USS LEXINGTON CV 16
The fifth USS Lexington (CV 16) was laid down as Cabot July 15, 1941 by Bethlehem Steel Co., Quincy, Mass., renamed Lexington June 16, 1942, launched September 23, 1942; sponsored by Mrs. Theodore D. Robinson; and commissioned February 17, 1943, Capt. Felix B. Stump in command.
After Caribbean shakedown and yard work at Boston, USS Lexington sailed for Pacific action via the Panama Canal, arriving Pearl Harbor August 9, 1943. She raided Tarawa in late September and Wake in October, then returned Pearl Harbor to prepare for the Gilbert Islands operation. From November 19 to 24th she made searches and flew sorties in the Marshalls, covering the landings in the Gilberts. Her aviators downed 29 enemy aircraft on November 23 and 24.
Lexington sailed to raid Kwajalein December 4, 1943. Her morning strike destroyed a cargo ship, damaged two cruisers, and accounted for 30 enemy aircraft. Her gunners splashed two of the enemy torpedo planes that attacked at midday, and opened fire again at 1920 that night when a mayor air attack began. At 2322 parachute flares silhouetted the carrier, and 10 minutes later she was hit by a torpedo to starboard, knocking out her steering gear. Settling five feet by the stern, the carrier began circling to port amidst dense clouds of smoke pouring from ruptured tanks aft. An emergency hand-operated steering unit was quickly devised, and USS Lexington (CV 16) made Pearl Harbor for emergency repairs, arriving December 9. She reached Bremerton, Wash., December 22 for full repairs completed February 20, 1944.
USS Lexington sailed via Alameda, Calif., and Pearl Harbor for Majuro, where Rear Adm. Marc Mitscher commanding TF 58 broke his flag in her March 8th. After a warm-up strike against Mille, TF 58 operated against the major centers of resistance in Japan's outer empire, supporting the Army landing at Hollandia April 13, and hitting supposedly invulnerable Truk April 28. Heavy counterattack left Lexington untouched, her planes splashing 17 enemy fighters; but, for the second time, Japanese propaganda announced her sunk.
A surprise fighter strike on Saipan June 11th virtually eliminated all air opposition over the island, then battered from the air for the next five days. On June 16, 1944, USS Lexington (CV 16) fought off a fierce attack by Japanese torpedo planes based on Guam, once a gain to emerge unhurt, but sunk a third time by propaganda pronouncements. As Japanese opposition to the Mariannas operation provoked the Battle of the Philippine Sea June 19 and 20, Lexington played a mayor role in TF 58's great victory. With over 300 enemy aircraft destroyed the first day, and a carrier, a tanker, and a destroyer sunk the second day, American aviators virtually knocked Japanese naval aviation out of the war; for with the planes went the trained and experienced pilots without whom Japan could not continue air warfare at sea.
Using Eniwetok as her base, USS Lexington flew sorties over Guam and against the Palaus and Bonins into August. She arrived in the Carolinas September 6 for three days of strikes against Yap and Ulithi, then began attacks on Mindanao, the Visayas, the Manila area, and shipping along the west coast of Luzon, preparing for the coming assault on Leyte. Her task force then blasted Okinawa October 10 and Formosa two days later to destroy bases from which opposition to the Philippines campaign might be launched. She was again unscathed through the air battle fought after the Formosa assault.
Now covering the Leyte landings, Lexington's planes scored importantly in the Battle for Leyte Gulf, the climactic American naval victory over Japan. While the carrier came under constant enemy attack in the engagement in which USS Princeton (CVL 23) was sunk, her planes joined in sinking Japan's superbattleship Musashi and scored hits on three cruisers October 24, 1944. Next day, with Essex aircraft, they sank carrier Chitose, and alone sank Zuikako. Later in the day, they aided in sinking a third carrier, Zuiho. As the retiring Japanese were pursued, her planes sank heavy cruiser Nachi with four torpedo hits November 5th off Luzon.
But in the same action, she was introduced to the kamikaze as a flaming Japanese plane crashed near her island, destroying most of the island structure and spraying fire in all directions. Within 20 minutes mayor blazes were under control, and she was able to continue normal flight actions, her guns knocking down a would-be kamikaze heading for the carrier USS Ticonderoga (CV 14) as well. On November 9 USS Lexington (CV 16) arrived Ulithi to repair battle damage and learn that Tokyo once again claimed her destroyed.
Chosen flagship for TG 58.2 on December 11, she struck at the airfields of Luzon and Formosa during the first 9 days of January 1945, encountering little enemy opposition. The task force then entered the China Sea to strike enemy shipping and air installations. Strikes were flown against Saipan, Camranh Bay in then Indochina, Hong Kong, the Pescadores, and Formosa. Task force planes sank four merchant ships and four escorts in one convoy and destroyed at least 12 in another, at Camranh Bay January 12. Leaving the China Sea January 20, Lexington sailed north to strike Formosa again 21st and Okinawa again 22nd.
After replenishing at Ulithi, TG 58.2 sailed February 10 to hit airfields near Tokyo 16th and 17th to minimize opposition to the Iwo Jima landings February 19. The aircraft carrier flew close support for the assaulting troops February 19-22, then sailed for further strikes against the Japanese home islands and the Nansei Shoto before heading for overhaul at Puget Sound
USS Lexington (CV 16) was combat bound again May 22, sailing via Alameda and Pearl Harbor for San Pedro Bay, Leyte, where she joined Rear Adm. T. L. Sprague's task force for the final round of airstrikes which battered the Japanese home islands through July until August 15th, when the last strike was ordered to jettison its bombs and return to Lexington on receiving word of Japanese surrender. During this period she had launched attacks on Honshu and Hokkaido airfields, and Yokosuka and Kure naval bases to destroy the remnants of the Japanese fleet. She had also flown bombing attacks on industrial targets in the Tokyo area. After hostilities ended, she continued to fly precautionary patrols over Japan, and dropped supplies to prisoner of war camps on Honshu. She supported the occupation of Japan until leaving Tokyo Bay December 3, 1945 with homeward bound veterans for transportation to San Francisco, where she arrived December 16th.
After west coast operations, USS Lexington decommissioned at Bremerton, Wash., April 23, 1947 and entered the Reserve Fleet there. Designated attack carrier CVA 16 on October 1, 1952, she began conversion and modernization in Puget Sound Naval Shipyard September 1, 1953, receiving the new angled flight deck.
USS Lexington recommissioned August 15, 1955, Capt. A. S. Heyward, Jr., in command. Assigned San Diego as her home port, she operated off California until May 1956 sailing then for a six-month deployment with the 7th Fleet. She based on Yokosuka for exercises, maneuvers, and search and rescue missions off the coast of China, and called at major Far Eastern ports until returning San Diego December 20. She next trained Air Group 12, which deployed with her on the next 7th Fleet deployment. Arriving Yokosuka June 1, 1957, Lexington embarked Rear Adm. H. D. Riley, Commander Carrier Division 1, and sailed as his flagship until returning San Diego October 17.
Following overhaul at Bremerton, her refresher training was interrupted by the Lebanon crisis. On July 14, 1958, she was ordered to embark Air Group 21 at San Francisco and sail to reinforce the 7th Fleet off Taiwan, arriving on station August 7th. With another peacekeeping mission of the U.S. Navy successfully accomplished, she returned San Diego December 19th. Now the first carrier whose planes were armed with air-to-surface Bullpup guided missile, USS Lexington (CVA 16) left San Francisco April 26, 1959 for another tour of duty with the 7th Fleet. She was on standby alert during the Laotian crisis of late August and September, then exercised with British forces before sailing from Yokosuka November 16 for San Diego, arriving December 2nd. Through early 1960 she overhauled at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
Lexington's next Far Eastern tour began late in 1960 and was extended well into 1961 by renewed tension in Laos. Returning to west coast operations, she was ordered in January 1962 to prepare to relieve USS Antietam (CVS 36) as aviation training carrier in the Gulf of Mexico, and she was redesignated CVS 16 on October 1, 1962. However, during the Cuban missile crisis, she resumed duty as an attack carrier, and it was not until December 29, 1963 that she relieved Antietam at Pensacola.
USS Lexington (CVS 16) operated out of her homeport, Pensacola, as well as Corpus Christi and New Orleans, qualifying student aviators and maintaining the high state of training of both active duty and reserve naval aviators. Lexington marked her 200,000th arrested landing October 17, 1967, and was redesignated CVT 16 on January 1, 1969.
October 29, 1989 A pilot making his first touch-and-go attempt aboard the USS Lexington crashes onto the flight deck, killing five and injuring 19 crewmembers.
She continued as a training carrier for the next 22 years until decommissioned November 8, 1991. On June 15, 1992, the ship was donated as a museum and now operates as such in Corpus Christi, TX.