28
JUN
2014

Remembering the Lexington

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LISTEN to Gordon Scott on Hometown Heroes — OR — LISTEN to the entire interview with Gordon Scott
91-year-old Gordon Scott of Kingsburg, CA appears on episode #321 of Hometown Heroes, debuting June 28, 2014. Scott enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday in 1940, and was discharged on his 24th birthday in 1946.

Gordon Scott (smiling, center) as a teenage Navy enlistee.

Gordon Scott (smiling, center) as a teenage Navy enlistee.

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The first ship Scott was assigned to was the USS Arizona (BB-39), but after sailing on the battleship to the naval shipyard at Bremerton, Washington, he was transferred to the carrier USS Lexington (CV-2). On December 6, 1941, the Lexington left Pearl Harbor to deliver planes to Midway. You’ll hear Gordon recall how he and his shipmates received word while at sea that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. The Lexington went hunting for Japanese forces but could not find them, and you’ll Mr. Scott explain why he thinks it was better that way. Returning to Pearl Harbor three days after the attack, the destruction and devastation was overwhelming. Among the ships sunk by the Japanese were Scott’s orginial ship, the Arizona, along with the USS Utah, which had occupied the berth next to Ford Island that the Lexington vacated when it sailed out on December 6. Both the Utah and Arizona remain underwater at Pearl Harbor. Little did Gordon know the Lexington would eventually sink as well, but there were some significant heroics the “Lady Lex” was destined for first. Gordon’s job was to man the arresting gear that secured planes when they landed on the carrier’s deck. You’ll hear him discuss February 20, 1942, and the way a young Navy pilot named Butch O’Hare saved the Lexington with an underdog aerial victory that became the stuff of legend.

Butch O'Hare, accompanied by his wife, Rita, receiving the Medal of Honor from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Butch O’Hare, accompanied by his wife, Rita, receiving the Medal of Honor from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

When the Lexington was attacked by waves of Japanese bombers, O’Hare, in his F4F Wildcat, weaved his way through their formations, shooting down five planes and crippling another. Read more about it HERE and HERE. He was the first Navy pilot to become an ace, and the first to receive the Medal of Honor. Perhaps you’ve flown through the airport in Chicago named for Butch O’Hare, who was actually from St. Louis. O’Hare was shot down in November, 1943, and neither his body nor his airplane was ever recovered. As for Gordon Scott, he remained on the Lexington, and you’ll hear him remember the often overlooked exploits that made the Lexington a special ship in the eyes of Australians. In early March, 1942, planes from the Lexington were able to climb through a pass in the Owen Stanley Mountains and bomb Japanese holdings in the villages of Lae and Salamaua. You’ll hear Gordon recall what made Australia so grateful for that victory. Two months later in the Battle of the Coral Sea, Scott was thankful to be alive after a clash with the Japanese crippled the USS Lexington and claimed the lives of 216 of Gordon’s shipmates.

The USS Lexington after being hit by two Japanese bombs and a torpedo on May 8, 1942

The USS Lexington after being hit by two Japanese bombs and a torpedo on May 8, 1942. Keep this photo in mind as you listen to Gordon Scott share what he remembers about those terrifying hours while ship was burning.

Listen to Hometown Heroes to hear how Gordon experienced the moments when two Japanese bombs and a torpedo hit the Lexington, and what it was like watching his ship burn up from the inside out, leading ultimately to an order to “abandon ship.” Quickly picked up by a destroyer, Gordon escaped unscathed, and even got to pay a surprise visit to his brother in San Diego before word of the Lexington’s sinking spread. He would go on to serve on the carrier USS Suwannee (CVE-27), before returning stateside to Corpus Christi, TX, where he was stationed when World War II came to an end. More than 70 years after surviving the sinking of the Lexington, Scott had the opportunity to visit the National World War II Memorial with Central Valley Honor Flight. The final minutes of the program feature Gordon discussing that adventure, along with some of the other close calls from his six years on active duty.

Gordon Scott being saluted by active duty sailors from NAS Lemoore upon returning from Central Valley Honor Flight (photo courtesy of Larry McFarland)

Gordon Scott being saluted by active duty sailors from NAS Lemoore upon returning from Central Valley Honor Flight (photo courtesy of Larry McFarland)

If you catch Gordon Scott trying to hunt down career hole-in-one number three at Kings River Country Club, make sure you thank him for serving our country.
Paul Loeffler
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For more photos relating to Gordon Scott and his story, visit the Hometown Heroes page on facebook.

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