Exerpt from September 30, 1946 Life Magazine.
Tom Lea Paints Death of Great Carrier
The sinking of the U.S. S. Hornet by Jap planes on Oct. 26, 1942 is no longer a news event. It now belongs to history. But of all the great stories of the war, none is more filled with heroism and tragedy than the loss in the South Pacific of this mighty aircraft carrier.
Four days before the Hornet's last fight, Tom Lea, artist-war correspondent on assignment for LIFE, transferred from her to another ship. For 66 days he had lived aboard the Hornet. Since then he has been working on a series of paintings showing what happened on the day she was sunk. Research material for the paintings came not only from his own penciled sketches made before he was transferred, but from accounts given to him by officers and enlisted men who survived the sinking. His drawings and paintings are reproduced on these eight pages.
Tom Lea says that the days he spent aboard the Hornet were the proudest days of his life. In a letter written to LIFE he describes the emotions he feels about the ship. “I have been trying to write you about how a ship seems to be a living thing and how each ship has her own particular personality. Yet a ship does not begin to live merely because she has engines, and steel, and decks and a flag. She begins to live only as she receives from the men who sail her the best part of their personalities. Men endow a ship, not only with their own souls, their own hopes and desires, but also, because a ship's performance depends upon the men who sail heir own behavior.
“If this is true of all ships, it is particularly true of a man-of-war. Such a ship achieves her destiny only in destruction, and her quality of living is somehow shaped by her quality of dying. Men on a warship think of dying just as normally as they think of living. “An aircraft carrier is by her very nature a most pe. culiar 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.