Friday, March 25, 2016

HGB Ep. 114 - USS Lexington

Moment in Oddity - Gate of the Sun
Suggested by Toby Hessenauer and researched by: Bob Sherfield

Standing at some 12,500 ft above sea level, high in the Andes of Bolivia, is the pre Columbian city of Tiwanaku.  The city, located on what was once the historic shore line of Lake Titicaca was one of the most important in ancient South America; it is believed to be the Capital of an Empire that stretched across Bolivia and into Peru and Chile. Though the people who in habited this site left no written history, Oral tradition and legends hold that the area around Lake Titicaca was the cradle of life for the first humans on Earth. It is said that the creator god, Viracocha, rose from the waters of the lake, at Tiwanaku to create the Sun, the Moon and the Stars and to breathe life into stone to create mankind. Sometime between 300BC and 300AD Tiwanaku became a moral and cosmological centre for the Empire that surrounded it, a place of pilgrimage for many people. A temple complex grew up, centred around a cross shaped pyramid structure called Akapana, 257m wide and 16.5m tall. Surrounding this pyramid are a ceremonial courtyard, a 5m tall raised terrace called Pumapunku, 167m long and 116m wide and the Kalasasya, a large 91 meter long courtyard. It was within this area that 19th century European explorers rediscovered the Gate of the Sun. The Gate of the Sun is 3m tall and 4m wide and constructed from a single piece of stone weighing an estimated 10 tons.  When rediscovered it was lying horizontally, and a large crack had split it into two pieces. It has now been erected, though archaeologists believe that the place it was found in is not its original location. That site remains uncertain. The Gate is heavily engraved with symbols that are believed to hold astronomical and or astrological significance. It has been theorised that these carvings may have served as a calendar. Carved into the lintel, surrounding a central figure are 48 squares, each of which contains a winged effigy, 16 with the head of a condor, and 32 with human faces. The central figure, who so far hasn’t been identified, is that of a man whose head is surrounded by 24 rays, perhaps representing the rays of the sun (this has led to him being labelled as The Sun god). In his hands he holds staffs symbolising Thunder and Lightening. Whilst the gate may appear to represent a calendar, it is not possible to fit its 290 days, divided into 12 months of 24 days into the solar year. Other, more radical theories have suggested that it was once a portal to another dimension or the ‘land of the gods.' Now that certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Martin Luther King, Jr. Marches to Montgomery
by: Jessica Bell

On this day, March 25, in 1965, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led 25,000 marchers to the state capitol in Montgomery, Alabama to protest the denial of voting rights to African Americans. Martin Luther King led thousands of nonviolent demonstrators to the steps of the capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, after a 5-day, 54-mile march from Selma, Alabama, where local African Americans, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) had been campaigning for voting rights. King told the assembled crowd: ‘‘There never was a moment in American history more honorable and more inspiring than the pilgrimage of clergymen and laymen of every race and faith pouring into Selma to face danger at the side of its embattled Negroes’’. During this final rally, held on the steps of the capitol in Montgomery, King proclaimed: ‘‘The end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man’’. On August 6th, in the presence of King and other civil rights leaders, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

USS Lexington (Suggested by listener David Robinson and Research Assistant Steven Pappas)


During the second world war, sea battles became a much more prevalent and impactful form of warfare. Great battleships and aircraft carriers became massive assets and a nation with an abundance of them was a power to be feared. This was proven in December of 1941 with the attack on Pearl Harbor which forced the hand of the US Government and set off America's involvement in WWII. Many ships were lost to the sea during battle, but one ship's legacy carried on in an interesting way. Another ship was named for it, and this ship went on to be the oldest working aircraft carrier in the US Navy. Something else continues on in the afterlife. There are many reports of unexplained happenings aboard the carrier. Join us as we explore the history and the hauntings of the USS Lexington.

World War II is considered to be the most destructive war in history. This war was the gathering of the perfect storm. As Germany's economy crumbled helping Adolph Hitler rise to power, Japan was seeking a rise in power as well and on a quest for empire while Mussolini had brought facism to Italy. These three realized they all had the same goal for world domination and they joined forces. The war lasted from 1939 to 1945 and nearly every nation on Earth was involved. World War II made the declaration that World War I was the "War to end all wars" preposterous. When looking at deaths caused by this war, including civilians during both battles and because of famine and disease caused by war, nearly 80,000,000 people died world wide.

During World War II, the Battle of the Coral Sea lasted for four days and it was the first air-sea battle in history.  Allied forces had intercepted a message that revealed that the Japanese were planning to invade Port Moresby in southeast New Guinea. This would give Japan control of the Coral Sea. The Japanese were surprised by an attack of American planes from aircraft carriers when they entered the area. Both sides would suffer losses, but the victory went to the Allies because the Japanese were left without enough planes to carry out the invasion on Port Morseby. This strategic victory would also help the Allies in the future Battle of Midway. That battle would end Japan's advance and lead to the final surrender of Japan.

On May 8th, 1942, during the Battle of the Coral Sea, tragedy struck the US naval fleet. The USS Lexington, hull number CV-2, was sunk. "Lady Lex", as the ship was known, had been launched in 1925 and was a very early aircraft carrier for the US Navy. It was originally meant to be a battlecruiser, but when a treaty cancelled the production of batlecruisers, the Lexington was converted into an aircraft carrier. This was an advantage because ships could hold up better under torpedo attack than carriers that were specifically built as carriers could.  The Lexington could carry up to 78 aircraft at one time and therefore was a huge asset in the Pacific campaign of WWII. It had been lucky enough to be at sea during the Pearl Harbor attacks, but it unfortunately only sailed for a few months before being sunk during this battle. 2,735 members of the crew were evacuated and 216 were killed in the sinking. Their legacy and that of the USS Lexington did not end there though.

The USS Cabot was laid down in Quincy, MA on June 15, 1941. This was the same harbor that the previous USS Lexington had been laid down in, some 16 years earlier. The Cabot was a mighty carrier with the ability to carry up to 110 aircraft and travel up to 20,000 miles at 15 knots. Her maximum speed was 33 knots, roughly 38 MPH. It was still under construction when the tragedy at the Battle of the Coral Sea took place, and the workers put in a request with the Government to rename the Cabot, the new USS Lexington. It was renamed as the fifth USS Lexington on June 16, 1942 and was hull number CV-16. She launched on September 23, 1942, with the crew of 3,000 ready to carry on the legacy of the previous USS Lexington. *Fun Fact: The crew daily consumed 660 pounds of meat, 164 gallons of milk and 97 dozen eggs.*

The ship traveled through the Panama Canal to join the pacific fleet. Unfortunately on the way, a test flight off deck went wrong and one of the pilots, 1939 Heisman trophy winner Nile Kinnick, was killed. The ship continued on to Pearl Harbor and then participated in Raids on the air bases on Tarawa. The Battle of Tarawa took place in November of 1943. The goal was to seize the island of Betio, which was under the control of Japan. Things started out rough because low tides kept American ships from clearing coral reefs that surrounded the island. The Marines sent to take the island ended up having to wade in through chest-deep water while being shot at by the Japanese. The battle lasted for 76 hours and was bloody, but the US Marines finally took the island.

The Lexington then went on to the Raid at Wake Island. This raid would help America to decide on the best way to win the war in the Pacific based on how effective the new faster carriers and the Hellcat Fighters would prove to be. The Lexington returned to Pearl Harbor after Wake Island to gear up for the next operation at the Gilbert Islands. The Lexington sailed for a raid on Kwajalein on December 4, 1942. At this raid, the Lexington was responsible for damaging two cruisers and 30 aircraft before being struck by a torpedo, which knocked out its steering capabilities. Admiral Charles Pownall was in charge at this time and he had told his crew not to fire at night because he didn't want to give their position away. That plan backfired and the Admiral would later be replaced. An emergency hand-operated steering mechanism was built and the holes in the hull were welded shut with heavy steel plates. The ship managed to escape, but was later reported sunk to the Japanese military. In actuality, the ship was very much afloat and made it to Washington state for repairs before being sent back out. This false reporting of the Lexington being sunk, occurred multiple times, earning it the nickname which it is most well known by, "The Blue Ghost." The Japanese forces referred to it as such, because they said it had a knack for reappearing after it had been sunk. The carrier was painted in a dark blue camoflauge to make it hard to see, which is where the blue part of the nickname comes from.

The USS Lexington went on to participate in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, which was Japan's attempt to get back on the offensive side of things. They failed miserably with inexperienced fighter pilots and far less planes than the Americans brought. Japan's aircraft losses were large and they had little success in hitting any battleships or carriers. The next battle for the Lexington was at Leyte Gulf. This was the first hit by the Allies as they battled for the Phillipines. Japan's forces were disjointed and not together as a fleet, so each ship had to fight independently. It did not go well for Japan. At both the Battle of the Phillipine Sea and Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Lexington was reported as having sunk, holding up its ghost ship reputation.

The Lexington spent 21 months in combat and helped destroy 847 enemy aircraft, 15 of which were shot down by the carrier's guns. She had participated in neary every battle in the Pacific Theater. After the war, the ship was decommissioned and in 1947 it joined the national reserve fleet. The ship was recommissioned as an attack carrier in 1955 and served in various capacities, including being involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis, until it made port in Pensecola, FL. In 1969, it began operating as a training ship both here and at its current place of port, Corpus Christi, TX. It served this way for 22 years. In 1980, it was the first aircraft carrier to have women stationed on it as crew members, and it was finally decommissioned permanently on November 8th, 1991. In her time, the carrier had set more records than any other Essex Class carrier in the history of naval aviation. In 1992, she opened as a museum and to date, over 5.5 million people have visited the ship.

With all of the action this ship saw in a terrible war, it is no wonder there are reports of hauntings on board the ship. Many guests have claimed to see a WWII era man standing on the deck of the ship before quickly fading away. Oddly enough, he is seen near where a plane collided with the ship causing multiple casualties. People have reported residual hauntings as well. Many people claim to hear disembodied shouts, cries, and screams coming from other areas of the ship. Some even report hearing what sounds like distant gunfire or naval artillery going off. Many guests, including a member of the crew for one of the ghost hunting shows, report feeling highly uncomfortable in areas of the ship like the switch room. Some even report to feel sick. While it is odd, there is a lot of machinery in that room and it could just be EMF issues.

Museum guests have on occassion gotten a tour from a blue-eyed tour guide dressed in a white naval uniform. He is a polite young man and knows a lot about the Engine Room. Everybody calls him Charly. The only problem is that Charly is not part of the staff. He's also not part of the land of the living. It is believed that he is a former crew member who died after a Japanese Kamakazi attack on Halloween in 1944 off the coast of the Phillippines. And for those of you open minded skeptics out there like us who find this hard to believe, on a Corpus Christi Caller-Times web site, as many as 200 visitors have reported encounters with Charly. A tour guide at the Lexington named David Deal said, "This apparition told things about the engine that I don't even know." Deal had actually served on the Lexington as both an airman and a catapult chief and retired in 1976.

The Director of Operations and Exhibits at the museum, M. Charles Reustle, has had many strange experiences. He has heard the rustling of clothes and footsteps behind him as he has walked out of his office on seperate occassions. There was never anybody behind him. During restoration, a crew was in the middle of painting when they took a break for linch. Upon their return, they found the painting done for them. A couple visiting the ship saw an apparition of a dark haired man wearing dungarees and a white work shirt jump to the deck below. They thought surely he must be injured and they ran to help him. He was nowhere to be seen. Museum staffers have reported seeing two specters. One was a man dressed in a naval uniform and the other was dressed in a Japanese pilot's uniform. Both spirits disappeared.

Many individuals report hearing screams of pain and terror in the engine room. This is the room that was hit by a kamikaze pilot during the war, causing many deaths. This was probably when Charly died. A ghost cam has been installed in the Engine Room because of all the activity. A worker also reported seeing something odd on the ship one night. A storm was rolling into the area where the ship is anchored. When there was a particularly bright flash of lightning across the sky, the worker says he saw several men in naval uniforms running across the deck of the ship. Another bolt of lighting flashed and the Navy seamen were no longer there. Along with lights flashing on and off, there are reports of full bodied apparitions below deck as well.

With all of tragedy surrounding the second world war, it is no surprise that we get reports of strange happenings all around the locations in which it was fought. Many people valiantly gave their lives and their legacy lives on today through museums, films, and history books. So do these men and women still man their posts in the afterlife? Are they still seen protecting the port at Corpus Christi? Is the USS Lexington haunted? That is for you to decide!

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