I think it’s only appropriate to begin this post with a giant American flag, because….you know…..Murica!
Right now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s continue the tour shall we? The tour I speak of is the USS Hornet CV-12, CVA-12 and ermm CVS-12, don’t worry from now on I’ll just call it the Hornet in the interests of space and time. Speaking of space, this very aircraft carrier was tasked with retrieving Apollo 11 and some lads who are pretty well known….More on that later as, being an aircraft carrier, there’s a LOT to see.
Some would think reading this blog that all there is in San Francisco are former navy vessels, and you’d be right! No i’m just kidding, it just seemed that’s what I ended up being drawn to more than other parts. So the USS Hornet CV-12, CVA…..Sorry I digress. Getting to this floating museum without a car was a little tricky. From our base in Berkeley you took a bus into downtown Oakland and then another bus from there to Alameda, and then you had to walk through the remains of the naval base (which was actually really cool and felt like walking through an episode of NCIS or the X-Files whenever they featured a naval base). You come upon the Hornet nestled amongst a fleet of navy relief vessels that are docked up, ready to be used in case of emergency (Zombie apocalypse, that kind of thing).
When you step aboard you walk into the main hangar area and BAM! straight away F-14, whooooooh! Now me being the ignorant happy as a pig in poop to see an F-14 up close and personal, ignored the fact that die-hard military historians would have a hissy fit. You see the F-14 doesn’t belong here, and neither does the F-4 Phantom up on the flight deck. But they’re awesome, so DEAL WITH IT.
The hangar bay, or three hangar bays to be more apt are cavernous and filled with some fancy hardware including:
FJ 2 Fury
UH-34 Sea Horse
SH-3H Sea King
After exploring the hangar bay I decided to venture up to the flight-deck, via the supermarket escalator that is a genuine part of the ship and not just for tourists. There’s more aircraft up on deck and I latched onto a tour group that was up there for a more personal tour. Our guide, Paul Vigeant talked us through the various aspects of the flight deck, from the procedures for launching and capturing planes to some interesting (read horrifying) stories of accidents aboard aircraft carriers over the years. He then took us up into the island to show us primary flight control, navigation and of course the Inception bridge, which is like a bridge within a bridge due to extensions carried out since it’s initial launch.
After our tour ended, it was time to explore the rest of the ship, which is more like a small city really. There were seemingly endless bunks for the 3,000+ crew, a large fully equipped sick bay that would put some land based hospitals to shame, laundry rooms, officers quarters, a huge kitchen with industrial grade equipment and a myriad of other rooms. Dotted throughout were various exhibits of naval aircraft and vessels throughout history.
I’d definitely recommend a trip to the USS Hornet if you’re in the area of Oakland/Alameda and have an interest in military history, or if like me you’re just a big kid inside and the possibility of going on an aircraft carrier is an easy decision to make. I’d also join one of the guided tours as you find out much more than you would by just walking around.
*Joke! Please don’t write angry letters to the US Navy. *Again, not true. No letters to the Navy please.