View Full Version : USS Lexington found

5th Mar 2018, 23:34
USS Lexington found: Paul Allen finds aircraft carrier (http://www.news.com.au/technology/science/archaeology/uss-lexington-found-paul-allen-finds-aircraft-carrier-that-saved-australia-in-world-war-ii/news-story/bd9a002695edcd3dbd5a12cd1782d2f1)

Great sacrifices made by the US in the Coral Sea to stave off the Japanese advance on Australia :D

6th Mar 2018, 00:09
There have been quite a few books written about that battle, our own ONI reports on the battle are available here:

Battle of the Coral Sea - Combat Narrative - Naval History & Heritage Command (https://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/b/battle-of-the-coral-sea-combat-narrative.html#may)

Coral Sea survivor, USMC's VL Anderson's recollections:

May 7th. 1942

On board the Lexington we were at general quarters manning our guns when Captain Frederick C. Sherman ordered the radio room to turn on the loud speakers, so that the men on board could hear our pilots as they were attacking the Shoho.

Suddenly we heard "Scratch One Flattop - Dixon to Carrier - Scratch One Flattop," [this was the voice of Lt. Comdr. Robert E. Dixon, the Squadron Commander of Scouting Squadron Two], and at that moment a tremendous cheer went up for we knew that our pilots had just sunk the first Japanese aircraft carrier sunk in World War 11. Our aircraft later returned and refueled and continued their unsuccessful search that day for the other two Japanese carriers.

At 05:52 a.m. on May 8th we went into General Quarters [manning our battle stations] and launched our scout planes in search of the enemy. It was a clear, warm day and the Coral Sea was calm with gentle swells. On our Marine Gun Batteries we wore helmets, life jackets and flash proof clothing and we were kept informed by the Battery Officer as to any potential targets. At 08:50 we received radio contact from our scout planes they had found the Shokaku and Zuikaku, four cruisers and many destroyers about 120 miles away, and at 09:07 a.m. we began launching our attack group of fighters, dive bombers and torpedo planes, following which we brought back aboard our early morning scouting group.

The enemy had spotted us at about the same time we spotted them and at about I 1:00 a.m. we received a report of many enemy planes approximately 58 miles away. We immediately launched our remaining F4F fighters and SBD anti-torpedo defense planes and prepared for the enemy attack. The first Japanese torpedo plane was spotted off the port bow at II: 1 5 a.m. about 3 000 yards out and we received the order to commence firing. Simultaneously we picked up speed and began evasive maneuvers. The sound of all our guns firing was deafening and suddenly we felt a violent vibrating blow to our ship [a torpedo hit on the port side forward].

The enemy torpedo planes, after launching their torpedoes, began strafing our gun positions and on my Gun IO three of our men were wounded and one was killed from these strafing attacks. [The man that was killed was loader Private Raymond Miller who was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously for continuing to load ammunition while mortally wounded and until he dropped dead.]

At about 11:25 a.m. while still under attack by enemy torpedo planes enemy dive bombers began their attacks and one bomb hit on the flight deck on the port side forward and exploded in the ready ammunition locker for our Marine Gun 6, killing all fourteen members of that gun crew.

We then received another torpedo hit on the port side just aft of the first torpedo hit. Then suddenly we lost communication with our gunnery officer in sky aft and we immediately went into local control on our Gun Battery picking our targets. About that time a large bomb just missed [by inches] my Gun 10 splinter shield throwing up a 70-foot high wave of water that washed all of us off Gun 10, and only the splinter shield saved us from being washed over board. We quickly regained our positions on the gun and resumed firing.

That evening as our evening patrol just landed unidentified airplanes mistakenly got into the Yorktown's landing circle and was quickly identified as enemy aircraft. One enemy plane was shot down, and the rest flew off. Only six of the 27 enemy planes were able to return to their own carriers.

Later we learned that the other two Japanese carriers had located our tanker Neosho and its escort the destroyer Sims about 250 miles away from us. They sank the Sims and heavily damaged the Neosho, which was sunk several days later.

At about 5:50 p.m. Captain Sherman came over to our Marine Gun Battery Four and relieved us of our duty and ordered us to abandon ship. At this point our First Sergeant Payton said, "Men, lets give three cheers for the Captain," and we did. [Later Captain Sherman wrote in his book Combat Command: "Their loyalty was inspiring."]

I checked with my Marine buddies to see what they wanted to do and they had decided to go down a rope into the water and wait alongside the ship until a motor whaleboat came by to pick them up. I had seen an empty life raft off the port beam, and as I was an excellent swimmer, I decided I would swim out to that raft as I felt with the ship afire it would be more dangerous to stay along side to be picked up. I gave my life jacket away, took off my shoes and left them in a line with others on the flight deck. I cut off the sleeves of my shirt and my trouser legs above the knee and then went over the side and down a knotted rope [next to my gun battery] into the sea. [This was like going out a seven-story hotel window] I found the water warm and did not realize I was in the most shark-infested water in the world as I started towards the life raft. I could not always see the life raft due to gentle swells and soon I began to wonder if I had made an mistake as the life raft seemed to be drifting away from me. Nevertheless, I continued on and did eventually reach the life raft but was exhausted and had to wait about five minutes before I had the strength to pull myself into the raft. This empty life raft was made of balsa and could hold twenty men. There were no oars or means of propulsion nor were there any sacks of emergency food or survival gear.

In a very short time I pulled a pilot in a Mae West Jacket aboard as well as three sailors. As we looked back at the Lexington we saw it was afire and there were numerous explosions that sent debris as large as a barn door over our heads.

Soon a gig boat from the destroyer Anderson, full of Lexington survivors, spotted us and came alongside. We asked the coxswain to throw us a line so he could tow us back to the Anderson and he did. Unfortunately, whoever tied the rope to the life raft left a long tail and it immediately tangled in the propeller of the gig boat and now we were both dead in the water. The coxswain went overboard several times to try and cut the tangled line loose, unsuccessfully.

At ten minutes before seven o'clock the destroyer Dewey came by and as it slowly passed us the skipper hollered to us through a bull horn that they could not stop as there were enemy subs in the area and that he would make another turn and come back and we should grab the cargo nets alongside. He did and we did. A member of the crew of the Dewey took each Lexington survivor in hand. A Machinist Mate First Class [MM I/c] by the name of Hussey pulled me aboard and as I was wearing a khaki shirt and trousers he at first thought I was a Navy officer and started taking me to the officers quarters until I told him I was a Marine Corporal at which he said, "after eight years in the navy I have to pull a damn marine out of the water." Nevertheless, he took me to his quarters and graciously gave me some of his clean dry navy clothing, which fit none too well as I was 6' 2" and he was about 5' 9" but we weighed about the same [ 148 pounds] and our waist size was the same, 30 inches. The shoes he gave me were actually leather moccasins that fit fairly well. I immediately took a shower and while I was drying off the ship went into General Quarters and before I could put some clothes on all the hatches were dogged shut not to be opened until we secured from General Quarters. I was trapped below decks and right then made up my mind that if I ever got topside again I would never go below decks again. After we secured from GQ I went topside and was promptly assigned a battle station on the Dewey. [I was assigned to the forward 5" gun mount as a loader] Minutes later we again went into General Quarters as we were told unidentified aircraft had been spotted but we never saw them and we secured from General Quarters.

Rear Admiral Fletcher ordered the destroyer Phelps to sink the Lexington to keep the enemy from knowing she had been abandoned. At four minutes to eight p.m. the Phelps fired two torpedoes into the starboard side of the Lexington and she went down.


Aboard the Dewey we [121 Lexington survivors] learned that we were headed for Noumea, New Caledonia. With all the Lexington survivors aboard the Dewey was crowded. I decided to sleep on deck beneath the torpedo tubes and secured myself with a rope so I would not be washed over the side. That night we were given large cans of fruit and some hard tack bread, usually to a group of four, and we would find a spot to eat.

Our trip to Noumea was fast and uneventful and we arrived on Wednesday, May 13 Ih, and as soon as we tied up to the dock in Noumea we were transferred to cruisers. I was transferred to the cruiser Astoria and when I arrived in the Marine Detachment's quarters I learned that there were two Lexington marines in sickbay, and I went immediately to see who they were. There I found my buddy T.D. Germany [who I last saw with the dead bodies on the flight deck] in a body cast and as he saw me he said, "You SOB, you stole my pipe." I was so happy to see him I offered to return the pipe even though it was my pipe. He refused saying the Doc would not let him smoke. He told me that two sailors on the flight deck about to abandon the ship saw his hand move and saw he was alive so they carried him over to the starboard side and lowered him onto a destroyer. In 1981 1 did present him with that pipe at a reunion in Long Beach, California.

That night the Astoria left Noumea bound for Tongatabu where we arrived on Friday, May 15th, and boarded the troop ships U.S.S. Barnett and U.S.S. Elliott and the wounded were transferred to the hospital ship U.S. S. Solace.

On Monday, May 18th, Task Force 17 together with the Barnett and Elliott departed Tongatabu. The Barnett and Elliott escorted by the cruiser U.S.S. Chester were enroute to the Destroyer Base in San Diego, California, and the U.S.S. Yorktown and remainder of Task Force 17 were enroute to Pearl Harbor for necessary repairs and reorganization in preparation for the Battle of Midway.

On the late afternoon of Tuesday, June 2, 1942, we [Barnett, Elliott and Chester] arrived in San Diego, California. All survivors were ordered to remain below decks while entering San Diego harbor as the U.S. Government had not as yet revealed that the Lexington had been sunk in the Coral Sea Battle. The Battle of Midway was just starting and it was important that the Japanese not know the Lexington would not be available for that battle.

At dark we enlisted personnel disembarked the Barnett and Elliott and marched in columns of four into the Destroyer Base and to the two story dormitories that had been prepared for us. On the way we were observed by navy enlisted men who warned us "you will be sorry" thinking we were new recruits.

Starting on Wednesday, June 3rd, the rehabilitating and outfitting of personnel began and we were informed not to disclose that the Lexington had been sunk or that we were survivors of the Coral Sea Battle.

On Thursday, June 4 th, a number of us were given one day liberty passes even though we had not yet received our uniforms. Most of us were wearing navy dungarees and we were instructed that if we were picked up by the shore patrol to show our liberty pass and to advise that we were in the

Minuteman Unit and that the Officer of the Day at the Destroyer Base be notified. I went ashore with a good friend, Roy W. Swafford SC I /c, who had informed me that he had managed to abandon ship with a $1,000.00 War Bond in a water proof pouch and he was heading to the first bank he could find to cash it in and did I want to go along. Sure I did! We each had a few dollars so we caught the first bus we could outside the entrance to the Destroyer Base that was headed for downtown San Diego. We left the bus on Broadway in the center of downtown San Diego and had not walked a block before we were stopped by the shore patrol that wanted to know if we were military and if so why were we out of uniform. Our meager response resulted in our being taken to an M.P. Station where we told our story to the Officer on Duty. He immediately called the OD at the Destroyer Base, gave our names and rank and listened for about a minute before he hung up. He then turned to the men of the Shore Patrol that had picked us up and said, "I don't know where these men have been or what they have done but leave them alone." Immediately after being released by the Shore Patrol, Roy and I headed for a Bank of America and he cashed in his $1 000 War Bond. [$750 cash] During the next week after being outfitted in new uniforms we celebrated our new lease on life at "Sherman's Dine & Dance," one of San Diego's better dens of iniquity. Roy was generous to a fault!

1936 aerial photo of the carrier off Long Beach, Calif:


6th Mar 2018, 00:50
Gosh, a bridge backwards in time, and so much food for thought. It's amazing to read the contrast between the bigger picture and the almost insignificant personal detail, those little things that remain clearly in one's memory.

6th Mar 2018, 01:00
Fortunately, being 3 km below the surface should keep the scrap merchants' ghoulish hands off.

6th Mar 2018, 02:41
Fortunately, being 3 km below the surface should keep the scrap merchants' ghoulish hands off.

It's a war grave. Scrap merchants would be prohibited from accessing it, even if it was acccessable.

6th Mar 2018, 03:55
Gosh, a bridge backwards in time, and so much food for thought. It's amazing to read the contrast between the bigger picture and the almost insignificant personal detail, those little things that remain clearly in one's memory.

Isn't that the truth, Joli. :ok:

Personal recollections humanize the inhuman tragedy that all wars foment, as well as providing a window into the time and circumstance of events most of us can only imagine.

6th Mar 2018, 04:10
Never noticed the armament before.
8 - eight inch guns on a CV and rather light on AA. Sort of stuck between two naval theories.
I imagine that the AA complement increased rather quickly later on.

6th Mar 2018, 04:11
It's a war grave. Scrap merchants would be prohibited from accessing it, even if it was acccessable.

That only works in countries that are prepared to enforce such legislation. A lot of steel has gone missing from sunken WW2 ships.

I believe the attraction is that the steel does not contain radiation contamination from nuclear testing.

6th Mar 2018, 07:48
That only works in countries that are prepared to enforce such legislation. A lot of steel has gone missing from sunken WW2 ships.

I believe the attraction is that the steel does not contain radiation contamination from nuclear testing.

High grade "non-nuclear" steel (i.e. all that smelted before 6th August 1945) is apparently worth a fortune. Years ago I ran a range off the West Coast of Scotland and a salvage firm were prepared to spend a great deal of money to recover some of the sunken U boats that broke free and sank in relatively shallow (around 100 to 200m) water whilst they were being towed from Cairnryan out to the designated scuttling point north west of Ireland, in deep water off the continental shelf.

"Non-nuclear" steel is valuable because it's used in very high sensitivity scanners and detectors, I believe.

Captain Dart
6th Mar 2018, 07:58
Some stunning pictures of Lex aircraft on the sea bed on this thread:


6th Mar 2018, 09:26
Incredible images, and personal info, thanks for posts.

6th Mar 2018, 10:25
Interestingly, the commentary on Japanese Yahoo follows the international release, with no explanation though as to how she sank but, is the following paragraph in the English versions, I wonder?

 艦載機は驚くほど状態がよく、機体の翼と胴体には米陸軍航空隊の星のマークが確認できる。ある機体には米アニメのキャラクター のフィリックス(Felix the Cat)と、旧日本軍を撃墜したことを意味するとみられる小さな旭日旗が4つ描かれている。

(My translation) "The condition of the (various) aircraft was surprisingly good, and the star of the US marine carrier planes can be clearly seen on the wings and fuselage. One one fuselage can be seen the American anime character Felix the Cat, and four little rising sun stickers indicate former Japanese army aircraft that it had shot down."

6th Mar 2018, 10:36
It's a war grave. Scrap merchants would be prohibited from accessing it, even if it was acccessable.

Didn't stop this happening:-


Ancient Mariner
6th Mar 2018, 10:54
Lots of WWII shipwrecks along the coast of Norway legally removed and cut for scrap.
Amongst them Tirpitz.

6th Mar 2018, 11:06
I would imagine those "kill" emblems were certainly of the most interest to the home audience, Jolihokistix. Since you speak Japanese, you might be interested in an old propaganda postcard of CV-2. Lovely artwork, yes?


8 - eight inch guns on a CV and rather light on AA. Sort of stuck between two naval theories.

Indeed, Meadowrun. Those guns were only useful for a starboard broadside against another surface ship.

I imagine that the AA complement increased rather quickly later on.

Prior to the Coral Sea, the Lexington was to be fitted out like her sister ship the Saratoga, however time was short and she was outfitted at Pearl with a combination of 13 28mm quad guns along with around 50 other AA gun positions of varying caliber.

6th Mar 2018, 12:17
Bei Kubo Lekushinton-Go Chinbotsu   
US Carrier Lexington Sinking

Picture by Murakami Shojiro

Thanks, vapilot. I wonder when that was done? Good propaganda. At some point during the war the secret must have leaked out.

6th Mar 2018, 15:31
It's a war grave. Scrap merchants would be prohibited from accessing it, even if it was acccessable.

And the Soviet submarine K-129 wasnít a grave?

Oh, thatís different ...

6th Mar 2018, 16:12
The burial of the bodies found within the recovered bits of that submarine was conducted with a lot more decorum than what was shown by the parties involved in the illegal salvage of the wrecks off Indonesia. See the article in Groundloop's post.

Just my two cents.

Ancient Mariner
6th Mar 2018, 16:55
Dead people don't care much.
Another 2 cents.

6th Mar 2018, 17:28
Regarding the 8" guns, IIRC both the Lexington and the Saratoga were laid down as heavy cruisers, then converted to carrier configuration during construction. Perhaps since they already had the guns, they decided to incorporate them into the carrier.
Besides, prior the Coral Sea battle, there had never been a open sea battle where the opposition ships never came within visual range of each other. Different way of thinking.

6th Mar 2018, 17:47
Dead people don't care much.
Their relatives and those who honor the fallen do.

On a more academic note, US repair capabilities got the Yorktown to Midway where it may well have tilted the battle to the US.

From Wikipedia:More importantly, the Japanese fleet carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku – the former damaged and the latter with a depleted aircraft complement – were unable to participate in the Battle of Midway the following month, while Yorktown did participate, ensuring a rough parity in aircraft between the two adversaries and contributing significantly to the U.S. victory in that battle.

Sadly the US torpedo bombers at Midway achieved little for their valiant sacrifice, except that the Zeros were busy at low level with the torpedo bombers while the dive bombers were undisturbed setting up the attack that took out three Japanese carriers, likely shortening the war by some years.

Besides the loss of carriers, the Japanese left behind in the water a substantial portion of her highly trained pilot force.

Ancient Mariner
6th Mar 2018, 20:09
RatherBeFlying: Their relatives and those who honor the fallen do.

The world's ocean floors are littered with shipwrecks, merchant and navy, with who knows how many casualties.
To recycle the scrap, remove dangerous goods and possible pollutants is a good thing. Not every ship can be a memorial, or a grave.
Seamen knows that.

6th Mar 2018, 21:07
From Wikipedia:

Sadly the US torpedo bombers at Midway achieved little for their valiant sacrifice,

You could say that to ANY service person in any battle who was not there for the main event that finished the war.

Me, I look on it differently as individual sacrifice rarely wins a war, it is collective sacrifice that does. Doesn't mean you shouldn't honour the individual.

6th Mar 2018, 21:26
War graves are different from sunken ships.
They have given all that they could.
Leave them alone.
No amount of profit (and that's all it is - $$$), is a justification.

7th Mar 2018, 06:20
Lexington was sunk by her own crewNot so, the ship was subject to multiple on board explosions forcing evacuation of the crew. Still afloat the destroyer Phelps was given the task of sinking the hulk, which was done with five torpedoes.Hardly a gallant or valiant victory, was itWell, I'd call it one. In all battles there are losses, but they remain part of the team, and this battle our team won.

7th Mar 2018, 12:52
Did you read the linked account, Pitchpoller?

The Lexington was sunk by the US Navy in order to hide its loss from the Imperial Japanese Navy. It was a total loss anyway, so that sinking it prevented the Japanese from possibly discovering it as a smoking wreck and learning of its loss. Hiding its loss must have created some uncertainty on the part of the Japanese in planning future operations, particularly in planning the Battle of Midway.

What's your point, Pitchpoller? Do you only respect the winning side in some battle, as if war were primarily a game?

The Battle of the Coral Sea was not a resounding victory for the US Navy; we lost the Lexington and they lost the Shoho so that in terms of major ships it was 50:50. Otherwise it was a tactical defeat for the US Navy. That said, the Japanese lost many more trained aircrew, without our system of replacing them quickly. (Most of the aircrew from the Lexington were rescued, although their ship and most of their aircraft were lost.) In that way the Battle of the Coral Sea did result in the crippling of Japanese carrier strength, when the following Battle of Midway pretty well finished it off.

The interesting thing to me is the way that we tend to look at the War in the Pacific backwards, knowing that it ended with the crushing defeat of the IJN. For those guys who fought the Battle of the Coral Sea there was no such happy end assured.

If you like battles, Pitchpoller, read up on the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. I had an uncle in that one as the skipper on a PT boat, when he must have slaughtered hundreds of helpless Japs after their transports were sunk. Now there was a victory! If you like that sort of thing ....

7th Mar 2018, 15:23
Pitchpoller, you are invited to google up The USS Lexington, CV-16 (https://usslexington.com/), aka The Blue Ghost.

7th Mar 2018, 19:41
Hiding its loss must have created some uncertainty on the part of the Japanese in planning future operations, particularly in planning the Battle of Midway.

IJN thought they had sunk both Lexington and Yorktown, which wasn't the case and getting Yorktown repaired for Midway where she was sunk was was turned it.

On Wiki point, regarding the Torpedo Bombers, I have read circa 10 years ago of how Navy War College had reprogrammed Torpedo Bombers arriving just prior to dive Bombers and time and again that scenario failed.

It was a combination of luck and judgement that was needed to win.

I don't know what went through the minds of the Torpedo Bomber crews as they took off, being a hero and dead I doubt was one of them.

Effectively ending the war which is ultimately what they did, even though there were thousands of battles still to be fought was what they achieved.

7th Mar 2018, 20:44
Chuks, although the US suffered heavier loses than the Japanese, the Battle of Coral Sea was largely considered to be a strategic victory for the US because it caused the Japanese to turn around and abandon their plans to invade/occupy Port Moresby.
It was the first time in the war that the Japanese had failed to achieve their objective.

8th Mar 2018, 03:50
U.S. Torpedo Troubles During World War II | HistoryNet (http://www.historynet.com/us-torpedo-troubles-during-world-war-ii.htm)

Battling the bureaucracy was in some ways more difficult than the enemy - a problem that manifests itself to the present day in many venues in business and government as well as military.

There seems to have been only one air launched US torpedo that detonated on target at Midway.

Damage control on the Yorktown succeeded in getting it back up to speed - which then made it back into a seemingly worthwhile target for the next Japanese attack - and spared the Enterprise and Hornet from their attentions.