The USS Lexington, CV-16, is a World War II-vintage Essex Class aircraft carrier. Commissioned in 1943, she served the United States longer and set more records than any other Essex Class carrier in the history of naval aviation.
The ship was the oldest working carrier in the United States Navy when decommissioned in 1991. An Essex-class carrier, Lexington was originally named the USS Cabot. During World War II, final construction was being completed at Massachusetts’ Fore River Shipyard when word was received that the original carrier named USS Lexington, CV-2, had been sunk in the Coral Sea. The new carrier’s name was changed to Lexington.
The USS Lexington arrived at Corpus Christi beach in 1992 as a result of active fundraising, strong community support, and the world’s oldest aircraft carrier has since served as a naval aviation museum, educational facility and popular area tourist attraction. “The Blue Ghost” has remained self-sufficient, never receiving funds from government agencies. The revenue that keeps this national treasure open has come solely from grants, donations, admissions, Ships Store sales, special events, and the youth overnight program.
During the 1980′s the U.S. Navy came to realize that keeping in service its last remaining World War II Essex Class aircraft carrier was becoming increasingly expensive and that the USS Lexington would have to be replaced by a more modern ship. In August 1990, the Secretary of the Navy announced that the USS Forrestal would replace the USS Lexington as the Navy’s training carrier.
Because of Corpus Christi’s long and proud history with the Navy and naval aviation in particular, the Corpus Christi Area Economic Development Commission formed a task force of prominent community leaders, known as Landing Force 16, to bring the “Blue Ghost” to the city. With an active fund-raising campaign in place and strong community support, the Corpus Christi City Council endorsed a $3 million dollar bond sale to finance the project. In August 1991, Landing Force 16 presented Corpus Christi’s proposal to Secretary of the Navy Lawrence Garrett, III. Although in stiff competition with several other communities, on the strength of community support, Lexington was awarded to the Corpus Christi team.
On 29 January 1992, Lexington arrived at Naval Station Ingleside and became a permanent Texas resident. On 8 June 1992, the United States Navy officially signed over Lexington to city officials and on 17 June she was towed to her final berth on North Beach. The USS Lexington was opened to the public in October 1992, and on 14 November was dedicated in a formal ceremony attended by representatives of the City, State and Federal governments, as well as former crew members and members of numerous veterans organizations.
From the very first day of operation as a naval aviation museum, the USS Lexington has remained totally self-sufficient, never having received funds from local, state or federal government agencies. The Museum has relied solely on revenues generated from grants, donations, admissions, ship’s store sales, special events, and the youth overnight program. These revenues have covered all expenses not only to operate and maintain the ship but also to fund all capital improvements as well.
Plan now to make the USS Lexington Museum on the Bay a “must-see” on your next Texas travels!