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    Descent Down Under: Remembering USS Lexington and the Battle of the Coral Sea

    On May 7, 1942, black ominous clouds filled the sky, threatening rain as two nations entered the fray.
    Deep in the blue Coral Sea brew a battle to be.
    USS Lexington (CV-2), one of the Navy's first two aircraft carriers, sailed into action — poised to defend freedom and forever be remembered in history.
    Capable, with virtue and swagger, the vessel basked in bright radiance,
    for She too would blitz in as the battle begins.
    The Battle of the Coral Sea was an array of Naval engagements off the northeast coast of Australia fought during WWII by the allied United States and Australian forces against the Imperial Japanese Navy in efforts to stop Japan’s continued expansion and control of the Pacific Ocean.
    Naval guns set ablaze,
    while wooden decks burned in a craze.
    The air swallowed within billowing smoke,
    but the spirit of men never broke.
    The Lexington’s aircraft took part in the sinking and raiding of three Japanese aircraft carriers. Japanese torpedo bombers zeroed in on her and hit her twice. Dive bombers swooped in and added an additional two direct hits upon her structure, jamming her elevators in the raised position. The direct hits caused internal gas leaks that ignited, generating fires that ultimately proved beyond the capabilities of damage control crews to contain after four hours of effort.
    Skies raged of igniting thunder
    as planes cease and dive asunder.
    Many tread helplessly in the water,
    while the course of others never falters.
    The Mighty, mighty Lexington, in all her glory
    at Battle’s end, closed her story.
    Two explosions triggered massive debris,
    Solemn, her descent down under the sea.
    Once the decision was made to abandon Lexington, her crew responded efficiently. Meanwhile, the fires below continued to eat their way through the ship. As the abandonment of the Lexington was finishing, a large explosion tore through her hangar amidships. New fires were ignited as stationary torpedo warheads detonated after the carrier's Commanding Officer, Captain Frederick C. Sherman, left her. In keeping with the rules of the sea, he was the last man to abandon ship. The carrier burned furiously, shrouded in smoke almost from bow to stern. She was finally scuttled by destroyer torpedoes and sank that evening.
    Slowly her crew debarks and grieves,
    with sea customs intact, the Captain last to leave.
    Slowly, she sank to the bottom of the ocean,
    Spirits were low, high was emotion.
    Amidst the aching vessel bending,
    her decks and passageways began rescinding.
    Slowly she drops into the deep,
    becoming a landmark of sunken heap.
    The Lexington went down with 35 aircraft aboard and 216 out of 2,770 crew members died in battle.
    They all fought, brave and true,
    To end the war, through and through.
    America’s flagship salutes all of you.
    Today, men and women filed into ranks, silently, with heads held high
    to pay homage to the crew of the USS Lexington.
    They stood on the shoulders of giants, brave and free.
    Beneath their keel laid heroes of the sea.

    Sailors aboard the Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) held the first ever wreath-laying ceremony in commemoration of the Battle of the Coral Sea a year after the wreckage of the USS Lexington (CV-2) was discovered.
    The ceremony was held at coordinates 15°11'59"S 155°26'58"E in recognition of the site where Lexington sank.
    Cmdr. Jennifer Bowden, Ronald Reagan’s chaplain, said the Battle of the Coral Sea Commemorative Association invited representatives from Ronald Reagan to meet families connected to the battle during a recent port visit to Brisbane, Australia, for Talisman Sabre 2019. The association presented Ronald Reagan’s crew with the wreath used during the ceremony. “It’s really to commemorate the efforts of the U.S. to protect Australia because they still find great value in what we did.”
    This ceremony marks the 77th anniversary of the battle and is the first time in history a wreath was laid at the exact site of Lexington.
    The ceremony hit home for a few Sailors of Ronald Reagan’s crew, including Lt. Nicholas Fessler, Ronald Reagan’s assistant security officer.
    Fessler’s great-grandfather, Chief Petty Officer Paul Mueleveld was a survivor from Lexington’s crew that was awarded a U.S. Navy Marine Corps Medal with a citation from the President of the United States for saving five of his shipmates’ lives during the engagement and carrying each of their bodies from a fire poised to swallow all of them whole.
    “Being able to navigate directly over the top of the USS Lexington, taking that moment of silence, puts in to perspective what was below us. Just imagining the potential challenges they were facing that day—it was extremely humbling,” said Fessler.
    Fessler also expressed his surprise when he realized just how important the Battle of the Coral Sea was for Australians then and now.
    “You know about it from a Naval history standpoint but you really don’t know what it means to the country of Australia and the significance our role in the Battle of the Coral Sea played in ensuring their freedom and securities as well,” said Fessler.
    The Ronald Reagan’s strike group recently completed Talisman Sabre 2019. The purpose of Talisman Sabre is to strengthen and illustrate Australian-U.S. combat readiness and interoperability, maximize combined training opportunities, and conduct maritime pre-positioning and logistics operations in maritime and littoral training areas of the Pacific.



    Date Taken: 07.26.2019
    Date Posted: 12.24.2019 10:38
    Story ID: 357178
    Location: CORAL SEA

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