The aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2) was struck by multiple Japanese torpedoes and bombs on May 8, 1942, during the Battle of the Coral Sea, but it wasn’t until a secondary explosion crippled the vessel that the ship’s commanding officer gave the call to abandon ship.
More than 200 Lexington sailors were killed in the fight, which marked the first ever carrier vs. carrier battle — one that dealt the imperial forces of Emperor Hirohito their first major blow of World War II.
Nearby U.S. ships rescued 2,770 of the carrier’s remaining sailors, to include the captain’s dog, Wags.
Once evacuated, the Lexington, affectionately known as “Lady Lex,” was torpedoed by the USS Phelps to prevent her capture, slipping below the water, lost to history — until this past Sunday.
That’s when the expedition crew of Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel, led by Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder and Seattle Seahawks owner, located the wreck 3,000 meters — or about two miles — beneath the surface.
The ship went down about 500 miles off the coast of Australia with 35 aircraft on board, one of which can be seen in the video footage released Monday.
“To pay tribute to the USS Lexington and the brave men that served on her is an honor,” said Paul Allen on his website. “As Americans, all of us owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who served and who continue to serve our country for their courage, persistence and sacrifice.”
In August, an Allen-led R/V Petrel expedition discovered the wreck of the USS Indianapolis, which remains the Navy’s single worst loss at sea, nearly 5,500 meters below the surface.
Nearly 900 crew were killed after the Indianapolis was struck by Japanese torpedoes — many by sharks. Of the 1,196 sailors and Marines on board, only 316 came out of the water.
“As we look back on our Navy throughout its history, we see evidence of an incredible amount of heroism and sacrifice. The actions of sailors from our past inspire us today,” Sam Cox, director of the Naval History and Heritage Command, told editors of Paul Allen’s site.
“So many ships, so many battles, so many acts of valor help inform what we do now.”
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.