The USS Lexington, a World War II aircraft carrier recently discovered about two miles deep in the ocean off the coast of Australia, was built in a Quincy shipyard over 90 years ago.
The Lexington — nicknamed “Lady Lex” — was located by an expedition team funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen on Sunday. They found the ship’s wreckage about 500 miles off of Australia’s east coast.
Quincy’s Fore River Shipyard, which ceased operations in 1986, began working on Lady Lex in 1916. It was one of the nation’s first aircraft carriers, and the first carrier built at the Quincy shipyard, said Ed Fitzgerald, executive director of Quincy Historical Society.
“It was a major commission for Fore River,” Fitzgerald said. “The fact that it was one of the first aircraft carriers was a big deal.”
When Lady Lex launched down the Fore River in October 1925, the city celebrated and cheered it from shore, as it was the biggest project ever done by the Fore River workmen at the time, according to Boston Globe archives. When it was launched, it was 888 feet long and weighed 27,500 tons, Fitzgerald said.
About 20 years later, it was sent out as a Navy aircraft carrier into the 1942 Battle of the Coral Sea, a crucial confrontation. It was sunk by Japanese naval forces, according to The Associated Press. It was the first sea battle in which the opposing fleets fought without ever coming in sight of each other, attacking instead with carrier-launched aircraft.
The four-day clash helped end a Japanese advance that could have cut off Australia and New Guinea from Allied sea supply routes. But Lady Lex was badly damaged by bombs and torpedoes.
“It’s very interesting news,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s a famous ship. It’s a ship with a distinguished history for what it did do, even though it was relatively early in the war. Whenever you find a historic ship like that, that’s really significant.”
Although the Quincy shipyard is no longer in business, Fitzgerald said that in its heyday, it was one of the four biggest shipyards in the country.
“It’ll be meaningful for Quincy that it’s been located,” he said. “The shipyard remains an important part of local history. It’s one of the ways in which Quincy really had a national impact. People still take a lot of pride in the memory of the shipyard, and that’s been passed along.”
Elise Takahama can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @elisetakahama.