The Death of a Lady: The USS Lexington (CV-2) at the Battle of the Coral Sea, Part II: Photographs

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park.

The previous post described the Battle of the Coral Sea, included a transcript of portions of the log of the USS Lexington describing the action on May 8 1942, and included images of the entire log for that day.

The following photographs were taken by unidentified Navy photographers during the May 8 action.  They provide a graphic portrayal of the events described in the Log.

Lexington.Photo.1.FINAL

The USS Lexington after the initial torpedo hits. You can see a Japanese torpedo plane approaching from the left. The smoke and spay on the water behind the plane is from anti-aircraft fire.

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Not all the Japanese planes succeeded in getting through to their targets.

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Deck of the Lexington sometime after 1400 hours by which time all planes had been landed.

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The #2 gun position after a bomb hit. When this picture was taken the resulting fire had been extinguished.

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About 1600 hours. Excess personnel are disembarking in boats and to life rafts. Alongside in the smoke is the USS Morris taking off sick and wounded.

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Boats with excess crew and wounded moving away from the Lexington.

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Crew leaving the Lexington. USS Morris taking off sick and wounded on the starboard side and USS Anderson (?) taking off crew from port side.

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Excess crew leaving the ship. A small explosion has just taken place amidships.

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A big explosion at about 1737 hours. Debris can be seen hitting the water.

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The Lexington burning after the 1737 hours explosion.

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Lexington after all hands had abandoned ship. Fires on deck and in superstructure.

In his battle report, Captain Sherman wrote:

The picture of the burning and doomed ship was a magnificent but sad sight.  The ship and crew had performed gloriously and it seemed too bad that she had to perish in her hour of victory. But she went to a glorious end, more fitting than the usual fate of the eventual scrap heap or succumbing to the perils of the sea.  She went down in battle, after a glorious victory for our forces in which the LEXINGTON and her air group played so conspicuous a part.

Despite the damage suffered by the Lexington, only about 216 of her crew died; about 2735 survived.  All losses were the result of air combat of the air group or torpedo and bomb hits and fire on board; no member of the crew drowned during evacuation of the ship.

NEXT: Battle Report


Source: The photographs are enclosures to LEXINGTON, Serial 0100, May 15, 1942, World War II Action and Operational Reports (NAID 305236), Record Group 38: Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.

 

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