5 December 1941:
USS Lexington (CV 2) (Lady Lex) sails with Task Force 12 at 0810 to ferry Marine aircraft to Midway, leaving no carriers at Pearl Harbor much to the dismay of the Japanese.
At 1130, the Japanese oilers refuel the carrier group and stand by letting the attacking group go on without them. Some 27 Japanese submarines are in the Hawaii area already.
At 1500, destroyer USS Ralph Talbot (DD 390) picks up a sonar contact five miles off Pearl Harbor. Knowing US submarines are not in the area, her Captain asks for permission to fire depth charges. The squadron commander refuses stating it must be a fish.
Moored at Pearl Harbor on the morning of 7 December 1941, the crew of the USS Ralph Talbot manned her guns and began preparations for getting underway within minutes of the start of the Japanese attack. By 0900 she was en route out of the harbor having already splashed her first enemy aircraft. After the attack, she searched for enemy submarines and, on the 14th, sortied with Task Force 14 (TF 14) on the first of a series of carrier force screening assignments. She would earn 14 Battle Stars in World War II.
During the Battle of Coral Sea, the Lexington was hit by two Japanese torpedoes and three bombs, causing the ship to list and catch fire. Though her crew managed to squelch the fires and right the ship, gasoline below decks caused an enormous explosion and raging fires that could not be put out. The order was given to abandon ship, and all the men on board were saved and transferred to other carriers. An American destroyer fired two torpedoes into the hull to sink her completely.
Images: Rare photo of USS Lexington (CV-2), flagship of Task Force 12, underway in December 1941. LIFE magazine, Bob Landry photographer, shared by Peter DeForest.