All Aboard! USS Lexington
Commissioned in 1943 the USS Lexington served the United States Navy as one of the leading aircraft carriers of the times. Throughout its many years of service, the carrier held as many as 3,000 as its infrastructure supported a floating city of those seeking to defend our country during both war and peace. Serving during WWII, it served in every major operation yet was damaged and reported sank time and time again to be one of the most resilient of the American fleet.
If a ship had the ability to talk, this one would have quite the haunting story to tell as it survived both glory and pain throughout its years. Taking on gunfire, bombing and rebuilding to her original glory the “Blue Ghost” remained victorious throughout time.
To see her now, she is stands dauntingly large in the bay just off the North Beach of Corpus Christi. Opened to the public for tour, the ship which once housed some of America’s finest pilots and shipmen throughout some of the countries hardest times, now serves to educate and inspire.
Buried in 18 feet of sand, the ship no longer is able to launch proudly into the open seas, instead it is a relic of the past with a display of not only day to day life for those serving but also of the many types of aircrafts which took part in the over 400,000 launches and landings on the carrier.
I visited on a July morning while traveling to Corpus Christi. I had seen military vehicles of every form and sort, but never a ship. I had assumed by the movies, just like everyone else I assume, on the size being of a great magnitude, however nothing could have prepared me for the sight as I pulled into the parking lot just across the street.
As I walked closer and closer to the ship and realized the small things moving about were actually people on the decks, the anticipation built. Before long I could see just beyond the ticketing area were restored planes, those used throughout the time of the ship’s lifetime and now on display for those visiting. Picture the size of a military bomber plane, now picture that plane 50 times over and you haven’t even taken up the space of the deck above.
To give a size comparison, the Corvette Club hosted an event at the USS Lexington, to benefit the self sustaining, non-state or governmentally funded museum. During that event they parked some 400 Corvettes on half of the deck of the ship and hosted a car show. 400 cars only took up half of the ship’s deck, a single level of the ship. Now think of that 11 times over as each ship has a minimum of 11 decks. It is literally a city at sea.
I was overwhelmed by the feelings of those which had come before me as I toured the site up and down the ladders and stairways to each of the 5 individual tours around the ship. Tours are each self-led and allow those visiting to travel at their own pace. Clearly marked paths steer you throughout the ships from the engine room to the bridge and everything in between. Interactive exhibits allow you to view videos and correspond with them in certain areas, while in different areas you can learn to tie knots similar to that used on the ships.
The ship’s tours feature stories of those which had stayed within the walls in various areas and a special feature is dedicated to Pearl Harbor for those fallen during the war through the crafts and carriers present at that time.
A little known fact before exploring the ship, was that a portion of the movie, Pearl Harbor was actually filmed on the USS Lexington, and in this special room an area is dedicated to the movies accurate representation of this time to pay honor to those fallen.
I was amazed by each of the corridors and how they told a story and how much I could learn from this site. The attention to detail was apparent and as I walked throughout I saw people of all ages enjoying the experience and paying tribute to those that had served so proudly on the ship.
On the ship, there is even a 3D Movie gallery for those wanting to find out a bit more about the current Navy and their operations. It was a nice place to sit down and cool off with shows every hour on the hour and the movie was very interesting.
All in all, my experience at the Lexington was unlike even my wildest assumptions. A bit eerie at times with the roped off darkened halls, a bit warm in places with lacking ventilation and a bit overwhelming of a maze of uncertainty, the ship was an experience I was happy to have experienced.
Some estimate an average stay of 2 hours, however I was there from around 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. taking in each of the areas on the tour. It would be easy to see someone looking at each detail could spend an entire day at the site and still potentially miss something. I can’t imagine a 2 hour trip allowing you to see every tour.
Due to the heat, this site is a bit tough during summer months, so keep hydrated and take advantage of rest stops. My suggestion is carry a bottle of water, but obey signs when saying no food or drink beyond this point. Also make sure to wear adequate shoes for climbing and walking. Over 20 flights of stairs and ladders are present if you complete all 5 tours without using the elevator, which limits tours.
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