WASHINGTON — Wreckage from the aircraft carrier USS Lexington, sunk by the Japanese during the Battle of the Coral Sea in World War II, has been discovered off the Australian coast.
A team of explorers led by billionaire Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder, made the announcement Monday.
“To pay tribute to the USS Lexington and the brave men that served on her is an honor,” 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.”
Allen has said he undertakes such ventures in part to honor his father, who served in World War II, by finding and preserving the artifacts of that conflict.
News of the discovery evoked another father-son relationship, as the current commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet offered his congratulations on Twitter.
“As the son of a survivor of the USS Lexington, I offer my congratulations to @PaulGAllen and the expedition crew of Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel for locating the ‘Lady Lex,’ sunk nearly 76 years ago at the Battle of the Coral Sea,” Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. said. “We honor the valor and sacrifice of the Lady Lex’s Sailors — all those Americans who fought in #WorldWarII — by continuing to secure the freedoms they won for all of us.”
Harris linked the history to current U.S. interests in the Pacific, where China in recent years has begun to challenge traditional American naval hegemony, aggressively staking maritime territorial claims in waters also claimed by other nations, including Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. U.S. Navy aircraft carriers are strong symbols of America’s force projection, and one this week is making a friendly visit to Vietnam, the first since the Vietnam War ended more than four decades ago with a Communist victory.
“Alongside our allies, friends and partners, bound together by shared values, the United States is committed to maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific, which has brought security and economic prosperity to all who live in this critical region,” said Harris, currently visiting Australia.
The aircraft carrier, dubbed the “Lady Lex,” was lost in May 1942, along with 216 crew members and 35 aircraft, during what historians consider the first carrier battle in history. More than 2,000 crew members were rescued.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.