Located in Corpus Christi, Texas, the aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-16) participated in almost every major World War II naval campaign in the Pacific from 1943 to 1945. The ship was a highly decorated warship, receiving numerous citations acknowledging her exemplary service. As an Essex-class carrier, Lexington is also important for illustrating the development of aircraft carrier design, the refinement of multi-carrier operations, and the integration of aviation as a primary strike weapon in naval strategy. As early as 1910, the U.S. Navy, recognizing the potential value that flight would have in naval operations, appointed non-flyer Captain Washington Irving Chambers to keep informed of developments in aviation. Chambers worked closely with Glenn Curtiss, aircraft manufacturer Eugene Fly (an associate of Curtiss) and Lieutenant T.G. Ellyson, the first naval aviator (trained in aviation by Curtiss at no cost to the government) to demonstrate the advantages of aviation to the Navy. Although naval aviation was utilized during World War I, aircraft assigned to warships generally provided only reconnaissance support for the fleet.
Prior to World War II, the Navy had no practical battle experience for its carriers. It was in the Pacific Theater that aircraft carrier operations were developed and refined. Serving as mobile air bases, carriers could maneuver aircraft around the open waters and scattered island chains of the Pacific. By employing a combination of scouting, fighter or bomber aircraft to control the enemy's air power, groups of carriers, screened by surface ships, could open the way for island invasions, cover and support amphibious operations, and help to hold the conquered areas. Thus carriers became an integral compound of nearly every campaign throughout the Pacific War. With aircraft that extended the fleet's firepower beyond the range of large caliber battleship guns, the carrier's status was elevated from reconnaissance platform to that of major surface combatant.
USS Lexington (CV-16) was launched in 1942 as a welded, steel hull, Essex-class aircraft carrier with an overall length of 872 feet and a length along the waterline of 820 feet. Lexington had hangar deck capacity for 103 aircraft. Lexington's first air group (AG-16), consisted of 89 aircraft that included 32 F6f-3 Hellcat fighters, 35 SBD-5 Dauntless dive-bombers and 18 TBF-1 Avenger torpedo bombers. On November 26, 1991 Lexington was decommissioned. After making the successful bid to preserve, display and interpret Lexington, the city of Corpus Christi, Texas prepared a new life for the carrier as a museum ship.
The USS Lexington, a National Historic Landmark, is now the USS Lexington Museum on the Bay, located in Corpus Christi Bay at 2914 N. Shoreline Blvd., just off Hwy. 181, in Corpus Christi, Texas. The museum is open daily, 9:00am to 5:00pm; from Memorial Day-Labor Day is it open until 6:00pm; closed Christmas Day. There is a fee; please call 361-888-4873 or visit the museum's website for further information.
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