Wreckage of Second World War aircraft carrier USS Lexington discovered

Wreckage of Second World War aircraft carrier USS Lexington discovered
Pic: Douglas Curran/AFP/Getty Images

The wreckage of the aircraft carrier USS Lexington, which was sunk by the Japanese in a crucial Second World War sea battle, has been discovered by an expedition funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

The expedition team announced that the wreckage of the Lexington, crippled by the enemy and then scuttled on May 8 1942 during the Battle of the Coral Sea, was found on the seabed in waters about two miles deep, more than 500 miles off Australia's east coast.

"To pay tribute to the USS Lexington and the brave men that served on her is an honour," Mr 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."

The battle helped stop a Japanese advance that could have cut off Australia and New Guinea from Allied sea supply routes, and crippled two Japanese carriers, leading to a more conclusive US victory at sea a month later at the Battle of Midway.

The sea battle is also famous for being the first in which the opposing ships did not come in sight of each other, carrying out their attacks with carrier-launched aircraft.

Mr Allen's teams have made several previous important shipwreck discoveries, including three other US Navy vessels, an Italian destroyer and the Japanese battleship Musashi.

The ship that found the Lexington, the Research Vessel Petral, has equipment capable of diving about three and a half miles. It was deployed in early 2017 in the Philippine Sea before moving to the Coral Sea off the Australian coast.

The Lexington, affectionately dubbed "Lady Lex", was badly damaged by bombs and torpedoes, but the order to abandon ship was given only after a secondary explosion set off an uncontrollable fire.

Some 216 crew members lost their lives, but 2,770 were safely evacuated before its sister ship, the destroyer USS Phelps, fired torpedoes to send it to the bottom of the ocean.

Mr Allen said on his Twitter account that the ship went down with 35 planes, 11 of which had been found so far by his expedition.

He has said he undertakes such ventures in part to honour his father, who served in the war, by finding and preserving the artefacts of the conflict.

PA

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