“Grey Ghost” – The USS Hornet Aircraft Carrier – Both of Them in 28 Photos


At the height of World War II in the Pacific, heavy aircraft carriers played a significant role in the composition of the U.S. Navy. One of the carriers that became famous at the beginning of the war was the USS Hornet (CV-8).

After its destruction in 1942, a new Essex-class aircraft carrier (CV-12) inherited the name Hornet. Both aircraft carriers contributed to the crushing of the Japanese imperial fleet.

On October 20, 1941, the first Hornet (CV-8) joined the U.S. Navy. Initially, the aviation component of Hornet included four squadrons: bomber, fighter, reconnaissance, and torpedo.

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) photographed circa late 1941, soon after completion, probably at a U.S. East Coast port

In April 1942, the aircraft carrier had 64 aircraft, consisting of 30 Grumman F4F-Wildcat fighters, 10 TBD-1 torpedo bombers, and 24 Douglas SBD Dauntless (A-24 Banshee) dive bombers.

Before the attack on Tokyo, that number increased to 77 aircraft: 27 Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighters, 35 SBD-3 Dauntless dive bombers, and 15 TBD-1 torpedo bombers.

“Take off from the deck of the USS HORNET of an Army B-25 on its way to take part in first U.S. air raid on Japan. Doolittle Raid, April 1942.”

The full displacement of the Hornet was 26,500 tons, and it was 809.5 feet long and 114 feet wide. The thickness of its armor was anywhere from 1-3 inches on the lower decks, and 4 inches on the upper decks.

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) underway in Hampton Roads, Virginia (USA), on 27 October 1941

The engine consisted of four Parsons turbines and 9 Babcock & Wilcox boilers, delivering about 120,000 horsepower and resulting in a maximum speed of 32.5 knots. At a speed of 17.3 miles per hour, the Hornet‘s range was about 12,527 nautical miles. A typical crew numbered 2,217 men but reached 2,919 at its maximum.

The rotating blade assembly of a marine Parsons turbine, 1930.Photo Topory CC BY-SA 3.0

Initially, the armament of the Hornet (CV-8) aircraft carrier included 8 127-mm Mk.12 guns, 16 (4×4) 28-mm Mk 1/1 rifles, and 24 12.7-mm Browning M2 guns. Eventually, 32 20-mm Oerlikon automatic guns replaced the Browning machine guns.

A Mk 21 5″ 38 caliber open pedestal mount (8 of these were mounted on the Hornet (CV-8))

1942 was a very active year for Hornet. In January, after a campaign in the Caribbean Sea, Hornet received twin-engine B-25 bombers on board. In March, Hornet was transferred to the U.S. Pacific Fleet, where its first operation was the “Doolittle Raid” on Tokyo.

Two SB2C Helldiver above Hornet

On June 4-6, Hornet participated in the battle at Midway Atoll. On the last day of the battle, Hornet‘s aircraft destroyed the previously damaged cruiser Mikuma and inflicted considerable damage on the cruiser Mogami.

U.S. Navy Douglas SBD-3 “Dauntless” dive bombers from scouting squadron VS-8 from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) approaching the burning Japanese heavy cruiser Mikuma to make the third set of attacks on her, during the Battle of Midway, 6 June 1942.

In August, during the assault on Guadalcanal, Hornet carried U.S. Marine Corps fighter aircraft. After that, it joined the aircraft carriers Saratoga and Wasp. Soon, Japanese submarines destroyed Wasp (CV-7) and damaged Saratoga (CV-3), and Hornet remained alone in the combat area.

On October 26, 1942, Hornet took part in a major battle near the islands of Santa Cruz. During the battle, Hornet suffered serious damage. Two attempts to tow the aircraft carrier were interrupted by the Japanese. As a result, the Americans decided to scuttle the Hornet.

A Japanese Type 99 Aichi D3A1 dive bomber (Allied codename “Val”) trails smoke as it dives toward the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8), during the morning of 26 October 1942. This plane struck the ship’s stack and then her flight deck.

To everyone’s surprise, despite a bombardment from both torpedoes and guns, Hornet continued to stay afloat. Japanese forces then arrived at the scene and drove off the American destroyers.

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8), severely listing, is abandoned by her crew at about 17-00 hrs during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands on 26 October 1942.

Evaluating the damage, the Japanese decided that towing Hornet would be impossible. On the morning of October 27, the Japanese destroyers Makigumo and Akigumo destroyed the Hornet.

After the original Hornet was destroyed, its name was inherited by another aircraft carrier, originally called Kearsarge. Hornet (CV-12) was first launched on August 30, 1943, and on November 29, 1943, it joined the U.S. Navy.

Launch of U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier USS Hornet (CV-12) – 30 August 1943

The engines of this Hornet were eight Babcock-Wilcox type water-tube boilers and four Westinghouse type turbines with a total capacity of 150,000 horsepower. The maximum speed was 33 knots.

USS Hornet (CV-12) Being Resupplied by an ammunition ship – 1944

Hornet‘s original armament consisted of 59 Oerlikon 20-mm machine guns, 10 four-barreled 40mm Bofors Mk.2, and 12 127-mm Mk.12 universal guns. The belt of the ship and the traverse bulkheads were four inches thick, and the hangar deck was 2.5 inches thick.

1945, a row of 20 mm Oerlikon guns aboard the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Hornet

During the war, Hornet‘s air group included up to 103 aircraft, which collectively destroyed 1,410 Japanese aircraft. Ten pilots serving on Hornet were awarded the title of “Ace in a Day,” meaning they shot down five or more enemy aircraft in one day. In addition, 30 out of the Hornet‘s 42 VF-2 Hellcat pilots were recognized as aces.

The USS Hornet.

The Hornet took an active part in military operations against Japan in the Pacific theater. It played a decisive role in the destruction of the Japanese battleship Yamato–the flagship of Japan’s Imperial Fleet. After WWII, Hornet took part in “Operation Magic Carpet.”

40mm guns firing aboard the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-12) on 16 February 1945, as the planes of Task Force 58 were raiding Tokyo. Note expended shells and ready-service ammunition at right.

In later years, Hornet was re-equipped twice and changed its qualifications. In 1952-1953, it was redesignated as an attack aircraft carrier (CVA-12). In 1958, the ship was again rearmed and received the CVS prefix, as an anti-submarine warfare support carrier.

The bow of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-12) showing damage received in a typhoon on 5 June 1945. The flight deck has been bent downwards over the bow and the plating torn away revealing the control position for the starboard catapult.

Hornet also took part in the Vietnam War and was engaged in patrolling the coast of Korea. On July 24, 1969, it delivered the crew of the Apollo 11 spacecraft safely home. Later that year, Hornet also recovered the crew of Apollo 12.

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CVA-12) en route to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on 10 January 1954, during shakedown following completion of her SCB-27A modernization. Hornet, with assigned Air Task Group 181 (ATG-181), was deployed to the Caribbean from 6 January to 5 March 1954.

In 1970, Hornet was withdrawn from the U.S. Navy, and was declared a National Historic Monument of the United States and California. Since 1998, it has been located in the port of Alameda, and is open to the public as a floating museum.

Captain’s Cabin USS Hornet – BrokenSphere CC BY-SA 3.0


Enlisted Crew Quarters on USS Hornet – Stan Shebs CC BY-SA 3.0


Flight Deck of the USS Hornet CV-12 with F2H Banshees.


Forward Engine Room of USS Hornet – BrokenSphere CC BY-SA 3.0


Hornet as a Museum Ship (Aft View) – Stan Shebs CC BY-SA 3.0


Hornet Museum Ship in Alameda, California – Stan Shebs CC BY-SA 3.0


Underway Replenishment with the USS Hornet (CVS-12), USS Comarron(AO-22), and USS Nicholas (DD-449)


USS Hornet Bridge – BrokenSphere – CC BY-SA 3.0


USS Hornet Gang Plank in Alameda, California – Stan Shebs CC BY-SA 3.0


USS Hornet Museum Ship Defense Guns – Stan Shebs CC BY-SA 3.0


USS Hornet Museum Ship Island – BrokenSphere CC BY-SA 3.0


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