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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
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USN October 14, 1941

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USN December 1941

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IJN May 8, 1942 11:00am

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IJN May 8, 1942 5:30pm

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IJN May 8, 1942 5:30pm

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IJN May 8, 1942 5:30pm

Ship History
Built by Fore River Shipbuilding Company in Quincy, Massachusetts. During 1916 originally authorized as a a Lexington-class battlecruiser. Laid down on January 8, 1921. After the Washington Naval Conference on July 1, 1922 the ship was roughly a quarter complete and as a result of the conference redesignated and re-authorized as an aircraft carrier.

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

Prewar
During January 1928 proceeded to Boston for fitting out and shakedown, on April 7, 1928 Lexington joined the Battle Fleet at San Pedro and operated on the west coast performing flight training and tactical exercises. Each year, she participated in fleet maneuvers off Hawaii Caribbean, Panama Canal and eastern Pacific Ocean. During 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.

During 1930-1931 assigned to Captain Ernest King who later became Chief of Naval Operations during World War II. Lexington was one of fourteen ships equipped with early RCA CXAM-1 radar.

In July 1937 Lexington participated in the futile search for Lockheed Model 10 Electra 1055 piloted by Amelia Earhart with navigator Frederick Joseph "Fred" Noonan. During the search she was escorted by USS Lamson DD-367.

During the autumn of 1941, USS Lexington proceeded to Hawaii for tactical exercises. During early December 1941 USS Lexington was at sea as part of Task Force 12 (TF-12) transporting Marine aircraft from Pearl Harbor to Midway.

Wartime History
On December 7, 1941, Lexington was at sea en route to Midway to deliver Marine Corps SB2U-3 Vindicators from VMSB-231. When word of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Oahu was received. She immediately launched search planes to hunt for the Japanese fleet and headed south to rendezvous with USS Indianapolis CA-35 and USS Enterprise CV-6 to search southwest of Oahu.

On December 13, 1941 Lexington returned to Pearl Harbor the departed the next day for a raid on Jaluit, but the mission was canceled on December 20, 1941, and she was directed to cover USS Saratoga CV-3 bound for Wake Atoll with reinforcements, but when Wake Island was captured on December 23, 1941 carriers were recalled to Pearl Harbor returning on December 27, 1941.

For the rest of December 1941 into early January 1942, Lexington patrolled off Oahu, Johnston and Palmyra. On January 11, 1942 Lexington departed Pearl Harbor as flagship for Vice Admiral Wilson Brown commanding Task Force 11 (TF-11).

On February 16, 1942 Task Force 11 was bound for Rabaul and scheduled to launch an attack against Rabaul scheduled for February 21, 1942 in conjunction with U. S. Army Air Force B-17 Flying Fortresses from northern Australia. Instead, on February 20, 1942 the task force was located by the Japanese and attacked by two waves of G4M1 Bettys from the 4th Kokutai. Lexington's Combat Air Patrol (CAF) of F4F Wildcats and anti-aircraft fire claimed seventeen bombers. During the combat, F4F Wildcat piloted by Lt. Edward "Butch" O'Hare from VF-3 claimed five bombers shot down and earned the Medal of Honor. Lost were G4M1 Betty piloted by Watanabe (KIA) and G4M1 Betty piloted by Ono (ditched, crew rescued).

Afterwards, joined the ANZAC Squadron to patrol the Coral Sea continued. On March 6, 1942 she rendezvoused with USS Yorktown CV-5 of Task Force 17 (TF-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 was 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, 1942 rejoined Task Force 17 (TF-17) and proceeded to the Coral Sea along with USS Yorktown CV-5 to search for the Japanese task force.

Battle of the Coral Sea
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
On May 8, 1942 during the morning, 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 port side directly abeam from the bridge. At the same time, she took three bomb hits from D3A Val dive bombers that caused a 7°  list to port and caused several raging fires.

By 1:00pm, 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 3:58pm, Captain Frederick Carl Sherman fearing for the safety of men working below, ceased salvage operations and ordered all hands to the flight deck. At 5:01pm, Sherman ordered "abandon ship" and an orderly disembarkation began with executive officer, Commander Morton T. Seligman and Captain Frederick Carl Sherman were last to abandon ship.

As the abandonment was nearing completion, at 5:27pm an explosion detonated in the midship hanger causing ordnance to detonate and smoke and fire to engulf the carrier from bow to stern with flames shooting hundreds of feet into the air.

To prevent capture by the enemy, USS Phelps DD-360 closed to 1,500 yards and fired two torpedoes into her hull causing an explosion that caused the carrier to sink at 7:56pm at approximately 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, USS Minneapolis (CA-36) and destroyers USS Morris (DD-417), USS Anderson (DD-411), USS Hammann (DD-412) and USS Phelps (DD-360). Afterwards, Admiral Aubrey W. Fitch and his staff were transferred to USS Minneapolis CA-36.

References
Naval History and Heritage Command - Coral Sea, Sinking of USS Lexington

U.S.S. Lexington--Action Report of the Battle of the Coral Sea
YouTube "Sinking Of Us Aircraft Carrier Lexington (1942)"
YouTube "USS Lexington at the Battle of the Coral Sea Vincent Anderson" remarks by survivor Vincent Anderson

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Last Updated
June 9, 2017

 

Photos
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Map
Sinking
15°20′S
155°30′E

 

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  Pacific Wrecks Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to bringing home those Missing In Action (MIA) and leveraging new technologies in the study of World War II Pacific and the Korean War.  
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