - Began 1 month shakedown cruise in the Gulf of Mexico
    04 March 1942 - Left Norfolk for Pacific Ocean, via the Panama Canal.
    20 March 1942 - Arrived in San Diego for Air Group 8 carrier qualifications
    21-27 March 1942 - Carrier qualifications for Air Group 8 off San Diego.
    31 March 1942 - Arrived at Naval Air Station Alameda.
    01 April 1942 - Loaded 16 B-25 Mitchell Bombers at Alameda.
    2 April 1942 Departed San Francisco for Doolittle raid.
    18 April 1942 - Doolittle raid launched in 45 knot winds and 30 foot seas.
    25-30 April 1942 - At Pearl Harbor for a brief refit.
    30 April 1942 - Left Pearl Harbor to aid LEXINGTON (CV-2) and YORKTOWN (CV-5) in the Battle of Coral Sea but arrived 1 day
    late.
    26 May 1942 - Returned to Pearl Harbor with damaged YORKTOWN.
    28 May 1942 - HORNET, ENTERPRISE and YORKTOWN depart Pearl Harbor for Midway Island in anticipation of an enemy attack.
    4-6 June 1942 - BATTLE OF MIDWAY-
    1-17 August 1942- HORNET in Pearl Harbor for repairs and modifications
    17 August 1942 - HORNET sailed to guard the sea approach to Guadalcanal in the Solomons.
    24 October 1942 - HORNET joined ENTERPRISE and steamed east of the Santa Cruz Islands to intercept a Japanese strike force.
    26 October 1942 - The Battle of Santa Cruz. HORNET sunk.

    Many of the pilots and gunners lost at Midway with VT-8 (Torpedo 8) were honored by having Sumner class destroyers named after them.
    John Blackshoe.

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    1. Almost as amazing is that she only took 25 months to build.

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    2. John - She certainly saw her fair share of action. She probably kept us in the war until we could get back on our feet and start punching back.

      Ships like Hornet paid a heavy price but held the line.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)