Edward Lea was born in Maryland on 31 January 1837, and graduated from the Naval Academy in October 1855. Serving on the China Station at the outbreak of the Civil War, he continued to serve in the Navy although his father became an officer in the Confederate Army. The two met only once more, in one of the war's most poignant incidents, when Lea, then executive officer in Harriet Lane, was mortally wounded during the Confederate recapture of Galveston on 1 January 1863. His father, serving ashore in Galveston, was with his son at his death.
(Destroyer No. 118: displacement 1,165; length 314'4"; beam 30'11"; draft 9'; speed 35 knots; complement 133; armament 4 4-inch, 2 3-inch, 12 21-inch torpedo tubes; class Wickes)
Lea (Destroyer No. 118) was laid down on 18 September 1918 at Philadelphia, Pa., by William Cramp & Sons; launched on 29 April 1918; sponsored by Mrs. Harry E. Collins; and commissioned on 2 October 1918, Lt. Cmdr. David W. Bagley in command.
After service in the Atlantic with Destroyer Squadron 19 during 1919, Lea transferred to the Pacific Fleet in 1920. On 17 July 1920, she was redesignated as DD-118. She served primarily along the west coast during the years between the wars. She was out of commission at San Diego 22 June 1922 to 1 May 1930, and 7 April 1937 to 30 September 1939. With Lt. Cmdr. Franklin W. Slaven in command, she sailed for the east coast to join the Neutrality Patrol, guarding the western Atlantic through the tense months before America's entry into World War II. She served in the force guarding transports carrying U.S. Marines for the occupation of Iceland on 8 July 1941.
For the first two and a half years of U.S. participation in the war, Lea had convoy escort duty in the North Atlantic, the Caribbean, and along the eastern seaboard, hazarded by peak U-boat activity and dangerous weather conditions. She rescued survivors from stricken merchantmen as well as fighting off submarines and joining in several successful attacks.
The first of her many wartime rescues at sea came in February 1942, when she took on board the crew of Russian merchantman Dvinoles, abandoned after collision damage. Later that month, 24 February, came a day long battle with submarines when Lea and sister escorts again and again dashed out from their convoy screen to keep down attacking U-boats which had sunk four of the merchantmen.
Between 22 April 1943 and 30 May, Lea joined the hunter-killer group formed around escort carrier Bogue (CVE-9) in the first mission of such a group. On 21 and 22 May, the Bogue aircraft became the first to engage a wolfpack attempting to rendezvous for a mass attack on a convoy. So successful were their six attacks in protecting the convoy that the group was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation in which Lea shared.
On 31 December 1943, Lea was five days out of New York on convoy escort duty when she was rammed by the U.S. freighter Elihu Yale. Towed to Bermuda and later Boston, she completed repairs on 28 June 1944, and began sailing from Newport as target ship for torpedo planes and escorting carriers during flight training. Between January 1945 and June, she had similar duty off Florida. Arriving at Philadelphia on 14 June, she decommissioned there on 20 July 1945; was struck from the Navy Register 13 August 1945; and sold for scrapping to Boston Metals Salvage Co., Baltimore, on 30 November 1945.
Lea received three battle stars for her World War II service.
Updated, Robert J. Cressman
9 June 2020