The USS Hornet (CV-8) was ordered for the U.S. Navy on March 30, 1939. Her keel was laid down at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company on September 25, 1939. She was launched on December 14, 1940 and commissioned on October 20, 1941 under the command of Captain Marc A. Mitscher.
USS Hornet spent the early part of 1942 training and receiving upgrades to her armament. On April 2, the aircraft carrier left Alameda with sealed orders and 16 B-25s under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle. She joined Task Force 16 off of Midway and headed for Japan in what would become known as the Doolittle Raid. Colonel Doolittle’s air crew launched the first American air strike against Japan on April 18, although the mission was kept an official secret for an entire year.
After steaming back to Pearl Harbor, the USS Hornet headed off to take part in the Battle of the Coral Sea, but she arrived too late. She made a feint toward Nauru and Banaba before joining in the Battle of Midway.
On June 4, 1942, USS Hornet joined USS Yorktown and USS Enterprise in launching air strikes against Japanese carrier-based planes destined for Midway. The dive bombers from USS Hornet did not find their targets, but Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8) did. Enemy opposition brought down each of the torpedo bombers; only one man out of 30 survived. Most of the task force’s torpedo bombers met the same fate, but dive bombers from the other carriers were able to sink four Japanese carriers. Two days later, aircraft from the USS Hornet helped take down and damage a number of Japanese ships. The Battle of Midway was considered the turning point of the war in the Pacific Theater.
The USS Hornet had a new CXAM radar installed at Pearl Harbor, where she completed some training before heading off to the Guadalcanal area in the Solomon Islands on August 17. Damage to other aircraft carriers left only the USS Hornet in the South Pacific until she was joined by the USS Enterprise on October 24.
Two days later, the carriers became involved in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. As USS Hornet aircraft struck at enemy ships, she was attacked by Japanese aircraft that scored three bomb hits. While the she was being towed by the USS Northampton, she was attacked again by torpedo bombers. The order came down to abandon ship, with Captain Charles P. Mason being the last man on board, and the survivors were picked up by American destroyers.
Attempts were made to scuttle the ship before she finally sank in the early hours of October 27, 1942. USS Hornet was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on January 13, 1943. She received four battle stars for her service in World War II, and Torpedo Squadron 8 received the Presidential Unit Citation for their service during the Battle of Midway.
Like virtually all U.S. Navy ships built during the World War II era, the USS Hornet was constructed using many asbestos-containing components. The toxic substance asbestos was known for its resistance to heat, water, fire, and corrosion. It could be found in boilers, steam pipes, valves, gaskets, pumps, hot water pipes, caulking, turbines, incinerators, rope, engine rooms, sealants, floor and ceiling tiles, wall insulation, electrical wiring, and even in the aircraft she carried. Anyone who served aboard the USS Hornet or participated in her repair and overhaul was put at risk of developing asbestos related illnesses like asbestosis, lung cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer, or mesothelioma, a rare but fatal form of cancer that attacks the protective lining surrounding the lungs and other organs.
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.