Statement of Significance (as of designation - July 31, 2003):
Within naval history, it can be said that the first half of the 20th century belonged to the battleship, while the second half of the century was the era of the aircraft carrier. World War II and the carrier campaigns of the Pacific firmly established the role of aviation within naval operations and the aircraft carrier replaced the battleship as the Navys primary strike platform. The ships that helped to bring about this military revolution were the Essex-class carriers, like the USS Lexington. The aircraft carrier Lexington (CV-16) participated in almost every major naval campaign in the Pacific from 1943 to 1945. She was a highly decorated warship, receiving numerous citations acknowledging her exemplary service. As an Essex class carrier, Lexington illustrates the development of aircraft carrier design, the refinement of multi-carrier operations, and the integration of aviation as a primary strike weapon in naval strategy. Prior to World War II, the Navy had no practical battle experience for its carriers. It was in the Pacific theater that carrier operations were developed and refined. With aircraft that extended the fleets firepower beyond the range of large caliber battleship guns, the carriers status was elevated from reconnaissance platform to that of a major surface combatant. Of the over 20 Essex class carriers built during World War II, Lexington is one of four that survive. Among the Essex class carriers, Lexington has the longest service record (1943-1991) with nearly 30 years as the Navys aviation training carrier. Her current configuration, including the addition of an angled flight deck, reflects this long history.