Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Hornet

Last Sunday a friend and I toured the USS Hornet which is now a living history museum anchored at Alameda, CA.  This was something on my "bucket list" that I have wanted to do, almost as long as I've lived in California.

The Hornet is an aircraft carrier that served from 1942 to 1970, seeing a lot of action in World War II, the Vietnam War, and finally in picking up the Apollo astronauts up at the end of their historical moon-landing mission. The tour is only $15 and there is free parking at the end of the pier. There is one display after another of historical artifacts, photos, uniforms, airplanes, helicopters, and the like. There is even an Airstream trailer on board that was outfitted to house the lunar astronauts after their return to earth, in case they brought unknown viruses back with them!
My friend and I happened to choose what turned out to be a gorgeous day to visit the ship. The water was crisp and sparkling and you could see the San Francisco skyline easily in the distance, across the bay. Sailboats and other craft were out enjoying the beautiful warm day, as well.

We had a wonderful docent who led part of our tour. He, like another good friend of mine, was stationed on the Kitty Hawk for most of his Naval flying career but was very familiar with the Hornet and all of her nooks and crannies, stories and statistics. He really brought the ship to life and the experience that the guys had, living there for months at a time.

I particularly enjoyed the stories about Admiral Clark whose nickname was "Jocko". He was the first Native American Admiral (if I am remembering the story right) and is told to be still wandering the halls of the Hornet and has been seen at the bridge and other places. I wouldn't doubt it! When my dad was in World War II stationed in the South Pacific, he and his fellow Army soldiers had a white pet parrot also named "Jocko", so I found the connection very sweet.

My friend who is a retired Navy pilot told me that the Hornet was a great tour, but cautioned me that "it is really small." I have to say as we walked up the pier to get on board, that huge ship in the water did not seem small at all! But once we got up to the flight deck with our docent, I could see just how "small" it was...imagining landing an airplane on that little parking lot out in the middle of the ocean so high up above the surface of the water was pretty overwhelming!

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, do take time to go visit the Hornet. It is well worth your time and it is a great value. The docents are clearly very dedicated guys who would love to tell you about it.

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