Shortly after 1440 on 15 September 1942, in the waters of the Solomon Islands, USS Wasp (CV-7) was struck by three torpedoes from the IJN submarine I-19. The impact point was directly below the AVGAS distribution station, which was in operation when the torpedoes struck. Within minutes, Wasp was engulfed in flames, roaring like a furnace, punctuated by powerful explosions from built-up gasoline vapors. Ammunition and aerial bombs began to detonate from the heat, and inside of an hour, Captain Forrest Sherman ordered Wasp abandoned. She burned well into the evening before torpedoes from USS Lansdowne (DD-486) finally sank her.
When I was a young lad, I read an excellent book on the Solomons Campaign. In it, the author described Wasp as burning like a torch, and how, as darkness fell, sailors on other ships could see her glowing red from the fires inside. When Wasp finally slipped beneath the waves, it was said she emanated a loud and eerie hissing as her hot steel sank into the sea. Watching the footage above, one understands that such a description, like Tom Lea’s famous painting, is hardly hyperbole.
In all, 193 sailors died on Wasp, and 366 were wounded. Forty-three precious aircraft also went down with her. She had been in commission just 28 months.
In the 37 weeks of war since December 7th, the US Navy had lost Langley (CV-1), Lexington (CV-2), Yorktown (CV-5), and Wasp (CV-7). Also soon to be lost was Hornet (CV-8), sunk at Santa Cruz on 26 October 1942. Hornet, however, would be the last US fleet carrier lost during the war.
H/T to Grandpa Bluewater