USS Lexington (CV-2)

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USS Lexington (CV-2) leaving San Diego on 14 October 1941.jpg
Aerial view of Lexington on 14 October 1941
US flag 48 stars.svgUnited States
Name: USS Lexington
Namesake: Battle of Lexington
  • 1916 (as battlecruiser)
  • 1922 (as aircraft carrier)
Builder: Fore River Ship and Engine Building Co., Quincy, Massachusetts
Laid down: 8 January 1921
Launched: 3 October 1925
Christened: Mrs. Theodore Douglas Robinson
Commissioned: 14 December 1927
Reclassified: As aircraft carrier, 1 July 1922
Struck: 24 June 1942
Identification: Hull number: CC-1, then CV-2
Nickname(s): "Lady Lex", "Gray Lady"
General characteristics (as built)
Class and type: Lexington-class aircraft carrier
Length: 888 ft (270.7 m)
Beam: 107 ft 6 in (32.8 m)
Draft: 32 ft 6 in (9.9 m) (deep load)
Installed power: 180,000  shp (130,000 kW)
Speed: 33.25 knots (61.58 km/h; 38.26 mph)
Range: 10,000  nmi (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) at 10 kn (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 2,791 (including aviation personnel) in 1942
Aircraft carried: 78
Aviation facilities: 1 Aircraft catapult

USS Lexington (CV-2), nicknamed "Lady Lex", [1] was an early aircraft carrier built for the United States Navy. She was the lead ship of the Lexingtonclass; her only sister ship, Saratoga, was commissioned a month earlier. Originally designed as a battlecruiser, she was converted into one of the Navy's first aircraft carriers during construction to comply with the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, which essentially terminated all new battleship and battlecruiser construction. The ship entered service in 1928 and was assigned to the Pacific Fleet for her entire career. Lexington and Saratoga were used to develop and refine carrier tactics in a series of annual exercises before World War II. On more than one occasion these included successfully staged surprise attacks on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The ship's turbo-electric propulsion system allowed her to supplement the electrical supply of Tacoma, Washington, during a drought in late 1929 to early 1930. She also delivered medical personnel and relief supplies to Managua, Nicaragua, after an earthquake in 1931.

Aircraft carrier Warship that serves as a seagoing airbase

An aircraft carrier is a warship that serves as a seagoing airbase, equipped with a full-length flight deck and facilities for carrying, arming, deploying, and recovering aircraft. Typically, it is the capital ship of a fleet, as it allows a naval force to project air power worldwide without depending on local bases for staging aircraft operations. Carriers have evolved since their inception in the early twentieth century from wooden vessels used to deploy balloons to nuclear-powered warships that carry numerous fighters, strike aircraft, helicopters, and other types of aircraft. While heavier aircraft such as fixed-wing gunships and bombers have been launched from aircraft carriers, it is currently not possible to land them. By its diplomatic and tactical power, its mobility, its autonomy and the variety of its means, the aircraft carrier is often the centerpiece of modern combat fleets. Tactically or even strategically, it replaced the battleship in the role of flagship of a fleet. One of its great advantages is that, by sailing in international waters, it does not interfere with any territorial sovereignty and thus obviates the need for overflight authorizations from third party countries, reduce the times and transit distances of aircraft and therefore significantly increase the time of availability on the combat zone.

United States Navy Naval warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most capable navy in the world and it has been estimated that in terms of tonnage of its active battle fleet alone, it is larger than the next 13 navies combined, which includes 11 U.S. allies or partner nations. with the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, and two new carriers under construction. With 319,421 personnel on active duty and 99,616 in the Ready Reserve, the Navy is the third largest of the service branches. It has 282 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of March 2018, making it the second-largest air force in the world, after the United States Air Force.

Lead ship first built of a series or class of ships

The lead ship, name ship, or class leader is the first of a series or class of ships all constructed according to the same general design. The term is applicable to military ships and larger civilian craft.


Lexington was at sea when the Pacific War began on 7 December 1941, ferrying fighter aircraft to Midway Island. Her mission was cancelled and she returned to Pearl Harbor a week later. After a few days, she was sent to create a diversion from the force en route to relieve the besieged Wake Island garrison by attacking Japanese installations in the Marshall Islands. The island surrendered before the relief force got close enough, and the mission was cancelled. A planned attack on Wake Island in January 1942 had to be cancelled when a submarine sank the oiler required to supply the fuel for the return trip. Lexington was sent to the Coral Sea the following month to block any Japanese advances into the area. The ship was spotted by Japanese search aircraft while approaching Rabaul, New Britain, but her aircraft shot down most of the Japanese bombers that attacked her. Together with the carrier Yorktown, she successfully attacked Japanese shipping off the east coast of New Guinea in early March.

Pacific War theatre of war in the Second World War

The Pacific War, sometimes called the Asia–Pacific War, was the theater of World War II that was fought in the Pacific and Asia. It was fought over a vast area that included the Pacific Ocean and islands, the South West Pacific, South-East Asia, and in China.

Battle of Wake Island battle of World War II

The Battle of Wake Island began simultaneously with the attack on Pearl Harbor naval/air bases in Hawaii and ended on 23 December 1941, with the surrender of the American forces to the Empire of Japan. It was fought on and around the atoll formed by Wake Island and its minor islets of Peale and Wilkes Islands by the air, land, and naval forces of the Japanese Empire against those of the United States, with Marines playing a prominent role on both sides.

Marshall Islands country in Oceania

The Marshall Islands, officially the Republic of the Marshall Islands, is an island country and a United States associated state near the equator in the Pacific Ocean, slightly west of the International Date Line. Geographically, the country is part of the larger island group of Micronesia. The country's population of 53,158 people is spread out over 29 coral atolls, comprising 1,156 individual islands and islets.

Lexington was briefly refitted in Pearl Harbor at the end of the month and rendezvoused with Yorktown in the Coral Sea in early May. A few days later the Japanese began Operation Mo, the invasion of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, and the two American carriers attempted to stop the invasion forces. They sank the light aircraft carrier Shōhō on 7 May during the Battle of the Coral Sea, but did not encounter the main Japanese force of the carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku until the next day. Aircraft from Lexington and Yorktown badly damaged Shōkaku, but the Japanese aircraft crippled Lexington. A mixture of air and aviation gasoline in her improperly drained aircraft fueling trunk lines (which ran from the keel tanks to her hangar deck) ignited, causing a series of explosions and fires that could not be controlled. Lexington was scuttled by an American destroyer during the evening of 8 May to prevent her capture. The wreck of Lexington was located in March 2018 by an expedition led by Paul Allen, who discovered the ship about 430 nautical miles (800 km) off the northeastern coast of Australia in the Coral Sea.

Operation Mo

Operation Mo or the Port Moresby Operation was a Japanese plan to take control of the Australian Territory of New Guinea during World War II as well as other locations in the South Pacific with the goal of isolating Australia and New Zealand from their ally the United States. The plan was developed by the Imperial Japanese Navy and supported by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet. The operation was ultimately abandoned.

Port Moresby Place in National Capital District, Papua New Guinea

Port Moresby, also referred to as Pom City or simply Moresby, is the capital and largest city of Papua New Guinea and the largest city in the South Pacific outside of Australia and New Zealand. It is located on the shores of the Gulf of Papua, on the south-western coast of the Papuan Peninsula of the island of New Guinea. The city emerged as a trade centre in the second half of the 19th century. During World War II it was a prime objective for conquest by the Imperial Japanese forces during 1942–43 as a staging point and air base to cut off Australia from Southeast Asia and the Americas.

Light aircraft carrier aircraft carrier that is smaller than the standard carriers of a navy

A light aircraft carrier, or light fleet carrier, is an aircraft carrier that is smaller than the standard carriers of a navy. The precise definition of the type varies by country; light carriers typically have a complement of aircraft only one-half to two-thirds the size of a full-sized fleet carrier. A light carrier was similar in concept to an escort carrier in most respects, however light carriers were intended for higher speeds to be deployed alongside fleet carriers, while escort carriers usually defended convoys and provided air support during amphibious operations.

Design and construction

Lexington on the slipway, 1925 USS Lexington (CV-2) on building ways, 1925.jpg
Lexington on the slipway, 1925
Lexington beginning the transit from her builder at Quincy to Boston Navy Yard in January 1928 USS Lexington (CV-2) with tugs in January 1928.jpg
Lexington beginning the transit from her builder at Quincy to Boston Navy Yard in January 1928

Lexington was the fourth US Navy ship named after the 1775 Battle of Lexington, the first battle of the Revolutionary War. [2] She was originally authorized in 1916 as a Lexington-class battlecruiser, but construction was delayed so that higher-priority anti-submarine vessels and merchant ships, needed to ensure the safe passage of personnel and materiel to Europe during Germany's U-boat campaign, could be built. After the war the ship was extensively redesigned, partially as a result of British experience. [3] Given the hull number of CC-1, Lexington was laid down on 8 January 1921 by Fore River Shipbuilding Company of Quincy, Massachusetts. [2]

USS Lexington may refer to the following ships of the United States Navy:

Battles of Lexington and Concord first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War

The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War. The battles were fought on April 19, 1775 in Middlesex County, Province of Massachusetts Bay, within the towns of Lexington, Concord, Lincoln, Menotomy, and Cambridge. They marked the outbreak of armed conflict between the Kingdom of Great Britain and its thirteen colonies in America.

American Revolutionary War 1775–1783 war between Great Britain and the Thirteen Colonies, which won independence as the United States of America

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was an 18th-century war between Great Britain and its Thirteen Colonies which declared independence as the United States of America.

Before the Washington Naval Conference concluded, the ship's construction was suspended in February 1922, [4] when she was 24.2 percent complete. [5] She was re-designated and re-authorized as an aircraft carrier on 1 July 1922. [2] Her displacement was reduced by a total of 4,000 long tons (4,100 t), achieved mainly by the elimination of her main armament of eight 16-inch (406 mm) guns in four twin turrets (including their heavy turret mounts, their armor, and other equipment). [6] [7] The main armor belt was retained, but was reduced in height to save weight. [8] The general line of the hull remained unaltered, as did the torpedo protection system, because they had already been built, and it would have been too expensive to alter them. [9]

Washington Naval Conference convention

The Washington Naval Conference, also named the Washington Arms Conference or the Washington Disarmament Conference, was a military conference called by U.S. President Warren G. Harding and held in Washington, D.C., from 12 November 1921 to 6 February 1922. Conducted outside the auspice of the League of Nations, it was attended by nine nations—the United States, Japan, China, France, Britain, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, and Portugal—regarding interests in the Pacific Ocean and East Asia. Soviet Russia was not invited to the conference. It was the first arms control conference in history, and as Kaufman, 1990 shows, it is studied by political scientists as a model for a successful disarmament movement.

The ship had an overall length of 888 feet (270.7 m), a beam of 106 feet (32.3 m), and a draft of 30 feet 5 inches (9.3 m) at deep load. Lexington had a standard displacement of 36,000 long tons (36,578 t) and 43,056 long tons (43,747 t) at deep load. At that displacement, she had a metacentric height of 7.31 feet (2.2 m). [6]

Length overall maximum length of a vessels hull measured parallel to the waterline

Length overall is the maximum length of a vessel's hull measured parallel to the waterline. This length is important while docking the ship. It is the most commonly used way of expressing the size of a ship, and is also used for calculating the cost of a marina berth.

Metacentric height measurement of the initial static stability of a floating body

The metacentric height (GM) is a measurement of the initial static stability of a floating body. It is calculated as the distance between the centre of gravity of a ship and its metacentre. A larger metacentric height implies greater initial stability against overturning. The metacentric height also influences the natural period of rolling of a hull, with very large metacentric heights being associated with shorter periods of roll which are uncomfortable for passengers. Hence, a sufficiently, but not excessively, high metacentric height is considered ideal for passenger ships.

Christened by Helen Rebecca Roosevelt, the wife of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Douglas Robinson, Lexington was launched on 3 October 1925. She was commissioned on 14 December 1927 with Captain Albert Marshall in command. [2] By 1942, the ship had a crew of 100 officers and 1,840 enlisted men and an aviation group totaling 141 officers and 710 enlisted men. [6]

Flight deck arrangements

Lexington's ship's insignia was adapted from the sculpture by Henry Hudson Kitson. USS Lexington (CV-2) insignia (80-G-462515).png
Lexington's ship's insignia was adapted from the sculpture by Henry Hudson Kitson.

The ship's flight deck was 866 feet 2 inches (264.01 m) long and had a maximum width of 105 feet 11 inches (32.28 m). [6] When built, her hangar "was the largest single enclosed space afloat on any ship" [10] and had an area of 33,528 square feet (3,114.9 m2). It was 424 feet (129.2 m) long and 68 feet (20.7 m) wide. Its minimum height was 21 feet (6.4 m), and it was divided by a single fire curtain just forward of the aft aircraft elevator. Aircraft repair shops, 108 feet (32.9 m) long, were aft of the hangar, and below them was a storage space for disassembled aircraft, 128 feet (39.0 m) long. Lexington was fitted with two hydraulically powered elevators on her centerline. The forward elevator's dimensions were 30 by 60 feet (9.1 m × 18.3 m) and it had a capacity of 16,000 pounds (7,300 kg). The aft elevator had a capacity of only 6,000 pounds (2,700 kg) and measured 30 by 36 feet (9.1 m × 11.0 m). [10] Avgas was stored in eight compartments of the torpedo protection system, and their capacity has been quoted as either 132,264 US gallons (500,670 l; 110,133 imp gal) or 163,000 US gallons (620,000 l; 136,000 imp gal). [11]

Lexington was initially fitted with electrically operated arresting gear designed by Carl Norden that used both fore-and-aft and transverse wires. The longitudinal wires were intended to prevent aircraft from being blown over the side of the ship while the transverse wires slowed them to a stop. This system was authorized to be replaced by the hydraulically operated Mk 2 system, without longitudinal wires, on 11 August 1931. Four improved Mk 3 units were added in 1934, giving the ship a total of eight arresting wires and four barriers intended to prevent aircraft from crashing into parked aircraft on the ship's bow. After the forward flight deck was widened in 1936, an additional eight wires were added there to allow aircraft to land over the bow if the landing area at the stern was damaged. [12] The ship was built with a 155-foot (47.2 m), flywheel-powered, F Mk II aircraft catapult, also designed by Norden, on the starboard side of the bow. [6] [10] This catapult was strong enough to launch a 10,000-pound (4,500 kg) aircraft at a speed of 48 knots (89 km/h; 55 mph). It was intended to launch seaplanes, but was rarely used; a 1931 report tallied only five launches of practice loads since the ship had been commissioned. It was removed during the ship's 1936 refit. [13]

Lexington was designed to carry 78 aircraft, including 36 bombers, [14] but these numbers increased once the Navy adopted the practice of tying up spare aircraft in the unused spaces at the top of the hangar. [15] In 1936, her air group consisted of 18 Grumman F2F-1 and 18 Boeing F4B-4 fighters, plus an additional nine F2Fs in reserve. Offensive punch was provided by 20 Vought SBU Corsair dive bombers with 10 spare aircraft and 18 Great Lakes BG torpedo bombers with nine spares. Miscellaneous aircraft included two Grumman JF Duck amphibians, plus one in reserve, and three active and one spare Vought O2U Corsair observation aircraft. This amounted to 79 aircraft, plus 30 spares. [6]


The Lexington-class carriers used turbo-electric propulsion; each of the four propeller shafts was driven by two 22,500- shaft-horsepower (16,800 kW) electric motors. They were powered by four General Electric turbo generators rated at 35,200 kilowatt s (47,200  hp ). Steam for the generators was provided by sixteen Yarrow boilers, each in its own individual compartment. [16] Six 750-kilowatt (1,010 hp) electric generators were installed in the upper levels of the two main turbine compartments to provide power to meet the ship's hotel load (minimum electrical) requirements. [17]

The ship was designed to reach 33.25 knots (61.58 km/h; 38.26 mph), [6] but Lexington achieved 34.59 knots (64.06 km/h; 39.81 mph) from 202,973 shp (151,357 kW) during sea trials in 1928. [16] She carried a maximum of 6,688 long tons (6,795 t) of fuel oil, but only 5,400 long tons (5,500 t) of that was usable, as the rest had to be retained as ballast in the port fuel tanks to offset the weight of the island and main guns. [18] Designed for a range of 10,000 nautical mile s (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) at a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph), [6] the ship demonstrated a range of 9,910 nmi (18,350 km; 11,400 mi) at a speed of 10.7 knots (19.8 km/h; 12.3 mph) with 4,540 long tons (4,610 t) of oil. [18]


Lexington firing her eight-inch guns, 1928 USS Lexington (CV-2) firing 203mm guns 1928.jpg
Lexington firing her eight-inch guns, 1928

The Navy's Bureau of Construction and Repair was not convinced when the class was being designed that aircraft could effectively substitute as armament for a warship, especially at night or in bad weather that would prevent air operations. [19] Thus the carriers' design included a substantial gun battery of eight 55-caliber Mk 9 eight-inch guns in four twin gun turrets. These turrets were mounted above the flight deck on the starboard side, two before the superstructure, and two behind the funnel, numbered I to IV from bow to stern. [20] In theory the guns could fire to both sides, but it is probable that if they were fired to port (across the deck) the blast would have damaged the flight deck. [21] They could be depressed to −5° and elevated to +41°. [22]

The ship's heavy antiaircraft (AA) armament consisted of twelve 25-caliber Mk 10 five-inch guns which were mounted on single mounts, three each fitted on sponsons on each side of the bow and stern. [23] No light AA guns were initially mounted on Lexington, but two sextuple .30-caliber (7.62 mm) machine gun mounts were installed in 1929. [24] They were unsuccessful, and they were replaced by two .50-caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns by 1931, one each on the roof of the superfiring eight-inch turrets. During a refit in 1935, platforms mounting four .50-caliber machine guns were installed on each corner of the ship, and an additional platform was installed that wrapped around the funnel. Six machine guns were mounted on each side of this last platform. In October 1940, four 50-caliber Mk 10 three-inch AA guns were installed in the corner platforms; they replaced two of the .50-caliber machine guns which were remounted on the tops of the eight-inch gun turrets. Another three-inch gun was added on the roof of the deckhouse between the funnel and the island. These guns were just interim weapons until the quadruple 1.1-inch gun mount could be mounted, which was done in August 1941. [25]

In March 1942, Lexington's eight-inch turrets were removed at Pearl Harbor and replaced by seven quadruple 1.1-inch gun mounts. In addition 22 Oerlikon 20 mm cannon were installed, six in a new platform at the base of the funnel, 12 in the positions formerly occupied by the ship's boats in the sides of the hull, two at the stern, and a pair on the aft control top. When the ship was sunk in May 1942, her armament consisted of 12 five-inch, 12 quadruple 1.1-inch, 22 Oerlikon cannon, and at least two dozen .50-caliber machine guns. [26]

Fire control and electronics

Each eight-inch turret had a Mk 30 rangefinder at the rear of the turret for local control, but they were normally controlled by two Mk 18 fire-control directors, one each on the fore and aft spotting tops. [20] A 20-foot (6.1 m) rangefinder was fitted on top of the pilothouse to provide range information for the directors. [22] Each group of three five-inch guns was controlled by a Mk 19 director, two of which were mounted on each side of the spotting tops. [23] Lexington received a RCA CXAM-1 radar in June 1941 during a brief refit in Pearl Harbor. The antenna was mounted on the forward lip of the funnel with its control room directly below the aerial, replacing the secondary conning station formerly mounted there. [27]


The waterline belt of the Lexington-class ships tapered 7–5 inches (178–127 mm) in thickness from top to bottom and angled 11° outwards at the top. It covered the middle 530 feet (161.5 m) of the ships. Forward, the belt ended in a bulkhead that also tapered from seven to five inches in thickness. Aft, it terminated at a seven-inch bulkhead. This belt had a height of 9 feet 4 inches (2.8 m). The third deck over the ships' machinery and magazine was armored with two layers of special treatment steel (STS) totaling 2 inches (51 mm) in thickness. The steering gear, however, was protected by two layers of STS that totaled 3 inches (76 mm) on the flat and 4.5 inches (114 mm) on the slope. [28]

The gun turrets were protected only against splinters with 0.75 inches (19 mm) of armor. The conning tower was 2–2.25 inches (51–57 mm) of STS, and it had a communications tube with two-inch sides running from the conning tower down to the lower conning position on the third deck. The torpedo defense system of the Lexington-class ships consisted of three to six medium steel protective bulkheads that ranged from 0.375 to 0.75 inches (10 to 19 mm) in thickness. The spaces between them could be used as fuel tanks or left empty to absorb the detonation of a torpedo's warhead. [28]

Service history

Lexington (top) at Puget Sound Navy Yard, alongside Saratoga and Langley in 1929 USS Langley (CV-1), USS Lexington (CV-2) and USS Saratoga (CV-3) at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, in 1929 (NNAM.1996.488.001.004).jpg
Lexington (top) at Puget Sound Navy Yard, alongside Saratoga and Langley in 1929

After fitting-out and shakedown cruises, Lexington was transferred to the West Coast of the United States and arrived at San Pedro, California, part of Los Angeles, on 7 April 1928. She was based there until 1940 and mainly stayed on the West Coast, although she did participate in several Fleet Problems (training exercises) in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. [2] These exercises tested the Navy's evolving doctrine and tactics for the use of carriers. During Fleet Problem IX in January 1929, Lexington and the Scouting Force failed to defend the Panama Canal against an aerial attack launched by her sister ship Saratoga. [29] Future science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein reported aboard on 6 July as a newly minted ensign under Captain Frank Berrien. [30] Heinlein experienced his first literary rejection when his short story about a case of espionage discovered at the Naval Academy failed to win a shipboard writing contest. [31]

In 1929, western Washington state suffered a drought which resulted in low levels in Lake Cushman that provided water for Cushman Dam No. 1. The hydro-electric power generated by this dam was the primary source for the city of Tacoma and the city requested help from the federal government once the water in the lake receded below the dam's intakes during December. The U.S. Navy sent Lexington, which had been at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, to Tacoma, and heavy electric lines were rigged into the city's power system. The ship's generators provided a total of 4,520,960 kilowatt hours from 17 December to 16 January 1930 until melting snow and rain brought the reservoirs up to the level needed to generate sufficient power for the city. [18] Two months later, she participated in Fleet Problem X, which was conducted in the Caribbean. During the exercise, her aircraft were judged to have destroyed the flight decks and all the aircraft of the opposing carriers Saratoga and Langley. Fleet Problem XI was held the following month and Saratoga returned the favor, knocking out Lexington's flight deck for 24 hours, just as the exercise came to a climax with a major surface engagement. [32]

Captain Ernest J. King, who later rose to serve as the Chief of Naval Operations during World War II, assumed command on 20 June 1930. Lexington was assigned, together with Saratoga, to defend the west coast of Panama against a hypothetical invader during Fleet Problem XII in February 1931. While each carrier was able to inflict some damage on the invasion convoys, the enemy forces succeeded in making a landing. Shortly afterward, all three carriers transferred to the Caribbean to conduct further maneuvers. The most important of these was when Saratoga successfully defended the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal from an attack by Lexington. Rear Admiral Joseph M. Reeves baited a trap for King with a destroyer and scored a kill on Lexington on 22 March while the latter's aircraft were still searching for Saratoga. [33]

Lexington launching Martin T4M torpedo bombers in 1931 USS Lexington (CV-2) launching Martin T4M torpedo planes, in 1931 (NH 82117).jpg
Lexington launching Martin T4M torpedo bombers in 1931

On 31 March 1931, Lexington, which had been near Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, was ordered to aid survivors of an earthquake that devastated Managua, Nicaragua. [34] By the following day, the ship was close enough to launch aircraft carrying supplies and medical personnel to Managua. [35] During Grand Joint Exercise No. 4, Lexington and Saratoga were able to launch a massive airstrike against Pearl Harbor on Sunday, 7 February 1932 without being detected. The two carriers were separated for Fleet Problem XIII which followed shortly afterward. Lexington was assigned to Black Fleet, defending Hawaii and the West Coast against Blue Fleet and Saratoga. On 15 March, Lexington caught Saratoga with all of her planes still on deck and was ruled to have knocked out her flight deck and have badly damaged the carrier, which was subsequently ruled sunk during a night attack by Black Fleet destroyers shortly afterward. Lexington's aircraft were judged to have badly damaged two of Blue Fleet's battleships. [36]

Before Fleet Problem XIV began in February 1933, the Army and the Navy conducted a joint exercise simulating a carrier attack on Hawaii. Lexington and Saratoga successfully attacked Pearl Harbor at dawn on 31 January without being detected. During the actual fleet problem, Lexington attempted to attack San Francisco, but was surprised in heavy fog by several defending battleships at close range and sunk. Fleet Problem XV returned to the Gulf of Panama and the Caribbean in April–May 1934, but the participating ships of the Pacific Fleet remained in the Caribbean and off the East Coast for more training and maneuvers until they returned to their home bases in November. Most notably during Fleet Problem XVI, April–June 1935, Lexington ran low on fuel after five days of high-speed steaming and this led to experiments with underway replenishment that later proved essential to combat operations during the Pacific War. During Fleet Problem XVII in 1936, Lexington and the smaller carrier Ranger routinely refueled their plane guard destroyers. [37]

Admiral Claude C. Bloch limited Lexington to support of the battleships during Fleet Problem XVIII in 1937 and consequently the carrier was crippled and nearly sunk by surface gunfire and torpedoes. [38] The following July, the ship participated in the unsuccessful search for Amelia Earhart. [39] The 1938 Fleet Problem again tested the defenses of Hawaii and, again, aircraft from Lexington and her sister successfully attacked Pearl Harbor at dawn on 29 March. Later in the exercise, the two carriers successfully attacked San Francisco without being spotted by the defending fleet. Fleet Problem XX held in the Caribbean in March–April 1939, was the only time before October 1943 that the Navy concentrated four carriers (Lexington, Ranger, Yorktown, and Enterprise) together for maneuvers. This exercise also saw the first attempts to refuel carriers and battleships at sea. During Fleet Problem XXI in 1940, Lexington caught Yorktown by surprise and crippled her, although Yorktown's aircraft managed to knock out Lexington's flight deck. The fleet was ordered to remain in Hawaii after the conclusion of the exercise in May. [40]

World War II

Admiral Husband Kimmel, Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, ordered Task Force (TF) 12—Lexington, three heavy cruisers and five destroyers—to depart Pearl Harbor on 5 December 1941 to ferry 18 U.S. Marine Corps Vought SB2U Vindicator dive bombers of VMSB-231 to reinforce the base at Midway Island. [41] At this time she embarked 65 of her own aircraft, including 17 Brewster F2A Buffalo fighters. On the morning of 7 December, the Task Force was about 500 nautical miles (930 km; 580 mi) southeast of Midway when it received news of the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor. Several hours later, Rear Admiral John H. Newton, commander of the Task Force, received orders that cancelled the ferry mission and ordered him to search for the Japanese ships while rendezvousing with Vice Admiral Wilson Brown's ships 100 miles (160 km) west of Niihau Island. Captain Frederick Sherman needed to maintain a continuous Combat Air Patrol (CAP) and recover the fuel-starved fighters which were on patrol. With the Marine aircraft aboard, Lexington's flight deck was very congested and he decided to reverse the phase of the ship's electric propulsion motors and steam full speed astern in order to launch a new CAP and then swap back to resume forward motion to recover his current CAP. This unorthodox action allowed him to maintain a continuous CAP and recover his aircraft without the lengthy delay caused by moving the aircraft on the flight deck from the bow to the stern and back to make space available for launch and recovery operations. Lexington launched several scout planes to search for the Japanese that day and remained at sea between Johnston Island and Hawaii, reacting to several false alerts, until she returned to Pearl Harbor on 13 December. [42] Kimmel had wanted to keep the ships at sea for longer, but difficulties refueling at sea on 11 and 12 December meant that the task force was low on fuel and was forced to return to port. [43]

Lexington in the early morning of 8 May 1942, prior to launching her aircraft during the Battle of the Coral Sea USS Lexington (CV-2) and USS Yorktown (CV-5) prepare to launch planes during the Battle of the Coral Sea, 8 May 1942 (80-G-16569).jpg
Lexington in the early morning of 8 May 1942, prior to launching her aircraft during the Battle of the Coral Sea

Re-designated as Task Force 11, and reinforced by four destroyers, Lexington and her consorts steamed from Pearl Harbor the next day to raid the Japanese base on Jaluit in the Marshall Islands to distract the Japanese from the Wake Island relief force led by Saratoga. For this operation, Lexington embarked 21 Buffalos, 32 Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers, and 15 Douglas TBD Devastator torpedo bombers, although not all aircraft were operational. Vice Admiral William S. Pye, acting commander of the Pacific Fleet, canceled the attack on 20 December and ordered the Task Force northwest to cover the relief force. The Japanese, however, captured Wake on 23 December before Saratoga and her consorts could get there. Pye, reluctant to risk any carriers against a Japanese force of unknown strength, ordered both task forces to return to Pearl. [44]

Lexington arrived back at Pearl Harbor on 27 December, but was ordered back to sea two days later. She returned on 3 January, needing repairs to one of her main generators. It was repaired four days later when TF 11 sailed with the carrier as Brown's flagship. The Task Force's mission was to patrol in the direction of Johnston Atoll. It was spotted by the submarine I-18 on 9 January and several other submarines were vectored to intercept the Task Force. Another submarine was spotted on the surface the following morning about 60 nautical miles (110 km; 69 mi) south of the carrier by two Buffalos who reported it without alerting the submarine to their presence. That afternoon it was spotted again, further south, by a different pair of fighters, and two Devastators carrying depth charges were vectored to the submarine's position. They claimed to have damaged it before it could fully submerge, but the incident is not mentioned in Japanese records. The putative victim was most likely I-19, which arrived at Kwajalein Atoll on 15 January. Lexington and her consorts returned to Pearl Harbor on the following day without further incident. [45]

Task Force 11 sailed from Pearl Harbor three days later to conduct patrols northeast of Christmas Island. On 21 January, Admiral Chester Nimitz, the new commander of the Pacific Fleet, ordered Brown to conduct a diversionary raid on Wake Island on 27 January after refueling from the only available tanker, the elderly and slow oiler Neches en route to Brown. The unescorted tanker was torpedoed and sunk by I-71 23 January, forcing the cancellation of the raid. The task force arrived back in Pearl two days later. Brown was ordered back to sea on 31 January to escort the fast oiler Neosho to its rendezvous with Halsey's task force returning from its attack on Japanese bases in the Marshall Islands. He was then supposed to patrol near Canton Island to cover a convoy arriving there on 12 February. The task force was reconfigured with only two heavy cruisers and seven destroyers; the 18 Grumman F4F Wildcats of VF-3, redeployed from the torpedoed Saratoga, replaced VF-2 to allow the latter unit to convert to the Wildcat. One of the Wildcats was severely damaged upon landing on the carrier. Nimitz cancelled the rendezvous on 2 February after it became apparent that Halsey did not need Neosho's fuel and ordered Brown to proceed to Canton Island. On 6 February, Nimitz ordered him to rendezvous with the ANZAC Squadron in the Coral Sea to prevent Japanese advances that might interfere with the sea-lanes connecting Australia and the United States. In addition, he was to protect a troop convoy bound for New Caledonia. [46]

Attempted raid on Rabaul

The heavy cruiser San Francisco and two destroyers reinforced the task force on 10 February and Brown rendezvoused with the ANZAC Squadron six days later. Even after emptying Neosho of her oil there was not enough fuel for the ANZAC Squadron to join Brown's proposed raid on Rabaul and they were forced to remain behind. Brown was reinforced by the heavy cruiser Pensacola and two destroyers on 17 February and tasked these ships to bombard Rabaul in addition to the attack by Lexington's aircraft. While still some 453 nautical miles (839 km; 521 mi) northeast of Rabaul, the task force was spotted by a Kawanishi H6K "Mavis" flying boat on the morning of 20 February. The snooper was detected by Lexington's radar and was shot down by Lieutenant Commander Jimmy Thach and his wingman, but not before it radioed its spot report. Another H6K was vectored in to confirm the first aircraft's report, but it was detected and shot down before it could radio its report. Brown's plan had depended on the element of surprise and he canceled the raid, although he decided to proceed toward Rabaul to lure Japanese aircraft into attacking him. [47]

A Mitsubishi G4M torpedo bomber photographed from Lexington's flight deck on 20 February 1942 G4M shot down near USS Lexington (CV-2) 1942.jpeg
A Mitsubishi G4M torpedo bomber photographed from Lexington's flight deck on 20 February 1942

Rear Admiral Eiji Gotō, commander of the 24th Air Flotilla, launched all 17 of his long-range Mitsubishi G4M1 "Betty" torpedo bombers, although no torpedoes were available at Rabaul and they made do with a pair of 250-kilogram (550 lb) bombs apiece. To better search for the Americans, the Japanese split their aircraft into two groups and Lexington's radar acquired one of these at 16:25. At this time, the ship was rotating its patrolling aircraft and the newly launched aircraft barely had time to reach the altitude of the Japanese before they arrived. Lexington had 15 fully fueled Wildcats and Dauntlesses on her forward flight deck that had been moved forward to allow the patrolling fighters to land. They represented a serious fire hazard, but they could not be launched until all aircraft on the flight deck were moved aft. Cognizant of the danger, the deck crews succeeded in respotting the aircraft and the fueled aircraft were able to take off before the Japanese attacked. [48] Commander Herbert Duckworth said, "It was as if some great hand moved all the planes aft simultaneously." [49] Only four of the nine G4Ms in the first wave survived to reach Lexington, but all of their bombs missed and they were all shot down afterward, including one by a Dauntless. The losses were not all one-sided as they shot down two of the defending Wildcats. The second wave of eight bombers was spotted at 16:56, while all but two of the Wildcats were dealing with the first wave. Lieutenant Edward O'Hare and his wingman, Lieutenant (junior grade) Marion Dufilho, were able to intercept the bombers a few miles short of Lexington, but Dufilho's guns jammed before he could fire a shot. O'Hare shot down three G4Ms and damaged two others before the bombers dropped their bombs, none of which struck the wildly maneuvering carrier. Only three of the G4Ms reached base, as Wildcats and Dauntlesses pursued and shot down several others. [50]

Lae-Salamaua raid

The task force changed course after dark for its rendezvous with the tanker Platte, scheduled for 22 February. One Japanese Aichi E13A "Jake" floatplane succeeded in tracking the task force for a short time after dark, but six H6Ks launched after midnight were unable to locate the American ships. Brown rendezvoused with Platte and the escorting ANZAC Squadron on schedule and he requested reinforcement by another carrier if another raid on Rabaul was desired. [51] Nimitz promptly responded by ordering Yorktown's Task Force 17, under the command of Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, to rendezvous with Brown north of New Caledonia on 6 March to allow the latter to attack Rabaul. The initial plan was to attack from the south in the hope of avoiding Japanese search aircraft, but this was changed on 8 March when word was received that Rabaul harbor was empty as the Japanese had invaded Papua New Guinea and all the shipping was anchored off the villages of Lae and Salamaua. The plan was changed to mount the attack from a position in the Gulf of Papua, even though this involved flying over the Owen Stanley Mountains. The two carriers reached their positions on the morning of 10 March and Lexington launched eight Wildcats, 31 Dauntlesses and 13 Devastators. They were the first to attack the 16 Japanese ships in the area and sank three transports and damaged several other ships before Yorktown's aircraft arrived 15 minutes later. One Dauntless was shot down by anti-aircraft fire while a Wildcat shot down a Nakajima E8N floatplane. A H6K spotted one carrier later that afternoon, but the weather had turned bad and the 24th Air Flotilla decided not to attack. Task Force 11 was ordered to return to Pearl and Lexington exchanged six Wildcats, five Dauntlesses and one Devastator for two Wildcats from Yorktown that needed overhaul before she left. The task force arrived at Pearl Harbor on 26 March. [52]

The ship was given a short refit, during which her eight-inch gun turrets were removed and replaced by quadruple 1.1-inch (28 mm) anti-aircraft guns. Rear Admiral Aubrey Fitch assumed command of Task Force 11 on 1 April and it was reorganized to consist of Lexington and the heavy cruisers Minneapolis and New Orleans as well as seven destroyers. The task force sortied from Pearl Harbor on 15 April, carrying 14 Buffalos of VMF-211 to be flown off at Palmyra Atoll. After flying off the Marine fighters, the task force was ordered to train with the battleships of Task Force 1 in the vicinity of Palmyra and Christmas Island. Late on 18 April, the training was cancelled as Allied codebreakers had figured out that the Japanese intended to invade and occupy Port Moresby and Tulagi in the southeastern Solomon Islands (Operation Mo). Therefore, Fitch's ships, acting on a command from Nimitz, rendezvoused with TF 17 north of New Caledonia on 1 May, after refueling from the tanker Kaskaskia on 25 April to thwart the Japanese offensive. At this time, Lexington's air group consisted of 21 Wildcats, 37 Dauntlesses and 12 Devastators. [53]

Battle of the Coral Sea

Preliminary actions

Both Task Forces needed to refuel, but TF 17 finished first and Fletcher took Yorktown and her consorts northward toward the Solomon Islands on 2 May. TF 11 was ordered to rendezvous with TF 17 and Task Force 44, the former ANZAC Squadron, further west into the Coral Sea on 4 May. [54] The Japanese opened Operation Mo by occupying Tulagi on 3 May. Alerted by Allied reconnaissance aircraft, Fletcher decided to attack Japanese shipping there the following day. The air strike on Tulagi confirmed that at least one American carrier was in the vicinity, but the Japanese had no idea of its location. [55] They launched a number of reconnaissance aircraft the following day to search for the Americans, but without result. One H6K flying boat spotted Yorktown, but was shot down by one of Yorktown's Wildcat fighters before she could radio a report. US Army Air Forces (USAAF) aircraft spotted Shōhō [Note 1] southwest of Bougainville Island on 5 May, but she was too far north to be attacked by the American carriers, which were refueling. [57] That day, Fletcher received Ultra intelligence that placed the three Japanese carriers known to be involved in Operation Mo near Bougainville Island, and predicted 10 May as the date of the invasion. It also predicted airstrikes by the Japanese carriers in support of the invasion several days before 10 May. Based on this information, Fletcher planned to complete refueling on 6 May and to move closer to the eastern tip of New Guinea to be in a position to locate and attack Japanese forces on 7 May. [58]

Another H6K spotted the Americans during the morning of 6 May and successfully shadowed them until 1400. The Japanese, however, were unwilling or unable to launch air strikes in poor weather or without updated spot reports. [59] Both sides believed they knew where the other force was, and expected to fight the next day. [60] The Japanese were the first to spot their opponents when one aircraft found the oiler Neosho escorted by the destroyer Sims at 0722, south of the strike force. They were misidentified as a carrier and a cruiser so the fleet carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku launched an airstrike 40 minutes later that sank Sims and damaged Neosho badly enough that she had to be scuttled a few days later. The American carriers were west of the Japanese carriers, not south, and they were spotted by other Japanese aircraft shortly after the carriers had launched their attack on Neosho and Sims. [61]

American reconnaissance aircraft reported two Japanese heavy cruisers northeast of Misima Island in the Louisiade Archipelago off the eastern tip of New Guinea at 07:35 and two carriers at 08:15. An hour later Fletcher ordered an airstrike launched, believing that the two carriers reported were Shōkaku and Zuikaku. Lexington and Yorktown launched a total of 53 Dauntlesses and 22 Devastators escorted by 18 Wildcats. The 08:15 report turned out to be miscoded, as the pilot had intended to report two heavy cruisers, but USAAF aircraft had spotted Shōhō, her escorts and the invasion convoy in the meantime. As the latest spot report plotted only 30 nautical miles (56 km; 35 mi) away from the 08:15 report, the aircraft en route were diverted to this new target. [62]

Lexington photographed from a Japanese aircraft on 8 May after she had already been struck by bombs USS Lexington under attack at Coral Sea.jpg
Lexington photographed from a Japanese aircraft on 8 May after she had already been struck by bombs

Shōhō and the rest of the main force were spotted by aircraft from Lexington at 10:40. At this time, Shōhō's patrolling fighters consisted of two Mitsubishi A5M "Claudes" and one Mitsubishi A6M Zero. The dive bombers of VS-2 began their attack at 1110 as the three Japanese fighters attacked the Dauntlesses in their dive. None of the dive bombers hit Shōhō, which was maneuvering to avoid their bombs; one Zero shot down a Dauntless after it had pulled out of its dive; several other Dauntlesses were also damaged. The carrier launched three more Zeros immediately after this attack to reinforce its defences. The Dauntlesses of VB-2 began their attack at 11:18 and they hit Shōhō twice with 1,000-pound (450 kg) bombs. These penetrated the ship's flight deck and burst inside her hangars, setting the fueled and armed aircraft there on fire. A minute later the Devastators of VT-2 began dropping their torpedoes from both sides of the ship. They hit Shōhō five times and the damage from the hits knocked out her steering and power. In addition, the hits flooded both the engine and boiler rooms. Yorktown's aircraft finished the carrier off and she sank at 11:31. After his attack, Lieutenant Commander Robert E. Dixon, commander of VS-2, radioed his famous message to the American carriers: "Scratch one flat top!" [63]

After Shōkaku and Zuikaku had recovered the aircraft that had sunk Neosho and Sims, Rear Admiral Chūichi Hara, commander of the 5th Carrier Division, ordered that a further air strike be readied as the American carriers were believed to have been located. The two carriers launched a total of 12 Aichi D3A "Val" dive bombers and 15 Nakajima B5N "Kate" torpedo bombers late that afternoon. The Japanese had mistaken Task Force 44 for Lexington and Yorktown, which were much closer than anticipated, although they were along the same bearing. Lexington's radar spotted one group of nine B5Ns at 17:47 and half the airborne fighters were directed to intercept them while additional Wildcats were launched to reinforce the defences. The intercepting fighters surprised the Japanese bombers and shot down five while losing one of their own. One section of the newly launched fighters spotted the remaining group of six B5Ns, shooting down two and badly damaging another bomber, although one Wildcat was lost to unknown causes. Another section spotted and shot down a single D3A. The surviving Japanese leaders cancelled the attack after such heavy losses and all aircraft jettisoned their bombs and torpedoes. They had still not spotted the American carriers and turned for their own ships, using radio direction finders to track the carrier's homing beacon. The beacon broadcast on a frequency very close to that of the American ships and many of the Japanese aircraft confused the ships in the darkness. A number of them flew right beside the American ships, flashing signal lights in an effort to confirm their identity, but they were not initially recognized as Japanese because the remaining Wildcats were attempting to land aboard the carriers. Finally they were recognized and fired upon, by both the Wildcats and the anti-aircraft guns of the task force, but they sustained no losses in the confused action. One Wildcat lost radio contact and could not find either of the American carriers; the pilot was never found. The remaining 18 Japanese aircraft successfully returned to their carriers, beginning at 20:00. [64]

8 May
View of the flight deck of Lexington, at about 15:00 on 8 May. The ship's air group is spotted aft, with Wildcat fighters nearest the camera. Dauntless dive bombers and Devastator torpedo bombers are parked further aft. Smoke is rising around the aft aircraft elevator from fires burning in the hangar. Aircraft sit on the smoldering flight deck of USS Lexington (CV-2) during the Battle of the Coral Sea, 8 May 1942 (80-G-16802).jpg
View of the flight deck of Lexington, at about 15:00 on 8 May. The ship's air group is spotted aft, with Wildcat fighters nearest the camera. Dauntless dive bombers and Devastator torpedo bombers are parked further aft. Smoke is rising around the aft aircraft elevator from fires burning in the hangar.

On the morning of 8 May, both sides spotted each other about the same time and began launching their aircraft about 09:00. The Japanese carriers launched a total of 18 Zeros, 33 D3As and 18 B5Ns. Yorktown was the first American carrier to launch her aircraft and Lexington began launching hers seven minutes later. These totaled 9 Wildcats, 15 Dauntlesses and 12 Devastators. Yorktown's dive bombers disabled Shōkaku's flight deck with two hits and Lexington's aircraft were only able to further damage her with another bomb hit. None of the torpedo bombers from either carrier hit anything. The Japanese CAP was effective and shot down 3 Wildcats and 2 Dauntlesses for the loss of 2 Zeros. [65]

Confirmed direct hits sustained by Lexington during the battle Confirmed hits on USS Lexington (CV-2) during the Battle of the Coral Sea, 8 May 1942.png
Confirmed direct hits sustained by Lexington during the battle

The Japanese aircraft spotted the American carriers around 11:05 and the B5Ns attacked first because the D3As had to circle around to approach the carriers from upwind. American aircraft shot down four of the torpedo bombers before they could drop their torpedoes, but 10 survived long enough to hit Lexington twice on the port side at 11:20, although 4 of the B5Ns were shot down by anti-aircraft fire after dropping their torpedoes. The shock from the first torpedo hit at the bow jammed both elevators in the up position and started small leaks in the port avgas storage tanks. The second torpedo hit her opposite the bridge, ruptured the primary port water main, and started flooding in three port fire rooms. The boilers there had to be shut down, which reduced her speed to a maximum of 24.5 knots (45.4 km/h; 28.2 mph), and the flooding gave her a 6–7° list to port. Shortly afterward, Lexington was attacked by 19 D3As. One was shot down by fighters before it could drop its bomb and another was shot down by the carrier. She was hit by two bombs, the first of which detonated in the port forward five-inch ready ammunition locker, killing the entire crew of one 5-inch AA gun and starting several fires. The second hit struck the funnel, doing little significant damage although fragments killed many of the crews of the .50-caliber machine guns positioned near there. The hit also jammed the ship's siren in the "on" position. The remaining bombs detonated close alongside and some of their fragments pierced the hull, flooding two compartments. [66]

Fuel was pumped from the port storage tanks to the starboard side to correct the list and Lexington began recovering damaged aircraft and those that were low on fuel at 11:39. The Japanese had shot down three of Lexington's Wildcats and five Dauntlesses, plus another Dauntless crashed on landing. At 12:43, the ship launched five Wildcats to replace the CAP and prepared to launch another nine Dauntlesses. A massive explosion at 12:47 was triggered by sparks that ignited gasoline vapors from the cracked port avgas tanks. The explosion killed 25 crewmen and knocked out the main damage control station. The damage did not interfere with flight deck operations, although the refueling system was shut down. The fueled Dauntlesses were launched and six Wildcats that were low on fuel landed aboard. Aircraft from the morning's air strike began landing at 13:22 and all surviving aircraft had landed by 14:14. The final tally included three Wildcats that were shot down, plus one Wildcat, three Dauntlesses and one Devastator that were forced to ditch. [67]

Lexington, abandoned and burning, several hours after being damaged by Japanese airstrikes USS Lexington brennt.jpg
Lexington, abandoned and burning, several hours after being damaged by Japanese airstrikes

Another serious explosion occurred at 14:42 that started severe fires in the hangar and blew the forward elevator 12 inches (300 mm) above the flight deck. Power to the forward half of the ship failed shortly afterward. Fletcher sent three destroyers to assist, but another major explosion at 15:25 knocked out water pressure in the hangar and forced the evacuation of the forward machinery spaces. The fire eventually forced the evacuation of all compartments below the waterline at 16:00 and Lexington eventually drifted to a halt. Evacuation of the wounded began shortly afterward and Sherman ordered "abandon ship" at 17:07. A series of large explosions began around 18:00 that blew the aft elevator apart and threw aircraft into the air. Sherman waited until 18:30 to ensure that all of his crewmen were off the ship before leaving himself. Some 2,770 officers and men were rescued by the rest of the task force. The destroyer Phelps was ordered to sink the ship and fired a total of five torpedoes between 19:15 and 19:52. Immediately after the last torpedo hit, Lexington, down by the bow but nearly on an even keel finally slipped beneath the waves [68] at 15°20′S155°30′E / 15.333°S 155.500°E / -15.333; 155.500 Coordinates: 15°20′S155°30′E / 15.333°S 155.500°E / -15.333; 155.500 . [2] Some 216 crewmen were killed and 2,735 were evacuated. [69]

Wreck location

Lexington's wreck was located on 4 March 2018 by research vessel Petrel during an expedition led by philanthropist Paul Allen. [70] A remotely operated underwater vehicle confirmed Lexington's identity by the nameplate on its stern. [71] It lies at a depth of 3,000 meters (9,800 ft) and at a distance of more than 800 kilometers (500 mi) east off the coast of Queensland. [72]

The wreck lies on the seabed separated into multiple sections. The main section sits upright on the seabed; the bow rests flat with the stern sitting upright across from it, both approximately one nautical mile (1,900 m; 6,100 ft) west of the main section. The bridge rests by itself in between these sections. [73] Seven TBD Devastators, three SBD Dauntlesses, and a single F4F Wildcat were also located farther to the west—all in a good state of preservation. [74]

Honors and legacy

Lexington received two battle stars for her World War II service. [2] She was officially struck from the naval register on 24 June 1942.

In June 1942, shortly after the Navy's public acknowledgment of the sinking, workers at the Quincy shipyard, where the ship had been built twenty-one years earlier, cabled Navy Secretary Frank Knox and proposed a change in the name of one of the new Essex-class fleet carriers currently under construction there to Lexington (from Cabot). [75] Knox agreed to the proposal and the carrier was renamed as the fifth Lexington on 16 June 1942. [76] On 17 February 1943, her successor was formally commissioned as USS Lexington (CV-16), which served as the flagship of Task Force 58 (TF 58) during the Battle of the Philippine Sea and remained in service until 1991.

Awards and decorations

American Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg
American Defense Service Medal
with "Fleet" clasp
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
with 2 stars
World War II Victory Medal


  1. Her name was mis-transliterated by the Americans as Ryukaku. [56]

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Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands battle

The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, fought during 25–27 October 1942, sometimes referred to as the Battle of Santa Cruz or in Japan as the Battle of the South Pacific, was the fourth carrier battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II. It was also the fourth major naval engagement fought between the United States Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy during the lengthy and strategically important Guadalcanal campaign. As in the battles of Coral Sea, Midway, and the Eastern Solomons, the ships of the two adversaries were rarely in sight or gun range of each other. Instead, almost all attacks by both sides were mounted by carrier- or land-based aircraft.

USS <i>Portland</i> (CA-33) heavy cruiser in the American navy

USS Portland (CL/CA–33) was the lead ship of the Portland class of cruiser and the first ship of the United States Navy named after the city of Portland, Maine. Launched in 1932, she completed a number of training and goodwill cruises in the interwar period before seeing extensive service during World War II, beginning with the Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942, where she escorted the aircraft carrier Yorktown and picked up survivors from the sunken carrier Lexington. She screened for Yorktown again in the Battle of Midway, picking up her survivors as well. She then supported the carrier Enterprise during the initial phase of the Guadalcanal Campaign later that year, and was torpedoed during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. The torpedo inflicted heavy damage which put her out of action for six months as she was repaired in Sydney, Australia and later San Diego, California.

Japanese aircraft carrier <i>Ryūjō</i> ship

Ryūjō was a light aircraft carrier built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during the early 1930s. Small and lightly built in an attempt to exploit a loophole in the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, she proved to be top-heavy and only marginally stable and was back in the shipyard for modifications to address those issues within a year of completion. With her stability improved, Ryūjō returned to service and was employed in operations during the Second Sino-Japanese War. During World War II, she provided air support for operations in the Philippines, Malaya, and the Dutch East Indies, where her aircraft participated in the Second Battle of the Java Sea. During the Indian Ocean raid in April 1942, the carrier attacked British merchant shipping with both her guns and her aircraft. Ryūjō next participated in the Battle of the Aleutian Islands in June. She was sunk by American carrier aircraft at the Battle of the Eastern Solomons on 24 August 1942.

<i>Shōkaku</i>-class aircraft carrier

The two Shōkaku-class aircraft carriers were built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) in the late 1930s. Completed shortly before the start of the Pacific War in 1941, they have been called "arguably the best aircraft carriers in the world" when built. With the exception of the Battle of Midway, they participated in every major naval action of the Pacific War, including the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Indian Ocean Raid, the Battle of the Coral Sea, and the Guadalcanal Campaign.

The Zuihō class (瑞鳳型) was a group of two aircraft carriers built for the Imperial Japanese Navy before World War II. Both ships were originally built as submarine tenders, but were subsequently converted into carriers. Completed in early 1942, Shōhō supported the invasion forces in Operation MO, the invasion of Port Moresby, New Guinea, and was sunk by American carrier aircraft on her first combat operation during the Battle of the Coral Sea on 7 May. Shōhō was the first Japanese aircraft carrier to be sunk during World War II. Zuihō played a secondary role in the Battle of Midway in mid-1942 and did not engage any American aircraft or ships during the battle. The ship participated in the Guadalcanal Campaign during the rest of 1942. She was lightly damaged during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands during this campaign and covered the evacuation of Japanese forces from the island in early 1943 after repairs.


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