This May marks 80 years since the Battle of The Coral Sea, May 4 - May 8, 1942. Fought in the waters southwest of the Solomon Islands, it was the first of the Pacific War’s six battles between opposing aircraft carriers. Battle of The Coral Sea was the first significant U.S. Naval action against Japan after declaring war on December 7, 1941. It was also the first naval engagement in history in which neither side’s ships fired directly at each other; the battle was a combination of naval and air forces. The battle was a strategic victory for the United States armed forces, as it thwarted Japanese plans to capture Port Moresby. The Japanese goal was to secure Port Moresby and establish an airbase, enlarging their footprint in the South Pacific and posing a greater risk to Australia.
Allied forces lost roughly 543 sailors and airmen, while the Japanese lost upwards of 1,000 of their men. The Japanese lost one destroyer, and a few of their other ships received enough damage that they could not participate in Midway a few weeks later. Allied forces also lost a destroyer, an oiler, and a carrier–the USS Lexington.
The USS Lexington (CV-2) was lost in the Battle of the Coral Sea, but her legacy continued and eventually earned her the nickname of “The Blue Ghost.” Lady Lex was launched in 1925 and named after the Battle of Lexington in 1775. She was initially designed as a battlecruiser but converted to one of the U.S. Navy’s first aircraft carriers to comply with the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922.
In 1942, an Essex class aircraft carrier (CV-16) was in the final construction phase at Massachuettes’ Fore River Shipyard and slated to be named the USS Cabot. However, upon hearing the news of the USS Lexington’s fate at the Coral Sea, the new aircraft carrier was
renamed the USS Lexington. Launched in 1943, the USS Lexington set more records than any other Essex class aircraft carrier. The Japenese had reported the USS Lexington sunk at least four different times, each time she returned to duty, earning her the nickname “The Blue Ghost” from Tokoyo Rose.
During WWII, the USS Lexington participated in almost all major operations in the Pacific War, spending 21 months in combat. She was the oldest working carrier in the U.S. Navy when decommissioned in 1991. The Blue Ghost resides in the waters outside of Corpus Christi, Texas.
I had the privilege to tour the USS Lexington in 2017 while attending a military conference. It serves as a museum and is open to visitors for various tours; it was an incredible experience. They honor the original USS Lexington and the Battle of the Coral Sea while showing visitors what life is like on an aircraft carrier. The self-guided tour includes several ship levels where you see sleeping quarters, barbershop, dentist, church, etc. Of course, the deck is lined with incredible aircraft, giving you a sense of how she would have looked while in operation in the open waters.
I quickly learned I was not cut out for the navy; the more into the ship I went, the more anxious I got! I developed a newfound respect for our Navy and sailors. The stairs and ledges between openings are no joke, not to mention the lack of windows. Visiting the USS Lexington was one of my favorite experiences.
There have been five U.S. Naval vessels named Lexington. Three of which predate the Civil War, one which was a patrol vessel circa WWI, then the two aircraft carriers. At the Lexington Visitor Center in Lexington, MA, they have markers honoring all of our "Lady Lex."
Find more information and plan your visit to the USS Lexington: https://usslexington.com/