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The USS Lawton is a fictional United States Fletcher-class destroyer first shown in a newspaper clipping in the 2017 Monsterverse film Kong: Skull Island. Its destruction at the claws of the Ion Dragon in 1943 precipitated the foundation of Monarch several years later, and led its sole surviving crew member, Bill Randa, to join the organization in 1952. The ship later appeared in flashback in the 2023 Apple TV+ television series Monarch: Legacy of Monsters.
In its depiction in Kong: Skull Island, the Lawton's name presented a discrepancy with real U.S. Navy protocol, as all battleships of its vintage were required to be named after a U.S. state. Monarch: Legacy of Monsters resolves this somewhat, retconning it to be a destroyer, which would require it to have been named after a Navy or Marine Corps hero instead. However, as there were no such heroes named Lawton in real life, it may be named after a fictional person.
The Kong: Skull Island Cinematic Adventure erroneously refers to the Lawton as the "U.S.S. Layton" (inserting periods into the USS portion, misspelling Lawton, and lacking italicization) and as "USS Lawton" (italicizing USS).
The USS Lawton as it appears in Kong: Skull Island is of an unknown ship class, mostly resembling a South Dakota-class battleship but with the bow of an Iowa-class battleship. "USS LAWTON" is printed on its true left side rather than a hull number, and it washed ashore with prominent claw marks on its hull. However, the ship's appearance was retconned in Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, now being a Fletcher-class destroyer rather than a battleship and lacking the claw marks. It is also not shown to have any markings on its true right side, implying either another retcon or that its name is not mirrored on both sides. The ship's stern, seen for the first time in the show, has "LAWTON" written across it.
- Kong: Skull Island (2017) [photograph]
- Monarch: Legacy of Monsters (TV 2023-2024) [episode 2, flashback]
The USS Lawton was a vessel operated by the United States Navy during World War II. In 1943, the ship was attacked and destroyed by a huge unidentified creature, leaving Bill Randa as the only survivor. Due to the nature of the attack, the U.S. government covered up the incident and officially declared that the Lawton was sunk by the enemy. One year after the war's end, in 1946, U.S. President Harry S. Truman ordered General Douglas MacArthur to create a task force in order to further investigate the sinking of the Lawton and other similar recent incidents involving Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms, or MUTOs. Randa, still fixated on the sinking of the Lawton, joined Monarch by 1952 in order to prove to the world that monsters existed and prevent similar attacks in the future. He maintained that the creature which sank the Lawton had "no conscience" and only destroyed, and came to fear that ancient superspecies like it would return to reclaim the world from mankind unless they fought back.
In 1952, Bill Randa and Keiko Miura discovered the rusted and battered Lawton far from shore in a jungle in the Philippines, after following their maps of the ionizing radiation trails left by something that Randa believed to be a dragon. He recognized it immediately, recounting that the Lawton sank 200 miles west of Pearl Harbor in 1943, a shocking distance away from the Philippines. He filmed their exploration of the ship. After he searched through a box and took out a baseball cap, Keiko spotted his name on the box and realized that he once served on the Lawton. He told her about its sinking in more detail: they thought they hit a Japanese submarine at first and the ship ultimately sank in under three minutes, leaving him the sole survivor. Next they came upon strange organic growth on the walls of the Lawton followed by a room full of dead sailors entombed in a waxy substance, horrifying Bill. As they prepared to leave, they noticed a fresh secretion. A force outside put dents in the hull of the Lawton, then punched through it with a giant claw, pinning Bill under debris. Keiko's military escort Lee Shaw arrived to help her free him as the monster continued its assault. They leapt out of the falling ship, barely running clear of it as it crashed down. The Ion Dragon then burst through the vessel and flew after them, missing them as they reached the treeline and a small pit. Shaw was stunned to realize Bill was right as the awestruck scientists watched it land on the ship and bellow.
- Kong: Skull Island Cinematic Adventure (2023) [mentioned]
- Kong: Skull Island - The Official Movie Novelization (2017) [mentioned]
[A]s an adult, he'd constantly searched for something he knew was out there, some place where he could be himself and triumph. And then when the Lawton had been hit...
The USS Lawton is largely omitted, being mentioned in only a single sentence. Instead, Bill Randa joins Monarch as a result of a lifelong interest in myth kindled by his global travels during his World War II service.
- Prior to its confirmation as the Ion Dragon in Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, the identity of the creature which sank the Lawton was widely speculated by fans to have been Godzilla. In a 2017 interview with Toho Kingdom, Kong: Skull Island director Jordan Vogt-Roberts stated that he did not intend for Godzilla to be the culprit, but rather imagined that the Lawton was sunk by a previously-unseen original monster.
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