Hornet was commissioned in November 1943, and after 3 months of training joined the U.S. forces in the Pacific War. She played a major part in the Pacific battles of World War II, and also took part in Operation Magic Carpet, returning troops back to the U.S. Following World War II, she served in the Vietnam War, and also played a part in the Apollo program, recovering astronauts as they returned from the Moon.
Hornet was finally decommissioned in 1970. She was eventually designated a National Historic Landmark, and in 1998 she opened to the public as a museum at the former Naval Air Station Alameda in Alameda, California.