The wreckage of World War II’s USS Hornet has been discovered in the South Pacific Ocean near the Solomon Islands. The aircraft carrier, which was known to have begun the Doolittle Raid and was part of the Battle of Midway, was sunk by Japanese dive bombers, ship-launched torpedoes, and torpedo planes in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands.
It was the team of the late philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (who died last year) who discovered the wreckage in January 2019. Robert Kraft, who is the director of subsea operations for Vulcan, said during an announcement, “We had the Hornet on our list of WWII warships that we wanted to locate because of its place in history as a capitol carrier that saw many pivotal moments in naval battles,” adding, “Paul Allen was particularly interested in aircraft carriers so this was a discovery that honors his memory.”
Allen’s crew on his ship called the R/V Petrel, made an announcement earlier this month that they had located the Japanese ship IJN Hiei on February 6th. Both the Hiei and Hornet ships were discovered deep in the waters of the southern Solomon Islands. In fact, the USS Hornet was found at almost 17,500 feet (5,330 meters) underwater.
The Petrel team conducted expeditions to search for wreckage sites and last spring (in March and April of 2018) Allen and his team discovered the remains of carrier USS Lexington (CV-2), cruiser USS Juneau (CL-52) and cruiser USS Helena (CL-50).
The team put together data from national and naval archives in order to locate the Hornet. In their announcement, they explained, “Positions and sightings from nine other U.S. warships in the area were plotted on a chart to generate the starting point for the search grid. In the case of the Hornet, she was discovered on the first dive mission of the Petrel’s autonomous underwater vehicle and confirmed by video footage from the remotely operated vehicle, both pieces of equipment rated to dive down to 6,000 meters.”
In April of 1942, shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, U.S. Army Lt. Col. James Doolittle conducted the first air raid on the Japanese homeland in retaliation. There were a total of sixteen B-25 bombers that were launched from the deck of the USS Hornet, hitting their targets in Tokyo, Yokohama, Yokosuka, Kobe and Nagoya.
In October of 1942, the USS Hornet sank in the Battle of Santa Cruz Island while fighting to push the Japanese forces away from the southern Solomon Islands. The aircraft carrier was bombarded with heavy fire coming from Japanese dive bombers and torpedo planes. The ship ended up catching on fire causing severe damage, while other U.S. Navy ships tried rescuing the crew. The USS Hornet was one tough ship, as it took around 24 hours to finally sink after the bombs first starting hitting it.