USS Hornet (CV-12, later CVA-12 & CVS-12), 1943-1998
USS Hornet, an 27,100-ton Essex class aircraft carrier, was built at Newport News, Virginia. Commissioned in November 1943, she left the Atlantic in February 1944 to join the war against Japan. Her first combat operations were raids against enemy-held islands in the central Pacific, followed in June 1944 by participation in the Marianas invasion and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Hornet's raids continued through the rest of the year, with the attacks moving further west to support the capture of the Palaus and the recovery of the Philippines. Her planes also participated in the October 1944 Battle of Leyte Gulf.
In January 1945, Hornet entered the South China Sea for strikes on and near the Asian coast. Over the next several months, she also hit Formosa and the Japanese Home Islands and covered landings on Iwo Jima and Okinawa. On 6 April 1945 her planes helped sink the huge Japanese battleship Yamato. Hornet continued her operations in the Okinawa and Japan areas until her flight deck was damaged in a typhoon in early June, generating a trip back to the U.S. for repairs and an overhaul. The war was over by the time this work was completed, and the carrier spent the rest of 1945 bringing men home from the Pacific. After almost a year of inactivity, Hornet decommissioned and joined the Pacific Reserve Fleet in January 1947.
Briefly recommissioning in March 1951, Hornet went to the New York Naval Shipyard, where she spent two years receiving an SCB-27A modernization. Returning to the active fleet in September 1953 with a stronger flight deck, new island and the new attack carrier designation CVA-12, the ship began a World cruise in May 1954 that included duty in the Mediterranean Sea and with the Seventh Fleet in Asian waters. On 25 July 1954, while Hornet was operating in the South China Sea, her planes shot down two Chinese fighters. After another western Pacific deployment in 1955, the carrier was modernized again, this time receiving an angled flight deck and enclosed bow to facilitate operation of higher-performance aircraft. She had two more Seventh Fleet tours in 1957 and 1958.
In mid-1958, Hornet was converted to an antisubmarine warfare support carrier and redesignated CVS-12. In her new role, she continued to make regular Seventh Fleet deployments through the next decade and lent support to combat operations off Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. She also served as recovery ship for several space flights, including the Apollo 11 and 12 trips to the Moon in 1969. USS Hornet decommissioned for the last time in June 1970. Following nearly two decades in "mothballs", she was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in July 1989 and sold for breaking up in April 1993. However, the old carrier was saved from the scrap heap by the efforts of historically-minded citizens and in 1998 became a memorial and museum ship at Alameda, California. Hornet serves in that capacity to this day.