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Essex-class aircraft carrier
27,100 Tons (standard)
820' x 93' x 28' 5" (as built)
4 × twin 5"
4 × single 5"
8 × Quad 40mm
46 × 20 mm cannons
Aircraft: 110 (as built)
Lexington CV-16 was the fifth US Navy ship to bear the name, is named in honor of the Battle of Lexington during the American Revolutionary War. Nicknamed the "Blue Ghost" because Lexington was painted dark blue, the only US Navy carrier not painted in a camouflage scheme.
On August 9, 1943 Lexington departed via the Panama Canal for Pearl Harbor. During late September, her aircraft raided Tarawa i and Wake Island during October, then returned to Pearl Harbor to prepare for operations off the Gilbert Islands. During November 19-24 her aircraft flew sorties in the Marshalls and provided aerial cover for the landings in the Gilberts. On November 23-24, her pilots claimed 29 enemy aircraft.
On December 4, 1943 her aircraft attacked Kwajalein. The morning strike destroyed a cargo ship, damaged two cruisers, and accounted for 30 enemy aircraft. Her gunners splashed two of the enemy torpedo planes that attacked at midday, but were ordered not to open fire at night as the Admiral in command believed it would give their position away.
At 0720 that night, a major air attack began while the task force was under way off Kwajalein. At 11:22 Japanese aircraft dropped parachute flares that silhouetted the carrier and ten minutes later she was hit by a torpedo on the starboard side, knocking out her steering gear. Nine crew members were killed, two on the fantail and seven in the chief petty officers mess room, which was a repair party station during general quarters. Four members of the affected repair party survived because they were sitting on a couch that apparently absorbed the shock of the explosion. Settling 5' by the stern, the carrier began circling to port amidst dense clouds of smoke pouring from ruptured tanks aft. To maintain water tight integrity, damage control crews were ordered to seal the damaged compartments and welded them shut applying heavy steel plates where needed. An emergency hand-operated steering unit was devised and Lexington departed the area. Afterwards, the Japanese claimed the carrier as sunk during "Tokyo Rose" propaganda broadcasts.
Arriving at Pearl Harbor on December 9, 1943 for emergency repairs, the carrier then departed for Bremerton, Washington arriving December 22, 1943 and underwent full repairs which were completed by February 20, 1944.
Afterwards, Lexington steamed via Alameda, California, and Pearl Harbor bound for Majuro, where she joined Task Force 58 (TF 58) as the flagship of Rear Admiral Marc Mitscher on March 8, 1944.
On March 18-19, 1944 Lexington aircraft attacked Milli. Lost was SBD Dauntless 36540 (MIA). Next, on April 1, 1944 her aircraft attacked Woleai. Lost was F6F Hellcat 40691 (MIA) TBM Avenger 25443 (rescued), F6F Hellcat 25827 (rescued), F6F Hellcat 40078 (rescued).
On April 13, 1944 her aircraft attacked Hollandia in support of the upcoming amphibious landing and on April 28, 1944 attacked Truk. A counterattack left Lexington undamaged and her aircraft claimed 17 enemy fighters. For the second time, Japanese propaganda claimed her sunk.
On June 11, 1944 Lexington aircraft conducted a surprise fighter strike on Saipan that virtually eliminated all aerial opposition. On June 16, Lexington defended against a fierce attack by Japanese torpedo planes from Guam but once again emerge undamaged, but was claimed sunk a third time by Japanese propaganda.
During June 19-20 participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea (Great Marianas Turkey Shoot), Lexington's aircraft played a major role in TF 58's great victory the Marianas Turkey Shoot. With over 300 enemy aircraft destroyed the first day, and a carrier, a tanker, and a destroyer sunk the second day, American aviators virtually knocked Japanese naval aviation out of the war; for with the planes went the trained and experienced pilots without whom Japan could not continue air warfare at sea. Reportedly, a USS Lexington pilot remarked after the battle "Why, hell, it was just like an old-time turkey shoot down home!"
Using Eniwetok as her base, Lexington flew sorties over Guam and against the Palau and the Bonins Islands during August. She arrived in the Carolinas on 7 September for three days of strikes against Yap and Ulithi, then began attacks on Mindanao and the Manila area, and shipping off the western coast of Luzon, in preparation for the upcoming assault on Leyte. Her task force then blasted Okinawa on 10 October and Formosa two days later to destroy bases from which opposition to the Philippines campaign might be launched . She was again unscathed through the air battle fought after the Formosa assault.
Now covering the Leyte landings, Lexington's planes scored importantly in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the climactic American naval victory over Japan. While the carrier came under constant enemy attack in the engagement in which Princeton was sunk, her planes joined in sinking Musashi and scored hits on three cruisers on 24 October. Next day, with aircraft from USS Essex (CV-9) sank Chitose, and alone sank Zuikaku. Later in the day, they aided in sinking Zuihō. As the retiring Japanese were pursued, her planes sank Nachi with four torpedo hits on 5 November off Luzon.
Chosen flagship for Task Group 58.2 (TG 58.2) on 11 December, she struck at the airfields of Luzon and Formosa during the first 9 days of January 1945, encountering little enemy opposition. The task force then entered the China Sea to strike enemy shipping and air installations. Strikes were flown against Saipan, Camranh Bay in then Indochina, Hong Kong, the Pescadores, and Formosa. Task force planes sank four merchant ships and four escorts in one convoy and destroyed at least 12 in another, at Camranh Bay on 12 January. Leaving the China Sea on 20 January, Lexington sailed north to strike Formosa again on 21 January and Okinawa again on 22 January.
After replenishing at Ulithi, TG 58.2 departed on February 10, 1945 bound for Japan. On February 16 and February 17, 1945 her carrier aircraft hit airfields near Tokyo to minimize opposition to the Iwo Jima landings on 19 February. During February 19-22, 1945 Lexington flew close support for the assaulting troops then for further strikes against the Japanese home islands and Nansei Shoto before departing for overhaul at Puget Sound.
After repairs, Lexington departed on May 22, 1945 via Alameda and Pearl Harbor then across the Pacific to San Pedro Bay, Leyte where she joined Rear Admiral Thomas L. Sprague's task force for the final round of air strikes which battered the Japanese home islands during July 1945 until the end of the war with attacks on Honshū and Hokkaidō airfields, and Yokosuka and Kure naval bases to destroy the remnants of the Japanese fleet and industrial targets around Tokyo. On July 24, 1945 lost was F4U Corsair 81319 (MIA).
Designated a National Historic Landmark in 2003. The ship's WWII-era gun battery is also being partially restored using guns salvaged from scrapped ships. Most notable among these are two 5"/38 DP gun turrets saved from the scrapping of the heavy cruiser USS Newport News. They have been mounted in the approximate locations where similar mounts once existed as part of the ship's original configuration.
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