The Art of War

The paintings of Tom Lea, Life magazine’s artist-correspondent during World War II.

Hangar Deck

(Tom Lea)

In a 1942 letter to his friend Frank Dobie, Lea wrote: “I used to think that the manly thing was to join the service and get a gun, believing that there might be a certain reservation, even a little cowardice, in using merely a paintbrush. I’ve changed my mind…. There is nothing, in the way of personal honor, to be ashamed of in going to war armed with nothing heavier than a sketchbook and a receptive spirit. If that’s the way I can be most useful, that’s what I want to do.”

Lea documented every part of the carrier, including the hangar deck. “I had never heard much about the hangar deck, the vast steel barn where the birds go to roost. Nobody had told me about the incredible tangle of silver bowels, the pipes, the jets, the valves down in the engine room. I had heard more about the gedunk stand [snack bar] where the boys line up for ice cream than I had about the machine shop with its powerful lathes, or the telephone exchange with its compete dial system all over the ship.”

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