USS Lea (DD-118)

USS Lea (DD-118) was a Wickes class destroyer that saw service very late in the First World War, before operating on convoy escort duty in the Atlantic for most of the Second World War.

The Lea was named after Edward Lea, a US Naval Officer who was mortally wounded when the Confederates recaptured Galveston in January 1863. His father, who was serving in the Confederate Army, was present when he died.

The Lea was laid down at William Cramp & Sons of Philadelphia on 18 September 1918, launched on 29 April 1918 and commissioned on 2 October 1918.

Crews of Rathburne, Talbot, Dent, Waters, Lea and Dorsey
Crews of Rathburne, Talbot,
Dent, Waters, Lea

and Dorsey

Her first commander was Worth Bagley, commander of USS Jacob Jones (DD-61) when she was sunk by a German U-boat near Brest on 6 December 1917. After his return to the United States Bagley was chosen as the first commander of the Lea, and was in command when she was commissioned on 2 October 1918. In January 1919 Bagley left the ship to become the American port officer at Rotterdam.

Anyone who served on her between 5 October and 6 November 1918 qualified for the First World War Victory Medal, presumably because her shakedown cruise took her into the Atlantic war zone.

In 1919 the Lea served in the Atlantic as part of DesRon 19, and was one of the destroyers attached to the US Naval Forces in France.

In 1920 the Lea transferred to the Pacific Fleet. She was decommissioned at San Diego on 22 June 1922 (along with the rest of Destroyer Division Eleven - Greer, Elliot, Tarbell, Yarnell and Upshur - the menu from the division's decommissioning dinner still survives in the archives.)

The Lea was recommissioned on 1 May 1930, and again served with the Pacific Fleet. In 1934 she took part in Fleet Problem XV, a three part exercise based around the Panama Canal. She was decommissioned for a second time on 7 April 1939.

Crew of USS Lea (DD-118)
Crew of USS Lea (DD-118)

The Lea was commissioned for a third time on 30 September 1939, with Lt. Comdr F.W. Slaven in command. By November 1939 she was the flagship of DesRon 32, part of the neutrality patrol that operated in the western Atlantic.

In July 1941 she helped escort the transports that carried marines to Iceland, where on 8 July 1941 they replaced British troops who had occupied the island to prevent the Germans seizing it for use as a U-boat base.

On 30 August 1941, before the official US entry into the war, she was escorting the oiler Salinas on a return voyage to the United States, when she was hit by torpedoes. The Salinas remained afloat, and the Lea helped escort her to safety in the United States.
Anyone who served on her during four periods between 26 June and 7 December 1941 qualified for the American Defense Service Medal.

After the American entry into the Second World War in December 1941 the Lea was allocated to convoy escort duties, serving in the North Atlantic, Caribbean and along the eastern seaboard.

In February 1942 she rescued the survivors of the Russian merchantman Dvinoles, which had been abandoned after a collision.

USS Lea (DD-118) at San Diego, 1933
USS Lea (DD-118)
at San Diego, 1933

On 24 February the Lea and her fellow escorts were engaged in a day long battle with submarines attempting to attack Convoy ON 67, heading from Iceland to Newfoundland.

On 3-4 March 1942 the Lea and the Nicholson (DD-442) escorted the American Legion (AP-35) from Nova Scotia to the Boston Navy Yard after engineering problems meant that the American Legion had to abandon her planned voyage across the Atlantic carrying staff for the new destroyer base being built at Londonderry.

On 25 March 1942 the Lea left Norfolk heading for Iceland, escorting the oiler Winooski II (AO-38) and the Delta (AK-29), arriving on 1 April 1942.

On 28 August 1942 the Canadian corvette HMCS Oakville and PBY Catalinas from VP-92 sank U-94. The Oakville and the Lea picked up survivors from the U-boat.

In February 1943 the US navy formed an anti-submarine hunter-killer group based around the escort carrier USS Bogue (CVE-9). Her first three trans-Atlantic crossings came without any victories, but that would soon change. The Lea joined the group for its fourth crossing, which lasted from 22 April-30 May 1943. This time the group found a wolf pack attempting to attack a convoy. On 21-22 May the group carried out six attacks on submarines, and on 22 May the Bogue's aircraft sank U-569. The group was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for their success in defending the convoy.

Bogue (CVE-9), Lea, Greene (DD-266), Belknap (DD-251), Osmond Ingram (DD-255), George E. Badger (DD-196) and Composite Squadron Nine (VC-9) from the Bogue  all qualified for the citation, which covered the period from 20 April to 20 June 1943.

USS Lea (DD-118), Boston Navy Yard, 1943
USS Lea (DD-118), Boston Navy Yard, 1943

On 31 December 1943, fives days out from New York, the Lea was rammed by a merchantman that was part of a convoy she was escorting. She had to be towed to Bermuda, and then on to Boston for full repairs, which weren't completed until 28 June 1944. This ended her time as a fully active warship, and for the rest of the war she was used for a mix of training and coastal convoy duties. After her repairs were completed she was based at Newport, where she was used as a target ship for torpedo planes, and to escort aircraft carriers during flight training. On 31 October-1 November she escorted the escort carrier Wake Island (CVE-65) from Quonset, Rhode Island, to Norfolk, Virginia.

In January-June 1945 she performed the same role in the waters off Florida. On 14 June 1945 she moved to Philadelphia, and on 20 July 1945 she was decommissioned. She was struck off the Navy Register on 13 August and sold for scrap on 30 November 1945.

The Lea earned three battle stars during the Second World War, for escorting Convoy TAG-18, escorting Convoy ON-67, and as part of Task Group 21.12 in April-June 1943.

Displacement (standard)

1,160t (design)

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

35kts (design)
35.34kts at 24,610shp at 1,149t on trial (Wickes)


2 shaft Parsons turbines
4 boilers
24,200shp (design)


3,800nm at 15kts on trial (Wickes)
2,850nm at 20kts on trial (Wickes)

Armour - belt


 - deck



314ft 4in


30ft 11in

Armaments (as built)

Four 4in/50 guns
Twelve 21in torpedoes in four triple tubes
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement


Laid Down

18 September 1918


29 April 1918


2 October 1918


20 July 1945

Struck off

13 August 1945

Sold for Scrap

30 November 1945

U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History, Norman Friedmann . The standard history of the development of American destroyers, from the earliest torpedo boat destroyers to the post-war fleet, and covering the massive classes of destroyers built for both World Wars. Gives the reader a good understanding of the debates that surrounded each class of destroyer and led to their individual features.
cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 July 2017), USS Lea (DD-118) ,

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