USS Lexington Wreck Found: World War II Aircraft Carrier Located in Coral Sea

A team of wreck-hunters led by the billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has found the wreckage of the USS Lexington, a World War II aircraft carrier that was sunk hundreds of miles off the coast of Australia.

The USS Lexington—also known as Lady Lex—was sunk by the Japanese navy during the Battle of the Coral Sea on May 8, 1942. She went down with 216 crew and 35 aircraft and made tragic history as the first aircraft carrier to ever sink.

Allen's team of researchers found the USS Lexington's sunken wreckage 500 miles off Australia's eastern coast in the Coral Sea, about 3km below the surface, resting on the floor.

USS Lexington
A gun from the USS Lexington wreck, found by Paul Allen. Paul Allen/Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel

They used Allen's ship Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel—which he said is equipped with "state-of-the-art subsea equipment capable of diving to 6,000 meters"—to locate the exact whereabouts of the wreckage.

"To pay tribute to the USS Lexington and the brave men that served on her is an honor," Allen said in a statement on his website announcing the discovery.

"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."

Lady Lex was launched in 1925, four years after construction work started. Less then two decades later, she would be fatefully deployed in the Pacific Theatre of World War II.

"Lexington was on our priority list because she was one of the capital ships that was lost during WWII," said Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Allen.

"Based on geography, time of year and other factors, I work with Paul Allen to determine what missions to pursue. We've been planning to locate the Lexington for about six months and it came together nicely."

USS Lexington wreck
A plane from the wreck of the USS Lexington, a WWII-era aircraft carrier. Paul Allen/Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel

"As the son of a survivor of the USS Lexington, I offer my congratulations to Paul Allen and the expedition crew of Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel for locating the 'Lady Lex', sunk nearly 76 years ago at the Battle of Coral Sea," said Navy Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr., head of the U.S. Pacific Command.

"We honor the valor and sacrifice of the Lady Lex's sailors—all those Americans who fought in World War II—by continuing to secure the freedoms they won for all of us."

This is not the first success for Allen and his team. They have also discovered the wreckages of the USS Indianapolis, USS Ward, USS Astoria, Japanese battleship Musashi, and the Italian destroyer Artigliere.