The USS Hornet (CV-12) was ordered for the U.S. Navy on September 9, 1940. Her keel was laid down at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company on August 3, 1942. She was launched on August 30, 1943 and commissioned on November 29, 1943 under the command of Captain Miles R. Browning, who would later be promoted to Rear Admiral.
USS Hornet joined the World War II fighting at Majuro Atoll on March 20, 1944. She then moved on to support the invasion of New Guinea and launch air strikes on the Caroline Islands and the Mariana Islands. In June, she attacked Tinian, Saipan, Guam, Rota, Iwo Jima, and Chichi Jima. The aircraft carrier took part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea on June 19, which later became known as the “Marianas Turkey Shoot” because of how many Japanese planes were downed that day.
Following the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the USS Hornet struck targets at Guam, the Bonin Islands, the Palaus, Okinawa, and Formosa. She supported the troop landings at Leyte on October 20, and was involved in the Battle of Samar as part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The carrier remained in the Philippines through December.
On December 30, USS Hornet headed for the Caroline Islands. She attacked Formosa, Indochina, and the Pescadores Islands before performing photographic reconnaissance of Okinawa on January 22, 1945. On February 10, she launched attacks on Tokyo, then moved on to support the troop landings at Iwo Jima until February 20.
The USS Hornet supported the troop landings at Okinawa on April 1. Five days later, her aircraft helped sink the Japanese battleship Yamato. She remained to support the ground forces at Okinawa for two months before a typhoon collapsed 25 feet of her forward flight deck on June 4-5. She headed back to San Francisco via the Philippines for repairs. The repair work was completed on September 13, 1945, when the carrier headed out for Operation Magic Carpet to bring American servicemen home from war.
USS Hornet operated for 16 continuous months in the Pacific Theater. During that time, she was under aircraft attack 59 times, but she was never hit. Her planes downed 1,410 Japanese aircraft, second only to the aircraft from the USS Essex. Thirty of her pilots were aces, 10 of whom earned “Ace in a Day” status. She received seven battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation for her service in World War II.
The USS Hornet was decommissioned on January 15, 1947. She was recommissioned briefly on March 20, 1951, when she sailed to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to be decommissioned on May 12, 1951 for conversion to an attack aircraft carrier, CVA-12. She was recommissioned on September 11, 1953.
For the next few years, USS Hornet operated in the Caribbean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Indian Ocean. She joined the Seventh Fleet to search for survivors of a Cathay Pacific Airways passenger plane that was shot down by Chinese aircraft over the South China Sea. The carrier helped cover the evacuation for Vietnamese people from North to South Vietnam before heading to San Diego for conversion on December 10, 1955.
USS Hornet operated along the West Coast until January 1957, when she joined the Seventh Fleet in the Far East. After another such deployment, she was redesignated as an antisubmarine warfare support carrier, CVS-12. Conversion work was completed at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard from August 1958 to April 1959.
The USS Hornet continued to operate in the Far East often throughout the 1960s, from South Vietnam to Japan to the Philippines to Okinawa. She recovered the unmanned Apollo AS-202 space capsule on August 25, 1966 when it splashed down off the coast of Wake Island. The carrier spent time supporting the Vietnam War effort before recovering the astronauts from the Apollo 11 space mission on July 24, 1969 – Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins. She recovered the astronauts from the Apollo 12 space mission on November 24, 1969 – Charles Conrad, Jr., Alan L. Bean, and Richard F. Gordon.
USS Hornet was decommissioned on June 26, 1970 and removed from the Naval Vessel Register on July 25, 1989. The aircraft carrier was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1991. She now serves as a museum ship at the former Naval Air Station Alameda in California. The aircraft carrier has appeared in both movies and television, including JAG, xXx: State of the Union, Rescue Dawn, and the indie film Carrier. She is considered to be one of the most haunted warships in the U.S. Navy, and has been featured on MTV’s Fear, Scariest Places on Earth, and Ghost Hunters.
Like other ships built during World War II, the USS Hornet was made with many asbestos-containing materials. Because it was a cheap insulator with resistance to fire, water, heat, and corrosion, it could be found in virtually all areas of the ship, as well as in the aircraft she carried. Anyone who worked in or around the USS Hornet was put at risk of developing life-threatening asbestos-related illnesses like asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, and rectal cancer.
USS Hornet workers should monitor their health carefully, and consult a doctor if they experience any symptoms associated with mesothelioma. Anyone who worked on or around the USS Hornet, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma, should also consider contacting a lawyer to discuss their legal rights.