Wreckage of sunken American WWII aircraft carrier discovered off Australia



Associated Press

A piece of prized World War II US naval history, the wreckage of the aircraft carrier USS Lexington, which was sunk by the Japanese in a crucial sea battle, has been discovered by an expedition funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

The expedition team announced that the wreckage of the Lexington, crippled by the enemy and then scuttled on May 8, 1942, in the Battle of the Coral Sea, was found Sunday on the seabed in waters 3,000 metres deep, more than 800 kilometres off Australia's east coast.

"To pay tribute to the USS Lexington and the brave men that served on her is an honour," Allen said on his web page.

"As Americans, all of us owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who served and who continue to serve our country for their courage, persistence and sacrifice."

The battle helped stop a Japanese advance that could have cut off Australia and New Guinea from Allied sea supply routes and crippled two Japanese carriers, leading to a more conclusive US victory at sea a month later at the Battle of Midway.

The sea battle is also famous for being the first in which the opposing ships did not come in sight of each other, carrying out their attacks with carrier-launched aircraft.

Allen's teams have made several previous important shipwreck discoveries, including three other U.S. Navy vessels, an Italian destroyer, and the Japanese battleship Musashi.

The ship that found the Lexington, the Research Vessel Petral, has equipment capable of diving to 6,000 metres. It was deployed in early 2017 in the Philippine Sea before moving to the Coral Sea off the Australian Coast.

The Lexington, which had been affectionately dubbed "Lady Lex," was badly damaged by bombs and torpedoes, but the order to abandon ship was given only after a secondary explosion set off an uncontrollable fire.

Some 216 crew members lost their lives, but 2,770 others were safely evacuated before its sister ship, the destroyer USS Phelps, fired torpedoes to send it to the bottom of the ocean.

Allen said on his Twitter account that the ship went down with 35 planes, 11 of which had been found so far by his expedition.

Allen has said he undertakes such ventures in part to honour his father, who served in World War II, by finding and preserving the artifacts of that conflict.

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