Watch CBS News

Deep sea explorers discover USS Wasp, another WWII aircraft carrier

Deep sea explorers discover USS Wasp
Deep sea explorers discover WWII aircraft carrier USS Wasp 04:38

Deep sea explorers found the USS Hornet in the South Pacific earlier this year, but the Hornet was not the only ship located on that expedition. In the latest update for the American Naval history books, the research vessel Petrel revealed it also found the World War II aircraft carrier USS Wasp.

We're 2.5 miles down, peering inside the cockpit of an avenger torpedo bomber from the sunken World War II aircraft carrier, USS Wasp. The plane is not just a relic, it's a clue, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips. Can the Wasp itself be far away?

The Wasp was part of the ferocious 1942 air and sea battle for the strategic South Pacific island of Guadalcanal. Jim Forrester, 98 years old now, was 21 on the Wasp that day.

"All of a sudden we got hit with torpedoes," Forrester recounted. "Imagine yourself lifted right up out of your chair right now."

One of the torpedoes had hit the fuel tanks, and the ship was an inferno. One-hundred-seventy-six of her crew were dead – the rest were ordered to abandon ship.
"I grabbed my nose and the family jewels and—" Forrester started.

"And jumped into the Pacific?" Philips asked.

"Yes," Forrester said.

The Wasp had been lost for almost 77 years. But the deep water research vessel, Petrel, combed the Pacific looking for long-lost war wrecks. In January, CBS News watched mission leader, Rob Kraft, and his crew find another carrier, the USS Hornet.

Wreckage of WWII aircraft carrier USS Hornet discovered in expedition 05:35

"I saw where they had found the Hornet, and I said, 'Well, take a look over on the other side and you'll find the Wasp!'" Forrester said. 

It's almost like the searchers were listening.
The Petrel crew found the Wasp on the other side of Guadalcanal, more or less, where Forrester said it was. She was a mere 2.5 miles down, so a mile less deep than Hornet. But the Wasp was actually harder to find because the research on where she sank was less clear.
"As they say, you gotta be good to be lucky. But were you more lucky or more good?" Phillips asked.

"We did our best in analyzing the data, coming up with the best possible sinking location for her, and it turned out to be accurate," Kraft said.
Luck, skill, or a little of each, we showed Forrester what they found. To him it was more than an old wreck.
"It was home to me," Forrester said.

"Of course, we're looking at more than just a wreck there, we're looking at a war grave as well?" Phillips asked.

"Yeah," Forrester said. "I lost two real good friends. They were aviation ordnance men and they probably were down in the magazines where the bombs were stored."

Where they didn't stand a chance. Forrester went on to a remarkable 30 Navy career, rising from enlisted man to Navy commander.
"The ultimate satisfaction is… you get to see the humanity side of it," Kraft said. "And you know, bringing history to life."

It starts as a technical exercise and then becomes about people.

Now she's been found, the Navy's latest memorial and war grave – and a protected one. To deter potential scavengers, Wasp's exact location is known only to the Navy and the people who found her. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.