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Hornet

A large strong wasp whose sting is severe.

I

(Sloop: armament 10 9-poundrs)

The first Hornet was a merchant sloop chartered from Captain William Stone in December 1775 to serve under Stone as a unit of Esek Hopkins' Fleet.

Hornet fitted out at Baltimore, then sailed with Hopkins fleet 18 February 1776. Outside the Virginia Capes, she ran afoul of Fly and was unable to accompany the fleet for the amphibious assault on New Providence. She patrolled in the Delaware Bay for nearly a year, then ran the British blockade to convoy merchantmen to Charleston. Documents of service are incomplete after this time but it appears that Hornet fell into British hands on the coast of South Carolina in the summer of 1777.

II

(Sloop: tonnage 71; complement 34; armament 10 guns)

The second Hornet, formerly merchant ship Traveller of Massachusetts, was purchased at Malta and joined the American blockade of Tripoli in April 1805, Lt. Samuel Evans in command. Her bombardment in company with Argus and Nautilus 27 April 1805 helped force the surrender of Derne to a land expedition bringing pressure to bear on the besieged port of Tripoli, where the Bashaw soon accepted terms of peace.

After helping to evacuate the expedition from Derne, Hornet joined the fleet in a show of strength off Tunis and other Barbary ports. This was effective in quelling threats of piratical acts against merchant shipping in the Mediterranean. Hornet continued patrol to insure safety of American commerce in the Mediterranean until 3 June 1806. After riding out a severe gale that carried away her top mast, she arrived in Philadelphia 9 August. Hornet decommissioned and was sold at Philadelphia 3 September 1806.

III

(Brig: tonnage 440; length106'9"; beam 31'5"; draft 14'; armament 18 guns)

The third Hornet was launched 28 July 1805 by William Price of Baltimore, Md.; commissioned there 18 October 1805, Master Commandant Isaac Chauncey in command.

Hornet cruised the Atlantic coast until 29 March 1806 when she sailed to join the squadron protecting American commerce from threats of piracy in the Mediterranean. She returned to Charleston 29 November 1807 and was decommissioned.

Hornet recommissioned 26 December 1808. She transported General James Wilkinson to New Orleans, cruised in home waters to enforce the Embargo Act, and carried dispatches to Holland, France, and England. This service was intervened November 1810 to September 1811 during which time Hornet was rebuilt and ship-rigged in the Washington Navy Yard.

Cruising with Commodore John Rodgers' Squadron during the War of 1812, Hornet captured privateer Dolphin 9 July 1812, only to have Dolphin recaptured while en route to the United States. After assisting the blockade of the Brazilian port of Bahia, she captured HMS Peacock in a short but skillfully fought engagement off British Guiana 24 February 1813.

Hornet sailed north to New London after capturing Peacock. She was blockaded there until 14 November 1814 when she slipped past British cruisers and took another merchant prize en route to New York. Unaware that the war had ended, she sailed south and captured HMS Penguin 23 March 1815, off the Island of Tristan da Cunha.

After a cruise to the West Indies and Copenhagen in 1818; and, a second to the Mediterranean in 1819, Hornet based at Key West and Pensacola, Fla., to help end piracy in the Caribbean Sea. She captured the pirate schooner Moscow 29 October 1821 off the coast of Santo Domingo. She cruised throughout the Caribbean for the next 9 years, departing Pensacola the last time 4 March 1829. She set course for the coast of Mexico and was never seen again. On 27 October 1829 the commander of the West Indies Squadron received information that Hornet had been dismasted in a gale off Tampico 29 September 1829 and had foundered with the loss of all hands.

IV

(Schooner: complement 57; armament 5 18-poundr)

The fourth Hornet was purchased at Georgetown, D.C., in 1813, and commissioned 15 March 1814, Sailing Master Joseph Middleton in command. She served primarily as a dispatch ship along the eastern seaboard, assisting in some coast and harbor survey work before sold at Norfolk in 1820.

V

(Side wheel steamer: tonnage 835; length 242'; beam 26'6"; draft 13'3"; armament 8 guns)

The fifth Hornet was built as the Confederate blockade runner Lady Sterling at Blackwell, England, in 1864; taken prize and set afire off Wilmington, N.C., by Eolus and Calypso of the Atlantic Blockading Squadron 28 October 1864; sold by the New York Prize Court to the Navy; commissioned 24 April 1805, Acting Master Joseph Avant in command; and renamed Hornet 17 June.

After fitting out at the Washington Navy Yard, Hornet carried President Andrew Johnson, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, and their party to Point Lookout 22 to 24 July and subsequently cruised to Norfolk in late September. Departing Washington 22 October, she joined Rhode Island and at Norfolk and sailed south to escort the surrendered Confederate ram Stonewall from Havana to Washington. Separated from the other two ships in a severe gale, Hornet returned to Washington 24 November, two days ahead of them. She then transported 115 men from Norfolk to the Receiving Ship at New York, putting in at Philadelphia after her voyage. Hornet decommissioned there 15 December 1865 and was sold to private citizens 26 June 1869.

VI
(tonnage 301; length 180'; beam 24'; draft 11'; speed 15 knots; armament 3 6-pounders; 2 1-pounders)

The sixth Hornet, the former yacht Alicia, was built by Harlan and Hollingsworth, Wilmington, Del., in 1890; purchased from H. M. Flagler 6 April 1898; and commissioned at New York 12 April 1898, Lt. J. M. Helm in command.

Six days after she commissioned, Hornet sailed to join the American fleet blockading Spanish Cuba. Reaching Havana 24 April, she cruised in Cuban waters with several short trips to Key West. On 30 June 1898 Hornet was sent to reconnoiter cays and shoals off the Spanish fort at Manzanillo in company with Hist and Wompatuck. Early that morning she seized the schooner Nickerson, of English registry but loaded with provisions and under a Spanish crew, trying to make her way into the blockaded harbor. At 0815 the American ships spotted a Spanish gunboat anchored under the blockhouses of the Army, but closed for action anyway. Although under heavy and continuous fire from shore batteries and a small arms fusillade from Spanish troops, the American ships fired on and sank the gunboat, withdrawing with no casualties. That same day the three ships entered Manzanillo harbor and were soon deep in battle, with shells splashing in the water all around. Hornet's main steam pipe was cut by a Spanish shell and the ship filled with steam.

Although disabled, Hornet continued to fire on the enemy, her crew passing ammunition through the scalding steam as they drifted close in under the shore batteries. A small Spanish sloop came in from port, assuming that Hornet's attention was totally centered on her starboard batteries which were pounding the enemy. Hornet's alert crew shifted to port and with one well-placed shot from the six-pounder sent the sloop, rifles and all, to the bottom. By now Hornet had drifted dangerously close to shoal water. Wompatuck steamed over to tow her, all guns still blazing. Despite the day's heated action, not one sailor had been lost.

On 11 July 1898 Hornet was back on station, joining Hist and Wompatuck to cut the cable near Santa Cruz del Sur, destroying telegraphic communication between Havana and Manzanillo. A week later she returned to Manzanillo as the American fleet entered the harbor. In an hour and forty minutes of sharp action, Hornet and her sister ships sank nine Spanish ships as well as four armed pontoons, while under heavy fire from shore batteries and enemy troops lining the harbor.
Departing Key West 10 August, Hornet reached Norfolk 2 weeks later and decommissioned 18 October 1898. Loaned to the North Carolina Naval Militia, she served with them until 1902 and then reported to Norfolk as tender to the receiving ship Franklin. Hornet's name was struck 18 March 1910. She was sold 12 July 1910 to N. S. Sterns of New Orleans.

VII

(Aircraft carrier CV-8: tonnage 19,800; length 809'9"; extreme width of flight deck 144'; draft 21'8"; speed 33 knots; complement 1,889; armament 8 5", 16 1.1 machine gun; class Hornet)

The seventh Hornet (CV-8) was launched 14 December 1940 by the Newport News Ship Building & Dry Dock Co., Newport News, Va.; sponsored by Mrs. Frank M. Knox, wife of the Secretary of the Navy; and commissioned at Norfolk 20 October 1941, Captain Marc A. Mitscher In command.

During the uneasy period before Pearl Harbor, Hornet trained out of Norfolk. A hint of a future mission occurred 2 February 1942 when Hornet departed Norfolk with two Army B-25 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.

Hornet arrived San Francisco 20 March. With her own planes on the hangar deck, she loaded 16 Army B-25 bombers on the flight deck. Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle 70 officers and 64 enlisted men reported aboard. In company of escort ships Hornet departed San Francisco 2 April and embarked on her mission under scaled orders. That afternoon Captain Mitscher informed his men of their mission: a bombing raid on Japan.

Eleven days later Hornet joined Enterprise off Midway and Task Force 16 turned toward Japan. With Enterprise providing air combat cover, Hornet was to steam deep into enemy waters where Colonel Doolittle would lead the B-25s in a daring strike on Tokyo and other important Japanese cities. Originally, the task force intended to proceed to within 400 miles of the Japanese coast; however, on the morning of 18 April a Japanese patrol boat, No. 23 Nitto Maru, sighted Hornet. The cruiser Nashville sank the craft which already had informed the Japanese of the presence and location of the American task force. Though some 600 miles from the Japanese coast, confirmation of the patrol boat's warning prompted Admiral William F. Halsey at 0800 to order the immediate launching of the "Tokyo Raiders."

As Hornet swung about and prepared to launch the bombers which had been readied for take-off the previous day, a gale of more than 40 knots churned the sea with 30-foot 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 but 467 feet of flight deck while the last B-25 hung far out over the fantail. The first of the heavily-laden bombers lumbered down the flight deck, circled Hornet after take-off, and set course for Japan. By 0920 all 16 of the bombers were airborne, heading for the first American air strike against the heart of Japan.

Hornet brought her own planes on deck and steamed at full speed for Pearl Harbor. Intercepted broadcasts, both in Japanese and English, confirmed at 1445 the success of the raids. Exactly one week to the hour after launching the B-25s, Hornet sailed into Pearl Harbor. Hornet's mission was kept an official secret for a year; until then President Roosevelt referred to the origin of the Tokyo raid only as "Shangri-La."

Hornet steamed from Pearl 30 April, to aid Yorktown and Lexington at the Battle of the Coral Sea. But that battle was over before she reached the scene. She returned to Hawaii 26 May and sailed 2 days later with her sister carriers to repulse an expected Japanese fleet assault on Midway.

Japanese carrier-based planes were reported headed for Midway the early morning of 4 June 1942. Hornet, Yorktown, and Enterprise launched strikes as the Japanese carriers struck their planes below to prepare for a second strike on Midway. Hornet dive bombers missed contact, but 15 planes comprising her Torpedo Squadron 8 found the enemy and pressed home their attacks. They were met by overwhelming fighter opposition about 8 miles from three enemy carriers and followed all the way in to be shot down one by one. Ens. George H. Gay, USNR, the only surviving pilot, reached the surface as his plane sank. He hid under a rubber seat cushion to avoid strafing and witness the greatest carrier battle in history.

Of 41 torpedo planes launched by the American carriers, only six returned. Their sacrifices drew enemy fighters away from dive bombers of Enterprise and Yorktown who sank three Japanese carriers with an assist from submarine Nautilus. The fourth Japanese carrier, Hiryu, was sunk the following day; gallant Yorktown was lost to combined aerial and submarine attack.

Hornet planes attacked the fleeing Japanese fleet 6 June 1942 to assist in sinking cruiser Mikuma, damaged a destroyer, and left cruiser Mogami aflame and heavily damaged. Hits were also made on other ships. Hornet's attack on Mogami wrote the finis to one of the decisive battles of history that had far reaching and enduring results on the Pacific War. Midway was saved as an important base for operations into the western Pacific. Likewise saved was Hawaii. Of greatest importance was the crippling of Japan's carrier strength, a severe blow from which she never fully recovered. The four large aircraft carriers sent to the bottom of the sea carried with them some 250 planes along with a high percentage of Japan's most highly trained and battle-experienced carrier pilots. This great victory by Hornet and our other ships at Midway spelled the doom of Japan.

Following the Battle of Midway, Hornet had new radar installed and trained out of Pearl Harbor. She sailed 17 August 1942 to guard the sea approaches to bitterly contested Guadalcanal in the Solomons. Bomb damage to Enterprise (24 August), torpedo damage to Saratoga (31 August), and loss of Wasp (15 September) reduced carriers in the South Pacific to one -- Hornet. She bore the brunt of air cover in the Solomons until 24 October 1942 when she joined Enterprise northwest of the New Hebrides Islands and steamed to intercept a Japanese carrier-battleship force bearing down on Guadalcanal.

The Battle of Santa Cruz Island took place 26 October 1942 without contact between surface ships of the opposing forces. That morning Enterprise planes bombed carrier Zuiho. Planes from Hornet severely damaged carrier Shokaku, and cruiser Chikuma. Two other cruisers were also attacked by Hornet aircraft. Meanwhile, Hornet, herself, was fighting off a coordinated dive bombing and torpedo plane attack which left her so severely damaged that she had to be abandoned. Commented one sailor, awaiting rescue, when asked if he planned to reenlist, "Dammit, yes -- on the new Hornet!" Captain Mason, the last man on board, climbed over the side and survivors were soon picked up by destroyers.

The abandoned Hornet, ablaze from stem to stern, refused to accept her intended fate from friends. She still floated after receiving nine torpedoes and more than 400 rounds of 5-inch shellfire from destroyers Mustin and Anderson. Japanese destroyers hastened the inevitable by firing four 24-inch torpedoes at her blazing hull. At 0135, 27 October 1942, she finally sank off the Santa Cruz Islands. Her proud name was struck from the Navy List 13 January 1943.

Hornet (CV-8) received four battle stars for World War II service. Her famed Torpedo Squadron 8 was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation "for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service beyond the call of duty" in the Battle of Midway.

VIII

(Aircraft carrier CV-12: displacement 27,000; length 872'; beam 147'6"; draft 28'; speed 33 knots; complement 3,448; armament 12 5"; 40 40 millimeter; class Essex)

The eighth Hornet (CV-12) was launched 30 August 1943 by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., Newport News, Va.; sponsored by Mrs. Frank M. Knox, wife of the secretary of the Navy; and commissioned 29 November 1943, Captain Miles M. Browning in command.

Hornet conducted shakedown training off Bermuda before departing Norfolk 14 February 1944 to join the Fast Carrier Task Force 20 March at Majuro Atoll in the Marshalls. After lending air support to protect the invasion beaches in New Guinea, she conducted massive aerial raids against Japanese bases in the Caroline Islands and prepared to support the amphibious assault for the occupation of the Marianas Islands.

On 11 June 1944 Hornet launched raids on Tinian and Saipan. The following day she conducted heavy bombing attacks on Guam and Rota. During 15 to 16 June, she blasted enemy air fields at Iwo and Chichi Jima to prevent air attacks on troops invading Saipan in the Marianas. The afternoon of 18 June 1944 Hornet formed with the Fast Carrier Task Force to intercept the Japanese First Mobile Fleet, headed through the Philippine Sea for Saipan. The Battle of the Philippine Sea opened 19 June 1944 when Hornet launched strikes to destroy as many land-based Japanese planes as possible before the carrier-based Japanese aircraft came in.

The enemy approached the American carriers in four massive waves. But fighter aircraft from Hornet and other carriers did a magnificent job and broke up all the attacks before the Japanese aerial raiders reached the task force. Nearly every Japanese aircraft was shot down in the great air battles of 19 June 1944 that became commonly known as "The Marianas Turkey Shoot." As the Japanese Mobile Fleet fled in defeat on 20 June, the carriers launched long-range airstrikes that sank Japanese carrier Hiji and so damaged two tankers that they were abandoned and scuttled. Admiral Ozawa's own flag log for 20 June 1944 showed his surviving carrier air power as only 35 operational aircraft out of the 430 planes with which lie had commenced the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

Hornet, basing from Eniwetok in the Marshalls, raided enemy installations ranging from Guam to the Bonins, then turned her attention to the Palaus, throughout the Philippine Sea, and to enemy bases on Okinawa and Formosa. Her aircraft gave direct support to the troops invading Leyte 20 October 1944. During the Battle for Leyte Gulf she launched raids for damaging hits to the Japanese center force in the Battle off Samar, and hastened the retreat of the enemy fleet through the Sibuyan Sea towards Borneo.

In the following months Hornet attacked enemy shipping and airfields throughout the Philippines. This included participation in a raid that destroyed an entire Japanese convoy in Ormoc Bay. On 30 December 1944 she departed UIithi in the Carolines for raids against Formosa, Indo-China, and the Pescadores Islands. En route back to Ulithi, Hornet planes made photo reconnaissance of Okinawa 22 January 1945 to aid the planned invasion of that "last stepping-stone to Japan."

Hornet again departed Ulithi 10 February for fullscale aerial assaults on Tokyo, then supported the amphibious landing assault on Iwo Jima 19-20 February 1945. Repeated raids were made against the Tokyo plains industrial complex, and Okinawa was hard hit. On 1 April 1945 Hornet planes gave direct support to the amphibious assault landings on Okinawa. On 6 April her aircraft joined in attacks which sank the mighty Japanese battleship Yamato and her entire task force as it closed Okinawa. The following 2 months found Hornet alternating between close support to ground troops on Okinawa and hard-hitting raids to destroy the industrial capacity of Japan. She was caught in a howling typhoon 4 to 5 June 1945 which collapsed some 25 feet of her forward flight deck.

Hornet was routed back to the Philippines and from there to San Francisco, arriving 7 July 1945. Her overhaul was complete by 13 September 1945 when she departed as a part of the "Magic Carpet" operation that saw her return home troops from the Marianas and Hawaiian Islands. She returned to San Francisco 9 February 1946. She decommissioned there 15 January 1947, and joined the Pacific Reserve Fleet.

Hornet recommissioned 20 March 1951, then sailed from San Francisco for the New York Naval Shipyard where she decommissioned 12 May 1951 for conversion to an attack aircraft carrier (CVA-12). She recommissioned 11 September 1953 and trained in the Caribbean Sea before departure from Norfolk 11 May 1954 on an 8-month global cruise.

After operations in the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, Hornet joined the mobile 7th fleet in the South China Sea where 25 July, search planes from her task group shot down two attacking Chinese Communist fighter planes. She returned to San Francisco 12 December 1954, trained out of San Diego, then sailed 4 May 1955 to join the 7th fleet in the Far East.

Hornet helped cover the evacuation of Vietnamese from the Communist controlled north to freedom in South Vietnam, then ranged from Japan to Formosa, Okinawa, and the Philippines in readiness training with the 7th fleet. She returned to San Diego 10 December 1955 and entered the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard the following month for conversion that included a hurricane bow and the installation of an angled flight deck which permits the simultaneous launching and recovery of aircraft.

Following her modernization overhaul, Hornet operated along the California coast. She departed San Diego 21 January 1957 to bolster the strength of the 7th fleet until her return from the troubled Far East 25 July. Following a similar cruise, 6 January - 2 July 1958, she was converted to an Antisubmarine Warfare Support Carrier (CVS-42) in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. On 3 April 1959 she sailed from Long Beach to join the 7th fleet in antisubmarine warfare tactics ranging from Japan to Okinawa and the Philippines. She returned home in October, for training along the western seaboard.

In the following years, Hornet was regularly deployed to the 7th fleet for operations ranging from the coast of South Vietnam, to the shores of Japan, the Philippines and Okinawa. On 25 August 1966 she was on recovery station for the unmanned Apollo moonship that rocketed three-quarters of the way around the globe in 93 minutes before splashdown near Wake Island. Scorched from the heat of its re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere, the Apollo space capsule, designed to carry American astronauts to the moon, was brought aboard Hornet after its test.

Hornet returned to Long Beach 8 September, but headed back to the Far East 27 March 1967. She reached Japan exactly a month later and departed Sasebo 19 May for the war zone. She operated in Vietnamese waters throughout the remainder of spring and during much of the summer of 1967 aiding in the struggle to keep freedom alive in Southeast Asia.

Hornet received the Presidential Unit Citation and seven battle stars for service in World War II.



24 January 2002

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