Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The USS Lexington

Driving into Corpus Christi takes you right by the USS Lexington. It's a living museum and monument dedicated to the US Navy, to all who have served and to the men who died on her during World War Two. We wanted to visit her but hadn't until two new friends, couples, invited us to join them on the tour.
Jim and Nancy invited us to ride with them and Alan and Sharon followed closely behind as we drove the thirty miles to the carrier. Luckily, Jim had read the directions on how to get there as I would have gotten us off at the wrong exit, so we arrived safely. only to be greeted by the sight of a bus full of school kids,(Thank goodness they were leaving).
Walking up the ramp, the size of the ship dwarfed the planes on its deck. After paying the entrance fee we walked through the styles and into the elevator area. The inside was huge! A working display allowed us to see a plane being restored. The hanger area also contained a movie theater, a cafeteria, and displays of aircraft, torpedo's, and a small submersible,(see the image above), which was used by divers to work on the ship.
We decided to take the tour of the engine compartment first but hadn't even reached the halfway point when we looked at the time and had to hurry back to the theater to view the Optimax movie, "Fighter Pilot". The movie included some great segments of low altitude flying and some amazing displays from the observation radar plane that observes and directs the pilots the war games.
Returning to the engine compartment tour we passed a bunk area, the chapel, the machine shop and other area too numerous to mention. As we entered the engine compartment I was surprised at the seemingly small size of the steam turbines area, but of course it was crammed full with electrical lines, pipes , and valves not to mention the turbines themselves. What it must have been like during the time it was operating!
Last year we toured the USS Alabama and the USS Drum. The room inside of the Lexington dwarfed the similar areas in those ships. I was expecting to see the wooden flight deck but it had been replaced with a metal one after the war.
Returning to the hanger area we next toured the flight deck and Bridge. The bridge was small, but towered over the flight deck. The captains quarters were smaller, or about the same size, as our bedroom in the fifth wheel. Walking the flight deck we passed the planes and were all amazed at how small the actual landing strip is! Down a nearby flight of stairs we saw cupolas that contained antiaircraft guns. They actually still traversed as we sat in those seats and tried to imagine tracking incoming planes. It was hard to move the twin 40's and ir made us appreciate the strength it took to man those guns!
Returning to the flight deck we stopped and looked at balsas wood like rafts. Slightly above row after row of Japanese flags and ships represented the victories of its brave crew. Displays of the sailors who died when a kamikaze hit the ship provided a somber reminder to the reason for our freedom. A prayer for all who served, for those that died, and for their loved ones who suffered the anguish. Clear skies.

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