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Found WWII shipwreck restores history for Utahn

Posted at 9:43 PM, Mar 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-10 23:43:49-05

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The USS Lexington has been found after sinking 76 years ago during World War II, and now a great grandson in Salt Lake City shares his experience with the famous vessel and his family ties.

Commander Howard R. Healy was one of the leaders of the famous military vessel known as the USS Lexington.

“My great grandfather had a nickname, Pop. They all called him that,” said Arron Healy, who works as a photojournalist at Fox 13.

“He was the damage control officer on the USS Lexington, his job was to keep the ship afloat, no matter what,” Healy said of his grandfather.

The vessel was one of the first U.S. built aircraft carriers, sent out with one mission.

“The goal of this was to stop the Japanese expansion southward into Australia, basically to save Australia,” Healy said.

In a three-day battle at Coral Sea, the ship was pummeled by Japanese forces. An explosion on board eventually rendered the ship inoperable.

Orders were given to abandon ship and 2,000 sailors were able to evacuate, while 200 others had no such luck.

“In that same explosion, my great-grandfather died,” Healy said. “It was noted that he would die at his battle station,” he added.

The Lexington was ultimately scuttled by the U.S. Navy, leaving behind precise coordinates of where the ship remained.

The coordinates made their way into the hands of billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who funded an expedition to find the Lexington.

"We're dealing with an environment out here that is very harsh; it's thousands of meters deep and it's very unpredictable, the weather conditions, the equipment,” said Robert Kraft, the director of subsea operations for Paul Allen.

This week, she was found 500 miles off the coast of Australia and about 2 miles under water.

“Those pictures we saw this last week were the first time anyone, especially my family, had seen anything about the Lexington in 70-plus years,” Healy said.

After all of those years, the ship is still in good condition, with cannons intact and the name visibly imprinted along the side. But this expedition wasn’t about finding buried treasure.

“There's no commercial value, but there is, obviously there is a historic value to looking for Lexington,” Kraft said.

And a great sentimental value for Commander Howard R. Healy’s great-grandson.

“It renews interest in something that we thought was all but forgotten,” he said.