A WWII US aircraft carrier, lost for 76 years, has been found on the floor of the South Pacific Ocean

Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc.The USS Hornet’s 5-inch gun in a still from video footage of the moment the World War II aircraft carrier was found.
  • A sunken World War II US aircraft carrier that had been lost for more than 76 years was found in the South Pacific Ocean.
  • The USS Hornet played a key role in the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo but sank in October 1942 during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, killing about 140 crew members.
  • Its wreckage was found by Vulcan, a company founded by the late Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, whose research vessel has located several WWII wrecks.
  • The company said it wanted to locate the Hornet “because of its place in history as a capitol carrier that saw many pivotal moments in naval battles.”

The wreckage of a World War II US Navy aircraft carrier was found on the floor of the South Pacific Ocean more than 76 years after it sank.

The USS Hornet sank during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands on October 26, 1942, killing about 140 of its 2,200 sailors and crew members. It lay on the seabed until this January, when it was discovered more than 17,000 feet (5,000 meters) below the ocean’s surface.

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The discovery was announced on Tuesday by Vulcan, a company founded by Paul Allen, the Microsoft cofounder who died in October. Allen’s estate owns the RV Petrel research vessel that found the Hornet.

F4F 4 Wildcat with wings folded Vulcan Inc.Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc.An F4F Wildcat aircraft with its wings folded was discovered with the wreckage of the USS Hornet.

Robert Kraft, Vulcan’s director of subsea operations, said in a statement that the mission to find the Hornet was in honour of Allen.

“Paul Allen was particularly interested in aircraft carriers, so this was a discovery that honours his memory,” Kraft said.

He added: “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.”

RV PetrelPaul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc.The RV Petrel deployed its autonomous underwater vehicle in the search for the USS Hornet.

The Hornet was commissioned in October 1941, launched the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, and played a key role in the US victory in the Battle of Midway with Japan in 1942, sinking four Japanese aircraft carriers.

But the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, one year after it was commissioned, was its last fight. On the first day, it was hit by four bombs and two torpedoes in 10 minutes. Most crew members were transferred to another ship, while others tried to repair the damage.

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It was attacked again with a torpedo and two bombs, and the rest of the crew abandoned it. It sank the next morning.

Richard Nowatzki, a gunner on the ship who survived the battle, told CBS News that when enemy planes left, “we were dead in the water.”

“They used armour-piercing bombs,” he said. “Now when they come down, you hear ’em going through the decks … plink, plink, plink, plink … and then when they explode the whole ship shakes.”

Damage on hull USS HornetPaul Allen’s Vulcan Inc.Damage on the hull of the USS Hornet.

A 10-person crew on the 250-foot Petrel found the wreck on the first mission of its autonomous underwater vehicle by using data from national and naval archives, Vulcan said.

This isn’t the Petrel’s first discovery of WWII wreckage – in August 2017 it discovered the wreck of the USS Indianapolis, a heavy cruiser involved in the bombing of Hiroshima, and in March it found the USS Lexington, which sank during the Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942.

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