Haunted Carrier USS Hornet

Haunted Carrier USS Hornet


By James Donahue


She is a decommissioned relic of World War II and the Cold War now, but in her day the aircraft carrier USS Hornet served with an almost unparalleled distinction.


The pilots that flew from her decks are credited with destroying 1,310 Japanese aircraft and sinking or severely damaging 1,259,710 tons of enemy shipping. The Hornet was involved in nearly every Pacific amphibious landing after March, 1944 and her planes were involved in sinking the super Japanese battleship Yamato. Hornet pilots also made the first raids over Tokyo after Doolittle’s early attack in 1942.


The record shows that more than 300 sailors died on the Hornet during her 27 years of active service. Most perished in combat, but others were killed in shipboard accidents. The ship also holds a dark record of having the highest suicide rate in the U.S. Navy.


It should be no surprise then that the Hornet, now moored at Alameda Naval Base, California, and open to public visits, now holds the distinction of being the Navy’s most haunted ship.


People that work on the aging ship and visitors as well frequently report visions of sailors at work as if on a fighting ship at sea. Doors open and close by themselves. Tools vanish and then reappear after a lengthy search. Objects fall from shelves. Toilets flush themselves. And there are always those “cold” areas where people feel that eerie sensation of not being alone.


In December 2000 Naval History Magazine published a story by Lily MacKenzie about the ghosts that walk the Hornet’s decks.


One story in the article was told by an electrician that was among a crew of workers aboard ship in 1955. He said they were all staying on the ship during their project.


“We’d all just bunked down, and we had a rule. No exploring. All of a sudden, I heard this banging noise like someone was opening the hatches,” Derek Lyon-McKeil was quoted as saying. “Peter Clayton, our supervisor, came charging around, saying ‘Okay, who’s sneaking around opening hatches?’ We realized that everyone in the group was there. As we were all standing there staring at each other, we heard it again.”


The MacKenzie article quoted another worker, Keith LaDue, who was hired to do some painting. He said he was working 28 feet above the deck on a scissor lift, and was staying late into the evening trying to get the job finished before climbing back down.


“I started hearing voices, aircraft crews talking shop talk, dropping tools, and working on airplanes, talking about the airplanes they were working on, and parts, and home,” he said.


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