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Air Group 19 brought aboard the first squadron of Helldivers to operate from the Lexington. Regarded with distrust at first, the ship soon learned to respect their worth, and the skill of their pilots. The cooperation and tremendous enthusiasm of the new air group quickly won the esteem of all on board.
The air group's tour of duty began slowly, but worked up to a smashing climax. The first month's operations, starting on July 14, were entirely uneventful, no opposition being encountered at any time either over the target or over the force. Three days of operations, totaling 551 sorties, in support of the landing on Guam, three days of strikes on Palau; three more days early in August against the Bonins-all of these were carried out smoothly, in spite of often unfavorable weather, until the ship returned to Eniwetok, on August 10, where she remained for the balance of the month.

A tanker sunk by Lexington planes northwest of Saipan on June 11, 1944. Many survivors were picked up by the ship which took this picture.

19 June, 1944 Guam burns. This is how the Japanese pilots found their landing fields on the day of the "Turkey Shoot".

In September the Third Fleet was organized under Admiral Halsey. This month also opened slowly, with three uneventful days of strikes against Palau. These strikes, however, marked the last assaults of the fleet on Japan's outer defenses. From then on, the Lexington and the whole Third Fleet entered on a series of extended and arduous operations over the Philippines, in support of MacArthur's campaign to recapture this lost territory. After two unopposed days of strikes on Mindanao, the fleet swung northward, and opened up on the Visayans. Air Group 19 met opposition for the first time on the 12th over Cebu, and in one melee accounted for fifteen enemy fighters. Thereafter their score mounted rapidly.
On the 21st, the fleet struck for the first time at the Manila area. The Lexington launched four deckload strikes which did extensive damage to aircraft on the ground and to hangars and other installations, and heavily attacked two convoys caught off the west coast. For the first time all hands could feel that they were hitting the Jap where it hurt most, as they had done to us at Pearl Harbor. The next morning was a hectic one, as isolated enemy planes made a series of runs on the force as flight operations began, and the first launch was accompanied by intermittent fire from the ship's batteries. No damage was done, however, and the rest of the day ran off as scheduled. The coolness of the flight deck crew in carring out their duties under such distracting conditions was a source of pride to all hands.
With a concluding day of strikes against the Visayan area, the force retired for replenishment. The Lexington spent several uneasy days at Kossole Roads, only eight miles north of Jap-held Babelthuap; then retired to newly captured Ulithi.
Back in Japan, Tokyo Rose felt haunted. A mighty grey-blue carrier, untouched and untouchable, moved among her islands, ever closer to the Homeland, manned by a multitude in the habit of United States sailors, the United States ensign fluttering at her peak, Americans Hellcats, Helldivers and Avengers taking off and landing on her decks-and all the while Rose had personaly and repeatedly sent her to the bottom of the Pacific. It was a ghost, she said, a blue ghost-and "Blue Ghost" the Lexington has been from that day on. Such is the power of the press.

Two Japs burn, while a hail of flak seeks out others. The one on the extreme left has just passed, burning, the length of the flight deck, scorching the faces of those topside. Our gunners got 5 out of 8 "Frances" in this engagement, with assists on two more. A moment before this picture was taken, the Lexington just missed two torpedos by steering between them. No ship was hit in this engagement.

"Hunter-Killer" search mission (anti-submarine) against a Marianas sunset, June, 1944. Note the bombs clearly silhouetted beneath the belly. This SBD is equipped not only to spot a lurking sub, but to sink it, or drive it under, when found.


Operations in the real war began again early in October with the first strike of the war against Okinawa on October 10, a daring move that turned out to be surprisingly routine. After refueling, the force proceeded south and on the 12th opened three days of strikes against Formosa, where by contrast heavy and determined opposition developed. In the first fighter sweep Air Group 19 shot down twenty-eight enemy fighters over the targets, but no "bogeys" appeared over the force until nightfall. Then a determined night attack began which lasted until 3:45 AM the next day. Although runs were made on the ship, and many torpedos were dropped, no one in the force was hit; the strain, however, of remaining at General Quarters all night and again all the next night, was severe.
In spite of enemy planes in the area, all launches the next day went off without interference. The Japanese, however, brought in reinforcements during the day and that night attacked again. A unit in another task group was hit, and the force stood by all night to assist her, sending off a further diversionary fighter and bomber sweep before dawn the next day. On the return of this flight retirement began, held back by headwinds and heavy seas. All day enemy scouts kept the force in sight. Early in the afternoon, a single plane made a run on the Lexington and dropped a torpedo in her wake, without success.
A short while later, evening "chow" was disrupted by the general alarm and the firing of the starboard batteries. The Lexington had once again been the first to spot an incoming attack group, ten or more "Jills" (torpedo planes), and she had promptly opened fire at 16,000 yards. Her intense and accurate fire destroyed three of the attacking "Jills" and assisted in shooting down two others. The attack did only minor damage to another unit, in the group. Shortly after, the group's defensive fighters intercepted and wiped out a further flight of eighteen enemy planes. This broke the back of the attack, and the force made good its retirement.

Palau burns, July 27, 1944. Lexington planes pay a return visit and leave a calling card.


The force lingered in the north for several days to protect the retirement of her damaged ships, and also in the hope of encountering Japanese fleet units, reported on the move. Then proceeding south, the Lexington's task group launched a series of strikes on October 21 on Southern Luzon and the Visayans. On the 24th she returned to Luzon.
The 24th of October, the first day of the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, is a day that will perhaps linger longest in the memory of the crew of the Lexington. Dawn found the task group alone to the east of Luzon, north of the rest of the force. Submarines had sighted enemy surface forces to the west of the Philippines on the previous day, and the Lexington now launched five search teams of eight planes each to locate them, while the rest of the group sent strikes over Luzon.
At 8:00 AM the radars detected "many", many bogeys" closing, and all available fighters were launched. From this time on, the group was under constant dive-bombing attack throughout the day from shore-based and carrier-based planes. Most skilful use by Admiral Sherman of the protection of a large rain squall in the vicinity, together with splendid work by the defending fighters, kept the bulk of the attackers at bay. Isolated planes, however, occasionally broke through, it was in this action that the bomb was dropped on the Princeton which eventually caused her loss through the explosion of her own torpedoes.
In the midst of this action, a large enemy force was reported in the Sibuyan Sea, and all available planes were immediately dispatched to the attack. Though armed only with General Purpose bombs instead of torpedoes, they did considerable damage, the Lexington's air group hitting a battleship and three cruisers.
In the afternoon the Lexington was ordered to send searches to the northeast of the group, where a second enemy force was suspected. The suspicion was shortly confirmed, when "many, many bogeys" were again spotted closing, this time from the northeast. Again sterling work by the defending team of fighters and fighter directors on the radar intercepted and broke up the attack. Although one bomb dropped just off the ship's starboard quarter, by 4:00 PM the attacks were concluded without damage. Altogether, the task group's fighters shot down 150 planes in the course of the day. Air Group 19 accounting for 63. Even the brilliant action of the following day came as an anti-climax to the Lexington.
While all this was going on, one of the search planes sighted the second force to the northeast, reporting it to contain four carriers and a converted battleship, with over a dozen support ships. Contact was immediately lost again when enemy planes drove him off. During the night, a night search plane again made contact, only to lose it once more because of operational difficulties. Though the exact position of the target was not known, heavy strikes were launched at dawn, together with more search planes. After considerable suspense, the enemy force was once more discovered, and the attackers quickly closed for the kill.
The enemy was caught with the bulk of his planes, according to Japanese practice, on shore at Luzon, the twenty-odd defenders they managed to put up were quickly smothered by our Hellcats. For the rest of the day the group's planes had the unprecedented opportunity of working over an important enemy force at their leisure. Altogether, they sank three carriers and severely damaged the fourth, sank one crusier and damaged a crusier and a battleship. The Lexington's Air Group Commander, acting as target coordinator in the afternoon, became the first aviator in any war actually to see three carriers sink at one time. At sunset the group's cruisers were detached to finish off the damaged carrier, while the rest turned south. After two more days off the Visayans, the group finally returned to Ulithi.

Bogeys on the screen. The intercept officer studies the track of an incoming raid on the plotting table before giving instructions to the defending fighters. Left to right, seated: Lt Com. Winston (since killed on the Franklin), Whitham, Rdm. 1/c, Lt. Deaver, Lt. Reed, Lt. (jg) Johnson.


On November 5 the ship was hit. Once more off Luzon, she had sent successful strikes over Clark Field in the morning, and definitely sank a heavy cruiser in Manila Bay. Early in the afternoon, however, a few enemy planes slipped by our fighters and closed for attack. At 1:37 PM two "Zekes" dove out of a heavy cloud cover at the Lexington. One was shot down by her guns, but the other, though on fire, kept on coming, and struck the ship.
The whole attack was typical of a new style suicide raid. Largely gone were the days when twelve friendly fighters could gloriously wipe out an attacking force of twice that number, and so, too, were the long and nerve-wracking night attacks, such as that in which the Lexington had been hit before. Now the attacking planes refused to shoot it out with our defenders. With great skill they made all possible use of available cloud cover, which was heavy at the time "good Kamikaze weather," as the fleet had learned to know in order to evade our fighters. On sighting American planes, they scattered and attempted to sift through our defenses, bent on just one end...a crash dive on an American carrier. Although five divisions of American fighters, or a total of twenty planes, at various times attempted to intercept the raid, estimated to total seven planes, only one attacker was shot down before coming within range of the ship's guns.
The final dive was as determined as the approach had been elusive. The first plane was deflected only because the tail was completely shot off by a five-inch shell. The second plane, though seen to shudder numerous times from the impact of the explosive shells poured into it, and though on the point of disintegration when it struck, held on it's course, dropped it's bombs and crashed into the straboard side of the island structure aft.
The havoc that followed, though localized and soon brought under control, will never be forgotten by any man aboard. Much of the island was wreacked and numerous guns put out commission. All of the radars went out temporarily, as well as much other similar equipment, the largest radar antenna was reduced to scrap metal. The list of several communication leads and other electrical connections takes up six single-spaced typewritten pages in the reports. The gaoline explosion from the plane and the bomb blast together started many heavy fires, though prompt work by fire-fighting parties had the blaze under control within twenty minutes.
The human damage was more tragic and less reparable. All told, forty-seven officers and men lost their lives as a result of this blow, and 127 more were injured, many seriously. Flash and fire, as always in these cases, was the chief cause of suffering, while a few lost limbs or suffered fractures, and many were struck by fragments and still others stunned, all were burned.
It was found difficult to care for the wounded in the cramped spaces in which they were caught, and even more so to evacuate them, under combat conditions, to more proper quarters. All hands turned to help, both medical department and others, tending their shipmates and carrying on with their regular duties at the same time. Too much cannot be said in praise of the splendid performance of the corpsmen and of all others involved in this arduous task. After the first six hours only two of the patients who were wounded had died, one from intra-cranial injury, the other from third-degree burns involving 90 percent of the body surface. Higest praise was given to the Medical Department of this ship and the personnel who cared for the wounded by the Senior Medical Officer of the hospital ship, U.S.S. Solace, for the excellent treatment which injured received. The laundry and gallery crew worked around the clock to keep sick bay supplied with fresh linens and special foods.
Incredibly, though all the shock and confusion, the ship continued normal operations. All planes in the air were landed without accident. All the next long day the ship continued to operate, sending off strikes and patrols as scheduled. Only on the 7th was she relieved, then at last she bagan her retirement to Ulithi, transferring the wounded to the U.S.S. Solace on arrival. She remain there during November, undergoing repairs.
On the way, the Lexington learned that she had been sunk again. The report did not seem as far wrong as usual.

A Chitose class light carrier lies burning and dead in the water in the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea. Cruisers from the Lexington's task group later finished her off with gun fire. Although four carriers were sunk in that engagement.


During December, Air Group 19, who, since the occupation of Guam, had developed into a really magnificent air group, returned to the States, and were relieved by Air Group 20 from the Enterprise. On December 11 the Lexington sortied once more from Ulithi flying the flag of Rear Admiral G. F. Bogan, Commander of Task Group 58.2.
Air Group 20's war turned out to be more with the weather than with the Japanese. After three days (December 14-16) of strikes against airfields in the Luzon area, in support of MacArthur's landings on Mindoro strikes so successful that almost no enemy opposition developed the forces found itself for several days in the center of a typhoon. Luckily, the Lexington rode out this punishing storm with only minor damage, until finally the entire force was able to retuen to Ulithi on December 23, in time to spend the holiday season at that well-known resort.
After a week of rest, the group (now Task Group 38.2) sailed forth again for the three tough weeks of operations that included the first entry of the Fast Carrier Task Forces into the stormy South China Sea. The common purpose of these operations, ranging from Indo-China to Okinawa, was to support the Army's landings at Lingayen Gulf, which began on January 9.
The first nine days of January were spent in strikes on airfields on Luzon and Formosa, in which little enemy opposition was encountered. On the night of January 9, the force entered the China Sea, intending to seek out and destroy major units of the Japanese fleet which might threaten our landing operations. When no such units could be discovered, the operation develpoed into a far-flung hunt for enemy shipping. Attacks were launched on shipping and airfields at Saigon and Camranh Bay in Indo-China, Hong-Kong, the Pescadores Islands off Formosa, and Formosa itself.
The most successful day was January 12 at Camranh Bay when planes from the Task Group wiped out one convoy of four merchant vessels and four escorts, and destroyed at least twelve vessels in another. During this time almost no airborne opposition developed, and the chief obstacle was the weather, which seemed on occasion even to veteran fliers to be about as bad as men could fly in. The strain on the pilots was correspondingly great.


On January 20, the force left the China Sea and proceeded northward to launch two more strikes, one again on Formosa on January 21, the other the next day on Okinawa, after which the force finally retired. After steaming 9758 miles, the Lexington dropped anchor again at Ulithi on January 27.
On January 30 Capatin Litch, who had commanded the ship since April 1944, was relieved by Capatin Thomas H. Robbins, and on the following day Rear Admiral R. E. Davison relieved Rear Admiral Bogan of command of the group, now once more Task Group 58.2. This series of replacements was completed when Air Group 20 was relieved two days later by Air Group 9.
When the force steamed out again on Febuary 10, Air Group 9, new to the ship and to combat, was electrified to learn that their first operation was to be the first strike by the fleet against Tokyo itself, undertaken in support of the landings on Iwo Jima slated to begin on Febuary 19. The airfields assigned to the Task Group were to the east and southeast of the city. The first fighter sweep, on the morning of Febuary 16, quickly discovered, from the absence of airborne opposition or AA fire, that the enemy had not been forewarned. Clouds, rain squalls and low visibility over the launching area helped the forces achieve surprise. Opposition soon increased, however, until the end of the day Air Group 9 had shot down 25 enemy planes in the air, as well as eighteen on the ground. The success of the day was marred for air group and ship by loss of the Air Group Commander, P. H. Torrey, Jr.
On the following day, after two fighters sweeps had been launched, further operations were cancelled because of unfavorable weather reports, and the force retired to the vicinity of Iwo Jima. There during the next few days they sent planes on direct support missions over the "Acre of Hell," rearming at sea on the 20th.

(Left) Rearming at Sea, 1945. Bombs are swung from an ammunition ship to the Lexington, within range of Japanese aircraft. By 1945, the Navy was practically independent of ports except for rest and major overhaul.
(Right) Refueling at sea, 1943. This was the "secret" weapon that made the Navy's far-flung Pacific operations possible. with an occasional rendezvous with tankers, a task force could keep at sea for months at a time.

The force moved back to Tokyo on Febuary 23, but nearly all future operations were nullified by continuously bad weather. Three strikes were launched on Febuary 25, but the targets were found closed in. Finally on March 1 the force attacked the Nansei Shoto (the chain of islands that includes Okinawa). The Lexington was assigned three small islands in the Amami Gunto (north of Okinawa), where only a few planes were discovered, and the day was chiefly spent in attacks on shipping. The following day the force retired once more, arriving at Ulithi on March 5.
On the same day Rear Admiral Davison disembarked, and preparations were made for a return to the United States, the first since Febuary 1944, for routine overhaul. Air Group 9 was transferred and replaced by Air Group 3, aboard for transportation home. On March 7 the ship left Ulithi and proceeded via Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor back to Bremerton, Washington, entering the Puget Sound Navy Yard on March 31. The first leave party disembarked the next morning.

During April and the first half of May, 1945, the Lexington underwent extensive overhaul at the Navy Yard. On May 18 the ship left Seattle for Alameda California. There she took aboard planes and passengers for Pearl Harbor, including Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, and on May 29 departed for the thrid time from the United States for combat duty.
At Pearl Harbor her new air group, Air Group 94, reported aboard, bringing with them the first squadron of Corsairs to operate from the Lexington. After a week of training exercises off Oahu, the Lexington, as a unit of Task Group 12.4, departed on June 13 for Leyte. Intensive training exercises enroute culminated in a one-day strike on Wake Island on June 20, designed to provide combat experience for the pilots, and to weaken the morale of the isloated Japanese garrison. The Lexington alone dropped 63 tons of bombs and fired 470 rockets on the feebly resisting sandspit. Shortly after, a Japanese hospital ship evacuated some 1000 sick and wounded and very defeated Nips. Continuing westward from Wake Island, the ship anchored on June 26 in San Pedro Bay, Leyte, Philippine Islands.

Father E. T. Cope reads the burial service for thoses who died on November 6, 1944.

A Kamikaze strikes the Lexington, November 6, 1944. Top, a "Zeke" dives at a sharp angle from the starboard quarter. Undeterred by the ship's fire, he holds his heading and finally strikes the Island. Smoke pours up from the ship's superstructure. For a day and a half, the Lexington continued regular operations.

Death on Wings. A target's eye view at the same dive. The bomb is clearly visible beneath the plane, seconds later it was released and the plane struck, just below the position from which this picture was taken. D. J. Connally, Phom 3/c, one of four photographers on the island at the time, unconsciously snapped this shot before diving behind a protecting bulkhead. He alone survived to see it developed.

On July 1 the Lexington departed from Leyte as a unit of Task Group 38.1, one of the three task groups comprising Task Force 38. At that time she could not know that when next she dropped anchor it would be in Tokyo Bay, three days after the surrender of Japan.
The Task Force moved directly northward for operations against the main Japanese islands. The first nine days were used in intensive training enroute to the target. On the 10th of July the Task Force struck the Tokyo area.
In certain respects this day set the pattern for the weeks to come. The primary mission was and continued to be the destruction of Japanese planes in the air and on the ground. On this day, as on all succeeding days, the Japanese refused to take to the air to protect the Homeland. Although on ensuring days half-hearted attacks against units of the Task Force were made by enemy planes, individually and in small groups, no airborne opposition was at any time encountered by our planes, and the ship's guns never opened fired.
It was evident that the Japanese had taken extensive precautions for the wide dispersal and careful concealment of their planes. During the following weeks effective attacks were made only when study of photographs enable our pilots to concertrate on good planes and to leave alone the more obviously placed duds and dummies. The technique of destroying grounded planes involved low-level flying over areas well protected with anti-aircraft fire and was an important cause of the Air Group's casualties during the operations: ten pilots and four aircrewmen listed as killed or missing in action. Another factor which had to be reckoned with thoughout the operation was the weather. Low-lying clouds and fog frequently blanketed target areas, particularly in the north, and forced repeated changes of plans.
The second strike day of the operation was July 14, with the northernmost island of Hokkaido as the target area. Bad weather prevented our planes from reaching the assigned airfields on the north coast but they found numerous industrial targets of opportunity to the south and east, particularly in the vicinity of Kushiro. Planes from the Lexington, on combat air patrol and photographic missions, covered the battleship and crusier bombardment of the Imperial Iron Works at Kamaishi, first surface bombardment of the war against the main Japanese islands.

The gasoline explosion of a kamikaze plane, on the instant of striking the superstructure of a carrier. This picture, perhaps the most graphic record in existance, of what such an explosion is like, was taken aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid, and was run as Picture of the Month in the October, 1945, issue of ALL HANDS.

After the crash. Looking aft along the 20 mm, mounts below the island after the plane had struck just above. This record of a small part of the material and the human destruction that came to the Lexington on November 6, 1944, is included to recall to owners of this book, lest the years bring forgetfulness, what all learned then-that beneath the glory and adventure, the ribbons and glamor. WAR IS HELL.

An oiler burns in Ulithi Harbor, November, 1944, after being torpedoed early in the morning by a Japanese submarine that penetrated the lagoon during the night. Lexington men were uneasy spectators.

Radar representation of a typhoon. The "eye" of the storm is clearly visible to the right of the picture. The left, on the opposite edge of the disturbance, can just be discerned the indication of a task group - the compact mass of the heavy ships and part of the circling screen of destroyers. Since this picture was taken by a ship on another task group, one of these blips may be the Lexington. The radiating lines are interference from other radars, similar in effect, to static on the radio.

Storm damage at sea. Part of the starboard walkway, under the forward edge of the flight deck, after a storm.

On July 15 Hokkaido was again the target area. On July 16 the British Task Force 37, under command of Vice-Admiral Rawlings, joined Task Force 38 and began operations much as if it were a fourth Task Group. After fueling, Task Group 38.1 moved south and on the 17th and 18th again struck airfields north of Tokyo, also engaging on the 18th in a large-scale attack on the battleship Nagato at the Yokosuka Naval Base, an attack which damaged but did not sink the vessel. After this day's strikes, the Task Force withdrew for several days of rest and replenishment.
The attack was resumed on July 24. For the strikes on that day the force moved to the northwest and from a postition south of Kobe, some 130 miles off the island of Honshu, four strikes were launched against Hamamatsu and five other fields assigned to the Lexington. No Jap airborne opposition was encountered during the day. Two planes were destroyed and eight damaged on the ground. More effective were two strikes against remnants of the Japanese fleet at Kure, where three hits were scored in the carrier Katsuragi, two hits on the converted battleship Ise, seven hits on the carrier Aoba, two hits on the carrier Oyodo, and two hits on the unfinished carrier Aso. South of Kure a 5200-ton tanker was sunk and a small merchant ship left in a sinking condition.
Efforts on the following day, July 25, were largely abortive, due to weather, but on July 28, Air Group 94 enjoyed its most successful day to date. Effective attacks were made against Jap planes at Oi, Mikatagahara. Hamamatsu and other airfields southeast of Nagoya. Only two planes were seen to burn but on the basis of repeated low-level strafing the day's total was claimed to be forty-one planes destroyed, sixteen probably destroyed and twenty-six planes and two gliders damaged. Two strikes went back to Kure to finish the damaged Ise, and Aoba. Hits were scored on both ships, which were last seen badly battered with the Ise in flames, the Aoba awash at the stern, and both resting on the bottom.

Pilots of Fighting Squadron 20 wait in their ready room before a strike in the China Sea. Ahead of them lie long hours of difficult navigatuon, assault on enemy installations, possible dog fights, the severe strain of probably had weather, and at the end a carrier landing. Navy fighter pilots have probably more different things to do at once when on the job than any other human being, including the President. They are the most highly trained fliers in the world.

Christmas scenes, 1944. There is a Santa Claus, even on a warship, and time is taken off to greet him with traditional and not-so-traditional festivities.

(Left) The nose is adjusted on a rocket before the first Tokyo strike. These high-speed projectiles did damage out of all proportion to their size. (Right) Lunch for the flight deck crew is brought up on the bomb elevator. By the end of the war, the ship remained at "G.Q.," all day during strikes days, and the crew was served hot food at special topside feeding stations.

An F6F is "respotted" after the first strike on Tokyo. His wing is partly folded.


The operation of an aircraft carrier, quite aside from dangers from the enemy, is an exacting and hazardous job. The routine landing and launching of aircraft is full of risk - a broken tail wheel, a snapping cable, a hook that fails to catch, a brake that locks, a motor that stalls, a pilot that misjudges - and always, above them all, the danger of fire. The Lexington is proud of the high proportion of her planes that have been launched and landed saftly. Like any other carrier, however, she has had her share of accidents.
On Febuary 21, 1945, a Hellcat, back from a routine hop, came aborad with a belly tank half-full. When he "caught a wire" and jerked to a stop, the tank broke loose from it's fastenings and burst open under the still-whirling propellor. What ensured is shown in the pictures that follow.

(Left) His propellor strikes a spark on the tank..............................(Right) He makes a rough landing...

(Left) He is ablazed!.......................................................(Right) The pilot wrestles with his safety straps...

He vaults from his "hot seat"...........

And runs alone the wing of his plane to safety..........