The cold and quiet of the South Pacific at 17,500 feet

USS Hornet (CV-8) at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, probably in June or July 1942. Note the pattern of her Measure 12 (Modified) camouflage

Best known for her role in the Doolittle Raid just weeks after Pearl Harbor, the Yorktown-class aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) was the seventh such vessel to carry the storied name for the U.S. Navy, going all the way back to 1775.

Commissioned 20 October 1941, her career was all too brief, ending in a hail of torpedoes as part of the Battle of Santa Cruz Island in the Solomons on 26 October 1942, aged just two years and six days. She took 140 of her 2,200-man crew to the bottom with her.

“With the loss of Hornet and serious damage to Enterprise, the Battle of Santa Cruz was a Japanese victory, but at an extremely high cost,” said retired RADM Samuel Cox, director of Naval History and Heritage Command. “About half the Japanese aircraft engaged were shot down by greatly improved U.S. Navy anti-aircraft defenses. As a result, the Japanese carriers did not engage again in battle for almost another two years.”

Now, 77 years later, she has been discovered in the cold and dark embrace deep below, remarkably intact. Her guns still look ready to fire. An International Harvester plane tractor still has tread on its tires and gives the impression it would turn over if only you could get to it to crank it. An F4F Wildcat rests in her debris field, its wings still folded for storage.

Photos from RV Petrel.

“As America’s Navy once again takes to the sea in an uncertain world, Hornet‘s discovery offers the American Sailor a timeless reminder of what courage, grit, and commitment truly look like,” said Vice Chief of Naval Operations ADM Bill Moran. “We’d be wise as a nation to take a long, hard look. I’d also like to thank the crew of Petrel for their dedication in finding and honoring her sacrifice.”

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