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Lexington-class aircraft carrier (Alternity)

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The Lexington-class aircraft carriers were a trio of carriers operated by the US Navy from 1926 to 1946. Originally designed as a class of six battlecruisers following WWI, growing interest in naval aviation, and the abortive Washington Naval Treaty of 1921 compelled planners to come up with a design for the USN's first fleet carriers. Three of the ships - Lexington, Saratoga, and Constitution (renamed Concord) were converted to carriers based on this design.

For the fifteen years leading up to World War II, the three ships served as training platforms for aspiring Navy pilots and proved their worth to the Navy, who proceeded to order a class of four purpose-built fleet carriers (the Yorktown class) on top of the Nova Scotia-class conversion Lake Erie. Class leader Lexington was one of the three US carriers present at the first carrier battle in history (the Battle of the Coral Sea), and served clear through to the end of the war. She was converted to a museum in Boston Harbor in 1951. Saratoga twice survived torpedo attacks, and likewise served through to war's end; she was decommissioned post-war and sunk by the Operation Crossroads nuclear tests in the South Pacific in 1947. Third and final of the class, Concord was crippled by Japanese carrier aircraft in the Battle of the Coral Sea on May 8, 1942, and was later scuttled by an American destroyer to prevent her capture.

Ships

  • USS Lexington (CV-1) – Converted to a museum ship in Boston Harbor, 1951.
  • USS Saratoga (CV-2) – Sunk in the Operation Crossroads nuclear tests in the South Pacific, 1947.
  • USS Concord (CV-3) – Laid down at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on September 25, 1920 as Constitution (BC-5), her construction was halted in late 1921 in anticipation of the Washington Naval Treaty, which ultimately failed due to an excessive amount of squabbling among the various delegates. However, Navy planners saw a few positive outcomes of the Treaty's failure, namely their idea of converting a number of battlecruisers into fleet carriers. Constitution was one of those selected for this conversion, along with Lexington and Saratoga, in early 1922. She was renamed Concord and received the designation CV-3 that spring and full carrier conversion was soon underway. She was launched August 17, 1924, and commissioned just over two years later, following extensive sea trials. Her pre-war service was rather uneventful, but on the morning of December 7, 1941, that all changed. A few days following the attack, Concord was deployed along with Lexington to attack Japanese positions in the Marshall Islands as a diversion, in the abortive attempt to relieve Wake Island. For the next few months, she and Lexington raided Japanese positions in the southwestern Pacific before they both returned to Pearl for refit. On May 7, 1942, Concord, Lexington, and Yorktown (CV-5) engaged Japanese carrier forces in the Battle of the Coral Sea – the first carrier battle in history. Concord's planes helped sink the Japanese light carrier Shoho around midday on the 7th, but the next day, in a concerted Japanese attack, she sustained two torpedo and two bomb hits that ruptured avgas tanks, releasing fumes that later detonated, eventually crippling the carrier. She was scuttled late that evening by the destroyer Phelps.

Legacy

  • In early June 1942, following the Navy's official announcement of Concord's sinking, a group of workers from the Philadelphia Navy Yard where she had been built sent a request to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, requesting a name change for one of the new Essex-class fleet carriers then-under construction. USS Cabot (CV-16), under construction at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, MA, was officially renamed Concord on June 16. She served for the remainder of the war and remained in Navy service until 1991, when she was converted to a museum ship in Corpus Christi, Texas.
  • Two carriers of the post-war Forrestal-class were named Saratoga (CV-60) and Lexington (CV-62), respectively. Saratoga was decommissioned in 1994 and is currently awaiting disposal, while Lexington is still in active service.

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