USS Lexington (CV-2)

USS Lexington off Lahaina, Maui, US Territory of Hawaii, 16 Feb 1932. Note the 8" gun turrets at either end of the superstructure. US Navy photo.

Laid Down

Ordered in 1916 as the lead ship of the US Navy's first battlecruiser class, USS Lexington (CC-1) was delayed by American entry into World War I. Laid down in 1921, she was cancelled by the Washington Naval Treaty soon after. Instead, Lexington was completed in 1927 as the US Navy's third aircraft carrier, with her sister Saratoga beating Lexington into commission by a month. Lexington was assigned to the US Pacific Fleet, and helped develop American carrier tactics between the World Wars. She was completed with eight 8"/55-caliber Mark 9 guns as an alternative to her aircraft, but these were removed in March, 1942. Lexington was at sea on 7 December, 1941, returning from delivering aircraft to the base on Midway Atoll, and so missed the attack on Pearl Harbor. Lexington formed the nucleus of the new Task Force 11, and spent the next several months patrolling the central Pacific, and raiding some Japanese bases. She underwent a refit in late March to early April, 1942, before rendezvousing with the carrier USS Yorktown prior to what would turn into the Battle of the Coral Sea. During the fighting, Lexington's aircraft helped sink the light carrier Shōhō, and damage the carrier Shōkaku. However, on 8 May, Lexington herself was damaged by two torpedo and two bomb hits, which caused fuel leaks. Several hours later, a generator spark detonated fuel vapors, and Lexington had to be scuttled. Her wreck was discovered by the RV Petrel in March, 2018.