The Hornet Legacy
The USS Hornet (CV-12), a United States Navy Essex-class aircraft carrier, was commissioned on November 29th, 1943. The carrier was originally named USS Kearsarge but was renamed in honor of the prior USS Hornet (CV-8) when she was sunk at the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands while protecting US forces holding Guadalcanal. CV-8 became famous after the Doolittle Raid when sixteen B-25B Mitchell medium bombers were launched from its deck to bomb Tokyo and other targets on the island of Honshu. It was the first air operation to strike mainland Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum
|707 W Hornet Ave, Alameda, CA 94501, USA
USS Hornet in WWII
On October 17th, 1998, CV-12 was opened to the public as the USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum in Alameda, California. It is permanently moored at the same Pier 3 where CV-8 was docked while loading Doolittle’s B-25s on April 1st, 1942. USS Hornet (CV-12) participated in WWII combat operations in the Pacific including the Mariana and Palau Islands campaigns, Battle of the Philippine Sea and multiple other campaigns leading to the liberation of the Philippines.
Returning from the Moon
CV-12 also played a key part in the Apollo program. On August 25th, 1966, the Hornet’s helicopter crew recovered the Command Module (CM-011) of the second uncrewed flight of an Apollo Command and Service Module (AS-202). The module is currently on display within the Hornet’s hangar deck. On July 24th, 1969, Hornet recovered Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin and their Command Module, Columbia, from the first Moon landing mission. Apollo 11 astronauts were quarantined onboard in a mobile quarantine facility (MQF), a NASA converted Airstream trailer, which is currently on display at the National Air and Space Museum. MQF004, which was used for the Apollo 14 mission, is on display below the Hornet’s flight deck.
Hornet’s aircraft collection displayed in the hangar deck includes a Grumman FM-2 Wildcat, Grumman TBM-3E Avenger, North American FJ-2 Fury, Vought F8U-1 Crusader, Grumman S-2E Tracker and a Douglas TA-4J Skyhawk. Aircraft displayed on the flight deck include a North American T-28B Trojan, McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom II, Grumman F-14A Tomcat and a Lockheed S-3B Viking.
Helicopters, which are essential to carrier operations, are also a part of the Hornet’s collection and include a Piasecki HUP-1 Retriever, Kaman SH-2F Seasprite, Bell AH-1F Cobra Sikorsky, and a UH-34D Seahorse which served in Vietnam. The museum also displays a Sikorsky SH-3H Sea King. SH-3s were the primary astronaut recovery helicopter for all Gemini and Apollo space missions.
Most of the museum is available for self-guided tours but in order to visit the engine room or the bridge, you need to be a part of the docent-led tour. While touring the ship, we encountered a scale model of USS Pennsylvania with a Curtiss Pusher landing on its deck to commemorate Eugene Ely’s first successful landing on a ship on January 18th, 1911. The artifacts and photographs in the Air Group 11 exhibit give us a glimpse into the daily life of pilots who flew off the Hornet from 1944-1945 in the Pacific during WWII.