Sunk on May 8, 1942, the aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2) spent more than 75 years on the sea floor under the waters of the Pacific. Previously believed to be lost forever, an expedition led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen finally located the wreckage of the USS Lexington. Allen’s team, aboard the Research Vessel Petrel off the eastern coast of Australia, captured video of the sunken carrier on March 4, 2018.
The Discovery of the USS Lexington
To the research team’s surprise, the “Lady Lex” was in surprisingly good condition considering she’d been at the bottom of the salty Pacific for 75 years. The footage taken by Petrel included shots of the nameplate of the Lexington, which confirmed the identity of the wreckage. The carrier’s 5” anti-aircraft gun was also observed intact, and even the US star emblems could be seen on the aircraft found nearby.
According to Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for the billionaire explorer, they had been planning to locate the wreckage of the USS Lexington for about six months. Taking note of the discovery was Admiral Harry Harris, head of the US Pacific Command and son of a Lexington survivor. In a statement, Harris said, “As the son of a survivor of the USS Lexington, I offer my congratulations to Paul Allen and the expedition crew of Research Vessel Petrel…”
Lexington is one of many World War II relics discovered by Allen, who also found the wreckage of the USS Ward (DD-139)—the ship that fired the first shots when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941—as well as the Imperial Japanese Navy battleship Yamashiro.
The Story of the “Lady Lex”
The USS Lexington, along with the rest of the US Pacific Fleet, was home-ported at Pearl Harbor in Oahu and was one of three aircraft carriers based there that were at sea during the December 1941 attack. She later took part in the Battle of the Coral Sea, a conflict that helped end Japan’s advance across the Pacific. Unfortunately for the United States, it was at the Battle of the Coral Sea that it lost the USS Lexington, a powerful aircraft carrier. The Allies were able to continue their campaign in the Pacific after the Lexington was sunk, but her loss was felt through the duration of the war.
Launched in 1925, the USS Lexington served the United States for 17 years before the ill-fated Battle of the Coral Sea. Alongside the USS Yorktown (CV-5), the Lexington fought against three Japanese carrier groups before being hit by several torpedoes and bombs. Fires started to spread from the explosion, forcing her crew to abandon ship. In the end, the USS Phelps (DD-360) fired the shots that scuttled the Lexington, consigning her to the bottom of the Pacific where she would lie undisturbed for 75 years.