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The name HORNET is one of the most distinguished in American naval history. The fist ship to bear the name was a sloop, armed with ten 9-pounders, commissioned at Baltimore, Maryland, in 1775. After several minor engagements during War of Independence with England, she was cornered by a vastly superior enemy force in the Delaware River below Philadelphia. On 15 November 1777, when supporting shore batteries were put out of action, Captain John Nicolson was ordered to destroy his ship to prevent it from falling into enemy hands.

The second HORNET, also a 10-gun sloop, played an active part in the Tiplian War. She sailed to Malta in 1805 under the command of Lieutenant Samuel Evans as part of Commodore Roger's Squadron. In April of that year, in company with two other American warships, she attacked the port of Derna on the Libyan coast. The small group anchored within range of the shore batteries and silenced the Turkish guns in less than one hour. This enabled American marines, under command of General Eaton, to capture the city and proved to be the deciding action of the conflict. After this short war, the HORNET was sold out of the service the next year at Charleston, South Carolina.

HORNET number three was destined for an active and colorful career when launched at Baltimore on 28 July 1805. Modeled after French warships of the time, she carried an armament of 18 short 32-pounders and two long 18-pounders. She took part in a number of actions and captured several prizes in the War of 1812. In company with the famous warship CONSTITUTION, on a cruise in South American waters, she blockaded the harbor of Bahia, Brazil, confining the British warship MONTAGU required HORNET to escape by retiring in the darkness.

HORNET then cruised down the Brazilian coast, taking several prizes including the brig RESOLUTION with $25,000 in specie aboard. In February 1813, off the Guiana coast she engaged PEACOCK, a British Brig-of-war carrying 18 guns. The two ships exchanged broadsides, then HORNET scored a second broadside at point-blank range. The British warship, her commander slain, surrendered, the floundered and sank a few hours later. In one more decisive action before the end of the war, HORNET sank the British sloop PENGUIN off Tristan de Cunha, March 1815.

In subsequent years this HORNET saw action against African slavers and Cuban pirates. In February 1829 she sailed on her last cruise. Under the command of Master Commandant Otho Morris, on 10 September 1829 off Tampico, she was torn from her moorings during a severe gale and never seen again.

The fourth ship to bear the name HORNET was a small schooner, used principally for inshore patrol work as a dispatch vessel.

An iron-side wheeler was number five, and the first HORNET to be steam-propelled. She was captured from the Confederates off North Carolina in 1864 and saw service with the U.S. Fleet during the rest of the Civil War.

The sixth HORNET was a converted yacht, purchased for use in the Spanish-American War. Armed with ony three 6-pounders, two 1-pounders, and four machine guns, she distinguished herself in several actions off Cuba. After participating in operations at Daiquiri and Siboney, this HORNET, in company with two other converted yachts, met a superior force of Spanish ships at Manzanillo. The Spanish squadron included one cruiser, four gunboats, one torpedo boat and three small craft. In spite of being outnumbered three to one, the American ships attacked the Spanish group; in a two and one half hour action they succeeded in sinking of disabling the entire enemy squadron. In this action, HORNET fired 426 six-pounder shells and 250 one-pounders, while suffering no casualties. In 1910 she was sold out of service.

hornetcv-8For the next thirty-one years, the American Navy had no warship carrying the inspiring name HORNET. Therefore, when the seventh HORNET, a sleek new air-craft carrier, slid down the ways at Newport News on 14 December 1940, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox stated: "Today we are present at the rebirth of a great name in the history of the Navy."

One year after launching of HORNET CV-8 and CV-12, war began with the infamous attack of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Navy. In the ensuing bloody struggle, the seventh and eighth HORNETS, CV-8 and CV-12, would bring everlasting fame and glory to the name with their illustrious wartime carets against the Japanese in the Pacific.