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ALAMEDA – More than three quarters of a century after enemy torpedoes sent it under the waves, the USS Hornet was found on the ground on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean near the Solomon Islands.
The aircraft carrier of the Second World War – the seventh US Navy ship to bear the name "Hornet" after the War of Independence – was discovered by the Petrel research vessel, funded by the Paul Allen Foundation.
The USS Hornet Sea Museum, Air & Space of Alameda, named after the lost carrier, announced the discovery on Tuesday.
The same research ship had already found the USS Lexington, which sank in May 1942, and the USS Indianapolis, torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in July 1945 just as the Second World War was ending.
The Hornet was lost on October 26, 1942 after being heavily damaged during the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands and abandoned.
According to historians, 140 men died on the ship.
"I never expected that we would see this ship again," Navy veteran Rich Nowatzki said Tuesday after learning that the Hornet had been found. "It brings back a lot of memories."
At the age of 95, the Roseville resident was helping a five-inch starboard gun during the battle that led to the sinking of the aircraft carrier.
As a sailor assigned to a search and rescue team, Nowatzki was one of the last to leave the vessel in distress after touching and started to register on starboard.
"I went back to the fantail, I had a lifejacket and I went down the rope," Nowatzki said.
He swam against the wind: it would take the ship away from him, Nowatzki thought, and prevent him from being shot under the 770-foot aircraft carrier that slid under the waves.
The repercussions of the Japanese bombs ending the Hornet cut off the water. For Nowatzki, then 19-year-old Chicago sailor, the shot was as if a boxer was enduring in the ring.
"It sounded like a vice crushing our side," Nowatzki said. "It did not last long. But, boy, it was atrocious.
Nowatzki reached a crowded lifeboat and grabbed it until the destroyer USS Barton retrieved it.
Petrel found the Hornet nearly 17,500 feet below the surface in January. The discovery was only announced on Tuesday.
Underwater photos show a ready-to-use 5-inch gun near the carrier's cockpit and a Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter, the wings still bent to save space on the ship. An International Harvester, formerly used to move planes, looks like a sailor who has just parked it.
In June 1942, the Hornet was one of three American carriers that surprised and destroyed four Japanese carriers during the Battle of Midway, reversing the course of the war in the Pacific. It was sunk just four months later.
"With the loss of Hornet and the significant damage to Enterprise, the Battle of Santa Cruz was a Japanese victory, but at an extremely high cost," retired Rear Admiral Samuel Cox, director of the department, said in a statement. History of the navy and heritage. "About half of the Japanese planes were shot down by improved US Navy air defense systems. As a result, Japanese carriers no longer engaged in combat for nearly two years. "
In addition to his role during the Battle of Midway, the Hornet is best known for launching the April 1942 Doolittle raid on continental Japan, an attack that boosted Americans' morale after Pearl Harbor.
"Although his service was short-lived, he was meteoric," said Admiral Bill Moran, vice-chief of naval operations, in a statement. "In the dark days that followed the surprise attack against Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, she and the Doolittle Raiders were the first Americans to hit Japan, giving hope to the nation and the world when the situation seemed the darkest. She was present when the US Navy reversed the trend in the Pacific during the Battle of Midway and she was there when America began the long drive to Tokyo in the Solomon Islands. "
The aircraft carrier that is now a museum in Alameda – also called Hornet – was built when the Hornet sank and was named in honor of the lost ship. He was originally supposed to call the USS Kearsarge.
Bob Fish, a museum administrator, said the Doolittle raid was "a shining example of innovation," as the Army dispatched twin-engine bombers from the Hornet's Army, helping to shed the basics of a global bombing strategy during the Second World War.
The Hornet was discovered after the Petrel research vessel began operating at Guadalcanal, one of the Solomon Islands and a legendary battle site of the Pacific War.
The 250-foot Petrel expedition team located Hornet's position by collecting national and naval archive data, including official bridge logs and action reports from other ships.
The positions and sightings of nine other American warships in the region were plotted on a graph to generate the starting point for the search grid.
According to Robert Kraft, director of Vulcan Underwater Operations, the private company created by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, to manage its commercial and philanthropic activities, the researchers wanted to find the Hornet because of its crucial role in it. history of the navy.
It was not immediately clear whether efforts would be made to recover artifacts from the sunken carrier.
The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation supports technology and efforts to improve the environment. It also strives to locate and preserve historical artifacts, such as ships lost during the Second World War.