The Lexington, with its sister ship the Saratoga, was originally built to be a battle-cruiser. However, after the Washington Naval Conference, they were both converted into aircraft carriers. When this conversion was over both the Lexington and Saratoga were the largest aircraft carriers in the world and they remained so until the outbreak of World War Two. Lexington had escaped damage at Pearl Harbour in December 1941 as she had been out at sea reinforcing the Midway garrison. However, at the Battle of Coral Sea, the Lexington was to become the first of the US Navy’s aircraft carrier casualties.

The ‘Lexington’ was hit by Japanese torpedoes and bombs on May 8th 1942. One of the bombs hit a supply of ammunition at about 11.20. At 12.47, the carrier was shaken by a huge internal explosion when fuel vapours were ignited. A series of other explosions occurred and by 15.00 ‘Lady Lex’ was beyond help. At 16.30, the crew prepared to abandon ship. Various ships were called up to assist in the evacuation which was disciplined and orderly – even the ship’s dog was brought off. The ship’s commander, Captain Frederick Sherman, was the last to leave. The destroyer ‘Phelps’ was ordered to finish off the ‘Lexington’, which it duly did with five torpedoes. The ‘Lexington’ sank at 20.00. 216 men had lost their lives from the ‘Lexington’s’ crew.

USS Lexington
Launched 1925
Displacement 33,000 tons
Length 888 feet
Beam 105 feet
Draught 24.5 feet
Speed 34 knots
Armament 8 x .5 inch guns
125 x 40mm + 20mm guns
90 aircraft
Crew 3,300