‘Eyes on the Gulf
Official caption: “Gulf Of Mexico. A pair of T-2C Buckeye aircraft wait behind the blast deflector on the flight deck of the auxiliary aircraft landing training ship USS Lexington (AVT-16) for their turns at the catapult during pilot carrier training. On the corner of the flight deck at upper right are parked a C-2A Greyhound aircraft and a Coast Guard HH-65A Dolphin helicopter, 4/1/1989.”
Note the stenciling of the “Flying Tigers” of Training Squadron 26 (TRARON 26) and “USS Lexington” on the Buckeyes.
“The Blue Ghost,” Lady Lex was the ninth “short bow” Essex-class fleet carrier ordered prior to the U.S. entrance to WWII and was laid down five months prior to Pearl Harbor under the intention of being named USS Cabot. However, two weeks after the Battle of Midway, she was renamed for the combat-lost USS Lexington (CV-2) and carried that name when commissioned on 17 February 1943.
Earning 11 battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation fighting her way across the Pacific, Lex spent eight years in mothballs post-WWII then rejoined the fleet in 1955 as CVA-16 after an SCB-27C/125 angled deck modernization. Redesignated an anti-submarine carrier (CVS-16) in 1962, while most of her modded sisterships saw extensive combat off Vietnam, Lexington arrived at Pensacola in 1969 for work as the Navy’s dedicated training carrier (CVT-16, then AVT-16 after 1978), spending a solid 22 years shuffling across the Gulf of Mexico between Corpus Christi and P-Cola on carrier trials. She was, by 15 years, the last of her class on active service and the last WWII-era flattop still working.
She is currently preserved at Corpus as a museum ship.