USS HORNET CV 12
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The eighth USS Hornet (CV 12) was launched on August 30, 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 November 29, 1943, Captain Miles M. Browning in command.
Hornet conducted shakedown training off Bermuda before departing Norfolk February 14, 1944 to join the Fast Carrier Task Force March 20 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 June 11, 1944 USS Hornet (CV 12) launched raids on Tinian and Saipan. The following day she conducted heavy bombing attacks on Guam and Rota. During June 15 to 16, she blasted enemy airfields at Iwo and Chichi Jima to prevent air attacks on troops invading Saipan in the Marianas. The afternoon of June 18, 1944 the aircraft carrier 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 June 19, 1944 when USS 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 June 19, 1944 that became commonly known as "The Marianas Turkey Shoot." As the Japanese Mobile Fleet fled in defeat on June 20, the carriers launched long-range air strikes that sank Japanese carrier Hiji and so damaged two tankers that they were abandoned and scuttled. Admiral Ozawa's own flag log for June 20, 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.
USS Hornet (CV 12), 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 October 20, 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 December 30, 1944 she departed Ulithi in the Carolines for raids against Formosa, Indochina, and the Pescadores Islands. In route back to Ulithi, USS Hornet planes made photo reconnaissance of Okinawa January 22, 1945 to aid the planned invasion of that "last stepping-stone to Japan."
USS Hornet again departed Ulithi February 10th for full-scale aerial assaults on Tokyo, then supported the amphibious landing assault on Iwo Jima February 19-20, 1945.
Repeated raids were made against the Tokyo industrial complex, and Okinawa was hard hit. On April 1, 1945 USS Hornet planes gave direct support to the amphibious assault landings on Okinawa. On April 6 her aircraft joined in attacks which sank the mighty Japanese battleship Yamato and her entire task force as it closed Okinawa. 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 June 4- 5, 1945 which collapsed some 25 feet of her forward flight deck.
USS Hornet (CV 12) was routed back to the Philippines and from there to San Francisco, arriving July 7, 1946. Her overhaul was complete by September 13, 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 February 9, 1946. She decommissioned there January 15, 1947, and joined the Pacific Reserve Fleet.
Hornet recommissioned March 20, 1951, then sailed from San Francisco for the New York Naval Shipyard where she decommissioned May 12, 1951 for conversion to an attack aircraft carrier (CVA 12). She recommissioned September 11, 1953 and trained in the Caribbean Sea before departure from Norfolk May 11, 1954 on an eight-month global cruise.
After operations in the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, USS Hornet joined the mobile 7th fleet in the South China Sea where July 25th, search planes from her task group shot down two attacking Chinese Communist fighter planes. She returned to San Francisco December 12, 1954, trained out of San Diego, then sailed May 4, 1955 to join the 7th fleet in the Far East.
USS Hornet (CVA 12) 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 December 10, 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 January 21, 1957 to bolster the strength of the 7th fleet until her return from the troubled Far East 25 July. Following a similar cruise, from January 6, to July 2, 1958 she was converted to an Antisubmarine Warfare Support Carrier (CVS 12) in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. On April 3, 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, USS 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.
February 16, 1964 An A3J aircraft crashes aboard the USS Hornet before the barricade could be rigged, killing the pilot and injuring two crew members.
On August 25, 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.
USS Hornet returned to Long Beach September 8th, but headed back to the Far East March 27, 1967. She reached Japan exactly a month later and departed Sasebo May 19 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.
USS Hornet (CVS 12) was the recovery carrier for the Apollo 11 moon mission during which astronauts Neil Armstrong, and Edwin Aldrin Jr., landed on and walked on the moon in July 1969. Fellow astronaut Michael Collins remained in orbit around the moon. On November 24, the Apollo 12 astronauts, all Naval Aviators: Richard F. Gordon, Charles Conrad Jr., and Alan L. Bean were recovered by Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron Four (HS 4) and returned to aircraft carrier.
USS Hornet was decommissioned June 26, 1970. Following nearly two decades in mothballs, she was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register July 25, 1989, and sold for breaking up in April 1993. However, the old carrier was saved from the scrap heap by the efforts of historically-minded citizens and was donated to The Aircraft Carrier Hornet Foundation for use as a museum at Alameda, Calif., on May 26, 1998.