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  USS Lexington CV-2
USN
Lexington-class aircraft carrier

50,000 tons (1942)
888' x 105' 5.25" x 24' 3"
4 x Twin 8" guns
12 x 5" guns
91 aircraft

Click For Enlargement
October 14, 1941

Ship History
Laid down on January 8, 1921 by Fore River Shipbuilding Company, at Quincy, Massachusetts. Following the Washington Naval Conference, they were both redesignated and re-authorized to be completed as aircraft carriers on 1 July 1922.

Launched on October 3, 1925, sponsored by Mrs. Theodore Douglas Robinson (wife of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy), and commissioned December 14, 1927 with Captain Albert W. Marshall in command. Lexington received two battle stars for her World War II service.

Prewar
After fitting out and shakedown, Lexington joined the Battle Fleet at San Pedro, California on 7 April 1928. Based there, she operated on the west coast with Aircraft Squadrons, Battle Fleet, in flight training, tactical exercises, and battle problems. Each year, she participated in fleet maneuvers in Hawaii, in the Caribbean, off the Panama Canal and in the eastern Pacific. On trials, Lexington achieved an average speed of 30.7 knots (35.3 mph, 56.9 km/h), and maintained a speed of 34.5 kn (39.7 mph, 63.9 km/h) for one hour.

The Captain of the vessel in 1930 and 1931 was Ernest King, who was later to serve as the Chief of Naval Operations during the WWII. Lexington was one of fourteen ships to receive the early RCA CXAM-1 Radar.

During July 1937, aircraft from the Lexington, escorted by USS Lamson DD-367 participated in the futile search for Model 10 Electra 1055 piloted by Amelia Earhart.

Wartime History
During autumn 1941, she proceeded with battle force to Hawaii for tactical exercises. On December 7, 1941, Lexington was at sea with Task Force 12 transporting Marine aircraft from Pearl Harbor to Midway when word of the Japanese attack was received. She immediately launched search planes to hunt for the Japanese fleet, and at midmorning headed south to rendezvous with USS Indianapolis and USS Enterprise task forces to conduct a search southwest of Oahu until returning to Pearl Harbor on December 13.

Lexington sailed next day to raid Japanese forces on Jaluit, but the raid was canceled on 20 December, and she was directed to cover the Saratoga force in reinforcing Wake but when the island fell on December 23, carrier forces were recalled to Pearl Harbor, arriving on December 27.

Lexington patrolled to block enemy attacks on Oahu, Johnston or Palmyra until January 11, 1942, when she sailed from Pearl Harbor as flagship for Vice Admiral Wilson Brown commanding Task Force 11.

On February 16, the force headed for Rabaul, for an attack scheduled for February 21. But, while approaching on February 20, Lexington was attacked by two waves of enemy aircraft. The carrier's combat air patrol and antiaircraft fire shot down 17 of the attackers, including Lt. Edward "Butch" O'Hare piloting an F4F Wildcat downing five planes and earned the Medal of Honor.

Offensive patrols in the Coral Sea continued, as part of the ANZAC Squadron. On March 6, 1942 she rendezvoused with USS Yorktown of Task Force 17.

On March 10, 1942 while operating from within the Gulf of Papua launched her aircraft on a strike over the Owen Stanley Mountains against Salamaua and Lae on the north coast of New Guinea. Lost over the target to anti-aircraft fire is SBD Dauntless 2130 (MIA).

Afterwards, returned to Pearl Harbor on March 26 and departed on April 15 for a brief overhaul to remove her 8" gun turrets, replacing them with by quadruple 1.1" anti-aircraft guns. On May 1, rejoined Task Force 17 (TF 17).

Battle of the Coral Sea
Lexington and Yorktown moved into the Coral Sea to search for the enemy's force. On May 7, 1942 at the start of the Battle of the Coral Sea her aircraft reported contact with an enemy carrier task force and Lexington's aircraft sank Shōhō. Later that day, 12 bombers and 15 torpedo planes from Shōkaku and Zuikaku were intercepted by fighter groups from Lexington and Yorktown, which shot down nine enemy aircraft.

Sinking History
During the morning of May 8, 1942 a search plane from Lexington located Shōkaku and a strike was immediately launched, heavily damaging the enemy carrier.

At 11:00am, Japanese planes penetrated the American task force's defenses. At 11:20am, Lexington was struck by a torpedo on the port side. Seconds later, a second torpedo hit her portside directly abeam from the bridge. At the same time, she took three bomb hits from D3A Val dive bombers that caused a 7 degree list to port and caused several raging fires. By 13:00, skillful damage control efforts brought the fires under control and restored her to an even keel and the carrier was able to make 25 knots and was ready to recover her aircraft. Suddenly, Lexington was shaken by a tremendous explosion, caused by the ignition of gasoline vapors below deck causing fires that raged out of control. At 15:58, captain Frederick Carl Sherman, fearing for the safety of men working below, ceased salvage operations and ordered all hands to the flight deck. At 17:01, Sherman ordered "abandon ship" and an orderly disembarkation began.

The Lexington continued to burn, flames shooting hundreds of feet into the air. To prevent capture by the enemy, USS Phelps closed to 1,500 yards and fired two torpedoes into her hull causing an explosion caused the carrier to sink at 19:56 at aproximatly location Lat 15°20′S Long 155°30′E.

Rescue
The crew were almost immediately picked up by nearby cruisers including USS New Orleans CA-32 and supporting destroyers. Admiral Aubrey Wray Fitch and his staff transferred to USS Minneapolis; Captain Sherman and his executive officer, Commander Morton T. Seligman ensured all their men were safe, then were the last to abandon ship.

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Last Updated
March 12, 2013

 

 

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