Artist Tom Lea spent 66 days aboard the aircraft carrier USS Hornet during the Guadalcanal campaign of World War II. His assignment was to document the U.S. armed forces from earth, sea, and sky in paintings that would become full-color spreads in 10 issues of LIFE Magazine. Among the scenes he witnessed from the Hornet was the immolation of the aircraft carrier USS Wasp, set afire by a Japanese torpedo attack.
In October 1942, Lea departed the Hornet with instructions to take his sealed package of drawings directly to “Headquarters, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet” and to open it for nobody
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