Paul Allen’s RV Petrel Finds USS Hornet Wreckage

International Harvester aircraft tug sitting upright on the deck of USS Hornet. (Credit: Paul G. Allen/RV Petrel)

One of the most important aircraft carriers in WWII history has been located by the crew of Paul Allen’s RV Petrel. The discovery of the USS Hornet was made during Petrel’s first mission of 2019.

The USS Hornet played a pivotal role in some of the most important moments in WWII naval history, including the Doolittle Raid and the Battle of Midway. From the deck of the Hornet, U.S. Army Lt. Col. James Doolittle led the first airborne attack on Japanese homeland targets, including Tokyo. The aircraft carrier was sunk during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands after a relentless coordinated attack by Japanese dive-bombers and torpedo planes, and eventually, torpedoes from two Japanese destroyers. She lost 140 sailors from her crew of nearly 2,200.

Wreckage of the USS Hornet was discovered in late January 2019 resting on the floor of the South Pacific Ocean 5,330 meters (nearly 17,500 feet) below the surface. 

The 10-person expedition team on the 250-ft. RV Petrel were able to locate the Hornet’s position by piecing together data from national and naval archives that included official deck logs and action reports from other ships engaged in the battle. Positions and sightings from nine other U.S. warships in the area were plotted on a chart to generate the starting point for the search grid. In the case of the Hornet, she was discovered on the first dive mission of the Petrel’s AUV and confirmed by video footage from the remotely operated vehicle. —Vulcan Inc.

Watch the hunt for the Hornet in a two-part show on CBS.

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