Spooky History at the USS Hornet Air, Sea and Space Museum in Alameda


The USS Hornet aircraft carrier sits in the Alameda Navy shipyard as the sun sets. Photo credit: Elijah Nouvelage / Flickr

ALAMEDA – It may be common knowledge that the USS Hornet was involved in World War II, but did you know that in addition to seeing her share of combat, she also played an important role in space exploration? The USS Hornet CV-12 is an Essex class aircraft carrier in the United States Navy, constructed in August 1942. She was originally commissioned as the Kearsarge, but was renamed in honor of the USS Hornet CV-8, a carrier that was sunk in battle in October 1942.

The Hornet was commissioned in November 1943 and joined the U.S. forces in the Pacific War after three months of training. In addition to playing a major role in the Pacific theater of World War II, she also transported troops back to the U.S. at the end of the war. After serving in the Vietnam War,  she was utilized by the Apollo program, recovering astronauts as they returned from the Moon.

After finally being decommissioned in 1970, the Hornet was designated as both a National Historic Landmark and a California Historical Landmark. In 1998 she was opened to the public as the USS Hornet Museum in Alameda.

You can tour the USS Hornet and learn about her storied history from knowledgeable docents, many of whom served aboard her during missions ranging from Korea, Vietnam, and recovery of the Apollo capsules. A variety of guided tours are available, including Mystery Tours, Morning Flashlight Tours and History Mystery Overnight tours, as well as self-guided tours to allow you to explore and learn about this fascinating ship.

If you have the opportunity, I recommend the overnight tour. You have the chance to eat and sleep in the same quarters and mess as sailors who crewed the ship. You will experience the three-tiered bunks, just over five feet ten inches in length, surrounded by your fellow crew members. Could the USS Hornet really be haunted? Traverse the decks in small groups while investigating the most well-known paranormal hot-spots. During the mystery tour, you will learn the history of the Hornet while investigating the ship with one of the experienced crew members in the dead of night. Your behind-the-scenes tour includes areas of the ship that have not yet been opened to the public, virtually untouched since the ship’s decommissioning over forty years ago, as well as other eerie spaces that have been reported to host unseen visitors.

If you go: Find the USS Hornet Air, Sea and Space Museum at 707 West Hornet Avenue, Pier 3 in Alameda. Open daily, 10am-5pm (no entrance after 4pm). Admission is $10-20. Children 6 and under are free. Free parking is available across the street. Due to the nature of the Hornet’s steep stairwells and narrow passageways, wheelchair and stroller accessibility is extremely limited. The Flight Simulator operates on a regular basis three times a day (except Tuesdays): 11am, 1pm and 3pm. The cost is $6 per person for the 5-minute ride. A concession stand is open on weekends. On weekdays, the museum is visited by a food truck. For more information, visit USS-Hornet.org or call 510-521-8448.

Janet Fazio writes Your Town Daycation, a monthly feature in the print edition of Your Town Monthly. This article was originally published in the August 2016 issues.