When Divers Located The Ship That Survived Pearl Harbor, They Saw What Sank WWII’s Toughest Vessel

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Nearly three miles beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean, robotic devices crawl their way across the seafloor. The motorized explorers eventually land on something far different than the sediments lining the depths. Yes, it’s the wreckage of a World War II ship. And as the machines examine it, they help solve the huge mystery of why this vessel sank.

Image: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection

Now, the USS Nevada endured severe damage long before her mysterious sinking. For one thing, the massive battleship survived the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. And then the vessel went on to fight in WWII, where suicide bombers attempted to destroy her. Despite all this, the ship still returned home in a functional state.

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From there, the military used the USS Nevada in their atomic bomb testing – but that didn’t bring her down to the depths of the Pacific, either. Instead, she sank in 1948, not as the result of any conflict or bomb-testing program. So what exactly was it that sank the unsinkable ship? Well, thanks to a crew of explorers in 2020, we now have a clearer picture.

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The USS Nevada was one of two 27,500-ton battleships constructed in Quincy, Massachusetts, ahead of the WWI effort. After her commission in March 1916, it took two years for the vessel to hit the open seas. Eventually, she headed to the British Isles to aid in the European conflict.

Image: Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives

At the end of the war, the ship sailed through the Atlantic, Caribbean and Pacific, completing various exercises and fleet drills along the way. And soon enough, the vessel reached her 10th anniversary of service – receiving modernizations between 1927 and 1930 to make her even tougher at sea.

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These upgrades included a set of anti-aircraft guns, a secondary battery, a strengthened superstructure and improved masts. All of this, you see, made the Nevada stronger in both its protection and firepower. And so she returned to service on the Pacific Ocean, joining up with the U.S. Battle Fleet.

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What’s more, the Nevada was in Hawaii on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese launched a surprise attack on the Navy’s station at Pearl Harbor. She was, in fact, the oldest battleship in the water that day – and the only one able to get underway as the shower of bullets, bombs and suicide planes began to fall.

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And as the Nevada moved slowly through the water, she became an easy target for the assailants overhead. Yes, dive bombers swooped and shot at the vessel, and a torpedo launched by the Japanese caused the ship to start leaking, in spite of its updated anti-torpedo fittings. The damage that they caused was not enough to sink her, however.

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The Nevada’s war wound didn’t stop her moving, you see – even when gasoline fires began to break out on board. Instead, the ship lumbered on and nearly reached the Navy Yard before grounding on the side of the waterway. The battleship eventually sunk to the bottom, but because the water there was shallow, she was far from lost.

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Image: Collection of Vice Admiral Homer N. Wallin. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command

Thankfully, the Navy later beached the USS Nevada and got to work repairing all of the damage that had been caused by the surprise attack. Temporary repairs and quick salvage work had her back on the water in April of 1942 – just four months after the invasion. And the attack on Pearl Harbor itself was the impetus for the United States joining the Allied forces in WWII.

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Image: Ph2c H.S. Fawcett, USN. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives

But it seems the Nevada wasn’t quite ready to head straight into battle. Instead, repairmen ensured that she was functional enough to leave Pearl Harbor and head to the west coast of the United States. It was there that the vessel underwent a year-long service to get her shipshape and back on the water with enhanced resources. Workers made sure to boost the anti-aircraft gun battery, for example.

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Image: Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives

With all of these fittings in place, the ship was ready to return to the front lines – and the Navy put her straight to work. She journeyed from the U.S. mainland to the Aleutian island chain in the North Pacific. There, American forces battled with the Japanese for control of a small island, Attu.

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As of June 1942, you see, the Japanese occupied both Attu and the neighboring island of Kiska. They either wanted the islands to shift the U.S. forces’ attention away from Midway Island, which they attacked in the same month. Or, they may have thought that having an Aleutian base could’ve stopped American troops from moving through the Pacific and onto Japan.

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Either way, the Japanese held Attu from June 1942 until May 1943, which was when the Nevada – among other resources – regained control of the island. This certainly wasn’t the end for the vessel, though, as the Navy then sent her on another critical mission in the WWII effort. And this time, the ship would have to sail halfway around the world to reach her next post.

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The Nevada arrived off of the coast of France to partake in the Normandy Invasion, which is also known as D-Day. Soldiers from the States, Canada and the United Kingdom came together to fight for France’s freedom from Nazi control on June 6, 1944. It took until the end of August to liberate the northern portion of the country, though, and the Allies then regrouped to plan their march into Germany.

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Throughout the Normandy Invasion and French liberation, the Nevada remained in the Atlantic. But the ship then shuttled to the south of the country for August and September 1944, before moving onto her next assignment back in the Pacific. Yes, she sailed a long way to reach another important WWII battle.

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Back on the Pacific front, the Nevada helped the Allied forces in their final push to conquer Japan. Now, they did so in two major battles of 1945: Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Both conflicts resulted in thousands of deaths on both sides, and the vessel didn’t make it out unscathed, either.

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Image: Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives

You see, a suicide plane dove into the Nevada on March 27, 1945, and about a week later an artillery shell pierced the vessel. As a result, she temporarily docked just off Okinawa for approximately two months. Then, as America prepared to invade Japan, she rejoined the war effort.

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At the time, military officials called their plan to invade Japan, “Operation Downfall.” But they also knew that sending American troops into the country would result in massive losses. President Harry S. Truman therefore authorized another course of action that didn’t involve sending in men on the ground.

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So, on August 6, 1945, Truman gave the green light for American forces to fly over Hiroshima and drop “Little Boy,” the code name for the atomic bomb. And three days later, another atomic bomb called the “Fat Man” fell on Nagasaki. This led to Japan’s unconditional surrender on August 14, meaning that the Allied forces never had to complete the Operation Downfall invasion.

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The Nevada, therefore, didn’t have to partake in any combat past the Iwo Jima and Okinawa invasions – WWII had ended when the Japanese signed their surrender. But the battleship still kept busy nonetheless. Indeed, she trekked from her final post in the Pacific toward Hawaii, at which point officials deemed the ship too old to rejoin the Naval fleet.

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Instead, the Navy began to use the old warship for target practice – for atomic bomb tests, no less. So the battleship shuttled to the Marshall Islands, which sit between Hawaii and Australia. And once the tests began, radioactive weaponry damaged the storied vessel in more ways than one.

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Image: Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives

Of course, atomic bombs caused physical damage to the Nevada. But the tests also made the ship radioactive, and thus unfit for service in the military altogether. In August 1946, the Navy decommissioned the battleship when she was 30 years old. The vessel’s story didn’t end there, though.

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No, the former warship sat inactive for two years before she was taken out to sea one last time. She had returned somewhat close to the Hawaiian Islands, and she fell to her final resting place on the seafloor on July 31, 1948. And while historians had some of the puzzle pieces needed to solve the mystery of this ship’s demise, the discovery in 2020 would shed more light on what really happened.

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Image: Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2007. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

Although servicemen were present as the Nevada began to sink, they only recorded relative bearings to help relocate the vessel later on. So, rediscovering the shell of the former battleship would be a tough job – and a nearly impossible one if helmed by humans alone.

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So, in 2020 two companies joined forces to send the proper technology in search of the Nevada. SEARCH Inc., which manages cultural resources, collaborated with marine robotics specialists Ocean Infinity. The latter sent an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to capture photos and send them to SEARCH for analysis.

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Image: Photo courtesy of Ocean Infinity

Of course, the AUV’s assignment was no small task. The device hit the seafloor and searched a 100-square-mile stretch of land near where eyewitnesses thought that the ship went down. And while it scoured more than 15,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, it found something.

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Soon enough, images of the Nevada flooded onto the screens of the land-based team’s computers. And after analyzing the photos, the experts could see that the battleship’s wreckage had landed atop a muddy underwater plain. Interestingly, the battleship had settled upside down and had a 2,000-foot line of debris trailing from its hull.

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Both the Nevada’s bow and stern had disappeared from the vessel, too. But finding the busted, upside-down battleship meant a lot to many, including those who worked on board. Former Nevada crewmate Richard Ramsey served in Normandy, Okinawa and Iwo Jima. He told National Geographic in 2020, “It’s really a great thing that they found it.”

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And the researchers felt the same way. Maritime archaeologist James Delgado led the mission and served as SEARCH’s senior vice president. He seemingly knew the importance of the Nevada as a symbol of the American people, pointing out that both entities were “stubborn” and “resilient.”

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Delgado said, “It struck me, if there was one ship to find that particularly now could speak to something about human nature and particularly Americans, it would be Nevada – stubborn, resilient.” Rediscovering the vessel – and seeing what it was that brought her down – only proved how strong she had been.

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Image: Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command

As previously mentioned, historians knew a little bit about the events that left the old warship on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The vessel – still painted bright orange after its days as an atomic bomb-drop target – had been towed out to sea. Then, cruisers and planes partook in a four-day naval drill.

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Yes, the servicemen and women involved fired rounds and even dropped bombs onto the Nevada. But nothing could sink her until a plane’s torpedo finally did the trick. As National Geographic’s Kristin Romey put it, the blast “did what the Germans and Japanese could not: send Nevada to the bottom of the sea.”

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However, a new look at the Nevada has revealed that this may not be entirely accurate. After poring over the footage of the waterlogged vessel, Delgado hypothesized that two torpedoes actually brought down the battleship. He could see “a whole section of the hull just blasted open, exposing the armor, but with the outer skin just peeled back and torn.”

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So the possibility that two torpedoes may have taken down the ship was a revelation for the researchers. As SEARCH’s President James Pochurek put it in a 2020 press release, “The discovery of the USS Nevada is another reminder of the powerful human stories lying beneath the waves waiting to be retold.”

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Delgado added, “Rising from its watery grave after being sunk at Pearl Harbor, [the USS Nevada] survived torpedoes, bombs, shells and two atomic blasts. The physical reality of the ship, resting in the darkness of the great museum of the sea, reminds us not only of past events but of those who took up the challenge of defending the United States in two global wars.”

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And the prospect of rediscovering a piece of history was precisely why Delgado and his peers had dedicated themselves to such searches. He said, “This is why we do ocean exploration – to seek out those powerful connections to the past.” As of May 2020 their work in analyzing the sunken ship continued.

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But Ramsey, who served on the Nevada himself, felt the vessel deserved a different send-off. He didn’t mince his words when he said, “They should not have sunk that ship.” And he countered that the ship’s role in a slew of important battles should have solidified it as a WWII memorial.

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The USS Missouri was the battleship upon which the Japanese signed their official surrender. That vessel remains afloat – and, as Ramsey suggested for Nevada – it has become a memorial of the War fought nearly a century ago. He even said that the sunken ship “should be tied up next to the Missouri.”

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Although the ship’s entire story will eventually unfold, what we know now should be enough to inspire us, according to Ocean Infinity’s Shawntel Johnson. She said, “It is our hope that by sharing the USS Nevada’s story that it not only honors those who served in the Navy and fulfills an important educational role but that in these challenging times it also serves as a symbol of perseverance and courage.”

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As Delgado suggested, however, this heroic vessel is far from being the only WWII ship that’s been discovered at the bottom of the ocean. Indeed, the USS Hornet, which was found in the pacific in 2019, has a story that’s equally as captivating. Researchers were hunting this particular ship for years – and their determined search definitely paid off.

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It’s late January 2019, and the crew of the R/V Petrel sends one of its remotely controlled vehicles almost 17,700 feet down into the frigid depths of the South Pacific. And the researchers have chosen this spot carefully; after extensive investigations, they believe that they’ve finally uncovered the U.S.S. Hornet’s watery resting place. But are they about to confirm their theory? The drone continues to dive, and the team waits with baited breath to see if they’re about to strike gold.

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There’s a reason why the Petrel’s crew are so keen to unearth this particular craft. You see, the U.S.S. Hornet has a fascinating history – and she’s had her fair share of adventure. Originally built as a Yorktown Class U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, Hornet was the seventh ship to go by that name. Construction of the vessel began in September 1939 – a little more than three weeks after the outbreak of the Second World War, but before the U.S. had entered the conflict.

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With the specter of war still a faint blur on the horizon, the talented ship builders of the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company set about constructing Hornet at Newport News, Virginia. The craft was subsequently launched on December 14, 1940, and she was commissioned ten months later. Captain Marc Mitscher – an experienced Navy hand with 21 years of service under his belt – first took command of Hornet at the Naval Operating Base in Norfolk, VA.

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Mitscher was no doubt honored to be in charge of such a craft, too, as the Hornet’s vital statistics were particularly impressive. She was a few inches short of 810 feet in length and measured 114 feet across at the widest part of her flight deck. Four Parsons Marine engines powered one propeller each, and the vessel could sail through the seas at a maximum speed of over 32 knots.

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Assuming that there was a full complement aboard, Captain Mitscher was in charge of 1,280 sailors and 86 officers – all of whom manned the vessel. Another 141 officers and 710 crew members were responsible for flying and maintaining the planes. And Hornet’s formidable armament included eight 5-inch multi-purpose firearms and 16 anti-aircraft weapons.

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As it happened, Hornet was docked at Norfolk Navy base when the Japanese launched their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 – thereby plunging America into WWII. So when news of the attack reached the Navy installation, Mitscher received the order to put his ship on a war footing. And not long later, the Hornet would be in action on the high seas.

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But before Hornet could get a real taste of battle, she was part of an experiment that apparently baffled her crew. You see, at the beginning of February, the craft set sail from Norfolk. And parked on her deck were two B-25 Mitchell mid-sized bombers that belonged to the Army Air Forces – the predecessor of the U.S. Air Force, which wasn’t actually formed until 1947.

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Once Hornet had reached the open sea, then, the B-25s took off. In fact, while Mitscher’s craft had still been docked at Norfolk, the captain had been in discussions about the practicality of his ship carrying some 15 B-25s onboard. The jaunt itself had actually been arranged as a dry run to find out just how practical the idea was. And happily, the experiment was a success: the two planes took to the skies with no problem.

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So with this trial complete, Hornet now traveled to the West Coast via the Panama Canal, docking at California’s Naval Air Station Alameda on March 20, 1942. Once at the base, she took on board 16 of the Mitchell B-25s. And after the planes had been safely lugged onto the craft, the men were finally told what Hornet’s mission was: they were going to bomb Japan.

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Hornet now joined Task Force 16 and sailed off into the Pacific on what was dubbed the Doolittle Raid. Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle was in charge of the B-25s as well as their ground and flight crews, with the latter two groups including 64 men and 70 Air Corps officers. Their original plan was to drop anchor approximately 460 miles away from Japan’s coastline – but this soon went awry.

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Yes, the operational strategy had to be modified, as a Japanese patrol boat – designated No. 23 Nitto Maru – spotted the American ships. And although U.S.S. Nashville sunk the Japanese vessel, the Allied forces still feared that the enemy now knew the location of Task Force 16. An emergency change of plan was now essential – and Hornet would prove pivotal to its success.

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You see, although Hornet was still around 650 miles from Japan’s coast, all 16 of the B-25s that she was carrying took flight. The pilots began launching their crafts into the air one after another, and the takeoffs all went off without a hitch – until the last plane attempted to fly, that is. One unfortunate man toppled into the path of a propeller, and he lost an arm as a result. All 16 of Doolittle’s planes were now airborne and bound for Japan, ready to unleash the first load of bombs on the country’s Home Islands.

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The planes now reached their targets in Japan, flying high over urban centers, including Yokohama, Yokosuka, Kobe and Tokyo. The bombers succeeded in inflicting considerable damage, too. But now, as the aircrafts had flown for hundreds of miles more than their pilots had anticipated, they were unable to reach the airfield on which they were meant to land in China.

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Fifteen of the planes crash-landed on Chinese territory that was occupied by the Japanese. Some came down on land, while others ditched in the sea and struggled to the shore. The 16th plane actually made it all the way to Russia and ran aground near Vladivostok. Miraculously, only three of the 80 aircrew died as a result of these dangerous descents, while 69 lived to tell the tale. And, with the help of friendly locals, a number of them avoided falling into the Japanese’s clutches, too.

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Those Chinese who had assisted the Americans were then subjected to vicious reprisals at the hands of the Japanese. At the time, the fates of two crews – a total of ten men – were unknown. Subsequently, it emerged that two had drowned after ditching and eight became prisoners. And at a 1946 war crimes trial, it became apparent that the Japanese had executed three of the men and that one had died in captivity. The remaining four, however, had managed to survive the ordeal.

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Meanwhile, Hornet sailed away from Japan and docked at Pearl Harbor. On April 30, 1942, she took to the seas again, heading for a rendezvous with  U.S. Navy ships Yorktown and Lexington, which were engaged in the Battle of the Coral Sea. Yet by the time that Hornet had sped to the battle – which saw the loss of the Lexington – the fighting was over.

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But there would be plenty of action for Hornet soon enough. She set out from Pearl Harbor once more on May 28, 1942, again as part of Task Force 16. Captain Mitscher charted a course for Point Luck – a location some 325 miles to the northeast of the diminutive Midway Atoll island that’s situated in the North Pacific.

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The major Battle of Midway was about to begin. The Americans planned to launch a surprise attack on a strong Japanese force that included four aircraft carriers. And trying to take out these vessels would be crucial, as this conflict would be largely fought by planes launched from carriers. This style of fighting was still very new indeed: the aforementioned Battle of the Coral Sea had been the first of its type in military history.

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Unfortunately, the battle did not start well for Hornet. Dive bombers from the ship could not locate their Japanese targets, and some of them – along with every fighter escort – were forced to ditch into the sea when their fuel reserves hit empty. And while 15 torpedo bombers managed to at least reach the enemy vessels, they were all shot down, as they lacked sufficient fighter protection. In all, of the 30 men aboard those planes, just one survived.

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But the Americans persevered with their attacks, and dive bombers from Enterprise and Yorktown attacked three of the Japanese carriers, setting them ablaze and putting them out of action. A fourth, Hiryu, was the vessel that had downed Hornet’s torpedo planes. But her luck didn’t last: planes launched from the Enterprise now destroyed the Hiryu.

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By June 6, the Japanese fleet was in retreat, and Hornet’s planes were on the attack. They played a part in sinking the Mikuma, which was a heavy cruiser, as well as inflicting damage on a destroyer. Then Hornet attacked and severely harmed another heavy cruiser called Mogami. And this turned out to be the final action in the battle of Midway – a conflict that ended in victory for the U.S.

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Consequently, Midway Atoll was preserved for the Americans as a forward air base from which to attack Japan. And the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers had struck a devastating blow against the Japanese Navy, sinking four of its carriers. The destruction of these ships had also resulted in the loss of 250 Japanese planes along with a substantial number of key personnel.

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As a result, historians have recognized the U.S. victory at Midway as a key moment in the fight against the Japanese in the Pacific. And after playing its part in this momentous battle, Hornet returned to Pearl Harbor where Mitscher handed her over to a new skipper: Captain Charles P. Mason. The ship was now fitted with extra anti-aircraft guns and the latest radar technology.

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Hornet sailed from port on August 17, 1942, to go on what was effectively guard duty at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. Yet damage to other U.S. Navy ships – along with the sinking of U.S.S. Wasp – left Hornet alone in the South Pacific for a time as the sole effective U.S. carrier. But the vessel wasn’t alone for long: towards the end of October, she teamed up with the carrier Enterprise.

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After meeting to the northwest of the New Hebrides Isles, the two carriers set course to counter a Japanese naval force that was heading for Guadalcanal. The scene was set for the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands – and so fighting got under way on October 26, 1942. The battle began for Hornet when she attacked a carrier called Shōkaku and two cruisers, while Enterprise simultaneously bombed another carrier: Zuihō.

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Hornet herself was in turn bombarded by torpedo aircraft and Aichi D3A “Val” dive bombers. The strike was a forceful one, with the dive bombers hitting Hornet three times in just 15 minutes. Then one of the Vals was hit by anti-aircraft fire. And consequently, the plane smashed into the control island atop the flight deck, killing seven of the ship’s crew.

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Yet things went from bad to worse for Hornet, when Nakajima B5N “Kate” planes successfully directed two torpedoes into the vessel. This brought the U.S. ship to a standstill, and now another damaged Val dive bomber took the opportunity to strategically pitch into her. Since Hornet was without power, her planes could neither take off nor land. And this meant that those in the air were forced to head over to Enterprise or opt for the sea.

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On the orders of Rear Admiral George D. Murray, a heavy cruiser called U.S.S. Northampton attempted to transport Hornet away from the danger. And as she slowly moved away, maintenance crews found themselves close to getting her power running again – until nine more Japanese torpedo planes bore down on the damaged carrier.

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Of the nine Japanese planes now on the attack, eight were gunned down or missed their target. But the final aircraft landed a shot with deadly accuracy, and Hornet began to list heavily. At this point, it was no doubt clear that the vessel was doomed. And “abandon ship” was the only sensible order left to be given.

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Hornet’s crew was picked up by escort vessels, with Mason the last man to leave his ship. Before the crew members had been rescued, though, Vice Admiral William Halsey had ordered for the stricken vessel to be sunk – once the men were clear, of course. In an attempt to comply, a number of American ships fired nine torpedoes into Hornet, but she failed to go down. Then two destroyers, Mustin and Anderson, bombarded her with over 400 5-inch shells – yet she remained stubbornly above the waves.

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Eventually, the Americans gave up and sailed away. It was left to two Japanese destroyers, Makigumo and Akigumo, to finally send her to the bottom of the Pacific in the early morning darkness of October 27, 1942. Of the 2,200 men who had been aboard the American carrier, 140 lost their lives. From launch to sinking, Hornet’s action-packed career had lasted a little less than two years.

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In the short term, taking into account the ships lost by the Americans, the Battle of Santa Cruz was a win for the Japanese. But many of Japan’s most experienced pilots never returned from the battle – and the shortfall was never made good. So the short-term victory came at a high price, fatally weakening the Japanese war machine.

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After the Hornet had sunk, she lay rusting at the bottom of the sea and went undiscovered for nearly eight decades. But there were those that were keen to find her, such as Vulcan – the group set up by Microsoft’s late co-founder: Paul Allen. Although he died in October 2018, his organization lives on.

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Vulcan is involved in a variety of enterprises, ranging from technology to arts and charitable works. But it has also made a name for itself in the field of undersea exploration. Specifically, the organization has found and explored several vessels lost at sea using the research ship R/V Petrel.

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And vessels that have been found or explored by Petrel include the U.S.S. Juneau – sunk near Guadalcanal in 1942 – and the U.S.S. Indianapolis – lying 18,000 feet below the surface of the Philippine Sea. The latter plunged to the sea bed after being hit by a Japanese torpedo in July 1945. In March 2018 Petrel found the wreck of U.S.S. Lexington. The Japanese had sunk her during the 1942 Battle of the Coral Sea – the fight to which Hornet had arrived too late.

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In a quirk of fate, the next target on the Petrel’s list was indeed the Hornet. But the first of the researchers’ tasks was decidedly less glamorous than undersea exploration: they decided to trawl through naval archives, including Japanese records, to find out as much information as they could about the ship’s most likely final position. The team also examined reports from other vessels that had fought in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands to build an even more comprehensive view of events.

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In a statement from Vulcan’s subsea operations section, director Robert Kraft said, “We had the Hornet on our list of WWII warships that we wanted to locate because of its place in history as a capitol carrier that saw many pivotal moments in naval battles.” And speaking to CBS in February 2019, Kraft revealed that their research had given them a very strong lead on the ship’s whereabouts.

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So, the mission began in January 2019. Once the researchers had navigated the Petrel to the spot where they suspected the Hornet’s wreck might be, they sent down an underwater drone. This high-tech piece of equipment would search the seabed using sonar. To get to the sea bottom – a staggering 17,700 feet or so below the surface – took the drone some 90 minutes. And the data it collected indicated the possible wreckage of a ship.

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Perhaps in light of these encouraging first results, Kraft then decided that it was worth sending down another remotely controlled underwater vehicle – but this one would be equipped with cameras. And what the crew aboard the Petrel were then able to see via a video feed left them in no doubt. They had discovered the wreck of U.S.S. Hornet – 76 years after she’d ended up at the bottom of the ocean.

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And one man perhaps felt the emotion of this discovery more than any other. Richard Nowatzki – 95 when the discovery was made – was an 18-year-old sailor aboard the Hornet on the day that the Japanese sank it. Speaking to CBS in February 2019, Nowatzki said, “I know I’ve been a very fortunate man. The actual fact that you can find these ships is mind-boggling to me… I want to thank you for honoring me this way.”

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