The discovery of the USS Lexington not only uncovers a lost American military mass grave but also the remains of a ship that played a crucial role turning the tide in war in the Pacific.
For 76 years the precise location of the sunken aircraft carrier has been unknown after it was scuttled following the crippling damage it sustained in the Battle of the Coral Sea.
Now an underwater exploration team funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has located the wreckage 800km off Australia's north-east coast, the Daily Telegraph reports.
Allen, whose father served in World War II, has dedicated his resources and time to his passion of uncovering vessels lost during the conflict.
The USS Lexington is a particularly special find due the role it played in the battle that finally checked the all-conquering advance of Japan's imperial forces in 1942.
But as the final resting place of more than 200 US sailors, the discovery of the Lexington has an emotional significance in the US as well as historical.
Speaking after the discovery, Allen said: "As Americans, all of us owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who served and who continue to serve our country for their courage, persistence and sacrifice."
In the months leading up to the battle the Japanese empire reached its zenith. It dealt a severe blow to the US's naval capabilities at Pearl Harbour in December 1941 and then cut a swathe through the South Pacific capturing Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.
Following the successes, Japan's General Naval Staff had drawn up a plan to invade northern Australia to prevent the country being used as a base for a counter attack by the Allies. The scheme was rejected by the army who said they did not have the men to maintain such an invasion.
In its stead another plan was put forward by Vice Admiral Shigeyoshi Inoue, who would later have overall command of the Japanese naval forces in the Battle of the Coral Sea, to take Port Moresby in New Guinea and the Solomon Island of Tulagi. This, he argued, would put land-based Japanese bombers in range of Australia and also shore up the empire's southern flank.
But unknown to the Japanese, the Allies had partially cracked their communication codes and soon deciphered that a big assault was being planned, guessing correctly that the target was Port Moresby. In response US Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, ordered two Australian-American naval task forces into the Coral Sea in anticipation.
On May 3 the Japanese successfully took Tulagi and immediately started building a seaplane base. The next day the US launched an air attack from the USS Yorktown carrier on the island, sinking the destroyer the Kikuzuki as well as three Japanese minesweepers.
The attack alerted the Japanese to the fact there was a large Allied presence in the war theatre and they paused the invasion of Port Moresby to find and destroy the enemy forces.
What ensued was a confused search on both sides to locate the other's main forces that saw the fleets repeatedly miss each other.
Then on May 7 there were a number of engagements which resulted in the Japanese losing their light aircraft carrier, the Shōhō, and the sinking of a US destroyer.
The decisive exchange came on May 8 when the two main attack groups, consisting of two aircraft carriers on each side, located the other's position. The four carriers launched their respective air fleets and then headed towards each other to shorten the return flight for their pilots.
Japanese launched 71 planes comprising of 18 fighters, 33 dive bombers and 18 torpedo planes. In return the US scrambled 72 aircraft including 15 fighters, 39 dive bombers and 12 torpedo planes.
When the US airforce reached the Japanese carriers they managed to hit the Shōkaku aircraft carrier with three 1000lb bombs, heavily damaging its flight deck and killing or wounding more than 200 of its crew.
The other Japanese carrier, the Zuikaku, was covered by low hanging cloud and escaped without serious damage.
When the Japanese airforces mounted their attack on the US carriers they managed to hit the Lexington with two torpedoes, hindering its mobility. Japanese dive bombers then zeroed in on the Lexington and hit it with two bombs.
The other US carrier, the Yorktown, was also badly damaged when an armour-penetrating bomb hit its flightdeck and penetrated four decks below before detonating, killing and wounding 66 men.
Initially the crew of the Lexington managed to extinguish the fires caused by the bombing and make the ship operational again.
However after the battle, gas fumes built up on the Lexington and ignited causing a huge explosion that killed 25 crew and started a large conflagration.
The Lexington's Captain, Frederick C. Sherman, recalled the struggle to save the ship saying: "All lights were out and the main deck and below were full of smoke. It was a losing fight to control the fire. "
The war heads on the ship's hangar deck reached a dangerously high temperature of 140°F, with Sherman fearing the ship "blowing up at any minute" as fires spread "beyond control".
Three more explosions ensued before the crew reported the fires as uncontrollable and started to abandon ship.
After the survivors of the crew were rescued the US destroyer Phelps fired five torpedoes at the Lexington to sink it and avoid it falling into enemy hands. Of its 2951 man crew 216 went down with the ship as well as 35 aircraft.
Four days after the battle, Sherman submitted his battle report hailing the Lexington's instrumental role in a "glorious victory".
He wrote: "The ship and crew had performed gloriously and it seemed too bad that she had to perish in her hour of victory. But she went to a glorious end, more fitting than the usual fate of the eventual scrap heap or succumbing to the perils of the sea."
Both sides withdrew their forces from the Coral Sea after sustaining heavy casualties in the engagement. The Japanese could claim an immediate tactical victory having sunk more US ships over the course of the battle as well as one of its main aircraft carriers.
Yet the Battle of the Coral Sea was a turning point in the war and the first time the Japanese military had failed to take one of its objectives.
The plan to capture Port Moresby was postponed after the battle and the Japanese would never take it. Maintaining a foothold in New Guinea gave the allies in important springboard for its broader offensives against Imperial Japan.
More importantly, after the battle the Japanese carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku were unable to take part in the Battle of Midway a month later, which inflicted irreparable damage on the Japanese fleet and turned the tide in the Pacific.
The Battle of The Coral Sea also marks the first naval engagement in history where the ships did not fire on each other directly, ushering in a new era of aircraft-dominated naval warfare.
For 76 years the precise location of where the Lexington had come to rest remained a mystery until Allen's underwater exploration team traced it.
'Lady Lex' was found by the team's research vessel, the R/V Petrel, which has discovered the wreckage of a number of historic warships.
As well as the vessel itself the team also found 11 of her planes resting on the floor of the Coral Sea, including Douglas TBD-1 Devastators, Douglas SBD-3 Dauntlesses and Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats.
Allen, who spent six months planning the operation, shared images of the remarkably preserved aircraft on his Twitter account.
On one aircraft, an emblem of the cartoon character Felix the Cat holding a bomb can be seen, representing the US Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 31 known as the Tomcatters.