My first voyage was in the rough weather and I think it was in October out to Argentia. It's all in A Picture Gallery about my time there. I came in one night from a trip up to what they call MOMP [Mid-Ocean Meeting Point], which is where we met the British destroyers off the coast of Greenland. We were on convoy duty, and on our way back to Boston, we put in at Argentia and it was just at sunset. The executive officer and I went in to a little Quonset hut on the beach with a bar rigged for the officers. We were walking towards it and a fellow came out and he said to the man I was with, "Hey Eddie! Have you heard?" And my friend said, "No." He said, "The Japs have hit Pearl Harbor." And so my friend said, "Um, well, what's the rest of the joke?" He says, "That's it." He said, "well, you'd better come back with us and have a drink." He said, "I've already had one and I'm going out to the Prairie," that was the name of the support ship, "and see what they say on the radio." And, sure enough, that was how I found out about Pearl Harbor and then we went in and had several drinks against the Japs, and nobody could believe it.
And the next morning, why,..the ships had all gone. The Wasp [had been there and the next morning it was gone. I was doing a portrait of Adm. [Arthur L.] Bristol, [Jr.] and I went in and instead of his [usual] map there on the bulkhead with all the destroyers and their positions up to MOMP and Greenland, he had a great big map of the orld and they weren't saying a thing. The navy wasn't saying a thing. The only [informatioin] that we found out at all was [over] the commercial radio wavelengths in the wardroom of the old Prairie. And, you know, the whole world was different. So I had a wild ride from Argentia in an old four-pipe destroyer down to Boston and we hit a great storm and it knocked us around very badly. There was a big list to port and one of the bulkheads caved in and a wave took the whole forward gun platform clear off the ship. And we were wounded and coming in. The navy had heavy security before Pearl Harbor, but when Pearl Harbor hit, boy, you were a captive. But they let me through the gate there in Boston.
Tom Lea speaking to Adair Margo, published in Tom Lea, An Oral History, El Paso, Texas: Texas Western Press, p. 75.