CV-2

Yesterday, Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist/explorer Paul Allen announced the discovery of the aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2), lost at the battle of the Coral Sea on May 8, 1942.

The Lexington was struck by two bombs and two torpedoes from Japanese carrier aircraft. She maintained flight deck operations for several hours, but fires raged belowdecks and destroyed the ship’s damage control center. Captain Frederick Sherman gave the order to abandon ship at 1707 hours, and the Lexington was scuttled by the destroyer USS Phelps later that evening. The carrier went down on an even keel, “with her head up,” as one surviving officer put it. “Dear old Lex…a lady to the last.”

The abandon ship order has been given, and sailors go over the sides to safety. More than 2,700 of the crew were saved.

“To pay tribute to the USS Lexington and the brave men that served on her is an honor,” said Mr. Allen in a statement to PR Newswire. “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.”

A 1.1-inch antiaircraft gun, part of the Lexington’s secondary armament.

The Lexington rests on the sea floor about 500 miles off the Australian coast, at a depth of approximately 3000 meters. At that depth, the process of decay is slowed, and parts of the wreck are incredibly well preserved.

Two hundred and sixteen of the Lexington’s complement lost their lives at the battle of the Coral Sea. Among them were 21 members of the Marine detachment who were manning the 5″ anti-aircraft batteries on the port side of the ship.

A five-inch gun on the Lexington, still trained out to fire at attacking aircraft. The Lex had twelve of these weapons, each crewed by fourteen men.

One of the bombs that struck the Lexington hit just behind Battery #2, port side forward. It detonated in the ready ammunition locker of Gun #6, killing or mortally wounding the entire crew and spraying Gun #4 and Gun #2 with shrapnel. The survivors stayed at their posts, and the entire battery received a Letter of Commendation for their actions.

Battery #4, port side aft, was raked by machine gun fire from the bombers. Marines on Gun #8 and Gun #10 were hit, including one young private called Raymond L. Miller. Miller refused to leave his position and died of his wounds; he was awarded a posthumous Navy Cross. (Much later, it was revealed that Miller’s real name was Jesse Rutherford, Jr. He had enlisted under a fake name to hide his age.)

Corporal Vincent Anderson was the fuse setter and assistant gun captain for Gun #10.

The first Japanese torpedo plane was spotted off the port bow at 11:15 a.m., about 3,000 yards out, and we received the order to commence firing. Simultaneously we picked up speed and began evasive maneuvers. The sound of all our guns firing was deafening and suddenly we felt a violent vibrating blow to our ship [a torpedo hit on the port side forward].

The enemy torpedo planes, after launching their torpedoes, began strafing our gun positions and on my Gun 10 three of our men were wounded and one was killed from these strafing attacks. At about 11:25 a.m., while still under attack from enemy torpedo planes, enemy dive bombers began their attacks and one bomb hit on the flight deck on the port side forward and exploded in the ready ammunition locker for our Marine Gun 6, killing all fourteen members of that gun crew.

[Anderson had served as a loader with Gun #6 until his promotion in February 1942. “Making corporal saved my life,” he said.]

We then received another torpedo hit on the port side, just aft of the first torpedo hit. Then suddenly we lost communication with our gunnery officer in Sky Aft and we immediately went to local control, picking our targets. About that time a large bomb just missed by inches my Gun 10 splinter shield, throwing up a 70 foot high wave of water that washed all of us off [the gun], only the splinter shield saved us from being washed overboard. We quickly regained our positions and resumed firing….

We could feel the vibrations of many near bomb hits…. We did receive a bomb hit in a port side boat pocket [converted to hold 20mm antiaircraft guns] and one bomb hit and exploded in the aft end of our stack, killing a number of men manning the .50 caliber machine guns on platforms…. This bomb also broke the siren pull cord and jammed the siren valve open, adding to the deafening noise of combat.

The enemy attack ended at about 11:39 a.m…. Immediately after receiving the order to stop firing we began cleaning up our gun battery and caring for the killed and wounded. It was then I found my buddy T. D. Germany, who was a loader on Gun #8, had been shot in the back by a strafing enemy torpedo plane. He was lying on the deck behind Gun #8 with a corpsman working on him. I kneeled down and spoke to T. D. who told me he was not going to make it and for me to take my pipe which I had loaned him to break in for me. At first I resisted but he insisted…. The last I saw of T. D. was when they took his body to the flight deck to put with those that had been killed.

Corporal Vincent’s crew continued manning their battery in case of any additional attacks, though when they noticed their ammunition was growing “dangerously hot” from fires belowdecks, they threw many of the shells over the side. He remarked on the calmness of the crew as the abandon ship order was passed.

It was understood that our Marine Guard would be the last division to abandon the ship. The men did not seem eager to leave…. Some men went to the Service Store on the port side aft and rescued the ice cream, which they put in their helmets and shared with others…. The bodies of the dead had been moved to the aft end of the flight deck and covered with tarps.

At about 5:50 p.m. Captain Sherman came over to our Marine Gun Battery Four and relieved us of our duty and ordered us to abandon ship. At this point our First Sergeant Payton said, “Men, let’s give three cheers for the Captain,” and we did….

Anderson went down a line into the warm sea and swam out to a life raft, where he plucked a pilot and three sailors out of the water. He was picked up by the USS Dewey and promptly put back to work on one of the destroyer’s 5″ gun mounts. The survivors were taken to Noumea, where Anderson was reunited with his buddy T. D. Germany, who was recovering from his wounds in the hospital. Germany had been left for dead on the flight deck, but two sailors saw his hand move, and carried him over the side to a waiting destroyer. (Anderson presented Germany with the pipe at a 1981 reunion.)

Eighteen Lexington Marines went down with their ship, and are officially classified as unaccounted for.

Mr. Anderson kindly provided the following roster of the Marine detachment, along with their battle stations on the day of the Coral Sea battle. Sadly, he passed away in December 2017, joining his shipmates at long last. Semper Fi.

If you have pictures of Lexington Marines to share, please contact the webmaster.


Battery #2

Battery Officer
Captain Ralph L. Houser
Survived
Asst. Battery Officer
Marine Gunner James E. Hunt
Wounded in action

Gun #2

Gun #4

 Gun #6

Gun captain
Sergeant Albert J. Hafner
Survived
Gun captain
Sergeant Harold L. Carmichael
Survived
Gun captain
Corporal Oliver D. Nicholson
Died of wounds 8 May 1942.
Gun pointer
PFC Richard T. Anderson

Killed in action, not recovered.
Gun pointer
PFC Wallace E. McCarty
Died of wounds 16 May 1942.
Gun pointer
PFC Francis M. Woods

Killed in action, not recovered.
Gun trainer
PFC Jethro E. Smith
Survived
Gun trainer
PFC John W. Clemann
Survived
Gun trainer
PFC Donald J. Sibler
Died of wounds 8 May 1942.
Sight setter
FM Corporal Elwin E. Smith
Killed in action, not recovered.
Sight setter
Private James L. Brown
Wounded in action.
Sight setter
Private Ellis M. Hulse

Killed in action, not recovered.
Fuze setter
PFC Roy A. Nichols
Wounded in action.
Fuze setter
PFC Marvin B. Schluessel

Killed in action, not recovered.
Fuze setter
Corporal John R. Harshbarger

Killed in action, not recovered.
Rammer man
Corporal James Tennegkeit
Survived
Rammer man
Corporal William J. McCance
Survived
Rammer man
Corporal Robert A. Herzog
Killed in action, not recovered.
Hot shell man
Private Robert M. Drake
Survived
Hot shell man
Private James V. Grizzell
Survived
Hot shell man
PFC Arthur W. Carson
Killed in action, not recovered.
First loader
PFC Henry J. Lanz
Survived
First loader
PFC William P. Webster, Jr.
Wounded in action.
First loader
PFC Henry Zemola

Killed in action, not recovered.
Second loader
PFC Joseph E. Clinton
Survived
Second loader
Private Mervin S. Brown
Survived
Second loader
PFC Edward Juszkowski

Died of wounds, not recovered.
Second loader
PFC Hillis D. Carter
Survived
Second loader
Private Billy C. Covert
Wounded in action.
Second loader
Private John M. Steele

Killed in action, not recovered.
Second loader
Private Max K. Mangan
Survived
Second loader
Private William Monroe
Wounded in action.
Second loader
Private Leonard E. Mayfield

Killed in action, not recovered.
Second loader
Private Alton M. Caudill
Survived
Second loader
Private James J. Corbin, Jr.
Killed in action, not recovered.
Second loader
Private Mathew L. Landwehr

Killed in action, not recovered.
Second loader
Private John A. Johnson
Survived
Second loader
Private John W. Skinner
Wounded in action.
Second loader
PFC Layne Nordstrom

Killed in action, not recovered.
Second loader
Private Harlan McGaha
Survived
Second loader
Private Lloyd D. Hall
Wounded in action.
Second loader
Private Gail L. Sherwood

 Killed in action, not recovered.

Battery #4

Battery Officer
1 Lt. Earl A. Cash
Survived
Asst. Battery Officer
1 Sgt. Leonard C. Payton
Survived
Asst. Battery Officer
GySgt. Weisner F. Thomas
Wounded in action

Gun #8

Gun #10

Gun #12

Gun captain
Corporal Charles E. Chaney
Survived
Gun captain
Sergeant Julius R. Guest, Jr.
Survived
Gun captain
Sergeant Ray J. McBride
Survived
Gun pointer
PFC Gerald P. Preiner
Killed in action, not recovered.
Gun pointer
FM1c William C. Brusasco
Survived
Gun pointer
PFC Binford D. Cardinal
Survived
Gun trainer
PFC Dwight S. McGee
Survived
Gun trainer
PFC James L. Norton
Survived
Gun trainer
PFC Vernon P. Lutz

Survived
Sight setter
PFC Roy Wageman
Survived
Sight setter
PFC Robert G. Alexander
Survived
Sight setter
Field Cook Donald E. Kellogg
Survived
Fuze setter
PFC Edwin M. Allred
Survived
Fuze setter
Corporal Vincent L. Anderson
Survived
Fuze setter
PFC Bernard L. Butler
Survived
Rammer man
Corporal Walter P. Forsythe
Survived
Rammer man
Corporal Ralph M. Vice
Wounded in action
Rammer man
Corporal Clarence J. Kaltenberg
Survived
Hot shell man
PFC Edward M. Hurley
Survived
Hot shell man
PFC Roy M. Watson
Survived
Hot shell man
Private Glenn L. Johnson
Survived
First loader
PFC Howard H. Leach
Survived
First loader
PFC Miles P. Green
Wounded in action.
First loader
Private William J. Kennedy
Survived
Second loader
Pvt. Elmer R. Hess, Jr.
Survived
Second loader
PFC Robert A. Langennegger
Survived
Second loader
PFC Thomas A. Davis
Survived
Second loader
PFC James A. Sletner
Survived
Second loader
Private Lambert A. Frentzel
Survived
Second loader
Private Jean R. Griffith
Survived
Second loader
PFC Thurman D. Germany
Wounded in action
Second loader
Private Norvil Moe
Wounded in action.
Second loader
Private Julian A. Duval
Survived
Second loader
PFC Lee F. McAllister
Survived
Second loader
Private Ralph R. Desso
Wounded in action.
Second loader
Private Frank W. Peacock
Survived
Second loader
Private George Butela
Survived
Second loader
Private Jesse Rutherford, Jr.
a.k.a. “Raymond Miller”
Killed in action, not recovered.
Second loader
Private Paul M. Beddow
Survived
Second loader
PFC Conrad L. Ziegler
Survived
Second loader
Asst. Cook Guy H. Irwin
Survived
Second loader
PFC Lee F. Works, Jr.
Survived

Other Duties

1Lt. John H. Gustafson
Spotter, Sky Aft.Survived
Platoon Sgt. Robert W. Waugh
Spotter, Sky Aft.
Wounded in action.
Corporal Lowell S. Brandle
Flag Orderly
Survived
Corporal George E. Tucker
Flag Orderly
Survived
PFC Russell E. Baker
Flag Orderly
Survived
Private Kenneth Z. Bales
Orderly, Admiral Fitch
Survived
PFC Neil Swift
Orderly, Captain ShermanSurvived
Private John L. Skellings
Orderly, Commander Seligman
Survived

 

Survivors of the Lexington Marine detachment, San Diego Naval Destroyer Base. Some men are absent on duty or in hospitals. Picture and identifications courtesy Vincent L. Anderson, USS Lexington.


All wreck photos in this post are © Navigea Ltd., R/V Petrel and were made available via PR Newswire.

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