On October 26, 1942, during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) was lost to the Pacific.
In January of 2019, just a week after confirming the discovery of the first Japanese battleship sunk in World War II, the crew of the Research Vessel Petrel announced the discovery of the historic aircraft carrier.
Outfitted and funded by late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, R/V Petrel has been responsible for uncovering an ever-growing of World War II-era ships in the past few years. Confirmation of the latest discovery came in the form of pictures taken by the ship’s remotely-operated submersible unit. One of the guiding principals of R/V Petrel is to not disclose the precise locations of their discoveries, considering the wrecks to be the final resting places of the men lost when their ships sank.
The images reveal what remains of Hornet, including hull damage likely caused by American destroyers Mustin (DD-413) and Anderson (DD-411) in their attempt to scuttle the crippled carrier. While it was not uncommon for a disabled ship to be sunk by friendly fire in order to keep it from falling into enemy hands, in the case of Hornet, it was Japanese fire that finally caused her to sink.
The Doolittle Raid
USS Hornet served in the United States Navy starting in October of 1941, when she was commissioned into service just weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor. In April, 1942, she was the lead vessel that launched the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo. Carrying 16 B-25 bombers, Hornet sailed with a task force to waters 600 nautical miles off Japan’s coast. The planes launched from the carrier, marking the first US strike against Japan’s home islands.
The Last Days of USS Hornet
Two months after the raid, USS Hornet took part in the Battle of Midway and later that summer and fall,in the Solomon Islands campaign. During the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, Japanese dive bombers and torpedo planes struck her repeatedly. With Japanese forces approaching, the order to abandon ship was given.
The R/V Petrel research team discovered the lost aircraft carrier in 5,330 meters (17,486 feet) of water in the South Pacific. The rusting vessel rests on the the sea floor and was located by a ten-person expedition team that relied on historical data that included ship’s logs and reports from other vessels that were part of the battle. Using records from nine other American warships that sighted Hornet before she sank, the Petrel crew was able to locate the ship after performing just one dive.