The next day we went to see the USS Lexington. This ship is one in a series of ships with that name. The CV-2 "Lady Lex" was operating until 1942. This one is CV-16 "The Blue Ghost", which picked up where the CV-2 left off. It earned it's nickname because it was reported sunk 4 times but kept showing back up. The Lexington was torpedoed on December 4th, 1943 killing 9 men, not all of whom were found. The first thing we learned, even before we boarded the ship, was that in 1944 a Japanese Kamikaze plane crashed into the tower, killing 49 crew members and injuring another 132. Inside on one of the lower decks is a translation of a Japanese newspaper's report of the incident.
We entered the ship on the main deck, where several displays were set up, including one about the medal of honor recipient Edward Hall. And the original ships bell is on display, a beautiful brass thing weighting 1,100 pounds.
A landing trainer created from an A7-E Corsair II cockpit shows the technology of the times, both in the cockpit and in the computer.
I learned that a Japanese Hot Air Balloon (aka Fu-Go bomb) killed a teacher, her minister husband, and 5 teenagers near Bly, Oregon.
I learned that the president of Coca-Cola made sure that wherever our troops went, they had Coke available. General Eisenhower actually insisted his men have it, so plants were started in France and Germany.
They have a 1952 Jeep on display, which was created by the Willys-Overland Auto Company for our military. These are a lot more stripped-down than our current models. And they have a uniform from the 1943 Racine Bells, All-American Girls Professional Baseball League team made famous by "League of Their Own".
Some of the ropes the guys had to work with are huge; how difficult it must have been to do anything with this?But of course they did. And there are displays of some of the beautiful, creative knots that sailors made with smaller ropes.
The stairs between floors are really steep, with narrow treads. The doorways are rounded, and we have to step over the thresholds.
One big room is dedicated to Pearl Harbor. This room included some of the capstans and anchor chains, which are simply huge.
The junior officer quarters were pretty small; 6 bunks to a section. The general quarters were pretty much the same, except that they were in a larger room which held a lot more bunks. The bottom bunk could flip up, giving access to shallow drawers beneath it. Like an RV, they used whatever storage they could find. What looks like Kleenex boxes were cubbyholes that held "emergency escape breathing devices".
We went next to the Bridge, which looks very dated now.
But the brass fixtures there, like this EOT (engine order telegraph), still look great.
Outside the bridge is the Flag Bag. That's pretty much what it sounds like - a locker with all the flags that are used for semaphore messaging.
We went out on the Flight Deck next. There are a couple of big 5" 38 caliber guns mounted there.
The small internal compartment, which now only 4 people can occupy, was, in its day, filled with 4 tons of equipment and 11 men.
Out on the deck are several really beautiful planes.
I especially liked the planes with the wings that fold up, like the F9F-8T Cougar. How do these things work?They also have an AH-IS Cobra helicopter, and a Blue Angel FA 18 Hornet. The Hornet doesn't seem to belong here, but at one time the Blue Angels were based in Corpus Christi, so they probably just want it here.
From the plaques on the deck I learned about "Rogue Waves", large, spontaneous surface waves that can be over 90 feet tall. It wasn't until 1995 that one was officially identified; before that they were the stuff of legend (or nightmares).
On the other side of the tower were a couple of big Quad 40mm guns.
We left the flight deck and went through the lower levels. The Air Operations room is deep inside the ship. This was where they kept track of flight schedules, launches, returns and all traffic, without being able to see anything outside. Here we also found barber shops, machine shops, chapel, medical rooms, mess hall and kitchen, which included an empty, formal place setting as a memorial for POW/MIA victims.
I learned that according to International Law, nations have to declare when they mine an area, to save the civilian ships. But even when nations cooperated, there were loopholes. Britain, for example, simply declared it had mined the English Channel, North Sea, and French Coast, and didn't worry about the specifics. Nobody, of course, goes back and picks up their mines. The stats are that in the last 10 years, 75% of damage to US Navy ships came from mines, two of which were left over from WWI.
Another room holds information and relics of the USS Houston, which disappeared and was thought to be lost for over 3 years. After the war, 289 men returned home, with horrible stories about their treatment as POWs. 79 of the crew had died, some working on the famous Bridge over the River Kwai.
One big room holds detailed models of airplanes and ships, from the bi-plans of 1940 through the Stealth Bomber. A full model of the USS Arizona is on display, too, including a small plane on its upper deck. Of special interest to us were the F-15 and Apache, which Randy worked on at Boeing.
We had lunch on the ship and continued looking around at the displays until almost closing time. This is a great memorial ship; it's not as complete as the USS Midway, but they are in the process of improving and adding to the sections open to the public, so it should only get better.