Heart of a warship is restored to glory


POSTED: Friday, May 01, 2009

For sailors, “;the ship's bell is the symbolic heart of a ship,”; says naval historian James Delgado, and so the discovery of a famous warship's bell recently at Pearl Harbor means the artifact will be restored to a place of honor.

The bell had been “;kicking around West Loch”; for decades, he said, but it was not until it was cleaned up that its origin was revealed: the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, one of the most distinguished ships of World War II.

“;This is a very significant find,”; said Delgado, president of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University. “;Ship's bells were rung to signal the time changes on ships, the shift from one watch or group of sailors to the next, and the pace of life on a ship. They tolled as well at important times in the ship's life, including commissioning, decommissioning and the burial of the dead at sea.”;

The Navy Munitions Command East Asia Division is hosting a celebration today to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Naval Ammunition Depot. The Hornet's bell has been polished up and placed near the division flagpole at West Loch.

“;It had been left in a state of disrepair near an inactive flagpole with no foot traffic. Now it will be cared for and seen daily,”; said Capt. Debra Bodenstedt, commanding officer.

“;It's unclear how the bell made its way to Lualualei. Hearsay has it there in the 1960s. We know it moved to West Loch with the shift of Naval Magazine Headquarters in 1999,”; added Bodenstedt.

Best known as the ship that carried the famous “;Doolittle Raid,”; the USS Hornet (CV-8) was in the thick of the war. Exactly a week after launching Doolittle's planes in April 1942, the Hornet steamed back into Pearl Harbor.

Work began immediately to strip as much weight as possible, and National Park Service historian Dan Martinez thinks it was then the bell was removed.

“;Ships of that tonnage generally carried two bells, and it wasn't uncommon for one to be removed,”; said Martinez, who said the Naval Historical Center in Washington certified the bell's pedigree.

The Hornet again sortied in late May 1942 to stop the Japanese invasion of Midway. In August the Hornet aided the invasion of Guadalcanal. The Hornet was the only active American aircraft carrier in the South Pacific until late October, when it joined with the Enterprise in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands.

The Hornet sank on Oct. 27, 1942.

“;Considering the fact that she rests eternally in the deep, the rediscovery of Hornet's bell is a tangible symbol of a lost ship that made — with many of her crew — the ultimate sacrifice,”; said Delgado.

Bodenstedt said, “;Although Hornet isn't quite 75 years old, she is definitely of the same era as our historic magazine. The ammunition for Hornet's guns came from these very magazines during her two stops here in 1942. It is important for the young sailors of today's Navy to remember the history of those who have gone before us.”;

And if it gets moved later?

“;I think on the mock Hornet deck where the B-25 sits at the Pacific Aviation Museum at Ford Island would be a great place to display it,”; said news anchor Joe Moore, author of “;Righteous Revenge,”; a historical play about the Doolittle Raid.