For other ships of the same name, see USS Lexington.

Career (United States)
Ordered: 1916 (as battlecruiser)

1922 (as aircraft carrier)

Builder: Fore River Ship and Engine Building Company
Laid down: 8 January 1921
Launched: 3 October 1925
Commissioned: 14 December 1927
Reclassified: 1 July 1922 battlecruiser to CV
Struck: 24 June 1942
Honors and


American Defense Service Medal ("Fleet" clasp) / Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (2 stars) / World War II Victory Medal
Fate: Sunk by Japanese at the Battle of the Coral Sea, 8 May 1942
General characteristics
Class and type: Lexington-class aircraft carrier

Design: 36,000 long tons (37,000 t) standard 38,746 long tons (39,368 t)

Actual: 49,000 long tons (50,000 t) (1940), 50,000 long tons (51,000 t) (1942)

Length: 888 feet (271 m) (oa)
Beam: 105 feet 5.25 inches (32.14 m) (waterline)

106 feet (32.31 m) (overall)

Draft: 24.25 feet (7.39 m) (design)
Propulsion: Design:

16 × boilers at 300 psi (2.1 MPa) Geared turbines and electric drive 4 × shafts 180,000 shp (130 MW); 209,710 hp (156.38 MW) reached in service

Speed: 33.25 knots (61.6 km/h) (design); 34.82 knots (64.49 km/h) knots reached in service
Range: 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h)
Complement: 2,122 officers and men
Sensors and

processing systems:



Armament: As built:

4 × twin 8-inch (200 mm) 55 caliber guns 12 × single 5-inch (130 mm) guns


Belt: 5 to 7 inches (130 to 180 mm)

2 inches (51 mm) protective 3rd deck 3 inches (76 mm) flat to 4.5 inches (110 mm) over steering gear

Aircraft carried: As built:

91 aircraft 2 × elevators 1 × flywheel catapult

USS Lexington (CV-2), nicknamed the "Gray Lady" or "Lady Lex," was an early aircraft carrier of the United States Navy. She was the lead ship of the Lexington class, though her sister ship Saratoga was commissioned a month earlier. She was also the fourth of five US Navy ships to carry the name "Lexington." Originally designed as a battlecruiser, she was converted into one of the Navy's first aircraft carriers during construction, entered service in 1928, and was sunk in 1942 at the Battle of the Coral Sea. .


Lexington was named after the Battle of Lexington that took place in Lexington, Massachusetts in 1775, the first battle of the Revolutionary War. She and her sister ship, Saratoga, were originally authorized in 1916 as battle cruisers of 35,300 long tons (35,900 t) with seven funnels and boilers disposed on two deck levels. After the war, and as a result of the lessons thereof, plans were to a large extent re-cast in 1919. Designated CC-1 and CC-3, they were laid down as smaller battle cruisers on 8 January 1921 by Fore River Shipbuilding Company, Quincy, Massachusetts.

Following the Washington Naval Conference, they were both redesignated and re-authorized to be completed as aircraft carriers on 1 July 1922. As such, they were reduced in displacement by 8,500 long tons (8,600 t), achieved mainly by the elimination of eight 16 inch (406 mm) guns in four twin turrets (including mounts, armor and other equipment). The main belt armor was retained, and the deck armor was heavily reinforced. The general lines of the hull remained unaltered, and the special system of underwater protection was adhered to. The flight deck was 880 feet (244 m) long and 85 to 90 feet (26-27 m) wide, mounted 60 feet (18 m) above the waterline. The mean draft was 24 feet 1½inches (7.35 m). The ships had a complement of 169 officers and 1730 men, including flying personnel. They carried eight 8 inch (203 mm)/55 caliber guns, twelve 5-inch (127 mm)/25 caliber anti-aircraft guns,[2] and four 6-pounder (2.24-inch, 57 mm) saluting guns.

These two ships were the last two built with a transverse catapult as part of the original design.[citation needed] The catapult had a travel of 150 ft (46 m), and was strong enough to launch the heaviest naval aircraft then in existence within 60 feet (18 m). As built, these two ships had cranes for launching and retrieving seaplanes and flying boats, a capability removed during the war and replaced by additional anti-aircraft guns. The ships were designed to carry a maximum of 120 aircraft of various types, including fighters, scouts, and bombers. Each ship cost a total of $45,000,000 ($570 million in 2008 dollars) with aircraft.

Lexington was launched on 3 October 1925, sponsored by Mrs. Theodore Douglas Robinson (wife of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy), and commissioned 14 December 1927, Captain Albert W. Marshall in command.[3]

Lexington and Saratoga had turboelectric drive with 16 Yarrow boilers powering four General Electric steam turbines spinning generators that powered the four slower main drive motors. Lexington's engines provided electricity to Tacoma, Washington for thirty days during a power shortage in the winter of 1929/1930.

Service HistoryEdit

[edit] 1928-1941Edit

After fitting out and shakedown, Lexington joined the Battle Fleet at San Pedro, California on 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 kn (35.3 mph, 56.9 km/h), and maintained a speed of 34.5 kn (39.7 mph, 63.9 km/h) 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 a science fiction writer, worked on radio communications, then in its nascent phase, with the aircraft carrier's planes.[4] Lexington was one of fourteen ships to receive the early RCA CXAM-1 RADAR.[1]

[edit] World War IIEdit

[edit] 1941Edit

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 mid-morning 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 on 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 on 27 December.

[edit] 1942Edit

Lexington patrolled to block enemy raids in the OahuJohnstonPalmyra 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 earned the Medal of Honor by downing five planes.

Her offensive patrols in the Coral Sea continued, as part of the ANZAC Squadron, 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 inch turrets were removed and replaced by quadruple 1.1 inch (28 mm) anti-aircraft guns. She rejoined 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.

[edit] Battle of the Coral SeaEdit

Main article: Battle of the Coral Sea[2][3]Lexington burning during the Battle of the Coral Sea[4][5]Confirmed direct hits sustained by Lexington during the battleOn 7 May, search planes reported contact with an enemy carrier task force. Lexington's air group sank Shōhō. Later that day, 12 bombers and 15 torpedo planes from 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, Japanese planes penetrated the American defenses at 1100, 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 1300, skilled damage control had brought the fires under control and restored her to an even keel; making 25 kn (29 mph, 46 km/h), she was ready to recover her air group. Lexington was suddenly shaken by a tremendous explosion, caused by the ignition of gasoline vapors below, and again fire raged out of control. At 1558, Captain Frederick Carl Sherman, fearing for the safety of men working below, halted salvage operations, and ordered all hands to the flight deck. At 1701, 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 Minneapolis; Captain Sherman and his executive officer, Commander Morton T. Seligman ensured all their men were safe, then were the last to leave.

Lexington blazed on, flames shooting hundreds of feet into the air. To prevent enemy capture, the destroyer Phelps closed to 1,500 yd (1.4 km) and fired two torpedoes into her hull; with one last heavy explosion, Lexington sank at 19:56, in 15°20′S 155°30′E / 15.333°S 155.5°E / -15.333; 155.5.


Lexington received two battle stars for her World War II service.

In June 1942, five days after the Navy's public acknowledgment of the sinking, 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 Lexington (from Cabot).[5] Knox agreed to the proposal, and by 23 September 1942, the fifth Lexington was launched.

See AlsoEdit

List of U.S. Navy losses in World War II

Notes & ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Macintyre, Donald, CAPT RN (September 1967). Shipborne Radar. United States Naval Institute Proceedings.
  2. ^ Friedman 1983 p. 390
  3. ^
  4. ^ Mentioned in the afterword to Searchlight in Expanded Universe.
  5. ^ United Press, "Workers Name New Lexington," Waterloo Daily Courier, 1942-06-17, available at


This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

External LinksEdit

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