At the conclusion of World War One, the United States was building six battlecruisers of the Lexington class. The Washington Treaty placed a moratorium of the construction of new capital ships. The USN was able to save two of the battlecruisers by being allowed under the treaty to convert them to large aircraft carriers.
While the Lexington and sistership, Saratoga CV-3, were under construction, the fledging USN Naval Aviation was learning by doing on the Langley (Click to see CDR Kirby's USS Langley model at the Museum). Finally the giant carriers were ready in 1928 and US Naval Aviation had real warships with which to train. Throughout the 1930s, the pair formed the backbone of the USN carrier force. Ranger came into service but didn't have the speed of the sleek former battlecruisers. It was only at the end of the decade that the next strong carrier design made its appearance, the Yorktown class.
Lexington only had five months of life after the Pearl Harbor attack. However, she was very active in that time. Her time came at the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942. Struck by two torpedoes and three bombs, the ensuing fires and explosions doomed her. Lexington became the first of the four front line fleet carriers to be lost by the USN during World War Two.
The model of Lexington in the National Museum of Naval Aviation is another outstanding large scale model built and donated by CDR Josiah "Cy" Kirby USNR (Ret). The next installments in the carrier models of the museum will be a large scale model of USS Ranger CV-4, built by the Department of the Navy.