Torpedoing of the "Hornet" by Our Destroyers

After the Hornet had been abandoned at 1727, and most careful consideration given to available means of saving her, it was decided that there was no feasible alternative to her destruction. Accordingly, at 1840 the Commander of the Hornet destroyer group, Comdr. Arnold E. True, aboard the Mustin, was ordered to destroy the Hornet with torpedoes. Comdr. True's report forms the basis of the following account.

At 1903 the Mustin's torpedo batteries went into action. All eight Mark 15 Model 1 torpedoes equipped with Mark 6 Model 1 exploders were fired with "most discouraging results," according to the action report. "Torpedoes were fired singly at a range of 2,000 to 3,000 yards with a cold set-up and missing the point of aim was impossible. The depth was set at 26 feet for the first 3 torpedoes, at 10 feet for the next 4, and at 15 for the last torpedo. Torpedo speed was set at intermediate for the first 5 shots and at low speed for the last 3. All torpedo tracks were observed for some time after leaving the ship in the dusk and all appeared to be running hot, straight, and normal. No evidence whatsoever of any explosion could be observed with either the first or last torpedo. The second torpedo reappeared several minutes after having been fired, leaping into the air about 300 yards broad on the [Mustin's] starboard quarter and exploding violently, showering the ship with fragments . . . A third torpedo did not explode but was observed broaching wildly astern of the carrier on a course approximately at right angles to that at which it was fired . . . Some time after the fourth torpedo was fired a dull explosion was heard and it is suspected that this torpedo functioned, although no evidence could be noted on the target. The fifth, sixth and seventh torpedoes apparently hit and functioned normally.

After the Mustin had expended all her torpedoes and there was no evidence that the Hornet was about to sink, Admiral Murray ordered another destroyer summoned to complete the Hornet's destruction. At 1940 the Anderson was ordered to join the Mustin and torpedo the Hornet. The Anderson fired salvos at a range of less than 2,000 yards. "Six of


the torpedoes fired hit and exploded and one detonated prematurely for some unknown reason during the run." One took an angle about 3° to the right soon after leaving the firing point and missed.

The cumulative effect of all the torpedoes fired by the Mustin and the Anderson was negligible. Neither the list nor the trend of the Hornet appeared to have been effected by the destroyers' torpedoes and no fires were visible. The other vessels in the destroyer squadron had left the scene by this time, making it impossible to attempt further torpedo hits. It was therefore decided to use gunfire. The Anderson fired 130 rounds, setting several fires on the Hornet and at 2130 both the Mustin and the Anderson fired 150 rounds each. The destroyers ceased fire at 2146 and retired at high speed "leaving the hulk burning fiercely from end to end."

While the Mustin and Anderson were busy destroying the Hornet, they were under constant observation by Japanese patrol planes which cruised about the vicinity beyond antiaircraft range. It was later revealed that these planes reported our ships to Enemy Task Force No. 3. As noted, this Japanese force proceeded toward our ships, whose retirement commenced just in time for them to outrun their would-be attackers. The enemy gave up his chase shortly after midnight. Neither the Mustin nor the Anderson had been aware of the pursuit.


Table of Contents * Previous Chapter (11) * Next Chapter (Appendix B)

Last updated: June 29, 2003

Transcribed and formatted by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation