Minuteman, May 2019
Following lunch, President Tim Ernst introduced guest speaker Tony Shoemehl, who spoke about the USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum in Alameda, California. He noted that there have been eight ships named USS Hornet. The first Hornet was a sloop that was christened in 1775, and with her sister ship the USS Wasp were the first two ships of the Continental Navy. The second Hornet was a sloop that fought at Djerna in the Barbary War of 1805. The third Hornet was a sloop-of-war that fought in several battles in the War of 1812, carried out anti-piracy operations in the Caribbean Sea, and was lost at sea in 1829 off of Tampico, Mexico. The fourth Hornet was a 5-gun schooner used for inshore patrol and as a dispatch vessel from 1813-1829. The fifth Hornet was an iron-side wheeled steamship which was captured from the Confederate Navy in 1864, and used by the Union Navy for the remainder of the War Between the States. The sixth Hornet was a yacht purchased for use in the Spanish-American War of 1898, which defeated a superior force at Manzanillo, Cuba.
The seventh Hornet (CV-8) was the final member of the Yorktown-class aircraft carriers, with a size limited by the Washington Naval Treaty of the 1920’s. She had a displacement of 19,800 tons, and was 824 feet long. She launched prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. She was loaded with planes in Alameda for the famed Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in 1942 to retaliate for the attack on Pearl Harbor. The last living Doolittle Raider, Richard Cole, died on April 9, 2018 at age 103. The USS Hornet participated in the Battle of Midway, and the capture of Guadalcanal. During the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in October 1942, the USS Hornet was seriously damaged by Japanese torpedoes and dive bombers. She was abandoned, and after a failed attempt at scuttling the ship, was finally sunk by the Japanese. The USS Hornet, nicknamed the Fighting Lady, the Happy Hornet, and the Horny Maru, was awarded four service stars for her service in World War II. The wreck of the USS Hornet (CV-8) was located in January 2019 at a depth of 17,500 feet near the Solomon Islands.
The eighth Hornet (CV-12) was originally laid down as the USS Kearsarge, but was renamed USS Hornet before being launched due to the loss of CV-8. She was a larger Essex-class aircraft carrier, which was launched in 1943. She had a displacement of 27,100 tons, and was 872 feet long. She had a crew of up to 4,000 sailors and airmen, and carried about 100 planes during World War II. The USS Hornet participated in raids on New Guinea, Palau, and Truk. She also took part in the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign, and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The USS Hornet was not hit by enemy bombs, torpedoes, or kamikazis – the only serious damage sustained by the Hornet was in June 1945, when a typhoon smashed the end of the flight deck. She had to steam in reverse and launch the planes in the opposite direction to remove the planes from the ship before putting up for repairs. The USS Hornet was awarded nine battle stars for service in World War II from 1944 to 1945. She was also awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for ten operations during World War II. In her 18 months of service in World War II, the USS Hornet shot down 668 Japanese planes, destroyed 742 Japanese planes on the ground, sunk 73 enemy ships (and probably 37 more), damaged 413 enemy ships, and steamed 155,000 miles. She assisted in the sinking of the super battleship Yamato, and launched the first carrier aircraft strikes in the liberation of the Philippines. In 1945, she launched the first strikes on Tokyo since the 1942 Doolittle Raid. After the end of World War II, the USS Hornet participated in Operation Magic Carpet, which ferried US troops back to the United States. She was decommissioned in 1947, and assigned to the Pacific Reserve Fleet.
In 1953, the USS Hornet was recommissioned as an attack carrier – (CVA-12). She operated in the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, before joining the 7th Fleet in the South China Sea. The Communist Chinese shot down a Cathay Pacific civilian airliner, and the Hornet helped search for survivors. Two of her planes shot down two attacking Communist Chinese fighters. The USS Hornet helped to cover the evacuation of Vietnamese from Communist North Vietnam to the Republic of South Vietnam. The USS Hornet was modernized by converting to a hurricane bow (the prow of the ship wrapped around to the flight deck to prevent the damage she suffered in the typhoon in 1945), and adding an angled flight deck.
In 1958, the USS Hornet was recommissioned as an anti-submarine warfare support carrier – (CVS-12). She patrolled the waters around Japan and the Philippines, and participated in the US Space Program. In 1966, the USS Hornet recovered the unmanned Apollo space capsule after splashdown near Wake Island – the capsule is on display in the Hornet Museum. In 1967, the USS Hornet operated off Vietnam in the war zone. In 1969, the USS Hornet recovered the Apollo XI space capsule, and quarantined the returning astronauts on the ship. The first steps of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins since returning from the Moon were marked on her hangar deck. Later that year, she recovered the Apollo XII space capsule with astronauts Charles Conrad, Alan Bean, and Richard Gordon.
The USS Hornet was decommissioned in 1970, and mothballed at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in 1989, and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1991. The Navy decided to scrap the USS Hornet, and had her towed to Long Beach. The company was not able to scrap the Hornet, so it was towed to Hunter’s Point in San Francisco. In 1995, the commander of the Naval Air Station Alameda held a ceremony for the 50th Anniversary of Victory Over Japan Day, and arranged to have the Hornet towed to NAS Alameda for the ceremony. The Thomas Jefferson Chapter sent representatives to the ceremony, including President Richard Schmidt and Secretary Stephen Renouf. The ceremony generated interest in saving the historic carrier, and in 1998, the USS Hornet was donated by the US Navy to the Aircraft Carrier Hornet Foundation, and was opened to the public as a museum.
The USS Hornet Museum focuses on the impressive legacy of CV-8 and CV-12 in naval aviation, defense of our country, and the exploration of space. There are self-guided tours, as well as docent-led tours to restricted parts of the ship. There are numerous exhibits relating to the Hornet’s war service in World War II through Vietnam, as well as her role in the recovery of Apollo XI and Apollo XII space capsules. There is a flight simulator for guests to experience piloting a fighter jet. The USS Hornet is available for rental for filming, military ceremonies, parties, and group events. There are 18 decks on the ship, and all but 4 are open to the public. Tomy Shoemehl noted that the Hornet Museum was always looking for volunteers to paint, restore aircraft, perform maintenance on the ship, and lead tour groups. You can find more information on the USS Hornet Museum website at: www.uss-hornet.org. After his presentation, Tony Shoemehl opened the floor to questions and comments. SAR Applicant Jeff Nibert noted that he participated in an overnight program with the Boy Scouts – they spent the night on the ship in the crew’s compartments, dined in the crew’s mess, and toured the ship. SAR Applicant Bob Vernagallo asked about the other ships located near the USS Hornet in Alameda, and asked if they were part of the museum. Tony Shoemehl said that they were “active ships” belonging to the US Department of Transportation, which are ready for deployment in 96 hours – they hire merchant marines and longshoremen, and can sail to anywhere they are needed. The City of Alameda will no longer dredge for the 32 feet of water needed for the ships to leave port, so they will soon be relocated from Alameda. President Tim Ernst presented the SAR Certificate of Appreciation to Tony Shoemehl for his informative presentation on the history of the USS Hornet and the museum.