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Pacific News Minute: Wreck of Famous WWII Aircraft Carrier Found in the Solomon Islands

U.S. Navy

The wreck of USS Hornet has been found in the Solomon Islands. A research vessel funded by the late billionaire Paul Allen located the famous ship under 17, 500 feet of water at the bottom of the South Pacific. 

USS Hornet may be best remembered as the aircraft carrier that brought Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle and 16 B-25 bombers close enough to bomb Tokyo in April, 1942.

Though the bold raid did little damage, it was the first American counterstrike against Japan and lifted spirits amid the deluge of bad news in the months after Pearl Harbor. She later participated in the stunning U.S. victory at the Battle of Midway and then steamed to the South Pacific to support the first American offensive of the war at Guadalcanal.

Hornet was lost in October, 1942 at the Battle of Santa Cruz – a coordinated attack by Japanese dive bombers and torpedo planes left her afire and irreparably damaged. American destroyers took off all but 140 members of her crew and Hornet was finally sent to the bottom by Japanese destroyers.

The wreck was found by an autonomous underwater vehicle operated from R/V Petrel, a 250-foot research vessel on a mission funded by the Paul Allen Foundation. The billionaire philanthropist who co-founded Microsoft died last year.

Petrel’s crew previously discovered the wrecks of USS Indianapolis, USS Lexington and several ships lost in the ferocious battles around Guadalcanal.  They include the cruisers USS Juneau and Helena and, most recently, IJN Hiei, the first Japanese battleship sunk during the war.  

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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