After the Battle of Santa Cruz, 26 October 1942
Despite her short career, the USS Hornet (CV-8), a Yorktown-class carrier, had several impressive notches on her belt. Mere months after after its commissioning, the Hornet was the starting point of the famous Doolittle Raid of April 1942, in which sixteen B-25 Mitchell bombers took off from her deck to bomb the Japanese Home Islands. Though costly–not a single plane survived and eleven men were killed or captured–the Doolittle Raid remains the first bright spot after the darkness of the December Japanese attacks.
A B-25 taking off from the Hornet, April 1942
As if responding to the popular rallying cry of “Avenge Pearl Harbor”, the Hornet was also present at the June 1942 Battle of Midway which many consider the most important naval watershed of the war, ultimately disabling the Japanese carrier fleet for the next three years. The Hornet was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for actions at Midway. Shortly thereafter, the Hornet was the only U.S. carrier available in the South Pacific, and did her part as watchdog over the waters of Guadalcanal, while the first U.S. ground offensive of the war was fought on land. Like most Pacific battles, it was a bittersweet and costly victory, but certainly another show of American might.
Two of the Hornet’s SBD’s over Midway, June 1942
During the Battle of Santa Cruz, in her final act of avenging Pearl Harbor, the Hornet badly damaged the Japanese carrier Shōkaku which supplied dozens of pilots and aircraft to Hawaii on that December 7th morning. Though not sunk, the Shōkaku was essentially rendered useless for the remainder of the war. In turn, however, the Hornet was targeted by the torpedoes and bombs of Japanese “Val” and “Kate” aircraft whose repeated attacks eventually resulted in the sinking the proud carrier and more than a hundred of her crew on 26/27 October 1942.
Photographs courtesy of the National Archives. Post by National WWII Museum Curator Meg Roussel.