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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
USN October 14, 1941
USN December 1941
IJN May 8, 1942 11:00am
IJN May 8, 1942 5:30pm
IJN May 8, 1942 5:30pm
IJN May 8, 1942 5:30pm
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.
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.
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).
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.
Battle of the Coral Sea
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. During the attack and sinking, more than 200 died.
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