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History of the USS Hornet

Updated on October 4, 2018

USS Hornet CV-8

The USS Hornet was a famous aircraft carrier in World War II. The USS Hornet was built by Newport News Shipbuilding Company and launched on December 14, 1940. The USS Hornet was commissioned in October of 1941.

On February 2, 1942, the USS Hornet took aboard two B-25 Mitchell bombers, which soon after putting to sea, launched from the deck of the USS Hornet. These bomber aircraft weren't ever used on aircraft carriers before. They were the beginnings of a test to see if bombers could be launched from an aircraft carrier.

Shangri La

After the B-25 tests from Norfolk Navy Station in Virginia, the USS Hornet sailed through the Panama Canal to Alameda, California, near Oakland and San Fransisco. Once at Naval Air Station Alameda, The USS Hornet was loaded with sixteen, B-25 Mitchell bombers.

Capt Marc Mitscher, of the USS Hornet was given orders to sail to within 460 miles of Japan so that the B-25's could launch a bombing raid commanded by Col Jimmy Doolittle. This was the to be the first bombing of mainland Japan.

Approximately 690 miles from Japan, the USS Hornet was spotted by a Japanese patrol boat and the B-25's had to launch earlier than was desired. None of the B-25's had enough gas to land at the designated landing strip in China because of the early launches. Most of the B-25's either crashed or ditched at sea. Most of the crewmen of the B-25's escaped with the help of the Chinese. The damage inflicted by the bombing raid wasn't extensive but did much to help morale for America, at that stage of the war. Later, when everyone wondered, what air base the B-25's had launched from: President Roosevelt told reporters: They came from Shangri-La.


In June of 1942 the USS Hornet participated in the Battle of Midway and aided in the destruction of four of Japan's carriers, which arguably turned the tide of the war in the Pacific. The USS Hornet's dive bombers and fighter escorts that were sent to battle the Japanese carriers had to ditch at sea because they flew in the wrong direction and ran out of gas.

The remaining bombers were shot down (all but one) because of no fighter escorts. However, this aided in occupying Japanese fighters long enough for other aircraft from other carriers to score hits. Later as the Japanese fleet retreated, the Hornet was able to help sink a cruiser, damage a destroyer and heavily damage another Japanese cruiser.

Solomon Islands

With several of the other US carriers damaged, the USS Hornet was the only available carrier in the South Pacific, late in 1942. The sea battles around the Solomon Islands were fierce. Joining up with the Hornet, the carrier Enterprise met Japanese forces in the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands. The USS Hornet's aircraft damaged three Japanese cruisers and one carrier, however, sustained much damage from attacking Japanese "Vals" Aichi D3A dive bombers and torpedo planes, B5N "kates" with one Aichi D3A actually hitting the Hornet.

Heavily damaged, the Hornet, began to be towed by an American cruiser but was hit again by another Japanese B5N. In an attempt to scuttle their own ship, the Hornet was torpedoed nine times and shot over 500 times with five inch rounds by two US destroyers. Japanese destroyers then moved in and delivered four torpedoes to the USS Hornet. The USS Hornet took everything "both sides" threw at her, and finally sank, on October 27th, 1942.


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