Commodore Bill, Past Commodore David, and Past, Past Commodore joined Never-to-be Commodore Pat and Sausalito YC Jack-of-all Officers Nick Sands for a full day’s tour of USS Hornet, CV-12. Now a museum ship at the former Alameda Naval Air Station, the WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, and the ship that recovered both Apollo 11 and 12 Lunar Moon Modules after they landed in the Pacific Ocean, USS Hornet has a rich history. The 8th “Hornet” in the US Navy, the ship replaced USS Hornet, CV 8 lost in the Battle of Santa Cruz on October 27, 1942.
Hornet’s keel was laid in August 1942, she was launched a year later in 1943, and USS Hornet, CV-12 was commissioned in November, 1943. USS Hornet immediately sailed for the South Pacific where she served for 15 months without docking and earned the nickname ‘Gray Ghost” by escaping damage from enemy ships and planes. She, however, suffered major damage in the infamous typhoon when her forward deck was bend badly damaged and she sailed for San Francisco for repair. She returned to the South Pacific for the final months of WWII.
USS Hornet’s next service was in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. In 1969 Hornet was refitted to recover the Apollo 11 and 12 space capsules and their 3-man astronaut crew. The space capsules were hoisted aboard Hornet and the astronauts were whisked into an awaiting modified Airstream trailer for to contain any possible moon microbes. An Apollo capsule and the de-conamitation trailer a re displayed on the museum ship.
Other displays include several refurbished WWII Naval propeller fighter aircraft, Korean and Vietnam era jets, and Naval helicopters. USS Hornet ended her Navy days as a helicopter carrier since her hydraulic catapults were not capable of launching the increasingly heavier fighter jets.
The SRSC party joined three tours. First we toured the Fo’c’sle or Hurricane Deck with its anchoring gear. We all agreed that even one link of the anchor chain would sink our SRSC boats and an anchor the size of a VW was more than we needed for Tomales Bay. The Forward Auxiliary Generator, a 10 cylinder double piston engine, along with its mate at the stern could power almost all the electrical needs if the primary generators were knocked out of service. The Junior Officers Berthing facilities are also in the forward area. The tour ended with a visit to the 70 mm and 5 inch anti-aircraft cannon on the outside of the hull and the radar control room that controlled them.
Next we caught up with a tour headed down into the the ship’s bowels – the Aft Starboard Engine Room and Port Catapult machinery. We didn’t experience the 130+ temperatures nor noise created by super heated steam, turbines spinning at near supersonic speeds, and hundreds of yards of thick cables flinging fully loaded planes off the flight deck. We did experience steep “ladders” – the Navy’s name for stairways, tripping step-over bulkheads at watertight emergence hatch locations, and head knocking overhead pipes and hoist tracks. The tour ended in the geedunk bar where we could have purchased 10¢ Spam sandwiches or 25¢ hamburgers back in the day.
“Geedunk” is the nickname for a casual eatery where the uniform of the day is not required and where sailors could purchase food alternatives to the food served in the mess. No one knows why “geedunk.” Some suggest its the sound an old fashioned vending machine made after a coin was dropped in the slot and, knob pulled as it dispensed the selected item. But others think is comes from an old comic strip named Harold Teen. Harold eats Gedunk sundaes at a soda fountain. Since Navy ships have been “dry” since 1911, so soda, along with coffee of course, was a drink of choice. Whatever, it make for an interesting stop on the tour.
The final tour was to the Flight Control Center and Bridge located in the Island Superstructure five stories above the flight deck. More steep “ladders” and tight quarters. The Flight Control Center with its 360º views contrasted sharply with the Bridge with its inch think armor and small portholes. The Captain’s Duty Cabin in the armored Bridge provided him with a bed, toilet, and table. The Navigation Center below the Bridge housed the Officers and
Men tasked with telling the Captain where to sail.
With four turbines separated in 2 engine rooms, at least 3 emergency steering stations, two auxiliary generators – one on the bow and one in the stern, dozens of watertight hatches and escape scuttles, redundant systems everywhere, USS Hornet was prepared to suffer battle damage, but continue fighting. The “Gray Ghost” never had to test those duplications – one lucky aircraft carrier.
The SRSC contingent finished their Alameda visit to Nations Giant Burgers before returning to Santa Rosa. The next SRSC “Adventure” will be the Marina Bay/Richmond sail later this Spring. “Now hear this. Standby for further information.”