(As told by Thomas S. Monson)
It was a special time in his life which took place when he served as a United States Merchant Marine. On Christmas Eve in 1944, Lee was on a ship traveling from the Mediterranean approaching the Straits of Gibraltar on its way to the North Atlantic. Following months — even years — of service in the war, the men on board were happily bound for the East Coast of the United States and home. It was a stormy night, and Lee was once again on watch at the bow of the ship. …
“The past few days had been unremarkable, and the sights, sounds and smell of the ocean lulled Lee into a sense of well-being. The events which transpired next seemed to happen in an instant. Lee saw the plume of a periscope appear off the port side of his ship. He knew that it couldn’t be more than 100 yards away. Others had seen the plume, for the ship was suddenly alive with alarms and shouts of men scurrying to their battle stations.
“There was no time to ready themselves for a fight or to protect themselves in any way. The submarine was already on them, rising up out of that choppy sea. The enemy had them, without question. They awaited their doom.“
Lee reported that he would never forget what happened next.
“There was a flashing light. … He mouthed the letters as he saw the German submarine blinking its Morse code message. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. M-E-R. Could he be reading it correctly? Another ‘R’ and then: dash dot dash dash — a ‘Y.’ The second word was rapidly flashed to them in the darkness. C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S. Then it was over. Just as quickly as the U-boat had appeared, it sank back into the blackness of the sea and was gone.
“The spirit of love had prevailed — the spirit of Christmas, the spirit of Christ.” (President Monson noted that Lee Maloy was seated in the audience during the Christmas devotional where this was cited.)