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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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History of USS Lexington

On 19 April 1776, armed farmers of the local Massachusetts militia fought a detachment of British troops at Concord and Lexington, Mass., opening a conflict that grew into the Revolutionary War. The skirmishes heralded the beginnings of major political, social, and military upheavals in Europe and the Americas, truly warranting the line "Here once the embattled farmers stood, And fired the shot heard round the world."


I

(Brigantine: length between perpendiculars 86'; beam 24'6"; complement 110; armament 14 4-pounders, 12 swivels)

Abraham van Bibber purchased brigantine Wild Duck for the Maryland Committee of Safety at St. Eustatius for the Dutch West Indies in February 1776. She soon got underway for the Delaware Capes and reached Philadelphia 9 March with a cargo of sorely needed powder for the patriot forces. Four days later the Marine Committee purchased Wild Duck, renamed her Lexington, and turned her over to Wharton and Humphery for fitting out.

Commanded by Capt. John Barry, Lexington dropped down the Delaware 26 March and slipped through the British blockade 6 April. The following day she fell in with British sloop Edward, a tender to the enemy frigate Liverpool. After a fierce fight which lasted about an hour Edward struck her colors. Lexington took her prize into Philadelphia and as soon as the ship was back in fighting trim, Barry put to sea again. On 26 April Lexington encountered Sir Peter Parker's fleet sailing to attack Charleston, S.C. Two of the British ships gave chase on 5 May off the Delaware Capes. HMS Roebuck and Liverpool chased Lexington for 8 hours and came close enough to exchange fire with the American ship before Barry managed to elude his pursuers and reach Philadelphia safely.

Lexington and Reprisal dropped down the Delaware to Cape May on the 20th and joined Wasp and Hornet. HMS Liverpool stood off the Delaware Capes preventing the American ships from escaping into the sea. On 28 June Pennsylvania's brig Nancy arrived in the area with 386 barrels of powder in her hold and ran aground while attempting to elude British blockader Kingfisher. Barry ordered the precious powder rowed ashore during the night leaving only 100 barrels in Nancy at dawn. A delayed action fuse was left inside the brig, which exploded the powder just as a boatload of British seamen boarded Nancy.

On 10 July Lexington slipped to sea. On the 27th she captured Lady Susan, a ship of Lord Dunmore's Tory Fleet which operated out of Chesapeake Bay. This privateer was commanded by William Goodrich, a member of the notorious Tory family which had plagued the shipping of Virginia and Maryland. Richard Dale, one of seven members of Lady Susan's crew who signed on Lexington, later won fame under John Paul Jones. Early in September, Lexington took another sloop, Betsy. About a fortnight later lightning struck Lexington forcing the brigantine home for repairs. Lexington anchored off Philadelphia 26 September, and 2 days later Barry relinquished command.

With repairs completed, Lexington, Capt. William Hallock in command, got underway for Cape Francois to obtain military cargo. On the return voyage, British frigate Pearl overhauled the brigantine just short of the Delaware Capes 20 December and captured her. The commander of the frigate removed Lexington's officers but left 70 of her men on board under hatches with a prize crew. But by luring their captors with a promise of rum, the Yankee sailors recaptured the ship and brought her to Baltimore.

Lexington, Capt. Henry Johnson in command, sailed for France 20 February 1777 and took two prizes before reaching Bordeaux in March. In France, the brigantine joined Reprisal and Dolphin for a cruise seeking the Irish linen fleet scheduled to leave Dublin early in June. The American ships, commanded by Capt. Lambert Wickes, got underway 28 May and were carried far to westward by heavy winds. Approaching Dublin from the north they entered the north channel 18 June and hove to off the Mull of Kintyre. During the next 4 days they captured nine prizes, sinking three, releasing one, and retaining five. Heading south again on the 22d, they took and scuttled a brig before arriving off Dublin Bay. The next morning they took another brig and released a ship bringing sugar, rum, and cotton from Jamaica. After placing prize crews on both vessels, they resumed their voyage around Ireland. On the 24th they stopped and released a smuggler and the next day took their last prize, a snow.

When they sighted ship-of-the-line Burford near Ushant on the 26th, the American ships scattered and made their way individually to safety in France. Lexington remained at Morlaix, a Brittany fishing village, throughout the summer, hemmed in by British warships. However, France, under strong British diplomatic pressure, ordered the American ships out of French waters 12 September. Lexington got underway the next morning but made little headway because of light wind. She lay becalmed near Ushant on the morning of the 19th when British cutter Alert came into view. In the ensuing fight, Lexington's rigging was seriously damaged precluding flight. When the American brigantine ran out of powder Captain Johnson reluctantly struck his colors.


II

(Sloop: tonnage 691; length 127'; beam 33'6"; draft 16'6"; complement 190; armament 24 24-pounders.)

The second Lexington was built by New York Navy Yard in 1825; and commissioned 11 June 1826, Master Commandant William B. Shurdrick in command.

The new sloop was first stationed off Labrador to protect American fishing vessels. After returning to the United States, she was sent to Trinidad to return the body of Commodore Oliver H. Perry who had died in schooner Nonsuch 23 August 1819 while returning from Angotura, Venezuela, where he had arranged for Venezuelan help to suppress piracy off the Spanish Main.

In 1827 Lexington sailed to the Mediterranean where she cruised for 3 years. Returning to Norfolk in the fall of 1830, she decommissioned at Norfolk Navy Yard 16 November. Recommissioning 31 May 1831. Master Commandant Silas M. Duncan in command, she proceeded to Sao Paulo, Brazil, for duty with the South Atlantic Squadron until late 1836. She then sailed around Cape Horn to protect American commerce on the Pacific coast.

Returning to the east coast in 1840, Lexington was converted into a storeship and her 24 medium 24-pounders were replaced by six 32-pounder carronades. In April 1843, she sailed to the Mediterranean and served there for 2 years.

The outbreak of war with Mexico in the spring of 1846 found Lexington operating along the west coast of North America. During the conflict, she transported troops and assisted in the blockade. On 12 January 1847, she landed a party at San Blase and captured several enemy guns. After the war Lexington remained on the California coast, a source of stability and security during the earlier months of the gold rush of 1849.

Returning to the east coast early in 1850, Lexington operated on the eastern seaboard until getting underway from New York Harbor 18 June 1853 to join Commodore Matthew C. Perry's famous expedition to Japan. After the success of this notable expedition, Lexington remained in the Orient before returning to New York where she decommissioned 26 February 1855. The sloop was sold in 1860.


III

(Side Wheel Steamer: tonnage 448; length 177'7"; beam 36'10"; speed 7 knots; armament 4 8", Dahlgren smoothbore, 2 32-pounders)

The third Lexington, a sidewheel steamer built at Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1861, was purchased by the War Department and converted into a gunboat at Cincinnati, under the direction of Comdr. John Rodgers.

The gunboat, operated by the Navy, joined the western flotilla at Cairo, Ill., 12 August 1861. On 22 August she seized the steamer W.B. Terry at Paducah, KY., and on 4 September, with Tyler, she engaged Confederate gunboat Yankee (also known as Jackson) and southern shore batteries at Hickman and Columbus, Ky. On 6 September the two gunboats spearheaded General Grant's drive to seize strategic Paducah and Smithland, Ky., at the mouths of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. In his first use of strength afloat, Grant countered a Confederate move into the State, helping preserve Kentucky for the Union and foreshadowing his skillful use of naval mobility and support during the coming campaigns which divided the Confederacy and won the entire Mississippi system for the Union.

Lexington's next action came on the 10th when she and Conestoga silenced a Confederate battery and damaged Yankee at Lucas Bend, Mo., while covering a troop advance. An 8-inch shell from Lexington exploded in Yankee's starboard wheelhouse causing severe damage. Only the powerful batteries on the bluffs at Columbus, Ky., saved Yankee and another southern steamer from capture.

After accompanying an expedition to Owensboro, Ky., 22 to 25 September Lexington again engaged the batteries of Columbus 7 October. With Tyler a month later, she protected General Grant's army during the battle of Belmont silencing enemy batteries which opposed the landings. When a large number of fresh Confederate troops threatened Grant's men, well directed fire of grape and canister from Lexington and Tyler scattered the southern reinforcements enabling the Union soldiers to reach safety on their transports.

The western flotilla steamed up the Tennessee River to attack Fort Henry which guarded this water approach to the South's heartland. Although the operation was originally planned as a joint expedition, heavy rains for 2 days before the attack delayed troop movements so the gunboats attacked alone 6 February. Accurate fire from the gunboats pounded the fort and forced Brigadier General Tilghman, CSA, with all but four of his defending guns useless, to strike his flag. In continuing operations the 3 days following the capitulation of Fort Henry, Tyler, Conestoga and Lexington swept the Tennessee for Confederate transports, seized the unfinished steamer Eastport, and destroyed a railroad bridge spanning the river.

After repairs Lexington rejoined Tyler protecting Army transports and supporting troop movements along the Tennessee River. On 1 March the gunboats engaged Confederate Forces fortifying Shilo (Pittsburgh Landing) Tenn. They landed a party of sailors and Army sharpshooters to reconnoiter Confederate strength in the area. They then moved further upstream and engaged a Confederate battery at Chicksaw, Ala., on the 12th. Later in the month they steamed upstream to Eastport, Miss., where they exchanged fire with southern artillery.

The capture of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson opened serious breaches in the Confederacy's outer defense line which Grant was quick to exploit. Southern troops commanded by Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, made a major effort to stem his advance in the battle of Shilo and came close to overwhelming the Union troops. Major General Polk, CSA, reported that the Confederate forces "were within from 150 to 400 yards of the enemy's position, and nothing seemed wanting to complete the most brilliant victory of the war but to press forward and make a vigorous assault on the demoralized remnant of his forces. At this juncture his gunboats dropped down the river, near the landing where his troops were collected, and opened a tremendous cannonade of shot and shell over the bank, in the direction from where our forces were approaching." This timely support from Lexington and Tyler swung the delicate balance of forces back to the Union side and saved Grant's men from disaster.

Lexington continued to support Army operations in the Tennessee River until steaming down the Mississippi with Conestoga, St. Louis, and Mound City to enter the White River, Ark., 14 June. While the Union gunboats were capturing St. Charles, Ark., 17 June a direct hit exploded Mound City's steam drum scaling many of her men. The injured crewmen were treated on Lexington as she pushed 63 miles further upriver to Crooked Point Cut-off where fall water forced her to turn back. The gunboat then returned to the Mississippi to protect Army transports from guerilla bands which attacked from the riverbanks.

Lexington, transferred to the Navy with the other ships of the western flotilla 1 October 1862, participated in the joint expedition up the Yazoo to attack Vicksburg from the rear. On 27 December while, clearing mines from the river, Union gunboats fought off heavy attacks by Confederate batteries. The next day they provided cover fire for General Sherman's troops during an attack on Confederate-held Chicasaw Bluffs. "Through these operations" Porter wrote, "the Navy did everything that could be done to ensure the success of General Sherman's movement." Though the Navy supplied short bombardment from the squadron and created diversionary movements, the Union troops, hindered by heavy rains and faced by the timely arrival of Confederate reinforcements, were forced to withdraw.

On 4 January 1863 the gunboats and Army transports headed up the White River, Ark., to attack Fort Hindman. The squadron covered the landing of troops on the 9th by shelling Confederate rifle pits. The next day, though the Army was not in position to press the attack, the Union ships moved to within 60 yards of the staunchly defended fort and began a blistering engagement which softened the works of the next day's assault. When the Union troops charged the position on the 11th, the gunboats resumed their well-directed fire and silenced every southern gun. After this defeat the Confederate evacuated other positions on the White and St. Charles rivers.

Meanwhile Confederate raiders were threatening to wrest control of the Cumberland valley from the Union. Answering general Rosecrans' appeal for naval support, Lexington got underway for the Cumberland River 25 January. The joint Army-Navy cooperation kept the upper rivers open to the Union and prevented an effective Confederate counteroffensive. Frequently fighting off attacks from southern snipers and flying batteries, Lexington escorted transports and destroyed Confederate positions along the banks. On 3 February with five other ships she helped repulse a confederate attempt to retake Fort Donelson. When they reached the scene of the battle they found the defending troops "out of ammunition and entirely surrounded by the rebels in overwhelming numbers, but still holding them in check." Lexington routed the Confederates in a hurry.

Ordered down the Mississippi 2 June to support final operations against Vicksburg, Lexington joined Choctaw in defending Union troops at Milliken's Bend, Miss., from the assault of numerically superior Confederate soldiers on the 7th. For the next month she continued to operate against the mighty Confederate fortress until it fell 4 July.

After reconnaissance work and patrol duty in the Mississippi during the summer Lexington was ordered back to the Tennessee River 29 October to assist General Sherman at the beginning of his drive through the Confederate heartland. However, at the end of February 1864, she returned to the Mississippi for operations in support of the Red River campaign. With paddle wheel monitor Osage and four other gunboats she moved up the Black River to gather information about Confederate sharpshooters as they entered the Ouachita River and proceeded up the Bayou Louis where falling water compelled them to return, capturing Confederate artillery and large quantities of cotton before reaching the mouth of the Red River 5 March. A week later the Mississippi Squadron moved up the Red River in force.

The Confederate defenders were driven off at Simmesport and General Smith's troops marched on Fort De Russy, La., which was taken by the combined land and naval forces 14 March 1864. The next day Lexington with gunboat Ouachita, followed by the Eastport , pushed on toward Alexandria, La., chasing Confederate steamers fleeing toward safety above the Alexandria rapids; but the Union ships arrived less than an hour too late to capture six steamers which had succeeding in getting over the falls. Confederate steamer Countess which grounded in flight and a barge left behind were burned to prevent capture. The Army transports arrived the next day and troops were landed to occupy that town.

On 7 April Lexington and five other gunboats steamed over the falls toward Shreveport to support General Banks who was advancing up the valley. Three days later the hulk of steamer New Falls City, sunk in a narrow stretch of the river near Springfield Landing, La., blocked the progress of the expedition. Before this obstruction could be removed, word arrived from Major General Banks of his defeat at the Battle of Sabine Cross-Roads near Grand Encore and retreat toward Pleasant Hill. The transports and troops of Brig. Gen. T.K. Smith were ordered to return to the major force and join Banks. The high tide of the Union's Red River campaign had been reached. From this point, with falling water level and increased Confederate shore fire, the gunboats would face a desperate battle to avoid being trapped above the Alexandria rapids.

Lexington silenced the shore battery but the Confederate cavalry poured a hail of musket fire into the rest of the squadron. The rebels fought with unusual pertinacity for over an hour, delivering the heaviest and most concentrated fire of musketry. What Porter described as "this curious affair… a fight between infantry and gunboats", was finally decided by the gunboats' fire, which inflicted heavy losses on the Confederates, including the death of their commander, Gen. Thomas Greene. This engagement featured the use of a unique instrument, developed by Chief Engineer Thomas Doughty of Osage and later described by Selfridge as "a method of sighting the turret form the outside, by means of what would now be called a periscope…" The high banks of the Red River posed a great difficulty for the ships gunners in aiming their cannon from water level. Doughty's ingenious apparatus helped to solve the problem. Thus was the periscope, a familiar sight on gun turrets and on submarines of this century, brought into Civil War use on the western waters.

Upon approaching Grand Encore the fleet faced a dangerous situation. The Red River, normally high until late June, had fallen so much that the gunboats could not pass over the rapids and it seemed that the better part of the Mississippi Squadron was doomed to destruction as the Union Army made plans for evacuation. However, Lt. Col. Joseph Baily USA, proposed a plan for building a series of dams across the rocks of the falls and raising the water. A center opening would let the ships ride out on the crest of the water. On 9 May 1864 the dam had nearly reached completion but the pressure of the water became so great that it swept away two stone barges which swung in below the dam on one side. Seeing this accident, Admiral Porter mounted a horse and rode up to where upper vessels were anchored and ordered Lexington to get underway.

Lieutenant Bache succeeded in getting Lexington over the upper falls, then steered her directly for the opening in the dam where the furiously raging water seemed to promise only her destruction. She entered the gap in the dam with a full head of steam and pitched down the powerful torrent with several heavy rolls, hung for a moment on the rocks below, then reached the calm, deep water to the ringing cheers of some 30,000 voices. She was soon followed by the remainder of the vessels and the Union's valuable fleet was saved.

On 15 June 1864 Lexington seized the Confederate steamers Mattie, M. Walt and R.E. Hill, at Beulah Landing, Miss., with cotton on board. She then repulsed an attack on White River Station, Ark., 22 June 1864. As fighting died down along the river, she spent the rest of the war on relatively uneventful patrol and convoy duty. She arrived at Mound City, Ill., 5 June 1865 and decommissioned there 2 July 1865. Lexington was sold to Thomas Scott and Woodburn 17 August 1865.


Lexington (Battle Cruiser-4) was renamed Ranger (q.v.) 10 December 1917.


IV

(Aircraft Carrier-2: displacement 41,000; length 888'; beam 105'6"; draft 32'; speed 34.25 knots; complement 2,122; armament 8 8", 12 5", 81 aircraft; class Lexington)

The fourth Lexington (CV-2) was originally designated CC-1; laid down as a battle cruiser 8 January 1921 by Fore River Shipbuilding Co., Quincy, Mass.; authorized to be completed as an aircraft carrier 1 July 1922; launched 3 October 1925; sponsored by Mrs. Theodore Douglas Robinson; wife of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy; and commissioned 14 December 1927, Capt. Albert W. Marshall in command.

After fitting out and shakedown, Lexington joined the battle fleet at San Pedro, Calif., 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 the Hawaiians, in the Caribbean, off the Panama Canal Zone, and in the eastern Pacific. In the fall of 1941 she sailed with the battle force to the Hawaiians for tactical exercises.

On 7 December 1941 Lexington was at sea with TF 12 carrying marine aircraft from Pearl Harbor to reinforce Midway when word of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was received. She immediately launched search planes to hunt for the Japanese fleet, and at midmorning headed south to rendezvous with Indianapolis and Enterprise task forces to conduct a search southwest of Oahu until returning to Pearl Harbor 13 December.

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

Lexington patrolled to block enemy raids in the Oahu-Johnston-Palmyra triangle until 11 January 1942, when she sailed from Pearl Harbor as flagship for Vice Adm. Wilson Brown commanding TF 11. On 16 February, the force headed for an attack on Rabaul, New Britain, scheduled for 21 February; while approaching the day previous, Lexington was attacked by two waves of enemy aircraft, nine planes to a wave. The carrier's own combat air patrol and antiaircraft fire splashed 17 of the attackers. During a single sortie Lt. E.H. (Butch) O'Hare won the medal of Honor by downing five planes.

Her offensive patrols in the Coral Sea continued until 6 March, when she rendezvoused with Yorktown's TF 17 for a thoroughly successful surprise attack flown over the Owen Stanley mountains of New Guinea to inflict heavy damage on shipping and installations at Salamaua and Lae 10 March. She now returned to Pearl Harbor, arriving 26 March.

Lexington's task force sortied from Pearl Harbor 15 April, rejoining TF 17 on 1 May. As Japanese fleet concentrations threatening the Coral Sea were observed, Lexington and Yorktown moved into the sea to search for the enemy's force covering a projected troop movement; the Japanese must now be blocked in their southward expansion or sea communication with Australia and New Zealand would be cut, and the dominions threatened with invasion.

On 7 May searchplanes reported contact with an enemy carrier task force, and Lexington's air group flew an eminently successful mission against it, sinking light carrier Shoho. Later that day, 12 bombers and 15 torpedo planes from still-unlocated heavy carriers Shochiku and Zuikaku were intercepted by fighter groups from Lexington and Yorktown, who splashed nine enemy aircraft.

On the morning of the 8th, a Lexington plane located Shokaku group; a strike was immediately launched from the American carriers, and the Japanese carrier was heavily damaged.

The enemy penetrated to the American carriers at 1100, and 20 minutes later Lexington was struck by a torpedo to port. Seconds later, a second torpedo hit to port directly abreast the bridge. At the same time, she took three bomb hits from enemy dive bombers, producing a 7 degree list to port and several raging fires. By 1300 her skilled damage control parties had brought the fires under control and returned the ship to even keel; making 25 knots, she was ready to recover her air group. Then suddenly Lexington was shaken by a tremendous explosion, caused by the ignition of gasoline vapors below, and again fire raged out of control. At 1558 Capt. Frederick C. Sherman, fearing for the safety of men working below, secured salvage operations, and ordered all hands to the flight deck. At 1701, he ordered, "abandon ship," and the orderly disembarkation began. Men going over the side into the warm water were almost immediately picked up by nearby cruisers and destroyers. Admiral Fitch and his staff transferred to cruiser Minneapolis; Captain Sherman and his executive officer, Comdr. M.T. Seligman insured all their men were safe, then were the last to leave.

Lexington blazed on, flames shooting hundreds of feet into the air. Destroyer Phelps closed to 1500 yards and fired two torpedos into her hull; with one last heavy explosion, the gallant Lexington sank at 1956, in 15 degrees 20' S., 155 degrees 30' E.

Lexington received two battle stars for her World War II service.


V

(Aircraft Carrier-16 displacement 27,100; length 872'; beam 93'; draft 28'7"; speed 32.7 knots; complement 3,748; armament 12 5", 68 40mm, 62 20mm, aircraft 103; class Essex)

The fifth Lexington (CV-16) was laid down as Cabot 15 July 1941 by Bethlehem Steel Co., Quincy, Mass.; renamed Lexington 16 June 1942; launched 26 September 1942; sponsored by Mrs. Theodore D. Robinson; and commissioned 17 February 1943 Capt. Felix B. Stump in command.

After Caribbean shakedown and yard work at Boston, Lexington sailed for Pacific action via the Panama Canal, arriving Pearl Harbor 9 August 1943. She raided Tarawa in late September and Wake in October, then returned to Pearl Harbor to prepare for the Gilbert Islands operation. From 19 to 24 November she made searches and flew sorties in the Marshalls, covering the landings in the Gilberts. Her aviators downed 29 enemy aircraft on 23 and 24 November.

Lexington sailed to raid Kwajalein 4 December. Her morning strike destroyed a cargo ship, damaged two cruisers, and accounted for 40 enemy aircraft. Her gunners splashed two of the enemy torpedo planes that attacked at midday, and opened fire again at 1925 that night when a major air attack began. At 2322 parachute flares silhouetted the carrier, and 10 minutes later she was hit by a torpedo to starboard, knocking our her steeing gear. Settling 5 feet by the stern, the carrier began circling to port amidst dense clouds of smoke pouring from ruptured tanks aft. An emergency hand-operated steering unit was quickly devised, and Lexington made Pearl Harbor for emergency repairs, arriving 9 December. She reached Bremerton, Wash., 22 December for full repairs completed 20 February 1944. In the meantime, the Japanese claimed to have sunk the carrier.

Lexington sailed via Alameda, Calif., and Pearl Harbor for Majuro, where Rear Adm. Marc Mitscher commanding TF 58 broke his flag in her 8 March. After a warm up strike against Mille, TF 58 operated against the major centers of resistance in Japan's outer empire, supporting the Army landing at Hollandia 13 April, and hitting supposedly invulnerable Truk 28 April. Heavy counterattack left Lexington untouched, her planes splashing 17 enemy fighters; but, for the second time, Japanese propaganda announced her sunk.

A surprise fighter strike on Saipan 11 June virtually eliminated all air opposition over the island, which was then battered from the air for the next 5 days. On 15 June Lexington fought off a fierce attack by Japanese torpedo planes based on Guam, once again to emerge unhurt, but sunk a third time by propaganda pronouncements. Japanese opposition to the Mariannas operation provoked the Battle of the Philippine Sea on 19 and 20 June, culminating in a massive series of air victories over Japanese naval aviation squadrons. Lexington 's pilots played a major role in TF 58's great victory, helping to splash over 300 enemy aircraft and sinking a Japanese carrier, tanker, and a destroyer. American aviators virtually destroyed Japanese naval aviation capability; for with the planes went the trained experienced pilots without whom Japan could not continue carrier operations.

Using Eniwetok as her base, Lexington flew sorties over Guam and against the Palaus and Bonins into August. She arrived in the Carolinas on 6 September for 3 days of strikes against Yap and Ulithi, then began attacks on Mindanao, the Visayas, the Manila area, and shipping along the west coast of Luzon, preparing for the coming assault on Leyte. Her task force then blasted Okinawa 10 October and Formosa 2 days later to destroy bases from which opposition to the Philippines campaign might be launched. She was again unscathed through the air battles fought off Formosa.

The carrier then shifted to covering the Leyte landings, which provoked a major Japanese naval response. Several task forces approached the Philippines while Japanese aircraft made repeated attacks on American warships. Despite coming under constant enemy attack in the engagement in which Princeton was sunk, Lexington's planes joined in sinking Japan's superbattleship Musashi and scored hits on three cruisers 24 October. Next day, along with Essex aircraft, they sank carrier Chitose, and alone sank Zuikako. Later in the day, they aided in sinking a third carrier, Zuiho. As the retiring Japanese were pursued, her planes sank heavy cruiser Nachi on 5 November off Luzon.

But in the same action, she was introduced to the kamikaze as a flaming Japanese plane crashed her, destroying most of the island structure and spraying fire in all directions. Within 20 minutes major blazes were under control, and she was able to continue normal flight actions. Even while still smoking, her guns knocked down a would-be kamikaze heading for carrier Ticonderoga. On 9 November Lexington arrived Ulithi to repair battle damage and learn that Tokyo once again claimed her destroyed.

Chosen flagship for TG 58.2 on 11 December, she struck at airfields on 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 French 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 on 12 January. Leaving the China Sea 20 January, Lexington sailed north to strike Formosa again 21 January and Okinawa again 22 January.

After replenishing at Ulithi, TG 58.2 sailed 10 February to hit airfields near Tokyo 16 and 17 February. Lexington flew close support for the troops landing on Iwo Jima 19 to 22 February, then sailed north for further strikes against the Japanese home islands and the Nansei Shoto before heading for overhaul at Puget Sound.

Lexington was combat bound again 22 May, sailing via Alameda and Pearl Harbor for San Pedro Bay, Leyte, where she joined Rear Adm. T.L. Sprague's task force for the final round of air strikes against the Japanese home islands. These strikes lasted through July until 15 August, when the last strike was ordered to jettison its bombs and return to Lexington on receiving word of Japanese surrender. During this period she had launched attacks on Honshu and Hokkaido airfields and against Yokosuka and Kure naval bases to destroy the remnants of the Japanese fleet. She had also flown bombing attacks on industrial targets in the Tokyo area.

After hostilities ended, she continued to fly precautionary patrols over Japan, and dropped supplies to prisoners of war camps on Honshu. She supported the occupation of Japan until leaving Tokyo Bay 3 December with homeward bound veterans for transportation to San Francisco, where she arrived 15 December.

Lexington decommissioned at Bremerton, Wash., 23 April 1947 and entered the Reserve Fleet there. With the outbreak of the Korean War, she was tapped as a mobilization asset and was designated attack carrier CVA-16 on 1 October 1952. She began conversion and modernization in Puget Sound Naval Shipyard 1 September 1953, receiving a new angled flight deck and steam catapults for jet aircraft operations, and Lexington recommissioned 15 August 1955, Capt. A.S. Heyward, Jr. in command.

Assigned to San Diego as her home port, she operated off California until May 1956, sailing then for a 6-month deployment with the 7th Fleet. She based on Yokosuka for exercises, maneuvers, and search and rescue missions off the coast of China, and called at major Far Eastern ports until returning San Diego 20 December. She trained Air Group 12 that spring, which deployed with her on the next 7th Fleet deployment. Arriving Yokosuka 1 June 1957, Lexington embarked Rear Adm. H.D. Riley, Commander Carrier Division 1, and sailed as his flagship during operations off the Philippines, Okinawa, and Japan. She returned to San Diego 17 October.

Following overhaul at Bremerton, her refresher training was interrupted by the Lebanon and Tawain Straits crisis; on 14 July 1958 she was ordered to embark Air Group 21 at San Francisco and sail to reinforce the 7th Fleet off Taiwan, arriving on station 7 August. She remained there until the crisis ebbed and returned San Diego 19 December. Lexington left San Francisco 26 April 1959 for another tour of duty with the 7th Fleet and was on standby alert during the Laotian crisis of late August and September. She then exercised with British forces before sailing form Yokosuka 16 November for San Diego, arriving 2 December. Through early 1960 she overhauled at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

Lexington's next Far Eastern tour began late in 1960 and was extended well into 1961 by renewed tension in Laos. Returning to west coast operations late that year, she was ordered in July 1962 to prepare to relieve Antietam (CVS-36) as aviation training carrier in the Gulf of Mexico. Lexington moved to the New York Naval Shipyard for repairs and modification. On 1 October, she was redesignated CVS-16. She departed the shipyard later in the month, to participate in the Cuban blockade, and then moved to Pensacola in December 1962 to relieve Antietam.

Between early 1963 and May 1991, Lexington operated out of Pensacola, as well as Corpus Christi and Key West, to qualify student and fleet naval aviators. Each qualifying period lasted about 10 days in length. By the 1980s, students flew T-2C "Buckeye" and TA-4J "Skyhawk" aircraft during catapult shots, "touch-and-goes" and arrested landing qualifications. Fleet squadrons qualified using A-6 "Intruders" and A-7 "Corsairs." Lexington was redesignated CVT-16 on 1 January 1969 and redesignated AVT-16 on 1 July 1978. Following her last qualification period, the training carrier had accomplished 493,248 arrested landings.

Lexington was decommissioned on 8 November 1991, stricken the same day, and was transferred as a museum ship to the Lady Lex Museum on the Bay, Corpus Christi, Texas, on 15 June 1992.

Lexington received the Presidential Unit Citation and 11 battle stars for World War II service.


26 September 2001