The aircraft carrier USS Lexington, sunk during the Battle of the Coral Sea in May of 1942, has been found by a team of wreck-hunters led by the billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

The Lexington was the first aircraft carrier ever to be sunk in combat. But during the battle, her planes also sunk the Japanese carrier Shoho and stopped a Japanese drive on Australia. A month later, the Japanese lost four carriers in attempting to invade the tiny island of Midway. It would alter the course of the war.

Allen’s team of researchers found the USS Lexington’s sunken wreckage 500 miles off Australia’s eastern coast in the Coral Sea, about 3km below the surface, resting on the floor.

“To pay tribute to the USS Lexington and the brave men that served on her is an honor,” Allen said in a statement on his website announcing the discovery.

“As Americans, all of us owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who served and who continue to serve our country for their courage, persistence and sacrifice.”

Lady Lex was launched in 1925, four years after construction work started. Less then two decades later, she would be fatefully deployed in the Pacific Theatre of World War II.

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“Lexington was on our priority list because she was one of the capital ships that was lost during WWII,” said Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Allen.

“Based on geography, time of year and other factors, I work with Paul Allen to determine what missions to pursue. We’ve been planning to locate the Lexington for about six months and it came together nicely.”

Because over 200 of her crew died defending the ship and still on-board no attempt will be made to raise it. The Japanese had severely crippled the ship during attacks and after the crew abandoned ship, the Lexington was scuttled by US torpedoes.

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Photo courtesy Wikipedia