Remains of another WWII aircraft carrier found

Nearly 14,000 feet below the surface of the South Pacific, a remote-controlled research craft has glimpsed the hull of an aircraft carrier, the USS Wasp, that hadn’t been seen since 1942.

Word of the sighting comes a month after the Research Vessel Petrel, funded by the late Microsoft founder Paul Allen, discovered another World War II-era shipwreck, the USS Hornet, which sank not far away, off the Solomon Islands. The Petrel in recent years has discovered dozens of wrecks of ships that once flew the flags of the American, British, Japanese and Italian navies.

The Petrel, which sits on the surface, has a crew of 10, who plot the last known locations of old warships and send robots to the depths to rediscover them.

In step with the US Navy’s policy of leaving its shipwrecks untouched — as they are sailors’ hallowed graves — the Wasp’s hull will remain in the murky depths. But its rediscovery is giving new life to a heroic story of a bygone era.

A wasp that could sting more than once

For nearly a century and a half, the British had controlled the small island of Malta just south of Italy, using its harbor to dock warships and to project British power throughout the Mediterranean.

During World War II, German and Italian planes dominated the skies and pummeled the island. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was determined to save the precious fortress.

In April 1942, the USS Wasp arrived to supply a badly needed contingent of dozens of warplanes to the beleaguered Allied forces at Malta, according to a US Navy account. Under fire, the Wasp retreated to a safe harbor in Gibraltar as many of the planes it had delivered were destroyed on the ground.

Determined, Churchill asked US President Franklin D. Roosevelt if the Wasp could deliver “another good sting”; Roosevelt acceded. So, the Wasp set off with another British ship and dozens more fighter planes, arriving in early May back at Malta. The resupply continued, and the Allies held on.