Tag Archive | USS Wasp

Lost air wing of the Wasp

The late Paul Allen’s R/V Petrel of course recently discovered the final resting place of the lost WWII aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-7) on the bottom of the Pacific. The below haunting video shows some of her planes resting in the debris field, which likely slipped off her deck during her ride to the floor.

For more on the planes discovered from the lost carriers found by Allen’s group, including those from Lexington, Hornet, and HMS Ark Royal, check this out.

Back on Earth, but not home yet, 53 years ago today

(18 Dec. 1965) — Astronaut James A. Lovell Jr., the pilot of the Gemini-7 spaceflight, is hoisted from the water by a recovery helicopter from the Aircraft Carrier USS Wasp. Astronaut Frank Borman, command pilot, waits in the raft to be hoisted aboard the helicopter.

The helicopter is Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King (HSS-2/S-61) BuNo #149006 (Sikorsky #61-080) of “The Dragonslayers”  the “Sub Seekers” (thanks, Fabio!) of Helicopter Squadron 11 (HS-11). Contrary to popular belief, most astronaut scoopers were regular fleet ASW helicopters and crews.

The SH-3A, only 245 of which were made before the line was upgraded, when it was introduced in 1961 set new speed records for helicopters over a 3 km sea level course (198.8 mph) and a 25 km course (210.6 mph), making them literally the fastest production whirlybird in the world at the time. From Scott Carpenter’s Mercury mission in May 1962 to the end of the Apollo lunar program in December 1972, every NASA spacecraft crew retrieved by helicopter was recovered by a Sikorsky Sea King.

The particular airframe shown above was later upgraded to SH-3H standard and was retired by the Navy in 2005, now preserved in her later white livery at Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum at McMinnville, Oregon (home of the Hughes H-4 Hercules, the Spruce Goose)– but a very close sister #149003, is still in long-term storage at AMARC  where it has been since 1992.

As for HS-11? They are still around, assigned to Carrier Air Wing 1 out of NAS Norfolk, but they fly MH-60S’s now as HSC-11, The Dragonslayers.

56 years ago today, a revamped WWII task force, ready for Soviet U-boats

Photo # USN 1057640

Photo # USN 1057640

Although the Second World War was over for more than 15 years when this image was taken, the ships shown were still ready to fight it– or a Soviet Red Banner replacement for the Kriegsmarine.

The WWII-era fleet carrier, re-designated as a subbuster, USS Wasp (CVS 18) in formation with destroyers and aircraft of Anti-submarine Task Group Bravo, in the Mediterranean Sea, 19 August 1961.

All escorts are similarly WWII designed Gearing-class DDEs, likely recently FRAMM’d. Planes overhead include 10 S2F Trackers and two Douglas AD-5W Skyraiders. Two HSS-1 (Sikorsky H-34 /S-58) helicopters are flying just above the ships. While the Trackers and HSS-1s were very new and modern for the time, it should be pointed out that the Skyraider first flew in 1945.

Hunter Killers!

Below is a great 1967 film featuring Grumman S-2E Trackers of Sea Control Squadron Twenty Four (VS-24) Scouts and VS-27 Pelicans and Sikorsky SH-3A Sea King helos of HS-3 Tridents from Carrier Antisubmarine Warfare Group Fifty Six (CVSG-56) aboard USS Randolph (CVS-15).

Also featured in the film are S-2Es of VS-28 Gamblers and VS-31 Topcats and SH-3As of HS-11 Sub Seekers from CVSG-52 aboard USS Wasp (CVS-18). Other footage of S-2Es of VS-22 Checkmates and VS-32 Maulers and SH-3As of HS-5 Nightdippers from CVSG-54 aboard USS Essex (CVS-9) is also used in the film. Grumman C-1A Trader carrier onboard delivery (COD) aircraft and Grumman E-1B Tracer airborne early warning radar aircraft of various VAW-33 Nighthawks detachments also appear in the film. The destroyer USS Newman K Perry (DD-883) is the only identifiable escort in the film but several DDs are shown from a distance.

Hattip, Avgeekery

Five castaways belonging to four different carriers

This has to be a great story in this picture, taken of five men who evidently survived being shot down in the Philippines in late 1944/early 1945 and survived as best they could until being plucked up by a VPB-54 PBY-5A Catalina flown from the cargo ship turned seaplane tender USS Tangier (AV-8), then afloat in the Leyte Gulf.

U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-305864

Note the .38 on Roccafort who seems to have gone the most Robinson Crusoe of the bunch, and the native machete on Doyle. U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-305864

Caption: Five men were rescued on Luzon Island, PI, by VPB-54. Survivors left to right: ARM2C Clifford P. Schelitzche, Torpedo-14, USS Wasp (CV-18); Ensign Maurice L. Naylon, Fightin 31, USS Cabot (CVL-28); Ensign Nichol J. Roccafort, Torpedo 18, USS Intrepid (CV-11); Ensign John R. Doyle, USS Ticonderoga (CV-14); ARM3C William W. King, USS Ticonderoga (CV-14). Photographed onboard USS Tangier (AV-8), January 10, 1945.

Ersatz carrier, you are here

A joint US Navy/Marine Corps “Proof of Concept” demonstration held off the coast of Southern California Nov. 18-20 put the largest force of F-35B Lightning II stealth STOVL strike fighters ever assembled at sea together by placing a full dozen planes from the “Wake Island Avengers” of VMFA-211,  fleshed out by VX-23 and VMX-1 from Patuxent; along with a few MV-22B, AH-1Z and UH-1Ys aboard the USS America (LHA-6).

The F-35B Lightning II third developmental test phase (DT-III) evaluated the full spectrum of joint strike fighter measures of suitability and effectiveness in an at-sea environment.

161115-N-N0101-012 PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 14, 2016) Ordnance is prepared for an F-35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft on the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6). This event marked the first live ordnance uploaded to the F-35B at sea.During the third and final F-35B developmental test phase (DT-III), the aircraft is undergoing envelope expansion via a series of launches and recoveries in various operating conditions such as high sea states and high winds. (U.S. Navy Photo/Released)

161115-N-N0101-012 PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 14, 2016) Ordnance is prepared for an F-35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft on the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6). This event marked the first live ordnance uploaded to the F-35B at sea.During the third and final F-35B developmental test phase (DT-III), the aircraft is undergoing envelope expansion via a series of launches and recoveries in various operating conditions such as high sea states and high winds. (U.S. Navy Photo/Released)

In preparation of DT-III load testing, America‘s Weapons Department assembled two types of smart bombs. The team assembled 72 laser-guided Guide Bomb Units (GBU) 12 and 40 satellite-guided GBU-32s for the first time in the ship’s short history.

America, the ultimate evolution of the 1970s Tarawa-class LHAs and 1980s LHD designs, looks a lot like an Essex-class fleet carrier from WWII. In fact, they are the same rough size (45,000-tons/844-feet for LHA vs. 36,380-tons/872-feet for CV) though the old school flattops were much faster, carried an immense array of topside armament, and could squeeze 100~ piston engine planes on their deck.

However, a dozen or so F-35Bs with 5th Generation carrier-strike capabilities, when the bugs are worked out, should prove much more capable than a few squadrons of Corsairs or Hellcats.

Also, there is always the prospect of adding a second squadron aboard, giving an LHA a full 24 aircraft, which isn’t too far-fetched, after all, it should be remembered that 20 AV-8Bs of VMA-331 operated from USS Nassau (LHA-4) in support of Operation Desert Storm, flying 240 combat sorties and dropping 900 bombs. Sure, the F-35 is heavier than the Harrier, but LHA-6 is optimized for aviation operations, whereas Nassau was not.

Such an ersatz carrier group, augmented by a few DDG/CG assets to screen it, could fill several expeditionary contingencies short of all-out war. For instance, recent limited air operations off Libya, non-combatant evacuation operations offshore of a country with a deteriorating security situation, keeping sea lanes open against an asymmetric threat, or enforcing a naval quarantine.

Besides the meaning for U.S. carrier forces, being able to add some LHAs as mini-flattops in a pinch, this month’s trials with a dozen F-35s at sea shows the Brits what they have to look forward to. Though the beautiful 70,000-ton HMS Queen Elizabeth is to commission next year, the RN Fleet Air Arm has no real fixed wing assets to put aboard her at this time.

Queen Elizabeth is capable of carrying up to 36 F-35s in her hangars, and while the current plan is for the carriers to deploy with an air wing of just 12 jets, this may take a while to pull off. The Brits, who intend to ultimately have as many as 138 joint RAF/RN F-35s, will only have their first operational squadron in late 2018 and just 24 operational frames in inventory in 2023. Indeed, USMC F-35Bs are expected to deploy on QE until the UK gets theirs fully fleshed out.

And the gentlemen from the UK were on-hand on America this week.

“As we all know, we can’t choose the battle and the location of the battle, so sometimes we have to go into rough seas with heavy swells, heave, roll, pitch, and crosswinds,” said Royal air force (RAF) Squadron Leader Andy Edgell, an F-35 test pilot embedded at the Pax River ITF. “The last couple of days we went and purposely found those nasty conditions and put the jets through those places, and the jet handled fantastically well. So now the external weapons testing should be able to give the fleet a clearance to carry weapons with the rough seas and rough conditions. We know the jet can handle it. A fleet clearance will come — then they can go forth and conduct battle in whatever environment.”

In the meantime, in 2017, an up-gunned Expeditionary Strike Group consisting of a three-DDG strong surface action group and a more traditional three-ship Amphibious Ready Group centered around USS Wasp (LHD-1) with an LPD and LSD in tow, will deploy with a squadron of Marine F-35Bs. 

Welcome to the new Navy.

PACIFIC OCEAN -- An F-35B Lightning II takes off from the flight deck of USS America (LHA 6) during the Lightning Carrier Proof of Concept Demonstration, November 19, 2016. The demonstration is the first shipboard Marine Corps F-35B integration demonstration alongside other Marine Corps Air Combat Element assets. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Thor Larson/Released)

PACIFIC OCEAN — An F-35B Lightning II takes off from the flight deck of USS America (LHA 6) during the Lightning Carrier Proof of Concept Demonstration, November 19, 2016. The demonstration is the first shipboard Marine Corps F-35B integration demonstration alongside other Marine Corps Air Combat Element assets. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Thor Larson/Released)

161120-N-VT045-0001 PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 19, 2016) Four F-35B Lightning II aircraft perform a flyover above the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) during the Lightning Carrier Proof of Concept Demonstration.  The F-35B will eventually replace three  Marine Corps aircraft; the AV-8B Harrier, F/A-18 Hornet and the EA-6B Prowler. (U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe/Released)

161120-N-VT045-0001 PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 19, 2016) Four F-35B Lightning II aircraft perform a flyover above the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) during the Lightning Carrier Proof of Concept Demonstration. The F-35B will eventually replace three Marine Corps aircraft; the AV-8B Harrier, F/A-18 Hornet and the EA-6B Prowler. (U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe/Released)

Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Tom Lea

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sunday, I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, and the like that produced them. As always, remember to click to embiggen.

Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Tom Lea

With this edition coming on Memorial Day weekend, I felt it best to highlight one of the most somber artists to ever cover a military subject. Further, this incredibly skilled painter did so not from photographs or through dry research, but from his own first-hand experience garnered at sea both frozen and aflame and on the bloody sand.

Thomas Calloway “Tom” Lea, III was born in El Paso, Texas on 11 July 1907. Growing up in that rough and tumble border town during the era of Poncho Villa, he had to have an armed escort to school over remarks his father, the mayor, made during that time. Leaving home in the 1920s, Lea studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and under noted muralists (remember this later).

In the 1930s, he got his first steady work as a WPA artist, painting murals in federal buildings across the state as well as in such far off places as Washington D.C., New Mexico, Illinois, and Missouri.

Mural on North Wall, West Texas Room, 1936. Oil on canvas, 7 X 13 feet. Hall of State, Dallas

Mural on North Wall, West Texas Room, 1936. Oil on canvas, 7 X 13 feet. Hall of State, Dallas

In 1941, LIFE Magazine asked him to sketch troopers of the El Paso-based 8th Cavalry Regiment (1CAV DIV), which he did and in turn evolved into other requests to supply images of aviators and cannoncockers at nearby bases.

Corporal Butler, 8th Cavalry and his mount, 1941, by Tom Lea. It shows the striker of Maj. Gen. Innis P. Swift's aide, who was a friend of Lea's family.   Swift, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Innis_P._Swift later went on to command I Corps in the Pacific. A colorful character who rode with Pershing chasing Villa in 1916, Swift ordered the depicted horse soldier to ride from Fort Bliss direct to Lea's house so that he could be sketched.

Corporal Butler, 8th Cavalry and his mount, 1941, by Tom Lea. It shows the striker of Maj. Gen. Innis P. Swift‘s aide, who was a friend of Lea’s family. Swift later went on to command I Corps in the Pacific. A colorful character who rode with Pershing chasing Villa in 1916, Swift ordered the depicted horse soldier to ride from Fort Bliss direct to Lea’s house so that he could be sketched while standing dismounted in his studio. Image via the Lea Institute.

By the fall, he was afloat on a U.S. Navy destroyer bobbing along the Atlantic Ocean on the very active Neutrality Patrol in which the man from West Texas saw the world from the heaving decks of Uncle’s tincans.

A Time and a Place, Argentina Bay, Newfoundland, 1941. This ship, the tender USS Prairie with three destroyers moored with her, was his first view of the fleet. Published in LIFE in May 1942, he captioned it "Like a fierce mother with three children sits the big supply ship, blinking a message to the newcomers with her high starboard light ..." Oil on canvas, 25 x 40 Life Collection of Art WWII, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort Belvoir, Virginia

A Time and a Place, Argentina Bay, Newfoundland, 1941. This ship, the tender USS Prairie (AD-15) with three destroyers moored with her, was his first view of the fleet. Published in LIFE in May 1942, he captioned it “Like a fierce mother with three children sits the big supply ship, blinking a message to the newcomers with her high starboard light …” Oil on canvas, 25 x 40 Life Collection of Art WWII, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort Belvoir, Virginia

Tossing the cans, by Tom Lea, depicting the firing of a K gun depth charge thrower

Tossing the cans, by Tom Lea, depicting the firing of a Y gun depth charge thrower

Next, he shipped out on one of the “original 8” carriers of the U.S. Navy, USS Hornet (CV-8) for a 66-day run across the Pacific. There, in fierce service off Guadalcanal in late summer 1942, he spent more than two months on a front line carrier in the thick of the war and sketched as he found.

USS Hornet by Tom Lea

USS Hornet by Tom Lea

navy plane captian

He observed the sinking of the Wasp on Sept. 15, 1942

He observed the sinking of the Wasp on Sept. 15, 1942.

Carrier ace Silver Somers, by Tom Lea

Carrier ace Silver Somers, by Tom Lea

in blue gleam of a battle light tom lea an american dies in battle tom lea a bomb explodes below deck tom lea

On 21 October, he left the Hornet, pulling away on a fleet oiler that would land him back at Pearl Harbor. The cleared sketches would appear in LIFE in March and April 1943, sadly, after the carrier had been sunk. You see, the ship in which Lea had spent those hectic two months was sent to the bottom, sunk in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, 26 October 1942– just five days after he left.

As told by Lex

Back at Pearl Harbor, Lea showed Admiral Nimitz some of his drawings. One of them was the one above. Underneath the drawing, he inscribed a quotation from Deuteronomy: “Moreover the Lord thy God shall send the hornet among them, until they that are left, and hide themselves from thee, be destroyed.”

Admiral Nimitz looked at the drawing for a long time, then turned his head to Lea, and said: “Something has happened to the Hornet.”

That was how Lea found out that the aircraft carrier he had been on, together with his friends, perished.

This he immortalized in a painting ran by LIFE of how he pictured the ship going out– fighting.

“An aircraft carrier is by her very nature a very peculiar warship, for she belongs not wholly to the sea nor sufficiently to the sky.” “Without heavy deck guns or stout armor, she is physically the most vulnerable of warships, carrying within her the seeds of her own destruction. Whenever she goes to sea she is loaded with bombs, shells and high-octane gasoline, all concealed behind her thin steel plates. ” “Such a ship was the Hornet. She feared bombs, but also know that probably only torpedoes would sink her.” “There is no way to describe how terrible a torpedo seems as it heads for a carrier. It leaves a strange wake, a rather thin, white, bubbly line like fluid ice, cold as the death is presages. Against the ship’s side, it explodes with an appalling concussion and a wild flash of pink flame. Within the ship, there is a terrible wrenching. Decks and bulkheads are twisted like tissue paper, and all things not secured by iron bolts are smashed.” “The Hornet died under a moonlit sky on a shining tropical sea. She had been hit by two waves of Jap planes, the first in the morning, the second in the afternoon… Then came the last order: ‘Abandon ship.’ The men went over the side on knotted lines, down to life rafts, to floating debris, or simply to the water.” “Behind them their ship died a smoking death.” “The great carrier was not alone. She had destroyers and cruisers with her, and they aided in the work of hauling the Hornet’s crew from the sea. In a few hours, it was all over. Those whose fate it was to live were alive, and those who had to die were dead.” “A tropical sunset colored the hulk of the carrier and the stars came out faintly. After dark she went down.” -LIFE Magazine, “HORNET’S LAST DAY: Tom Lea paints death of a great carrier”

“An aircraft carrier is by her very nature a very peculiar warship, for she belongs not wholly to the sea nor sufficiently to the sky.” “Without heavy deck guns or stout armor, she is physically the most vulnerable of warships, carrying within her the seeds of her own destruction. Whenever she goes to sea she is loaded with bombs, shells and high-octane gasoline, all concealed behind her thin steel plates. ”
“Such a ship was the Hornet. She feared bombs, but also know that probably only torpedoes would sink her.”
“There is no way to describe how terrible a torpedo seems as it heads for a carrier. It leaves a strange wake, a rather thin, white, bubbly line like fluid ice, cold as the death is presages. Against the ship’s side, it explodes with an appalling concussion and a wild flash of pink flame. Within the ship, there is a terrible wrenching. Decks and bulkheads are twisted like tissue paper, and all things not secured by iron bolts are smashed.”
“The Hornet died under a moonlit sky on a shining tropical sea. She had been hit by two waves of Jap planes, the first in the morning, the second in the afternoon… Then came the last order: ‘Abandon ship.’ The men went over the side on knotted lines, down to life rafts, to floating debris, or simply to the water.”
“Behind them their ship died a smoking death.”
“The great carrier was not alone. She had destroyers and cruisers with her, and they aided in the work of hauling the Hornet’s crew from the sea. In a few hours, it was all over. Those whose fate it was to live were alive, and those who had to die were dead.”
“A tropical sunset colored the hulk of the carrier and the stars came out faintly. After dark she went down.”
-LIFE Magazine, “HORNET’S LAST DAY: Tom Lea paints death of a great carrier”

 

Next, fate found him landing with the 7th Marines at the green hell that was Peleliu. The 11 paintings he produced from that front line horror are some of the most haunting military art of all time and should be viewed by any politician who claims there is no alternative to starting a war.

"GOING IN - FIRST WAVE" "For an hour we plowed toward the beach, the sun above us coming down through the overcast like a silver burning ball....Over the gunwale of the craft abreast of us I saw a Marine, his face painted for the jungle, his eyes set for the beach, his mouth set for murder, his big hands quiet now in the last moments before the tough tendons drew up to kill." Life Collection of Art WWII, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

“GOING IN – FIRST WAVE” “For an hour we plowed toward the beach, the sun above us coming down through the overcast like a silver burning ball….Over the gunwale of the craft abreast of us I saw a Marine, his face painted for the jungle, his eyes set for the beach, his mouth set for murder, his big hands quiet now in the last moments before the tough tendons drew up to kill.” Life Collection of Art WWII, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

"2000 YARD STARE" "Down from Bloody Ridge Too Late. He's Finished - Washed Up - Gone" "As we passed sick bay, still in the shell hole, it was crowded with wounded, and somehow hushed in the evening light. I noticed a tattered Marine standing quietly by a corpsman, staring stiffly at nothing. His mind had crumbled in battle, his jaw hung, and his eyes were like two black empty holes in his head. Down by the beach again, we walked silently as we passed the long line of dead Marines under the tarpaulins. He left the States 31 months ago. He was wounded in his first campaign. He has had tropical diseases. He half-sleeps at night and gouges Japs out of holes all day. Two-thirds of his company has been killed or wounded. He will return to attack this morning. How much can a human being endure?”  Life Collection of Art WWII, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

“2000 YARD STARE” “Down from Bloody Ridge Too Late. He’s Finished – Washed Up – Gone”
“As we passed sick bay, still in the shell hole, it was crowded with wounded, and somehow hushed in the evening light. I noticed a tattered Marine standing quietly by a corpsman, staring stiffly at nothing. His mind had crumbled in battle, his jaw hung, and his eyes were like two black empty holes in his head. Down by the beach again, we walked silently as we passed the long line of dead Marines under the tarpaulins. He left the States 31 months ago. He was wounded in his first campaign. He has had tropical diseases. He half-sleeps at night and gouges Japs out of holes all day. Two-thirds of his company has been killed or wounded. He will return to attack this morning. How much can a human being endure?” Life Collection of Art WWII, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

"THE BLOCKHOUSE" "There were dead Japs on the ground were they had been hit. We walked carefully up the side of this trail littered with Jap pushcarts, smashed ammunition boxes, rusty wire, old clothes, and tattered gear. Booby traps kept us from handling any of it. Looking up at the head of the trail, I could see the big Jap blockhouse that commanded the height. The thing was now a great, jagged lump of concrete, smoking." Life Collection of Art WWII, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

“THE BLOCKHOUSE” “There were dead Japs on the ground were they had been hit. We walked carefully up the side of this trail littered with Jap pushcarts, smashed ammunition boxes, rusty wire, old clothes, and tattered gear. Booby traps kept us from handling any of it. Looking up at the head of the trail, I could see the big Jap blockhouse that commanded the height. The thing was now a great, jagged lump of concrete, smoking.” Life Collection of Art WWII, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

The Peleliu Invasion by Tom Lea

The Peleliu Invasion by Tom Lea

"THIS IS SAD SACK CALLING CHARLIE BLUE" "We found the battalion commander [Lt Col Edward H. Hurst, CO, 3/7]. By him sat his radioman, trying to make contact with company commands. There was an infinitely tired and plaintive patience in the radioman's voice as he called code names, repeating time and time again, 'This is Sad Sack calling Charlie Blue. This is Sad Sack calling Charlie Blue.' “Life Collection of Art WWII, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

“THIS IS SAD SACK CALLING CHARLIE BLUE” “We found the battalion commander [Lt Col Edward H. Hurst, CO, 3/7]. By him sat his radioman, trying to make contact with company commands. There was an infinitely tired and plaintive patience in the radioman’s voice as he called code names, repeating time and time again, ‘This is Sad Sack calling Charlie Blue. This is Sad Sack calling Charlie Blue.’ “Life Collection of Art WWII, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

"SUNDOWN AT PELELIU" "Sick Bay in a Shellhole. The Padre Read, 'I am the resurrection and the Light' " "The padre stood by with two canteens and a Bible, helping. He was deeply moved by the patient suffering and death. He looked very lonely, very close to God, as he bent over the shattered men so far from home. Corpsmen put a poncho, a shirt, a rag, anything handy, over the grey faces of the dead and carried them to a line on the beach to await the digging of graves." Life Collection of Art WWII, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

“SUNDOWN AT PELELIU” “Sick Bay in a Shellhole. The Padre Read, ‘I am the resurrection and the Light’ “The padre stood by with two canteens and a Bible, helping. He was deeply moved by the patient suffering and death. He looked very lonely, very close to God, as he bent over the shattered men so far from home. Corpsmen put a poncho, a shirt, a rag, anything handy, over the grey faces of the dead and carried them to a line on the beach to await the digging of graves.” Life Collection of Art WWII, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

"COUNTER-ATTACK" “I do not know what time it was when the counterattack came. I heard, in pauses between bursts of fire, the high-pitched; screaming yells of the Japs as they charged, somewhere out ahead. The firing would grow to crescendo, drowning out the yells, then the sound would fall dying like the recession of a wave. Looking up, I saw the earth, the splintered trees, the men on their bellies all edged against the sky by the light of the star shells like moonlight from a moon dying of jaundice. The phone rang. A battalion CO reported the Jap's infiltration and the beginning of the counter attack. He asked what reserves were available and was told there were none. Small arms fire ahead of us became a continuous rattle. Abruptly three star shells burst in the sky. As soon as they died floating down, others flared to take their place. Then the howitzers just behind us opened up, hurling their charges over our heads, shaking the ground with their blasts." Life Collection of Art WWII, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

“COUNTER-ATTACK” “I do not know what time it was when the counterattack came. I heard, in pauses between bursts of fire, the high-pitched; screaming yells of the Japs as they charged, somewhere out ahead. The firing would grow to crescendo, drowning out the yells, then the sound would fall dying like the recession of a wave. Looking up, I saw the earth, the splintered trees, the men on their bellies all edged against the sky by the light of the star shells like moonlight from a moon dying of jaundice. The phone rang. A battalion CO reported the Jap’s infiltration and the beginning of the counter attack. He asked what reserves were available and was told there were none. Small arms fire ahead of us became a continuous rattle. Abruptly three star shells burst in the sky. As soon as they died floating down, others flared to take their place. Then the howitzers just behind us opened up, hurling their charges over our heads, shaking the ground with their blasts.” Life Collection of Art WWII, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

"THE PRICE" "Lying in terror looking longingly up the slope to better cover, I saw a wounded man near me, staggering in the direction of the LVTs. His face was half-bloody pulp and the mangled shreds of what was left of an arm hung down like a stick, as he bent over in the stumbling, shock-crazy walk. The half of his face that was still human had the most terrifying look of abject patiences I have ever seen. He fell behind me, in a red puddle on the white sand." Life Collection of Art WWII, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

“THE PRICE” “Lying in terror looking longingly up the slope to better cover, I saw a wounded man near me, staggering in the direction of the LVTs. His face was half-bloody pulp and the mangled shreds of what was left of an arm hung down like a stick, as he bent over in the stumbling, shock-crazy walk. The half of his face that was still human had the most terrifying look of abject patiences I have ever seen. He fell behind me, in a red puddle on the white sand.” Life Collection of Art WWII, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

"We saw a Jap running along an inner ring of the reef, from the stony eastern point of the peninsula below us. Our patrol cut down on him and shot very badly, for he did not fall until he had run 100 yards along the coral. Another Jap popped out running and the marines had sharpened their sites. The Jap ran less than 20 steps when a volley cut him in two and his disjointed body splattered into the surf." Life Collection of Art WWII, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

“We saw a Jap running along an inner ring of the reef, from the stony eastern point of the peninsula below us. Our patrol cut down on him and shot very badly, for he did not fall until he had run 100 yards along the coral. Another Jap popped out running and the marines had sharpened their sites. The Jap ran less than 20 steps when a volley cut him in two and his disjointed body splattered into the surf.” Life Collection of Art WWII, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Base sketch for the above, from the UTSA Libraries Special Collections.

Base sketch for the above, from the UTSA Libraries Special Collections.

From the El Paso Times:

After taking his paintings to Life headquarters in New York, Tom heard what happened: The paintings were lined up so the managing editor Daniel Longwell could review them. Longwell entered, looked, and said: “Print every damn one of them in color, and I never want to see them again.”

It was also his last wartime assignment.

After the war he remained active and produced art for books and novels, while trying his hand as an author and historian.

Marrakech Tom Lea 1947

Marrakech Tom Lea 1947

Muster at Bore 60  1973 tom lea

Muster at Bore 60 1973 tom lea

And There He Was by Tom Lea

And There He Was by Tom Lea

Tom Lea following his last wartime tour as a LIFE artist correspondent - landing on the island of Peleliu with the 1st battalion 7th Marines. On the easel is The Price, 1944.

Tom Lea following his last wartime tour as a LIFE artist correspondent – landing on the island of Peleliu with the 1st battalion 7th Marines. On the easel is The Price, 1944.

Much as he was born in El Paso and lived most of his life there, he also passed away there in 2001 at age 93. He is buried in the city next to his wife, whose portrait reportedly took him the longest of all paintings to complete.

tom-lea

Today, his trail of murals are celebrated across the Lone Star State while the Tom Lea Institute is located in El Paso  which produces the annual Tom Lea Month celebration in the city.

His work is on public display a numerous U.S. Army museums and bases, the Smithsonian, the White House, as well as galleries and museums across the Southwest.

Thank you for your work, sir.

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