By: Jillian Becquet Photo Courtesy: Corpus Christi Public Libraries, La Retama Special Collections & Archives
It seems clear why Corpus Christi, with its history of training naval aviators, would be chosen as home to a decommissioned aircraft carrier. But what isn’t much discussed about how the USS Lexington came to its final home on North Beach is that the ship has a long history of service in the Coastal Bend, even prior to its decommissioning 30 years ago this month.
The USS Lexington we know is the fifth U.S. Navy ship to bear the name, and was built just 20 miles from the location of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in the American Revolution. With 21 months in combat in the Pacific theater during WWII, she then operated from San Diego before being transferred to Pensacola, Florida. From there, she made regular trips to the Coastal Bend as a training carrier, beginning in the 1960s.
Naval pilots training at Corpus Christi, Kingsville, and Beeville practiced landings and takeoffs on the USS Lexington for decades, as visits continued through the 1980s. When she docked in Port Aransas in 1963, an estimated 30,000 people toured the 910-foot-long aircraft carrier.
The USS Lexington holds many records for her service and for being the first Navy ship with female crew members, so her status as museum is well earned, as is her place as part of Corpus Christi’s history.