WWII aircraft carrier that set sail from Alameda discovered at bottom of Pacific Ocean

The USS Hornet sunk off the coast of the Solomon Islands on Oct. 26, 1943, after a ferocious, days-long battle with Japanese forces. In January, almost eight decades later, a research vessel funded by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, discovered the ship at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

The Hornet — the seventh U.S. navy vessel so named — played an essential role in the Doolittle Raid of 1942, the first airborne attack of Japanese homeland targets, as well as the Battle of Midway, which historians consider a turning point in the Pacific front of World War II. The ship set sail from the former Alameda Naval Air Station ahead of the Doolittle Raid.

Allen’s Research Vessel Petrel discovered the Hornet in late January, about 17,500 feet below the surface of the South Pacific Ocean. Photographs in the above gallery show the vessel largely decomposed after decades underwater.

“We had Hornet on our list of WWII warships that we wanted to locate because of its place in history as an aircraft carrier that saw many pivotal moments in naval battles,” said Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Vulcan, in a statement. “Paul Allen was particularly interested in historically significant and capital ships, so this mission and discovery honor his legacy.”

Allen died in October 2018 after a decades-long battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 65.

The Hornet sunk during the Battle of Santa Cruz Island, following relentless fire from Japanese aircraft. Of a crew of nearly 2,200, 111 sailors were lost. The 10-person Petrel crew was able to locate the Hornet by analyzing data from archival deck logs and action reports recorded after the Santa Cruz battle. The Petrel’s autonomous underwater vehicle discovered the Hornet on its first dive mission.

“With the loss of Hornet and serious damage to Enterprise, the Battle of Santa Cruz was a Japanese victory, but at an extremely high cost,” said Rear Admiral (Ret.) Samuel Cox, director of Naval History and Heritage Command, in a statement. “About half the Japanese aircraft engaged were shot down by greatly improved U.S. Navy anti-aircraft defenses.

“As a result, the Japanese carriers did not engage again in battle for almost another two years.”

Read Michelle Robertson’s latest stories and send her news tips at mrobertson@sfchronicle.com.

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This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/WWII-uss-hornet-discovered-petrel-allen-ocean-13610658.php.

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