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The USS Lexington: The Oldest Working Carrier in the Navy

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
May 21, 2024 3:00 am

The USS Lexington: The Oldest Working Carrier in the Navy

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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May 21, 2024 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, our regular contributor, Anne Clare, tells the story of a unique aircraft carrier, the USS Lexington.

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I'm Katja Adler, host of The Global Story. Over the last 25 years I've covered conflicts in the Middle East, political and economic crises in Europe, drug cartels in Mexico. Now I'm covering the stories behind the news all over the world in conversation with those who break it. Join me Monday to Friday to find out what's happening, why and what it all means.

Follow The Global Story from the BBC wherever you listen to podcasts. Hello, it is Ryan and I was on a flight the other day playing one of my favorite social spin slot games on ChumbaCasino.com. I looked over the person sitting next to me and you know what they were doing? They were also playing Chumba Casino. Coincidence?

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So sign up now at ChumbaCasino.com to claim your free welcome bonus at ChumbaCasino.com and live the Chumba life. This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories, the show where America is the star and the American people. The USS Lexington was the first aircraft carrier to deploy air to surface missiles, and it sailed enough miles to circle the globe eight times. Standing as tall as a 19 story building, there's much more to this warship. Here's our regular contributor Anne Claire with a story. I was in elementary school when I saw my first aircraft carrier.

My family and I had gone to visit my aunt and uncle in South Carolina. My uncle had retired from the Navy and was working at Patriots Point, where there are a number of US naval vessels that are now museums. He took us up onto the flight deck of the USS Yorktown.

This would be the Yorktown not that was sunk at Midway, but the one that was named after it that served at the end of World War Two. And I just recall standing on that enormous flight deck and just being in awe and kind of fascinated by these huge ships that were just so unique. As an adult moving to the Pacific Northwest, I ended up with the opportunity to see a few more aircraft carriers, though those ones, the ones I've seen out here are not museums, they're still sailing, which is even more impressive.

They're just really interesting ships. As I was doing some reading in history recently, though, about some of the very first aircraft carriers in the United States Navy, I was impressed not so much by size or uniqueness, but by their versatility, especially when I got into the story of the USS Lexington. The USS Lexington was the fourth US ship to bear that name, the name of the place where the American Revolution started, Lexington. It was also the second aircraft carrier produced by the United States. However, at first it wasn't supposed to be an aircraft carrier. The Lexington was laid down in 1921 in Quincy, Massachusetts as a battle cruiser. In 1922, they switched gears and converted her into an aircraft carrier, the second one, as I said, following the Langley, which was also converted from a different type of ship. The Lady Lex was launched in 1925 and commissioned in 1927, and along with the Saratoga, which was the following aircraft carrier, the third one, the Lexington was sent to operate in the Pacific Ocean.

Now, while the Lexington was a ship with capabilities for war, Lady Lex also served in some unique ways during peacetime. She started out as a battle cruiser, changed to an aircraft carrier, and then, when need arose, became a temporary power plant. In 1929, the US stock market crashed and the Great Depression began, and on top of the economic disaster, the city of Tacoma, Washington faced a serious power shortage. The city depended on hydroelectric power from Lake Cushman and the Nisqually River, but unfortunately, on top of all the other troubles in the world, unusual cold weather and a drought the previous fall meant that there simply wasn't enough buildup of water behind the dams to power the city. So, as they sought for a solution, they found it in the Lexington.

They brought in an aircraft carrier, of all things. On December 15, 1921, the Lexington was hooked up at Tacoma's Baker Dock to the city's electrical grid, and for 12 hours each day, the Lexington generated and transmitted about 20,000 kilowatts of power. This went on for quite some time, the calendar page turned, and the Lexington was still there until January.

But, by January 16, 1930, enough water had built up behind the dams to serve Tacoma's needs again, and the crisis was averted. The Lexington was able to return to her regular duties. Now, the following year, the Lexington was actually called upon for another mission of mercy, transporting disaster relief, supplies, and personnel to the aftermath of a terrible earthquake and fire in Managua, Nicaragua. Of course, peacetime missions weren't the only missions that the Lexington had to be involved in. On December 7, 1941, fortunately, the Lexington was not in Pearl Harbor. Along with other aircrafts, she was out to sea. At this time, the Lexington was busy transporting marine planes to Midway Island. But, once America entered World War II, the Lexington became involved as well.

In 1942, Admiral Nimitz sent the aircraft carriers USS Yorktown and USS Lexington, along with several American and Australian cruisers, to meet a Japanese fleet, including three aircraft carriers in the Coral Sea. Now, the Lexington suffered multiple hits in the ensuing battle. The crew worked furiously to repair the Lady Lex and put out the fires burning within her.

For a while, it appeared they were succeeding. But, 12 minutes after the ship's log reported that all of the fires below decks were put out, the following entry was logged, and I quote, Heavy explosion felt, which vented up forward bomb elevator, lost communication with central station. More explosions ended up shaking the Lexington, and the systems failed and new fires blazed.

In spite of all of the crew's efforts, in the end, the Lexington was abandoned and scuttled there. There she rested undisturbed until remains were rediscovered in 2018. And a beautiful job on the production by Madison Derricotte. And a special thanks to Anne Claire for sharing with us the story of the USS Lexington, otherwise known as Lady Lex. And Lady Lex saw action in the Coral Sea. But Lady Lex also helped in other ways, becoming a power plant for the city of Tacoma, and also providing relief to the people of Nicaragua after a natural disaster. Luckily for Lady Lex, she was not in Pearl Harbor in 1941.

She was busily transporting planes to Midway Island. The story of Lady Lex here on Our American Stories. Lee Habib here, the host of Our American Stories. Every day on this show, we're bringing inspiring stories from across this great country.

Stories from our big cities and small towns. But we truly can't do the show without you. Our stories are free to listen to, but they're not free to make. If you love what you hear, go to our American stories dot com and click the donate button.

Give a little, give a lot. Go to our American stories dot com and give. I'm Katja Adler, host of The Global Story. Over the last 25 years, I've covered conflicts in the Middle East, political and economic crises in Europe, drug cartels in Mexico. Now, I'm covering the stories behind the news all over the world in conversation with those who break it. Join me Monday to Friday to find out what's happening, why and what it all means. Follow The Global Story from the BBC wherever you listen to podcasts. I'm Katja Adler, host of Our American Stories, and we'll see you next time. Sign up, no accounts, no hassle. So what are you waiting for? Start streaming at play.xumo.com or download from the app and Google Play stores today. All you can stream with Xumo Play.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-21 04:18:26 / 2024-05-21 04:22:10 / 4

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