Tom Lea Exhibit at the National World War II Museum 

This afternoon not only did I finally become a member of the National World War II Museum but I got to see Larry Decuers exhibit on Tom Lea.

Tom Lea was born in El Paso, Texas in 1906 and was an accomplished muralist and illustrator when World War II broke out. Tom Lea was hired by Life Magazine editor Dan Longwell to cover America’s journey into World War II. His combat art was presented in full page layouts with captions usually written by Lea.

He was station on the USS Hornet and was transferred to another ship four days before the USS Hornet was sunk. He witnessed the USS Wasp sinking from the USS Hornet.

Lea drew sketches of what he was seeing in battle and then went back and made the paintings. He also made sketches from what the soldiers told him.

The exhibit as usually was awesome. You have to see the exhibit. The paintings capture the emotions and rawness of war. You feel that you can reach out and touch the people in the images. Don’t worry I did not touch the images since I did not have my white gloves on.

The crew of the USS Gleaves launched depth charges from a Y gun. When on target, they could radically increased the water pressure around the submarine, cracking its hull.

The sinking of the USS Wasp

The captain of the USS Hornet gave the dreaded abandon ship order. 1749 of 1889 sailors are rescued by escorting destroyers. 140 perish at sea.

In the Battle of Santa Cruz the USS Hornet was fatally wounded by Japanese aircraft that made a suicide dive into the USS Hornet signal bridge. This was the spot wear Lea stood a few weeks before to witness the sinking of the USS Wasp.

Sketch of Lt Colonel Doolittle. He led his men on a one way mission to bomb Tokyo. The mission had a very slim chance of success but the the crew was able meet most of its objectives. They took off from an aircraft carrier and flew to Japan and by the grace of God had enough fuel to land in China.

In this painting one of the soldiers is radioing for backup but no backup was available.

This was Tom Lea’s desk where he completed his paintings. While in combat, Lea carried a knife like the one found on this desk.



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