Stunning Wreck Of Missing WW2 Aircraft Carrier USS Lexington Discovered By Microsoft Co-Founder

A WW2 US aircraft, complete with Felix the Cat motif. PAUL ALLEN/Vulcan Inc

The USS Lexington, one of the first US aircraft carriers ever built, sunk during a heated World War II battle against the Japanese Navy. After laying 3,000 meters (about 2 miles) beneath the waves for over 75 years, researchers have discovered its final resting place.

Paul Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, and a team of deep-sea explorers found the ship’s wreckage in the Coral Sea off the eastern coast of Australia on March 4, 2018. There’s also some rather specular footage of the wreck, showing the aged remains of anti-aircraft guns and airplanes. It’s even possible to see a cartoon of Felix the Cat painted on the side of one of the planes.

The USS Lexington, nicknamed “Lady Lex,” was lost during the Battle of the Coral Sea (May 4-8, 1942) against three Japanese aircraft carriers – making it the first carrier versus carrier battle ever. Blasted by a series of bombs and multiple torpedoes, it succumbed to critical damage and was subsequently scuttled, with at least 35 aircraft and 216 of her crew lost, while the remaining 2,700 crewmembers were rescued. The battle also saw the loss of the USS Sims and USS Neosho, as well as the Japanese ship Shōhō.

“As the son of a survivor of the USS Lexington, I offer my congratulations to Paul Allen and the expedition crew of Research Vessel Petrel for locating the “Lady Lex,” sunk nearly 76 years ago at the Battle of Coral Sea,” Navy Admiral Harry B Harris Jr., head of the US Pacific Command, said in a statement. 

“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." 

The wreck was discovered by the R/V Petrel, a 76-meter (250-foot) research vessel owned by Allen. The ship had recently been fitted with some cutting-edge subsea equipment capable of diving to 6,000 meters (~3.5 miles).

Allen and his team are no strangers to hunting down World War II shipwrecks. After all, wouldn’t you do the same if you were worth $21 billion? So far, his adventures have helped find the final resting place of the USS Indianapolis, the wreck of the Japanese battleship Musashi, and the Italian WWII destroyer Artigliere, to name just a few. Nevertheless, the discovery of Lady Lex has been a particularly proud moment for the team.

“Lexington was on our priority list because she was one of the capital ships that was lost during WWII,” said Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Allen. “Based on geography, time of year and other factors, I work with Paul Allen to determine what missions to pursue. We’ve been planning to locate the Lexington for about six months and it came together nicely.”

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