Meet the USS Lexington: The US Navy Aircraft Carrier That Did It All

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Launched in September 1942, the United States Navy’s USS Navy Lexington (CV/CAV/CVS/CVT/AVT-16) had the longest career of all Essex- class aircraft carrier. She was laid down by Bethlehem Steel in Quincy, Massachusetts on July 15, 1941 with her sister ship Bunker Hill also filed the same day. Initially to be designated Poochher name was changed to commemorate the recently lost USS Lexington (CV-2) – sunk in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942 – and became the fifth ship to bear this name in honor of the Battle of Lexington.

She entered service as the CV-16 just 73 weeks later, on February 17, 1943. During World War II, the USS Lexington served as the flagship of Task Force 58 and was present at every major engagement from Tarawa to Tokyo. In the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the greatest naval battle of World War II and, some say, the greatest naval battle in history, aircraft operating from the carrier were solely responsible for the sinking of the carrier. Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) aircraft. Zuikako and the cruiser Nashi, while the aircraft took part in the destruction of the mighty IJN Yamato-class battleship Musashi and carriers Chitosis and Zuiho.

After the end of hostilities, his aircraft continued to fly aerial patrols over Japan, and even located and participated in supply drops at Honsh POW camps that had been abandoned by the Japanese. In December 1945, the USS Lexington was used to ferry servicemen home during Operation Magic Carpet and arrived in San Francisco on 16 December.

Post-war service

CV-16 was placed in the reserve fleet from April 1947 until September 1953, when it was transferred to Puget Sound Navy Yard for a major rebuild, which included reconfiguring its flight deck to incorporate an area inclined landing pad with steam catapults, the provision of a closed foredeck, reinforcement of the arrester and enlargement of its forward lift.

She was recommissioned as CVA-16 in August 1955 and joined the Pacific Fleet – later redesignated as Carrier Anti-Submarine (CVS-16). During her “second career”, the carrier operated in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as well as in the Mediterranean. She spent most of her time—nearly 30 years in total—on the East Coast as a training carrier (CVT) until she was broken up.

Notable Lexington Facts

USS Lexington was the final Essex-class aircraft carrier, and the oldest of the World War II aircraft carrier class, and she was also the last wooden-deck aircraft carrier to serve in the US Navy. She had been damaged twice by Japanese air attacks, leading the Japanese to report that she had been sunk no less than four times. As she always returned to combat, Japanese propagandist Tokyo Rose dubbed her “The Blue Ghost”, which was quickly adopted by the crew and air groups that served on the carrier.

USS Lexington spent 21 months in combat, during which his aircraft destroyed 372 enemy aircraft in the air and another 475 on the ground. The carrier sank or destroyed 300,000 tons of enemy cargo and damaged another 600,000 tons. Its own guns show 15 Japanese aircraft and helped shoot down five more.

The carrier had a suspension deck capacity for 103 aircraft, and during its career included F6F-3 Hellcats, SBD-6 Dauntless dive bombers and TBF-1 Avenger torpedo bombers.

Even after her fighting days were over, she was used as a filming location at sea for the 1976 film Half-wayreplacing the USS Half-way (CV-5); and later for the 1988 miniseries War and memoryreplacing the USS Business (CV-6). It was also used in the filming of the 2001 Michael Bay epic wearing pearlswhere she was modified to serve as a Japanese aircraft carrier as well as USS hornet (CV-8). In 2014, the carrier was used by Pepsi for a pre-Super Bowl 2015 ad. Titled “Operation Halftime,” the ad featured country music singer Blake Shelton performing for veterans and their families.

For her service in World War II, the USS Lexington received the Presidential Unit Citation for heroism in action, as well as 11 battle stars for major engagements. And perhaps best of all, you are visiting her today because she has not been demolished or sold for scrap.

Now editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He writes regularly on military hardware and is the author of several books on military headgear, including A Gallery of Military Headdress, available on Amazon.com. Peter is also a contributing writer for Forbes.

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