USS Hornet (CVS-12) is an Essex class aircraft carrier now on static display at the former Alameda Naval Air Station in Alameda, California, an island directly bordering Oakland on San Francisco Bay.

The ship on display is the fourth US Navy ship to carry the name Hornet. The previous Hornet (CV-8) enjoyed a distinguished history as one of the two carriers to take part in the Dolittle Raid on Japan and for the battle of Midway where torpedo squadron 8 was reduced to a single survivor. However, the first Hornet was abandoned after torpedo and dive bombing attack and finally sunk by Japanese torpedoes on October 27, 1942 during the Battle of Santa Cruz, which itself was one of several battles fought during the larger Battle of Guadalcanal.

The new ship was renamed after the older Hornet and commissioned as fleet carrier 12 (CV-12) on November 29, 1943. During the war this new Hornet gained a reputation as a 'lucky' ship, as it was never hit once during the war despite repeated bombing and Kamikaze attacks. It spent sixteen continuous months at sea during the war, and it's air groups are credited with shooting down 620 Japanese aircraft, sinking an aircraft carrier, several destroyers and several major hits contributing to the sinking of the Japanese battleship Yamato, which may have been the most powerful battleship ever constructed. During the war Hornet would have been home to a crew of 2,100 plus 1,400 additional sailors and up to 107 aircraft with the carrier's air wing. The ship won two battle stars during the war.

In 1959, the ship was recommissioned after a long refit as an antisubmarine carrier or CVS-12 according to Naval designations. The refit replaced it's origional wooden flight deck with a modern steel angled deck, which permitted simultaneous take off and landing operations. This gave the ship its final form, the shape it presents visitors today. In this form it would have carried S-2 Tracker anti-submarine aircraft, helicoptors and some F-8 Crusader fighters for self defense. The vessel's displacement was increased from the original 30,000 to 41,200 tons, and the ship went on to service in Vietnam.

In the 1960's the vessel became well known for it's work in recovering both the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 astronauts and command modules after their landings on the moon. An astronaut isolation van used during the recoveries is on display on the hangar deck. The ship was decommissioned on June 26, 1970 and towed to California to serve in the fleet ready reserve. Later it was turned over as a museum, the role it fills today.

Visitors today will enter a long gangplank and directly into the hangar deck, which is located directly below the flight deck and runs almost the whole length and width of the ship. Take a moment to look at it, and remember that while at sea this room would have been a hotbed of activity, whith most aircraft maintenance occuring here. A World War II era Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bomber is visible ahead and on your right, use that aircraft to give you some scale of the size of WWII aircraft --fighters like the F6F Hellcat would be somewhate smaller-- Imagine the entire deck full of aircraft in various states of assembly. The hangar deck is huge by any standard, but would have become quickly crowded when the ship's full complement of aircraft abourd.

To the front you will see the ships elevator pit. Capable of lifting 43 tons, the elevator is still functional and is operated occasionally. Powered by a 600HP electric motor driving a hydraulic system, the elevator was used to move loaded aircraft to and from the flight deck. Because it is located on the ship's centerline, at the front, using the elevator would have substantially impeded flight operations while in operation. More modern US carriers carry more than one elevator, and they are located on the flank of the ship so operation will not tie up the flight deck.

Besides the Astronaut Isolation Module, which was built onto a mobile home frame of the day, and the TBF, there are several additional aircraft on static display.An S-2 Tracker is on static display on the hangar deck with its MAD, or Magnetic Anamoly Detector removed. The S-2 ws powered by two radial engines, and it's airframe is still used today by the C-2 Greyhound cargo plane and E-2C Hawkeye AWACS aircraft. There is an S-2 helicopter and two F-8 Crusader fighters, one fully restored, the other under restoration yet on display.

Take a ladder downstairs to the second deck, which is open on the full length on the starboard side. Here you can view enlisted accomodations, the ship's galley, an equipped damage control center. Moving forward you will see the chief's quarters, the well equipped sick bay complete with laboratory and operating room then forward into the {Marine] births and finally officer's quarters. A memorial to the USS Wasp is on the same deck, on the port side, though reachable only through the hangar deck.

Docent led tours of the ship's engineering spaces, including an engine room and boiler room are offered below deck. The ships accomodations still function, and are used by scouting groups for weekend events.

Climbing to the flight deck you will see how large these vessels had to be to function. At the bow they have an A-4 Skyhawk and a F9F Panther on display. The F9F needs restoration and is a photo-reconnaisance model. Walk forward and noticed the large rectangualar outline of the elevator on the deck, as well as the two ships H-8 hydraulic catapults, used for launching fixed wing aircraft. The rectangular plate at the back of the left catapult is the blast deflector used to keep jet exausts from blowing objects, including people, off the deck.

If you move to the aft end, note the four sets of paired capstans, or pulleys used for the ships arresting gear. These played out thick steel cables, that would be grabbed by a landing aircraft's tailhook. The cable would stop the aircraft. Notice how the angle of the rear flight deck permits aircraft to land while they were being launched from the bow. A pilot who missed catching his wire could fly directly off without interfering with traffic. It is for this reason that all modern US carriers use a deck of this shape.

On the port side the the ship's island rises seven stories above the flight deck. The island houses the command center of any aircraft carrier. Docent led tours are available of the island. Please note the many radars and communications gear on the island, with specialized radars for air search, sea search and weapons targeting. The windowed overhang overlooking the flight deck is where flight operations were controlled, with the two windowed decks at the front of the island used to comm the ship, and for any admirals who might be embarked, with the command deck being the upper one.

The ship is in good shape overall, though like any volunteer operated group, a lot of work needs to be done, particularly painting and scraping, essential work on any steel ship. A visit offers a great look at our Naval history and perspective on what the Navy does today.

Hornet facts

  • Keel laid: August 3, 1942
  • Launched: August 30, 1943
  • Length overall: 894 feet
  • beam (at angle deck) 191 feet, 11 inches
  • Highest point of the ship: 193'6" above waterline
  • height of flight deck above waterline: 52 feet
  • Displacement (CVS) 41,200 tons
  • Engines: four Westinghouse steam turbines; 150,000 shaft horsepower
  • Propellors: four blades, solid manganese bronze, diameter 15 feet.

  • USS Hornet Museum
  • Pier Three, Alameda Point
  • P.O. Box 460
  • Alameda, CA 94501
  • 510-521-8448

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