USS Lexington Finally Found After 76 Years

Published March 6, 2018
Updated February 27, 2024

The USS Lexington was sunk during a battle with the Japanse Navy during WWII. Now, after missing for 76 years, a team of explorers has discovered it.

The USS Lexington, nicknamed “Lady Lex,” was one of the first U.S aircraft carriers ever built. The carrier was sunk during World War II‘s Battle of the Coral Sea in an intense assault against three Japanese aircraft carriers in May of 1942 and had remained missing ever since. That is, until now.

On March 4, 2018, a team of deep-sea explorers led by Microsoft’s co-founder, Paul Allen, uncovered vessel that has been missing for 76 years. It was found off the eastern coast of Australia at the bottom of the Coral Sea, nearly two miles below the surface of the water. The crew used a R/V Petrel, a 250-foot research vessel, to locate the wreckage.

Allen’s company, Vulcan Inc., funded the expedition. In a statement on behalf of the company, Director of Subsea Operations Robert Kraft said, “Lexington was on our priority list because she was one of the capital ships that was lost during World War II.”

Footage of the discovered wreckage was recorded and is fascinating to look at. The footage also captured some remarkable finds including the remains of anti-aircraft guns and airplanes. A striking detail is a preserved painting of the cartoon Felix the Cat on the side of one of the planes.

USS Lexington Wreckage

Paul AllenUnderwater shot of Lady Lex plane wreckage.

The Battle of the Coral Sea was notable for several reasons. Firstly, it took place just one month before the Battle of Midway, which was considered a turning point in the Pacific war after the U.S. Navy took Japanese forces by surprise.

The battle also instituted a new form of naval warfare in which carrier-based airplanes took center stage. It was the first in history where opposing ships never came within sight of one another.

When “Lady Lex” sunk, 216 of its crew members were lost as well. Naval Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr. is the current head of the U.S Pacific Command and has a special connecting to the USS Lexington.

“As the son of a survivor of the USS Lexington, I offer my congratulations to Paul Allen and the expedition crew,” Harris said, adding, “We honor the valor and sacrifice of the ‘Lady Lex’s’ sailors — all those Americans who fought in World War II — by continuing to secure the freedoms they won for all of us.”

If you found the discovery of the USS Lexington interesting, you may enjoy reading about the 5 Japanese warships that were discovered from the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Then watch divers recover American remains at a World War II crash site.

Kara Goldfarb
Kara Goldfarb is a writer living in New York City who holds a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Ithaca College and hosts a podcast for Puna Press.
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Goldfarb, Kara. "USS Lexington Finally Found After 76 Years.", March 6, 2018, Accessed May 28, 2024.