USS Hornet (CV-8)

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For other ships of the same name, see USS Hornet.
USS Hornet
Hornet shortly after completion
Career (United States)
Name: USS Hornet
Ordered: 30 March 1939
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding Company
Laid down: 25 September 1939
Launched: 14 December 1940
Sponsored by: Annie Reid Knox
Commissioned: 20 October 1941
Struck: 13 January 1943
Honors and
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
with (4 Battle Stars)
World War II Victory Medal
Fate: Sunk in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, 26 October 1942
Notes: Last U.S. fleet carrier lost in action
General characteristics
(As Built)
Class and type: Yorktown-class aircraft carrier
Displacement: 20,000 long tons (20,000 t) (standard)
25,500 long tons (25,900 t) (full load)
29,114 long tons (29,581 t) (maximum)
Length: 770 ft (230 m) (waterline at design draft)
824 ft 9 in (251.38 m) (overall)
Beam: 83 ft 3 in (25.37 m) (waterline)
114 ft (35 m) (overall)
Draft: 24 ft 4 in (7.42 m) design
28 ft (8.5 m) full load
Installed power: 120,000 shp (89,000 kW)
Propulsion: 4 × Parsons geared steam turbines
9 × Babcock & Wilcox boilers
Speed: 32.5 kn (37.4 mph; 60.2 km/h) (design)
33.84 kn (38.94 mph; 62.67 km/h) (builder's trials)
Range: 12,500 nmi (14,400 mi; 23,200 km) at 15 kn (17 mph; 28 km/h)
Complement: 2,919 officers and enlisted (wartime)
  • 8 × 5 in (127 mm)/38 cal dual purpose guns
  • 16(4x4) × 1.1 in (28 mm)/75 cal anti-aircraft guns
  • 24 × M2 Browning .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns
  • Belt: 2.5–4 in (63.5–102 mm)
  • Deck: 4 in (102 mm) 60 lb STS steel
  • Bulkheads: 4 in (102 mm)
  • Conning Tower: 4 in (100 mm) sides, 2 in (51 mm) top
  • Steering Gear: 4 in (102 mm)
Aircraft carried: 72 × aircraft
Aviation facilities: 3 × elevators
3 × hydraulic catapults (2 flight deck, 1 hangar deck)
General characteristics
(February 1942)
Length: 827 ft 5 in (252.20 m) overall
  • 8 × 5 in (127 mm)/38 cal dual purpose guns
  • 16 (4x4) × 1.1 in (28 mm)/75 cal anti-aircraft guns
  • 30 × 20-mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft cannon
General characteristics
(July 1942)
Armament: 4 additional 1.1 in (28 mm)/75 cal
2 additional 20 mm Oerlikon
Aviation facilities: Hangar deck catapult removed

USS Hornet (CV-8), the seventh ship to carry the name Hornet, was a Yorktown-class aircraft carrier of the United States Navy. During World War II in the Pacific Theater, she launched the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo and participated in the Battle of Midway and the Buin-Faisi-Tonolai Raid. In the Solomon Islands campaign she was involved in the capture and defense of Guadalcanal and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands where she was irreparably damaged and sunk by enemy destroyers. Hornet was in service for a year and six days and was the last US fleet carrier ever sunk by enemy fire. For these actions, she was awarded four service stars, a citation for the Doolittle Raid in 1995, and her Torpedo Squadron 8 received a Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism for the Battle of Midway.

Construction and Commissioning[edit]

Hornet had a length of 770 feet (235 m) at the waterline and 824 feet 9 inches (251.38 m) overall. She had a beam of 83 feet 3 inches (25.37 m) at the waterline, 114 feet (35 m) overall, with a draft of 24 feet 4 inches (7.42 m) as designed and 28 feet (8.5 m) at full load. She displaced 20,000 long tons (20,000 t) at standard load and 25,500 long tons (25,900 t) at full load. She was designed for a ships crew consisting of 86 officers and 1280 men and an air complement consisting of 141 officers and 710 men.

She was powered by nine Babcock & Wilcox boilers providing steam at 400 psi (2,800 kPa) and 648 °F (342 °C) to four Parsons Marine geared steam turbines each driving its own propeller. The turbines were designed to produce a total of 120,000 shaft horsepower [shp] (89,000 kW) giving her a range of 12,000 nautical miles (14,000 mi; 22,000 km) at a speed of 15 knots (17 mph; 28 km/h). She was designed to carry 4,280 long tons (4,350 t) of fuel oil and 178,000 US gallons (670,000 l) of Avgas. Her designed speed was 32.5 knots (60.2 km/h; 37.4 mph). During sea trials, she produced 120,500 shp (89,900 kW) and reached 33.85 knots (62.69 km/h; 38.95 mph).

Hornet was equipped with eight 5-inch (127 mm)/38 caliber dual purpose guns and 16 1.1-inch (28 mm)/75 caliber anti-aircraft guns in quad mounts (four guns operating together). Originally, she had 24 M2 Browning .50-inch (12.7 mm) machine guns but these were replaced in January 1942 with 30 20-mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft cannon.[1][2] In June 1942, following the battle of Midway, Hornet had a new CXAM radar installed atop her tripod mast, and her SC radar was relocated to her mainmast. An additional 1.1-inch (28 mm) quad mount was added at her bow and her armament of 20 mm anti-aircraft guns was increased from 30 to 32 mounts. In addition, her athwartships hangar-deck aircraft catapult was removed.[3]

For armor, she had an armor belt of 30-pound (14 kg) special treatment steel (STS) that was 2.5 to 4 inches (64–102 mm) thick. The flight and hangar decks had no armor but the protective deck had 4 inches (100 mm) of 60-pound (27 kg) STS. Bulkheads had 4-inch (100 mm) armor while the conning tower had 30-16 splinter pro armor 4 inches (100 mm) on the sides with 2 inches (51 mm) on top. The steering gear had 4-inch (100 mm) protection on the sides with 60-16 on the deck.[1]

Her flight deck was 814 by 86 feet (248 m × 26 m) and her hangar deck was 546 by 63 feet (166 m × 19 m) and 17 feet 3 inches (5.26 m) high. She had three aircraft elevators each 48 by 44 feet (15 by 13 m) with a lifting capacity of 17,000 pounds (7,700 kg). She had two flight-deck and one hangar-deck hydraulic catapults and equipped with Mark IV Mod 3A arresting gear with a capability of 16,000 pounds (7,300 kg) and 85 miles per hour (137 km/h).[4] She was designed to host a Carrier Air Group of 18 fighters, 18 bombers, 37 scout planes, 18 torpedo bombers, 6 Utility aircraft.[1][5]

Hornet was laid down on 25 September 1939 by Newport News Shipbuilding of Newport News, Virginia and was launched on 14 December 1940, sponsored by Annie Reid Knox, wife of Secretary of the Navy Frank M. Knox. She was commissioned at Naval Station Norfolk on 20 October 1941, with Captain Marc A. Mitscher in command.[6][7]

Service History - World War II[edit]

During the period before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hornet trained out of Norfolk. A hint of a future mission occurred on 2 February 1942, when Hornet departed Norfolk with two Army Air Forces B-25 Mitchell medium bombers on deck. Once at sea, the planes were launched to the surprise and amazement of Hornet‍ '​s crew. Her men were unaware of the meaning of this experiment, as Hornet returned to Norfolk, prepared to leave for combat, and on 4 March sailed for the West Coast via the Panama Canal.[8][2]

Doolittle Raid, April 1942[edit]

Main article: Doolittle Raid
A B-25 takes off from Hornet.

Hornet arrived at Naval Air Station Alameda, California on 20 March 1942.[9] With her own planes on the hangar deck, by midafternoon on 1 April she loaded 16 B-25s on the flight deck.[10] Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, 70 United States Army Air Corps officers and 64 enlisted men reported aboard. In company of her escort, Hornet departed Alameda on 2 April[10] under sealed orders. That afternoon, Captain Mitscher informed his men of their mission: a bombing raid on Japan.

Eleven days later, Hornet joined the aircraft carrier Enterprise off Midway, and Task Force 16 turned toward Japan.[11] With Enterprise providing combat air patrol cover, Hornet was to steam deep into enemy waters. Originally, the task force intended to proceed to within 400 nmi (460 mi; 740 km) of the Japanese coast; however, on the morning of 18 April, a Japanese patrol boat, No. 23 Nitto Maru, sighted the American task force. Nashville sank the patrol boat.[12] Amid concerns that the Japanese had been made aware of their presence, Doolittle and his raiders were forced to launch prematurely from 600 nmi (690 mi; 1,100 km) out instead of the planned 400 nmi (460 mi; 740 km). Because of this decision, none of the 16 planes made it to their designated landing strip in China. After the war, it was found that Tokyo received the Nitto Maru's message in a garbled form and that the Japanese ship was sunk before it could get a clear message through to the Japanese mainland.[13]

As Hornet came about and prepared to launch the bombers which had been readied for take-off the previous day, a gale of more than 40 kn (46 mph; 74 km/h) churned the sea with 30 ft (9.1 m) crests; heavy swells, which caused the ship to pitch violently, shipped sea and spray over the bow, wet the flight deck and drenched the deck crews. The lead plane, commanded by Colonel Doolittle, had only 467 ft (142 m) of flight deck, while the last B-25 hung its twin rudders far out over the fantail. Doolittle, timing himself against the rise and fall of the ship's bow, lumbered down the flight deck, circled Hornet after take-off, and set course for Japan. By 09:20, all 16 were airborne, heading for the first American air strike against the Japanese home islands.[12]

Hornet brought her own planes on deck as Task Force 16 steamed at full speed for Pearl Harbor. Intercepted broadcasts, both in Japanese and English, confirmed at 14:46 the success of the raids. Exactly one week to the hour after launching the B-25s, Hornet sailed into Pearl Harbor.[14] Hornet‍ '​s mission was kept an official secret for a year; until then President Roosevelt referred to the ship the bombers started from only as "Shangri-La". Several years later, the Navy would give this name to an aircraft carrier.

Hornet steamed from Pearl Harbor on 30 April to aid Yorktown and Lexington[15] at the Battle of the Coral Sea, but the battle ended before she reached the scene. On 4 May Task Force 16 crossed the equator, the first time ever for Hornet.[16] After executing, with Enterprise, a feint towards Nauru and Banaba (Ocean) islands which caused the Japanese to cancel their operation to seize the two islands, she returned to Hawaii on 26 May,[17] and sailed two days later to help repulse an expected Japanese assault on Midway.[3][2]

Battle of Midway, June 1942[edit]

Main article: Battle of Midway
SBDs from Hornet at Midway

On 28 May 1942, Hornet and Task Force 16 steamed out of Pearl Harbor heading for Point "Luck", an arbitrary spot in the ocean roughly 325 miles (523 km) northeast of Midway, where they would be in a flank position to ambush Japan's mobile strike force of four frontline aircraft carriers, the Kidō Butai.[18] Japanese carrier-based planes were reported headed for Midway in the early morning of 4 June.[19] Hornet, Yorktown, and Enterprise launched aircraft, just as the Japanese carriers struck their planes below to prepare for a second attack on Midway.[20] Hornet dive bombers followed an incorrect heading and did not find the enemy fleet. Several bombers and all of the escorting fighters were forced to ditch when they ran out of fuel attempting to return to the ship. Fifteen torpedo bombers of Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8) found the Japanese ships and attacked. They were met by overwhelming fighter opposition about eight nautical miles (9 mi; 15 km) out, and with no escorts to protect them, they were shot down one by one. Ensign George H. Gay, USNR, was the only survivor of 30 men.[21][22]

Further attacks by Enterprise and Yorktown torpedo planes proved equally disastrous, but succeeded in forcing the Japanese carriers to keep their decks clear for combat air patrol operations, rather than spotting a counter-attack against the Americans. Japanese fighters were shooting down the last of the torpedo planes over Hiryū when dive bombers of Enterprise and Yorktown attacked, starting enormous fires aboard the three other Japanese carriers that led to their loss. Hiryu was hit late in the afternoon of 4 June by a strike from Enterprise and sank early the next morning. Hornet aircraft, launching late due to the necessity of recovering Yorktown scout planes and faulty communications, attacked a battleship and other escorts, but failed to score hits. Yorktown was lost to combined aerial and submarine attack.[23]

The Hornet's warplanes attacked the fleeing Japanese fleet on 6 June and they assisted in sinking the heavy cruiser Mikuma, damaging a destroyer, and leaving the heavy cruiser Mogami, heavily damaged and on fire, to limp away from the battle zone. The attack by the Hornet's on the Mogami ended one of the great decisive battles of naval history.[23] Midway Atoll was saved as an important base for American operations into the Western Pacific Ocean. Of greatest importance was the crippling of the Japanese carrier strength, a severe blow from which the Imperial Japanese Navy never fully recovered. The four large carriers took with them to the bottom about 250 naval aircraft and a high percentage of the most highly trained and experienced Japanese aircraft maintenance personnel. The victory at Midway was a decisive turning point in the War in the Pacific.[2]

On 16 June 1942, Captain Charles Perry Mason became commanding officer of Hornet.[6]

Solomons campaign, August–October, 1942[edit]

Hornet steamed out of harbor on 17 August 1942 to guard the sea approaches to bitterly contested Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. Bomb damage to Enterprise on 24 August, torpedo damage to Saratoga on 31 August, and the sinking of Wasp on 15 September left Hornet as the only operational U.S. carrier in the South Pacific. She was responsible for providing air cover over the Solomon Islands until 24 October 1942, when she was joined by Enterprise just northwest of the New Hebrides Islands. These two carriers and their escorts then steamed out to intercept a Japanese aircraft carrier/battleship/cruiser force closing in on Guadalcanal.[3][2]

Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands[edit]

Hornet under attack during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands

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.[2] 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 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.[3]

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 Japanese Nakajima B5N "Kate" torpedo planes attacked. Eight of these aircraft were either shot down or failed to score hits but the ninth planted a torpedo into Hornet's starboard side; which proved to be the fatal blow. 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.[3][2]

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.[24]

Hornet was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 13 January 1943.[2] However, her name was revived less than a year later when one of the newly constructed Essex-class aircraft carrier was commissioned as USS Hornet (CV-12).[25]

Other than the light carrier Princeton and a number of smaller escort carriers, Hornet was the last American fleet carrier ever sunk by enemy fire.

Hornet, sinking and abandoned.


Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
American Defense Service Medal
with "Fleet" clasp
American Campaign Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
with four stars
World War II Victory Medal

The Hornet was awarded four battle stars during World War II.

Service stars awarded[26][27]
Action No. Operation:Action Operation Period Period of CV-8 Participation Battle Stars Awarded Notes
(1) The Battle of Midway 3–6 June 1942 3 June 1942 – 6 June 1942 1 A Presidential Unit Citation was awarded for this battle to Torpedo Squadron 8 flying from U.S.S. Hornet CV-8
(2) The Buin-Faisi-Tonolai raid 5 October 1942 5 October 1942 1
(3) The capture and defense of Guadalcanal 10 August 1942 – 8 February 1943 16 October 1942 1
(4) The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands 26 October 1942 26 October 1942 1 The U.S.S. Hornet CV-8 was sunk during this battle after being in service for a year and six days.
Total Battle Stars 4

In addition, Torpedo Squadron 8 flying from the Hornet was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.[28] "for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service beyond the call of duty" during the Battle of Midway.


  1. ^ a b c Friedman 1983, p. 392.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Hornet (CV-8) vii.
  3. ^ a b c d e Campbell 2011, pp. 91-92.
  4. ^ Friedman 1983, p. 381.
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b Commanding Officers.
  7. ^ Rose 1995, pp. 5,6,10.
  8. ^ Rose 1995, p. 38-39,41.
  9. ^ Rose 1995, p. 42.
  10. ^ a b Rose 1995, p. 52.
  11. ^ Rose 1995, p. 62.
  12. ^ a b Rose 1995, pp. 65-71.
  13. ^ Rose 1995, p. 71.
  14. ^ Rose 1995, p. 77.
  15. ^ Rose 1995, pp. 81-82.
  16. ^ Rose 1995, p. 90.
  17. ^ Rose 1995, p. 97.
  18. ^ Rose 1995, pp. 49, 110–111.
  19. ^ Rose 1995, pp. 120-122.
  20. ^ Rose 1995, p. 125.
  21. ^ Rose 1995, pp. 128-132, 146–149.
  22. ^ Mitscher 13 June 1942.
  23. ^ a b Rose 1995, pp. 97-155.
  24. ^ Hammel 2005, p. 380.
  25. ^ Hornet (CV-12) viii.
  26. ^ Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual - Part III 1953.
  27. ^ Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual - Part IV 1953.
  28. ^ Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual - Part II 1953.


This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 8°38′23″S 166°42′34″E / 8.63972°S 166.70944°E / -8.63972; 166.70944

  1. ^