Informed patriotism and intelligent citizenship are important to our family. Citizenship isn’t a school subject or a 12-step program, but a way of life for us.
That’s merely one reason we jumped at the opportunity to tour the aircraft carrier, the USS Lexington.
Plus, it counts as something like a whole semester of school, it was that educational.
You’re going to get a little education here, too. (Now don’t you be skippin’ this part, just because it’s educational!)
The Essex-class USS Lexington was commissioned in 1943 as the flagship for Fast Carrier Task Force 58. Admiral Marc Mitscher commanded Task Force 58, perhaps the Navy’s predominant weapon system of the century.
After WWII, this 910-foot beauty was updated. In 1955 she was recommissioned to serve in the Pacific during the Cold War. In 1962 she became the Navy’s training vessel until her decommissioning in 1991.
She’s a piece of American history!
Some of you know this already. Steve grew up in the United States Air Force. His father was not only an amazing pianist, but was also a career military man. That is likely how Steve got his amazing musical talent and his fascination with aircraft. He is a self-declared, certifiable plane nut…if anybody certifies that condition.
Let’s take a tour of this old World War II beauty, shall we? Good luck keeping up with Dad!
It’s a self-guided tour, but you can just follow us!
The flight deck is the best place to start…just in case it rains later. Ooooo, this is gonna be awesome! The Lexington’s flight deck was used for 50 years and is a record-holder! She launched and recovered more aircraft than any other carrier in the world. Well done, Girl!
Welcome. Fish are friends, not food…
but little boys are another story.
Every airplane stood behind a yellow information board with a description of the model and its purpose.
The description also contained a brief history of that particular plane’s or type of plane’s service and stories about the real pilots who flew those planes.
The stories brought everything to life in a very stark way.
Real men were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country and for people they didn’t even know (or, in the case of Lieutenant George Bush, for people who would eventually spit on him). That commands respect. That’s serving your country!
When we say you can get up close and personal with these planes, this is what we mean:
Steve was in heaven!
You’ve heard of the blue angels, right?
Get those monkeys out of the way. Wait. That’s not a blue angel! That’s just a trainer.
There’s the blue angel!
Back to the carrier. What else can we see?
How about the gun deck!
Here we learned not to look into this end of a firearm.
We also learned that you need some big hulking biceps…
to rotate one of these babies.
Try to imagine yourself in the heat of battle, protecting the home front, thrust into this seat and working with all your might to save your buddy sitting next to you on the other gun. Kids not much older than mine, risking and many losing their lives to protect freedoms that today’s Americans vote away based on an emotion or a fear or laziness or a color.
Wake up, America!
Moving on to the captain’s command center, but first a little trivia.
Did you know…? The USS prefix on ship names stands for United States Ship. Once decommissioned, the prefix is usually removed, although not in the case of ships such as the USS Lexington and the USS Constitution.
Wait! Who’s that? You don’t belong in the captain’s chair! Outta there!
Well, at least this captain has her learner’s permit.
Let’s just put these two in charge.
“Us? Okay. Lunch and naps everybody!”
Here’s the view from the captain’s seat.
This is when that annoying Dora song got stuck in our heads:
Issa turn the wheel! Turn the wheel Issa!
Issa turn the wheel! Turn the wheel Issa!
I’m turnin’ the wheel. I’m turning the wheel. I’m turnin’ the wheeeeeeeeee!
And of course, because it’s Dora, you have to shout everything…even the songs.
Back to pleasanter thoughts, like this war ship.
Full speed ahead!
This is the captain’s sea cabin. We thought it was rather roomy. We also thought he had an excessive amount of stuff…I mean, two chairs and a bed? He only has one butt! (Life in a travel trailer changes a person.)
Walkin’ the plank! This hangs out over the front of the carrier for the purpose of…oh, rats. I forgot why. Do you know?
This is the air craft carrier’s flight simulator. Perfect landing…if you like hanging out with sharks.
The purpose of an aircraft carrier is, after all, protection through strength and combat when necessary.
Here’s where parenting sometimes backfires. We wre eager to show the kids the crew’s sleeping quarters, expecting a “Wow, we sure have it good in our massive travel trailer!” response.
Instead we heard this:
They get their own beds!
Nobody has to share!
They don’t have to turn their beds into a table every day!
Look at all the storage space!
Yeah, well, nobody’s shooting at you! Be happy!
(Just a note—the kids don’t really complain about their quarters. Good kids.)
Look what a tightly run ship she was.
I think it’s always applicable to clean commodes. Speaking of commodes and sleeping quarters, Lexington was the first ship to commission females. And here’s another little bit of trivia for you.
Did you know…? Women used to be considered bad luck on a ship. The only lucky lady on board was the figurehead mounted on the prow…something, obviously, the USS Lexington doesn’t have. Interesting, isn’t it?
Check out the size of this chain.
Oh, some perspective might help. Here ya go, Mate!
Now these are some serious quarters that were for the highest commanding officer or visitor. I think they were land quarters only.
We were headed out to the van to snag our lunches when a retired serviceman-turned-volunteer stopped us and asked if we wanted an elevator ride. He had to get a crane from the flight deck down to the lower deck, and we were welcome to ride along.
Um, yes please!
Loading up the crane.
Going back down.
Now that’s an elevator!
Oh, you noticed that little mine in the corner, did you? You probably shouldn’t touch that.
While we’re waiting to see it that mine is a dud or not, how about some more sea facts?
Did you know…? Ships are typically called she instead of it. The speculation behind the reason for this varies. A common thought is that the word ship in romance languages (originating from the Roman, or Latin, language) is feminine, so the men would correctly refer to the ship as she. Others think it’s because the ship provides all the men’s needs, kinda like…you got it…Mama.
The ship was really a city on the water, providing the men’s basic needs, and then some.
Everybody had his job.
Here’s the “mess.”
Just between you and us, the kitchen patrol guys are a little creepy…and inefficient…and all their food tastes like plastic.
This is what a 1956 Christmas dinner looked like aboard the USS Lexington:
Need a haircut? You’re covered!
Need a lobotomy? You’re covered.
Need a book? You’re covered.
Let us in!
Down to the belly of the beast. There was quite a bit of technical lingo throughout the ship, but particularly down here.
Even so, the displays also included personal interest stories and other information that the layman could understand while the military and technical gurus were exploring to their hearts’ content. Very well done!
We totally need one of these signs when we’re on summer tour:
Remember that full speed ahead crank from the Captain’s deck? Here’s the counterpart, down in the belly.
This is the part of the tour where we wonder which children’s behavior warranted remaining with the family, and which are left in the brig.
This one looks totally guilty. “Yup, I did it, and I’ll probably do it again.”
I’m not seeing the remorse.
Can’t you even pretend to feel badly that you’re in the brig?
Whatever! You may all come! Grace wins again.
While the kids are being released, let’s have one more bit of information from Christy, the grammar geek.
Did you know…? You may have noticed the italicizing of Lexington throughout this post. Most (not all) style guides (officially accepted guidebooks of standardized rules for writers) italicize the names of major vehicles, but not their prefixes or articles. So you will see the Challenger and the USS Arizona. Perhaps we should start italicizing Bagabus.
Enough grammar. Back to the ship.
Check out the outside of the carrier. Japanese propagandist Tokyo Rose called the USS Lexington “The Blue Ghost” because she wasn’t painted in the typical camouflage colors of most of the ships.
I’m sure you were wondering why there is a Japanese rising sun flag on an American aircraft carrier. The Blue Ghost wasn’t invincible.
The flag marks the location where a Japanese kamikaze plane struck the USS Lexington on November 5, 1944. Fifty men lost their lives and another 132 were injured.
The USS Lexington was a part of every major naval campaign from Tarawa to Tokyo, and she was only hit twice. Both strikes, however, took a toll.
If you are in the vicinity of Corpus Christi, go see her. Don’t skip the museum areas where stories about the real people on the ship will open your family’s eyes to what people sacrificed for our country’s freedom. It’s an eye-opening experience for all Americans, and a beautiful monument to our men and women in uniform.
That’s it for us. Anchors away!
Click here for more information about the USS Lexington from the Historic Naval Ships Association.