Carriers of the 20th & 21st centuries

American Aircraft Carriers

USS Lexington  CV-2

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USS Lexington (CV-2) leaving San Diego, California, 14 October 1941.


USS Lexington

Reclassified: 1 July 1922 battlecruiser to CV

Hull #

CV 2


Laid down: 8 January 1921

Launched:  3 October 1925


14 December 1927

Sister Ships

USS Saratoga CV 3

History Highlight

Honours and awards:American Defense Service Medal ("Fleet" clasp) / Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (2 stars) / World War II Victory Medal

After fitting out and shakedown, Lexington joined the Battle Fleet at San Pedro, California, 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 Hawaii, in the Caribbean, off the Panama Canal Zone, and in the eastern Pacific. On trials, Lexington achieved an average speed of 30.7 knots, and maintained a speed of 34.5 knots for one hour.

The Captain of the vessel in 1930 and 1931 was Ernest King, who was later to serve as the Chief of Naval Operations during the Second World War.

In 1931, Robert A. Heinlein, later science fiction writer, worked on radio communications, then in its nascent phase, with the aircraft carrier's planes. [3] Lexington was one of fourteen ships to receive the early RCA CXAM-1 RADAR.

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 Task Force 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 on 13 December.

Lexington sailed next day to raid Japanese forces on Jaluit to relieve pressure on Wake Island; these orders were canceled 20 December, and she was directed to cover the Saratoga force in reinforcing Wake. When the island fell on 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 Admiral Wilson Brown commanding Task Force 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 shot down 17 of the attackers. During a single sortie, Lieutenant Edward 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 Task Force 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 on 10 March. She then returned to Pearl Harbor, arriving 26 March.

Lexington's task force sortied from Pearl Harbor on 15 April. She went through a short overhaul, during which her 8" turrets were removed and replaced by quadruple 1.1 inch anti-aircraft guns. She rejoinined 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 had to be blocked in their southward expansion or sea communication with Australia and New Zealand would be cut, and the dominions threatened with invasion. The Battle of the Coral Sea was the result.

Battle of the Coral Sea

    Main article: Battle of the Coral Sea

On 7 May, search planes reported contact with an enemy carrier task force. Lexington's air group sank the light carrier Shōhō. Later that day, 12 bombers and 15 torpedo planes from still-unlocated heavy carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku were intercepted by fighter groups from Lexington and Yorktown, which shot down nine enemy aircraft.

On the morning of the 8th, a Lexington plane located the Shōkaku group; a strike was immediately launched from the American carriers, and the Japanese carrier was heavily damaged. However, enemy planes penetrated the American defenses at 11:00, and 20 minutes later Lexington was struck by a torpedo to port. Seconds later, a second torpedo hit her portside directly abeam 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 13:00, skilled damage control had brought the fires under control and restored her to an even keel; making 25 knots (29 mph/46 km/h), 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 15:58, Captain Frederick Carl Sherman, fearing for the safety of men working below, secured salvage operations, and ordered all hands to the flight deck. At 17:01, 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 Aubrey Wray Fitch and his staff transferred to the cruiser Minneapolis; Captain Sherman and his executive officer, Commander Morton T. Seligman ensured all their men were safe, then were the last to leave.



Final Disposition

Sunk by Japanese at the Battle of the Coral Sea, 8 May 1942

In June 1942, five days after the Navy's public acknowledgement of the sinking of the USS Lexington, CV 2, workers at the Quincy shipyard where the ship was built twenty-one years earlier cabled Navy Secretary Frank Knox and proposed a change in the name of a carrier currently under construction there to the USS Lexington (from the USS Cabot). Knox agreed to the proposal, and by September 23, 1942 the fifth Lexington (CV-16) was launched.

Related Info

General characteristics

Class and type:

Lexington-class aircraft carrier


36,000 tons standard
38,746 tons Actual: 49,000 tons (1940)

50,000 tons (1942)


888 feet (oa)


105 feet 5.25 inches (waterline)

106 feet (overall)


24 feet 3 inches (design)



16 boilers at 300 psi

Geared turbines and electric drive

4 shafts

180,000 shp; 209,710 hp reached in service


33.25 knots (design); 34.82 knots reached in service


10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h)


2,122 officers and men

Sensors and

processing systems:



As built:

4 twin 8-inch (200 mm) 55 caliber guns

12 single 5-inch (130 mm) guns


Belt: 5-inch (130 mm) to 7-inch (180 mm)

2-inch (51 mm) protective 3rd deck

3-inch (76 mm) flat to 4.5-inch (110 mm) over steering gear

Aircraft carried:

As built:

91 aircraft

2 elevators

1 flywheel catapult

Source: Wikipedia

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