Source: United States Library of Congress

Source: United States Library of Congress


USS Wasp burning shortly before sinking on Sept. 15, 1942

Dangerous submarines

In the previous article we spoke about the

Allied counterattack in the Solomon Islands and

naval battles around Guadalcanal. The aircraft

carriers took part in this campaign on both

sides. The American carriers were Enterprise,

Saratoga, Wasp and Hornet. The first three

covered the Guadalcanal landing on August 7,

1942. At that time Hornet stayed in Pearl Harbor

in reserve in case she was needed elsewhere.

While supporting the landings Wasp lost one

Dauntless and three Wildcats. One aviator was

killed and another wounded. In exchange the

aircraft from Wasp destroyed 15 flying boats

and seven Rufe floatplane fighters on anchor

and a Rufe and a Zero in the air. The Avengers

and Dauntlesses attacked the ground targets

with bombs.

In the evening of August 8, 1942, the American

Source: R/V Petrel / Vulcan

Japan. Hornet had her own aircraft stored under

the deck and on this raid deep into the enemy

waters was escorted by Enterprise. The plan

was to take off 400 nautical miles (740 km) from

Japan. On April 18, 1942, however, the American

fleet was spotted by a Japanese patrol ship and

16 bombers led by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle

took off 600 nautical miles (1110 km) from

Japan. It was the first Hornet’s combat mission.

On April 30, 1942, Hornet set sail from Pearl

Harbor to participate in the Battle of Corral Sea,

which was brewing and during which, on May 8,

1942, Lexington sank. Hornet could not make it

on time, however, together with Enterprise and

Yorktown was part of the task force that set up

the trap for Japanese at Midway. On June 7, 1942,

Yorktown was sunk but Japanese Navy, but the

enemy lost four large aircraft carriers and their

advance in the Pacific was stopped.

Source: R/V Petrel / Vulcan

Lexington and Saratoga, bore the brunt of the

fighting in the Pacific during the opening stages

of the war. Wasp operated in the Atlantic where

she, in the summer of 1941, transported the

American P-40 fighters to Iceland and in April

and May 1942 the British Spitfire fighters to

Malta. Only in June 1942 she transferred to the

Pacific. At the time of the Pearl Harbor attack,

Hornet was going through training at Norfolk.

In February 1942, during one of her training

voyages, two twin-engine US Army AF B-25

Mitchell bombers were embarked. To the great

surprise of the crew these two bombers took off

while the ship was on the open sea. The sailors

understood the actual reason of this experiment

on April 2, 1942, when Hornet set sail from

Alameda, California, with 16 B-25 bombers

on the flight deck. Skipper Marc A. Mitscher

informed the crew that they were going to bomb

Source: R/V Petrel / Vulcan

28 mm four-barrel gun aboard the USS Wasp

Source: R/V Petrel / Vulcan

127 mm gun on the sunken USS Wasp

Sunken Grumman Avenger aircraft near the wreck of the USS Wasp

May 2023

INFO Eduard