The USS Hornet
Hornet (after angle-deck conversion) underway
United States
Name: Hornet
Namesake: Hornet
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding
Laid down: 3 August 1942
Launched: 30 August 1943
Sponsored by: Annie Reid Knox
Commissioned: 29 November 1943
Decommissioned: 15 January 1947
Recommissioned: 11 September 1953
Decommissioned: 26 June 1970
  • CV to CVA-12 on 1 October 1952
  • CVA to CVS-12 on July 1958
Struck: 25 July 1989
Status: Museum ship at the USS Hornet Museum in Alameda, California
Badge: USS Hornet (CVA-12) insignia, 1953.png
General characteristics (as built)
Class and type: Essex-class aircraft carrier
  • 93 ft (28.3 m) (waterline)
  • 147 ft 6 in (45 m) (o/a)
Draft: 34 ft 2 in (10.41 m) (full load)
Installed power:
Propulsion: 4 × shafts; 4 × geared steam turbines
Speed: 33 knots (61 km/h; 38 mph)
Range: 20,000 nmi (37,000 km) at 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Complement: 2,600 officers and enlisted men
Aircraft carried:
  • 90–100 aircraft
  • 1 × deck-edge elevator
  • 2 × centerline elevators
Reference no.91002065[1]
Reference no.1029[2]

USS Hornet (CV/CVA/CVS-12) is an Essex-class aircraft carrier built for the United States Navy during World War II. She was originally named USS Kearsarge, but was renamed in honor of the prior USS Hornet (CV-8), which was lost in October 1942, becoming the eighth ship to bear the name in the Navy. Completed in 1943, the ship participated in the Pacific War. Hornet then took part in Operation Magic Carpet, returning troops to the U.S. She served in the Vietnam War and also played a part in the Apollo program, recovering the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 astronauts as they returned from the Moon.

Hornet was decommissioned in 1970. She was eventually designated as both a National Historic Landmark and a California Historical Landmark, and she opened to the public as the USS Hornet Museum in Alameda, California, in 1998.

Construction: 1940 to 1943

The contract to build Kearsarge had been given to Newport News Shipbuilding on 9 September 1940, and her keel was laid down on 3 August 1942. The seventh Hornet (CV-8) was sunk in the Battle of Santa Cruz on 26 October 1942, and the CV-12 hull was renamed Hornet (the name Kearsarge is still stamped into her keel plate).[citation needed] Larger and more advanced than her Yorktown-class namesake, she was launched on 30 August 1943 and commissioned on 29 November 1943. Her first commander was Captain (later Rear Admiral) Miles R. Browning. The ship's sponsor was Annie Reid Knox, wife of Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox.[3]

Service history

World War II: 1944 to 1947

The Hornet conducted shakedown training off Bermuda before departing Norfolk on 14 February 1944 to join the Fast Carrier Task Force on 20 March at Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands. 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.

Hornet in early 1945

On 11 June, Hornet launched raids on Tinian and Saipan. The following day, she conducted heavy bombing attacks on Guam and Rota. On 15–16 June, she blasted Japanese air fields at Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima to prevent air attacks on troops invading Saipan in the Marianas. The afternoon of 18 June, 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 began on 19 June, when Hornet launched strikes to destroy as many land-based Japanese planes as possible before the carrier-based Japanese aircraft came in effectively.

The Japanese approached the American carriers in four massive waves, full of young and inexperienced pilots. Fighter aircraft from Hornet and other U.S. carriers, whose veteran pilots' skills were honed to perfection, broke up and savaged 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 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 the Japanese aircraft carrier Jun'yō, and so damaged two tankers that they were abandoned and scuttled. Vice Admiral Jisaburō 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 he had commenced the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

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

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

Hornet again departed Ulithi on 10 February for full-scale aerial assaults on Tokyo, then supported the amphibious landing assault on Iwo Jima on 19–20 February.

Repeated raids were made against the Tokyo plains industrial complex, and Okinawa was hard hit. On 1 April, Hornet planes gave direct support to the amphibious assault landings on Okinawa. On 6 April, her aircraft joined in attacks which sank the Japanese battleship Yamato and her task force as it closed on Okinawa. Hornet aircraft scored three torpedo hits and dropped four bombs on the Yamato[4]. The following two 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 4–5 June which collapsed some 25 ft (8 m) of her forward flight deck.

Damaged by typhoon.

For 16 continuous months, she was in action in the forward areas of the Pacific combat zone, sometimes within 40 mi (60 km) of the Japanese home islands. Under air attack 59 times, she was never hit. Her aircraft destroyed 1,410 Japanese aircraft; only Essex exceeded this record. Ten of her pilots attained "Ace in a Day" status; 30 of her 42 VF-2 F6F Hellcat pilots were aces. In one day, her aircraft shot down 72 Japanese aircraft, and in one month, they shot down 255 aircraft. Hornet supported nearly every Pacific amphibious landing after March 1944. Her air groups destroyed or damaged 1,269,710 tons (1,151,860 tonnes) of Japanese shipping, and scored the critical first hits in sinking Yamato.

Hornet earned nine battle stars for her service in World War II. Seven battle stars were earned as the sole receiver in 1944. Two were earned together as Hornet and her air groups when the Navy changed their nomenclature in 1945. She was one of nine carriers to be awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

Following the typhoon that collapsed the forward edge of her flight deck, Hornet was routed back to the Philippines and from there to San Francisco, arriving on 7 July. Her overhaul was complete by 13 September, when she departed as a part of Operation Magic Carpet that had her return troops home from the Marianas and Hawaiian Islands. She returned to San Francisco on 9 February 1946. She decommissioned there on 15 January 1947, and joined the Pacific Reserve Fleet.

Peacetime tensions: 1951 to 1959

Hornet was recommissioned on 20 March 1951, then sailed from San Francisco for the New York Naval Shipyard, where she was decommissioned on 12 May for conversion to an attack aircraft carrier CVA-12, under the SCB-27 upgrade program. On 11 September 1953, she was recommissioned as an attack carrier. The ship then trained in the Caribbean Sea before departure from Norfolk on 11 May 1954 on an eight-month global cruise.

Hornet following her SCB-27A conversion.

After operations in the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, Hornet joined the mobile 7th Fleet in the South China Sea to search for survivors of a Cathay Pacific Airways passenger plane, shot down by Chinese aircraft near Hainan Island. On 25 July, Hornet aircraft supported planes from Philippine Sea as they shot down two attacking Chinese fighters. After tensions eased, she returned to San Francisco on 12 December, trained out of San Diego, then sailed on 4 May 1955 to join the 7th Fleet in the Far East.

Hornet helped to cover the evacuation of Vietnamese from the Communist-controlled north to South Vietnam, then ranged from Japan to Formosa, Okinawa, and the Philippines in readiness training with the 7th Fleet. She returned to San Diego on 10 December and entered the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard the following month for the SCB-125 upgrade, a conversion which 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, the Hornet operated along the California coast. She departed San Diego on 21 January 1957 to bolster the strength of the 7th Fleet until her return from the troubled Far East on 25 July.

Following a similar cruise, 6 January – 2 July 1958, the ship was redesignated CVS-12 (antisubmarine warfare support carrier). In August, she entered Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for the conversion work to an ASW carrier. 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.

Vietnam and the Space Race: 1960 to 1970

Apollo 11 crew, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin Aldrin, inside the Mobile Quarantine Facility being greeted by President Nixon aboard Hornet

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; she also played a key part in the Apollo program, as a recovery ship[5] for unmanned and manned spaceflights.

On 25 August 1966, she was on recovery station for the flight of AS-202, the second unmanned flight of a production Apollo Command and Service Module. The moonship 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; that command module is currently on display aboard Hornet.[6][7][8]

Hornet returned to Long Beach on 8 September, but headed back to the Far East on 27 March 1967. She reached Japan exactly a month later and departed the Sasebo base on 19 May for the war zone. She operated in Vietnamese waters throughout the first half of 1967.

Hornet recovered the astronauts from the first Moon landing mission, Apollo 11, on 24 July 1969.[9] President Nixon was on board to welcome the returning astronauts back to Earth, where they lived in quarantine aboard Hornet prior to transfer to the Lunar Receiving Laboratory at Houston.[10] The first steps on Earth of returning moonwalkers Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, with Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, are marked on her hangar deck, as part of her Apollo program exhibit.

Hornet once again served in the space program with the recovery of Apollo 12 on 24 November. Returning astronauts Charles Conrad, Jr., Alan L. Bean, and Richard F. Gordon, Jr., were picked up from their splashdown point near American Samoa.[11]

Retirement: 1970 to present

Hornet was decommissioned 26 June 1970 and mothballed at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility. She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 25 July 1989. In 1991, she was designated a National Historic Landmark.[1][12][13]

Hornet as a museum ship in Alameda, California

The aircraft carrier was donated to the Aircraft Carrier Hornet Foundation on 26 May 1998. On 17 October 1998, she was opened to the public as USS Hornet Museum in Alameda, California. She was designated a California State Historic Landmark in 1999,[2] and is listed on the National Register of Historic places, #91002065.

Building on her status as an authentically restored aircraft carrier, Hornet is featured in a number of film and television shows.[14] Several TV shows, including a number of phantom-themed shows, have been recorded on board; and in 1997, she was the subject of an episode of the TV series JAG, the season-three opener titled "Ghost Ship".[14] In 2004, she was the set for scenes from the movie XXX: State of the Union, which starred Ice Cube,[15] and portions of the 2007 film Rescue Dawn, which starred Christian Bale, were shot on board. Hornet was both the subject and the setting of the independent film Carrier (2006).[14][16]

In 2011, the ship was featured on Ghost Adventures, season four, episode eight. The ship was also featured on Ghost Adventures: Aftershocks due to footage submitted by a local paranormal research team, Alameda Paranormal Researchers.

Awards and decorations

Bronze star
Bronze star
Silver star
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Navy Presidential Unit Citation Meritorious Unit Commendation
with two 316" bronze stars
China Service Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
with two ​316" silver stars and one ​316" bronze star
World War II Victory Medal
Navy Occupation Service Medal
with 'Europe' Bar
National Defense Service Medal
with one ​316" bronze star
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
with two ​316" bronze stars
Vietnam Service Medal
with three ​316" bronze stars
Philippine Liberation
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
with 1960- Device


  1. ^ a b "USS Hornet (Cvs-12) (Aircraft Carrier)". National Historic Landmark summary listing (where year designated appears as 1992, believe to be incorrect). National Park Service. 28 September 2007. Archived from the original on 12 October 2007.
  2. ^ a b "USS Hornet". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-03-30.
  3. ^ "William Franklin Knox, Secretary of the Navy".
  4. ^ "8 Ships Named Hornet". Retrieved 2016-03-24.
  5. ^ "Hornet Plus Three" Archived 17 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Post and Review. Interview with Pete Sutherland CCO of the USS Hornet Museum on the Hornet's participation in the Apollo program.
  6. ^ AS-202[permanent dead link], NASA (NSSDC ID: APST202)
  7. ^ Chariots for Apollo: A History of Manned Lunar Spacecraft, Chapter 8.2, Qualifying Missions. NASA Special Publication-4205. Courtney G Brooks, James M. Grimwood, Loyd S. Swenson, 1979.
  8. ^ "Apollo & Other Space Program Artifacts". USS Hornet Museum. Retrieved 2008-09-19.
  9. ^ Apollo 11 Archived 18 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine, NASA (NSSDC ID: 1969-059A)
  10. ^ A Front Row Seat For History Archived 19 March 2006 at, NASAexplores, 15 July 2004. Retrieved 10 May 2008.
  11. ^ Apollo 12, NASA (NSSDC ID: 1969-099A).
  12. ^ ""USS Hornet (CVS-12)", 18 June 1991, by James P. Delgado" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places Registration. National Park Service. 1991-06-18.
  13. ^ "USS Hornet (CVS-12)—Accompanying 4 photos, exterior, from 1943, 1944, 1945, and c.1969" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places Registration. National Park Service. 1991-06-18.
  14. ^ a b c "Film & TV Location Rentals". USS Hornet Museum. Archived from the original on 2015-12-18. Retrieved 2016-09-06.
  15. ^ Saturday, Alameda Naval Base, CA, Eudaemonic blog. Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  16. ^ Carrier on IMDb


  • Backer, Steve (2009). Essex–Class Aircraft Carriers of the Second World War. Shipcraft. 12. Barnsley, UK: Seaforth Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84832-018-5.
  • Brown, J. D. (2009). Carrier Operations in World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-59114-108-2.
  • Friedman, Norman (1983). U.S. Aircraft Carriers: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-739-9.
  • Polmar, Norman; Genda, Minoru (2006). Aircraft Carriers: A History of Carrier Aviation and Its Influence on World Events. Volume 1, 1909–1945. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books. ISBN 1-57488-663-0.

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

External links

  • USS Hornet by the US Navy
  • General Plan for the U.S.S. Hornet (CV-12), hosted by the Historical Naval Ships Association (HNSA) Digital Collections
  • USS Hornet Museum
  • From the Dictionary Of American Naval Fighting Ships
  • USS Hornet (CV-12) at Historic Naval Ships Association
  • Aviation: From Sand Dunes to Sonic Booms, a National Park Service Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary
  • USS Hornet by Dwayne Miles
  • USS Hornet – Damage to Ship's Structure – Official report written by ship's captain after typhoon damage
  • The Haunted USS Hornet – The Hornet is a featured ship at the 2012 Maritime Ghost Conference in San Diego, CA
  • CAG-17 Carrier Air Group 17 VT-17 Torpedo Group 17 was based on USS Hornet 1944–1945