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Aviation History And Aircraft Photography
USS Hornet CV-12
USS Hornet Museum
Alameda, California

USS Hornet

The Carrier: Most people who know some WWII history remember the Hornet as the aircraft carrier that launched the Doolittle Raid, immortalized in the movie 30 Seconds Over Tokyo. But that was CV-8, the first Hornet, not CV-12. CV-8 was heavily damaged in the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands in late 1942. Despite taking 9 torpedoes and 400 rounds of shellfire, the Hornet refused to go down. The Japanese hit her with 4 more 24-inch torpedoes, and the burning hulk finally went down the next day.

The new Hornet, CV-12, took part in operations in the Pacific during WWII, earning 7 battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation. The highlight of her service was the Marianas Turkey Shoot. Hellcats from the Hornet and Lexington fought off a wave of nearly 400 Japanese aircraft, racking up 383 kills and splashing a carrier. The US lost only 23 aircraft, mostly due to running out of fuel. When many returning Hellcats were unable to find the fleet at night, Admiral Mitscher ordered lights to be turned on to save those flyers at the risk of making the fleet a monumental target for Japanese submarines. The gamble paid off.

After WWII, the Hornet was rebuilt into a modern angle-deck carrier in the mid-1950s. She was sent out to support the cold war, Vietnam, and to recover the crews of Apollo 11 and Apollo 12.

The Museum: Hornet is docked at Alameda Point, a name given to the former Alameda Naval Air Station. From I-880 or I-980 in Oakland, take the Webster Street Tube (tunnel) to Alameda Island, then follow the signs. It is not overly well marked, and Alameda is not the greatest neighborhood, so take care when making this trip. Free parking is available.

Given that this museum is relatively new, they lack the depth of aircraft and displays compared to the other Essex class carrier museums. But they more than make up for it in the quality of the guided tours. Expert guides, including people who served on the Hornet, guide the below decks tours, giving information on how the systems work, what daily life is like on the ship, and stories from her colorful past. Not to be missed is the fantastic engine room tour. The stuff I learned touring the Hornet made the tours of the other carriers that much more enjoyable.

On days when the ship is busy, you need to sign up for the tours. Arrive early, and get on the sign-up lists when you enter the ship.

USS Hornet
USS Hornet
USS Hornet

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