Vessel discovers wreck of World War II carrier Hornet

A research vessel funded by the late Seattle billionaire Paul Allen has discovered the wreckage of an American aircraft carrier sunk in the South Pacific during World War II. It is the latest in an ongoing effort to discover sunken vessels.

Allen's Vulcan Inc. announced this week that an autonomous submarine sent by the crew of the research vessel Petrel found the USS Hornet nearly 17,500 feet (5,400 meters) deep near the Solomon Islands.

The Hornet was best known for its part in the Doolittle Raid in April 1942, the first air attack on Japan. It also participated that June in the decisive Battle of Midway, which helped turn the tide of the war.

The Hornet suffered severe damage from Japanese dive-bombers and torpedo planes during the Battle of Santa Cruz Island in October 1943, and U.S. ships then unsuccessfully attempted to sink it because it was beyond saving. The Hornet finally went down when two Japanese destroyers fired torpedoes the next night.

Most of the crew of 2,170 men had abandoned the ship by the time it sank, but 111 were killed.

The Vulcan project has located about 20 vessels to date. Allen, who co-founded Microsoft will Bill Gates, died Oct. 15 in Seattle from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"We had Hornet on our list of WWII warships that we wanted to locate because of its place in history as an aircraft carrier that saw many pivotal moments in naval battles," Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Vulcan, said in a news release. "Paul Allen was particularly interested in historically significant and capital ships, so this mission and discovery honor his legacy."