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William Frederick Halsey, Jr.
Nickname "Bull" Halsey
Born (1882-10-30)October 30, 1882
Died August 16, 1959(1959-08-16) (aged 76)
Place of birth Elizabeth, New Jersey
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1904–1959[1]
Rank US-O11 insignia.svg Fleet Admiral
Commands held USS Shaw
USS Wickes
USS Dale
USS Saratoga
NAS Pensacola
Carrier Division 2
Task Force 16
South Pacific Area
United States Third Fleet

World War I

World War II


Navy Cross
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Presidential Unit Citation
Mexican Service Medal
World War I Victory Medal
American Defense Service Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal

World War II Victory Medal

Admiral Halsey as he appears at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Fleet Admiral William Frederick Halsey, Jr., GBE (October 30, 1882 – August 16, 1959)[2] (commonly referred to as "Bill" or "Bull" Halsey), was an American Fleet Admiral in the United States Navy. He commanded the South Pacific Area during the early stages of the Pacific War against Japan. Later he was commander of the Third Fleet through the duration of hostilities.

Early years

Halsey was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, on October 30, 1882, the son of US Navy Captain William F. Halsey, Sr.. His father was a descendant of Senator Rufus King, who was an American lawyer, politician, diplomat, and Federalist candidate for both Vice President (1804, 1808) and President of the United States (1816). Halsey attended the Pingry School.[3]

After waiting two years to receive an appointment to the United States Naval Academy, the young Halsey decided to study medicine at the University of Virginia and then join the Navy as a physician. He chose Virginia because his best friend, Karl Osterhause, was there. While there, Halsey joined the Delta Psi fraternity. After his first year, Halsey received his appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, and entered the Academy in the Fall of 1900.

Halsey graduated from the Naval Academy in 1904 after lettering in football as a fullback and earning several athletic honors. He spent his early service years in battleships and sailed with the main battle fleet aboard the battleship Missouri as Roosevelt's Great White Fleet circumnavigated the globe from 1907 to 1909. Later, he served aboard torpedo boats, beginning with USS Du Pont in 1909. Halsey was one of the few officers who was promoted directly from Ensign to full Lieutenant, skipping the rank of Lieutenant (junior grade).[4] Torpedoes and torpedo boats became specialties of his, and he commanded the First Group of the Atlantic Fleet's Torpedo Flotilla in 1912 through 1913, and also several torpedo boats and destroyers during the 1910s and 1920s. At that time, the destroyer and the torpedo boat, though extremely hazardous, were the most effective way to bring the torpedo into combat against capital ships. Lieutenant Commander Halsey's World War I service, including command of USS Shaw in 1918, was sufficiently distinguished to earn a Navy Cross.

Inter-war years

In October 1922, he was the Naval Attache at the American Embassy in Berlin, Germany. One year later, he was given additional duty as Naval Attache at the American Embassies in Christiana, Norway; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Stockholm, Sweden. On completion of these assignments, he returned to sea duty, again in destroyers in European waters, in command of USS Dale and USS Osborne. Upon his return to the U.S. in 1927, he served one year as Executive Officer of the battleship USS Wyoming, and then for three years in command of USS Reina Mercedes, the station ship at the Naval Academy. Captain Halsey continued his destroyer duty on his next two-year stint at sea, starting in 1930 as Commander Destroyer Division Three of the Scouting Force, before returning to study at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.[5]

In 1934, the then Chief of Bureau of Aeronautics, Navy Admiral Ernest King offered Halsey command of the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, subject to completion of the course of an air observer. Captain Halsey elected to enroll as a cadet for the full twelve-week Naval Aviator course rather than the simpler Naval Aviation Observer program. "I thought it better to be able to fly the aircraft itself than to just sit back and be at the mercy of the pilot." Halsey earned his Naval Aviator's Wings on May 15, 1935, at the advanced age of 52, the oldest person to do so in the history of the U.S. Navy. He went on to command the Saratoga, and later the Naval Air Station Pensacola at Pensacola, Florida. Halsey considered airpower an important part of the future navy, commenting "The naval officer in the next war had better know his aviation, and good." Captain Halsey was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1938 and to Vice Admiral in 1940. During this time he commanded carrier divisions and served as the overall Commander of the Aircraft Battle Force.

World War II

Traditional naval doctrine envisioned naval combat fought between opposing battleship gun lines. This view was challenged when army airman General Billy Mitchell demonstrated the capability of aircraft to substantially damage and sink even the most heavily armored naval vessel. In the inter-war debate that followed, some saw the carrier as defensive in nature, providing air cover to protect the battle-group from shore-based aircraft. Carrier based aircraft were lighter in design, and had not been shown to be as lethal. The adage "Capital ships cannot withstand land-based air power" was well known.[6] Aviation proponents, however, imagined bringing the fight to the enemy with the use of air power.[7] Halsey was a firm believer in the aircraft carrier as the primary naval offensive weapon system. When he testified at Admiral Kimmel's hearing after the Pearl Harbor debacle, he stated that the Americans had to “get to the other fellow with everything you have as fast as you can and to dump it on him.” Halsey testified he would never hesitate to use the carrier as an offensive weapon.

With tensions high and war imminent, Halsey was ordered to take his command, USS Enterprise, out of Pearl Harbor to ferry aircraft to reinforce Wake Island, which Naval intelligence had thought would be the target of a Japanese surprise attack. The planes flew off her deck on December 2. Highly anxious of being spotted and then jumped by the Japanese carrier force, Halsey gave orders to "sink any shipping sighted, shoot down any plane encountered." Protested his operations officer: "Goddammit, Admiral, you can't start a private war of your own! Who's going to take the responsibility?" Said Halsey: "I'll take it! If anything gets in my way, we'll shoot first and argue afterwards."[8]

A storm delayed Enterprise on her return voyage. Instead of returning to Pearl Harbor on December 6 as planned, she was still 150 miles out at sea when she received word that the surprise attack anticipated was not at Wake Island, but at Pearl Harbor itself. News of the attack came in the form of overhearing desperate radio transmissions from one of her aircraft sent forward to Pearl Harbor, attempting to identify itself as American.[9] The plane was shot down, and her pilot and crew were lost. Now at war, Enterprise searched south and west of the Hawaiian islands for the Japanese attackers, but did not locate the six Japanese fleet carriers then retiring to the north and west.

Early Pacific carrier raids

An SBD Dauntless flies anti-submarine patrol over Enterprise and Saratoga.

Vice Admiral Halsey and Enterprise slipped back into Pearl Harbor on the evening of December 8. Surveying the wreckage of the Pacific Fleet, he remarked, "Before we're through with them, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell."[10] Halsey was an aggressive commander. Above all else, he was an energetic and demanding leader who had the ability to invigorate the U.S. Navy's fighting spirit when most required.[11] In the early months of the war, as the nation was rocked by the fall of one western bastion after another, Halsey looked to take the fight to the enemy. Serving as commander, Carrier Division 2 aboard his flagship Enterprise, Halsey led a series of hit-and-run raids against the Japanese, striking the Gilbert and Marshall islands in February, Wake Island in March, and carrying out the Doolittle Raid in April against targets on the Japanese homeland. Halsey's slogan, "Hit hard, hit fast, hit often" soon became a byword for the Navy.

Halsey returned from his last raid in May in poor health. He had spent nearly all of the previous six months on the bridge of a carrier directing the Navy's counterstrikes. A debilitating chronic skin condition had flared, making it difficult for him to sleep. Gaunt and having lost twenty pounds, he was medically ordered ashore.

U.S. Naval intelligence had determined that the Japanese were planning an attack on the Central Pacific island of Midway. Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, intended to take the opportunity to engage them. The loss of his most aggressive and combat experienced carrier admiral on the eve of a crisis was a severe blow to Nimitz.[12] Nimitz met with Halsey, who recommended his cruiser division commander, Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance, to take command for the upcoming Midway operation.[13] Nimitz considered the move, but it would mean stepping over Rear Admiral Fletcher of Task Force 17, who was the senior of the two men. After interviewing Fletcher and reviewing his reports from the Coral Sea engagement, Nimitz was convinced that Fletcher's performance was sound, and he was given the responsibility of command in the defense of Midway.[14] Nimitz did make Spruance commander of Halsey's Task Force 16, comprising the carriers Enterprise and Hornet. Halsey sent along his irascible chief of staff, Captain Miles Browning, to aide Spruance. The ensuing battle was a turning point in the war, resulting in a dramatic victory for the US Navy.

Halsey was out of the hospital in a week's time, but spent the next two months convalescing. He traveled stateside and visited family. The end of Halsey's convalescence found him in Washington D.C. in late August. While there, he accepted a speaking engagement at the Naval Academy at Annapolis. Prior to a discussion of his raids against the Japanese positions in the Marshall Islands, Halsey told the young midshipmen before him, "Missing the Battle of Midway has been the greatest disappointment of my career, but I am going back to the Pacific where I intend personally to have a crack at those yellow bellied sons of bitches and their carriers," to the rousing applause of the assembled midshipmen.[15]

South Pacific Area Command

Halsey in the South Pacific.

After being medically approved to return to duty, he was named to command a carrier task force in the South Pacific Area. Since the ships were still being readied, he began a familiarization trip to the area on October 15, 1942, arriving at area headquarters at Nouméa in New Caledonia on the 18th. The Guadalcanal Campaign was at a critical juncture, with the Marines on the island holding on by a thread and naval support tenuous. Pacific Fleet commander Chester Nimitz had concluded that Vice Admiral Robert Ghormley had become dispirited and exhausted.[16] Nimitz made his decision to change the South Pacific Area command while Halsey was en route. As Halsey's aircraft came to rest in Nouméa, a whaleboat came alongside carrying Ghormley's flag lieutenant. Meeting him before he could board the flagship, the lieutenant handed over a sealed envelope containing a message from Nimitz:


The order came as an awkward surprise to Halsey. Ghormley was a long time personal friend, and had been since their days as teammates on the football team back at Annapolis. Awkward or not, the two men carried out their directives. Halsey's command now included all ground, sea, and air forces in the South Pacific area. The change immediately invigorated his command. He had the reputation of a fighting admiral, and for good reason. He set about assessing the situation to determine what actions were needed. Ghormley had been unsure of his command's ability to maintain the Marine toe hold on Guadalcanal, and had been mindful of leaving them trapped there for a repeat of the Bataan Peninsula disaster. Halsey made it clear he did not plan to withdraw the Marines. He not only intended to counter the Japanese efforts to dislodge them, he intended to secure the island. Above all else, he wanted to regain the initiative and take the fight to the Japanese. It was two days after Halsey had taken command in October 1942 that he gave an order that all naval officers in the South Pacific would dispense with wearing neckties with their tropical uniforms. As Richard Frank commented in his account of the Battle for Guadalcanal:

Halsey said he gave this order to conform to Army practice and for comfort. To his command it viscerally evoked the image of a brawler stripping for action and symbolized a casting off of effete elegance no more appropriate to the tropics than to war.[18]

Halsey led the South Pacific command through what was for the U.S. Navy the most tenuous phase of the war. Halsey committed his limited naval forces through a series of naval battles around Guadalcanal, including the carrier engagements of the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands and the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. These engagements checked the Japanese advance and drained their naval forces of carrier aircraft and pilots.

Admirals Nimitz and Halsey discuss South Pacific strategy in early 1943.

In November Halsey's willingness to place at risk his command's two fast battleships in the confined waters around Guadalcanal for a night engagement paid off with the U.S. Navy winning the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, the decisive naval engagement of the Guadalcanal campaign that doomed the Japanese garrison and wrested control from the Japanese.

The Solomons campaign ended up being a meat grinder of IJN aviation.[19] In April 1943, Halsey assigned Admiral Marc Mitscher to Commander Air, Solomon Islands (ComAirSols) where he directed a mixed bag of Army, Navy, Marine and New Zealand aircraft in the airwar over Guadalcanal and up the Solomon chain. Said Halsey: "I knew we'd probably catch hell from the Japs in the air. That's why I sent Pete Mitscher up there. Pete was a fighting fool and I knew it."[20]

Typical for the period was an exchange that occurred between Halsey and one of his staff officers in June 1943. South Pacific Command was expecting the arrival of an additional air group to support their next offensive. As a part of the long view of winning the war taken by Nimitz, upon its arrival at Fiji the group was given new orders to return stateside and be broken up, its pilots to be used as instructors for pilot training. South Pacific command had been counting on the air group for their operations up the Solomon chain. The staff officer who brought the dispatch to Halsey remarked "If they do that to us we will have to go on the defensive." The admiral turned contemptuous eyes on the speaker. "As long as I have one plane and one pilot" he growled "I will stay on the offensive."[21]

Admiral Halsey's forces spent the rest of the year battling up the Solomon Islands chain to Bougainville. At Bouganville the Japanese had two airfields in the southern tip of the island, and another at the northern most peninsula, with a fourth on Buki just across the northern passage. Here, instead of landing near the Japanese airfields and taking them away against the bulk of the Japanese defenders, Halsey landed his invasion force of 14,000 marines in Empress Augusta Bay, about halfway up the west coast of Bouganville. There he had the Seabees clear and build their own airfield. Two days after the landing a large cruiser force was sent down from Japan to Rabaul in preparation for a night engagement against Halsey's screening force and supply ships in Empress Augusta Bay. The Japanese had been conserving their naval forces over the past year, but now committed a force of seven heavy cruisers, along with one light cruiser and four destroyers. At Rabaul the force refueled in preparation for the coming night battle. Halsey had no surface forces anywhere near equivalent strength to oppose them. The battleships Washington, South Dakota and assorted cruisers had been transferred to the Central Pacific to support the upcoming invasion of Tarawa. Other than the destroyer screen, the only force Halsey had available were the carrier airgroups on Saratoga and Princeton. Rabaul was a heavily fortified port, with five airfields and extensive anti-aircraft batteries. Other than the surprise raid at Pearl Harbor, no mission against such a target had ever been accomplished with carrier aircraft. It was highly dangerous to the aircrews, and to the carriers as well. With the landing in the balance, Halsey sent his two carriers to steam north through the night to get into range of Rabaul, then launch a daybreak raid on the base. Aircraft from recently captured Vella Lavella were sent over to provide a combat air patrol over the carriers. All available aircraft from the two carriers were committed to the raid itself. The mission was a stunning success, so damaging the cruiser force at Rabaul as to make them no longer a threat. Aircraft losses in the raid were light. Halsey later described the threat to the landings "the most desperate emergency that confronted me in my entire term as ComSoPac."[22] Following the successful Bouganville operation, he then isolated and neutralized the Japanese naval stronghold at Rabaul by capturing surrounding positions in the Bismarck Archipelago in a series of amphibious landings known as Operation Cartwheel. This enabled the continuation of the drive north without the heavy fighting that would have been necessary to capture the base itself. With the neutralization of Rabaul major operations in the South Pacific Command came to a close. With his determination and grit, Halsey had bolstered his command's resolve and seized the initiative from the Japanese until ships, aircraft and crews produced and trained in the States could arrive in 1943 and 1944 to tip the scales of the war in favor of the allies.[23]

Battles of the Central Pacific

Adm. Halsey confers with Task Force 38 commander and fellow 'dirty trickster' Adm. John McCain on board Halsey's flagship, the USS New Jersey, 1944.

As the war progressed it moved out of the South Pacific and into the Central Pacific. Admiral Halsey's command shifted with it, and in May 1944 he was promoted to commanding officer of the newly formed Third Fleet. He commanded actions from the Philippines to Japan. From September 1944 to January 1945, he led the campaigns to take the Palaus, Leyte and Luzon, and on many raids on Japanese bases, including off the shores of Formosa, China, and Vietnam.

By this point in the conflict the U.S. Navy was doing things the Japanese high command had not thought possible. The Fast Carrier Task Force was able to bring to battle enough air power to overpower land based aircraft and dominate whatever area the fleet was operating in. Moreover, the Navy's ability to establish forward operating ports as they did at Majuro, Enewetak and Ulithi, and their ability to convoy supplies out to the combat task forces allowed the fleet to operate for extended periods of time far out to sea in the central and western Pacific. The Japanese Navy conserved itself in port and would sortie in force to engage the enemy. The U.S. Navy remained at sea and on station, dominating whatever region it entered. The size of the Pacific Ocean which Japanese planners had thought would limit the U.S. Navy's ability to operate in the western Pacific would not be adequate to protect Japan.

Command of the "big blue fleet" was alternated with Raymond Spruance. Under Spruance the fleet designation was the Fifth Fleet and Task Force 58. Under Halsey the fleet was designated Third Fleet and Task Force 38.[24][N 1] The split command structure was intended to confuse the Japanese and created a higher tempo of operations. While Spruance was at sea operating the fleet, Halsey and his staff, self-dubbed the "Department of Dirty Tricks", would be planning the next series of operations.[25] The two admirals were a contrast in styles. Halsey was aggressive and a risk taker. Spruance was calculating, professional and cautious. Most higher-ranking officers preferred to serve under Spruance; most common sailors were proud to serve under Halsey.[26]

Leyte Gulf

Halsey dines with crew of USS New Jersey.

In October 1944, amphibious forces of the U.S. Seventh Fleet carried out General Douglas MacArthur's major landings on the island of Leyte in the Central Philippines. Halsey's Third Fleet was assigned to cover and support Seventh Fleet operations around Leyte.

In response to the invasion, the Japanese launched their final major naval effort, an operation known as 'Sho-Go', involving almost all their surviving fleet. It was aimed at destroying the invasion shipping in the Leyte Gulf. The Northern Force of Admiral Ozawa was built around the remaining Japanese aircraft carriers, now weakened by the heavy loss of trained pilots. The Northern Force was meant to lure the covering U.S. forces away from the Gulf while two surface battle-groups, the Center Force and the Southern Force, were to break through to the beachhead and attack the invasion shipping. These forces were built around the remaining strength of the Japanese Navy, and comprised a total of 7 battleships and 16 cruisers. The operation brought about the Battle for Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle of the Second World War and, by some criteria, the largest naval battle in history.

The Center Force commanded by Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita was located October 23 coming through the Palawan Passage by two American submarines, which attacked the force, sinking two heavy cruisers and damaging a third. The following day Third Fleet's aircraft carriers launched strikes against Kurita's Center Force, sinking the battleship Musashi and damaging the heavy cruiser Myōkō, causing the force to turn westward back towards its base. Kurita appeared to be retiring but he later reversed course and headed back into the San Bernardino Strait. At this point Ozawa's Northern Force was located by Third Fleet scout aircraft. Halsey made the momentous decision to take all available strength northwards to destroy the Japanese carrier forces, planning to strike them at dawn of October 25. He considered leaving a battle group behind to guard the strait, and made tentative plans to do so, but he felt he would also have to leave one of his three carrier groups to provide air cover, weakening his chance to crush the remaining Japanese carrier forces. The entire Third Fleet steamed northward. San Bernardino Strait was effectively left unguarded by any major surface fleet.

Battle Off Samar

In moving Third Fleet northwards, Halsey failed to advise Admiral Kinkaid of Seventh Fleet of his decision. Seventh Fleet intercepts of organizational messages from Halsey to his own task group commanders seemed to indicate that Halsey had formed a task force and detached it to protect the San Bernardino Strait, but this was not the case. Kinkaid and his staff failed to confirm this with Halsey, and neither had confirmed with Nimitz.

Despite aerial reconnaissance reports on the night of 24 – October 25 of Kurita's Center Force in the San Bernardino Strait, Halsey continued to take Third Fleet northwards, away from Leyte Gulf.

Halsey with VADM John S. McCain, Sr.

When Kurita's Center Force emerged from the San Bernardino Strait on the morning of October 25, there was nothing to oppose them except a small force of escort carriers and screening destroyers and destroyer escorts which had been tasked and armed to attack troops on land guard against submarines, not oppose the largest enemy surface fleet since Midway led by the largest battleship in the world . Advancing down the coast of the island of Samar towards the troop transports and support ships of the Leyte Gulf landing, they took Seventh Fleet's escort carriers and their screening ships entirely by surprise. In the desperate Battle off Samar which followed, Kurita's ships destroyed one of the escort carriers and three ships of the carriers' screen, and damaging a number of other ships as well. The remarkable resistance of the screening ships of the escort carrier groups against Kurita's battle-group remains one of the most heroic feats in the storied history of the US Navy. Their efforts and those of the aircraft that the escort carriers could put up took a heavy toll on Kurita's ships and convinced him that he was facing a stronger force than was the case. Mistaking the escort carriers for Halsey's fleet carriers, and fearing entrapment from the six battleships of the Third Fleet battleship group, he decided to withdraw back through the San Bernardino Strait and to the west without achieving his objective of the Leyte landing.

When the Seventh Fleet's escort carriers found themselves under attack from the Center Force, Halsey began to receive a succession of desperate calls from Kinkaid asking for immediate assistance off Samar. For over two hours Halsey turned a deaf ear to these calls. Then, shortly after 10:00 hours,[27] a message was received from Admiral Nimitz: "Where is repeat where is Task Force 34? The world wonders". The tail end of this message, The world wonders, was intended as padding designed to confuse enemy decoders, but was mistakenly left in the message when it was handed to Halsey. The urgent inquiry had seemingly become a stinging rebuke. The fiery Halsey threw his hat on the deck of the bridge and began cursing.[27] Finally Halsey's Chief of Staff, Rear Admiral Robert "Mick" Carney, confronted him, telling Halsey "Stop it! What the hell's the matter with you? Pull yourself together."[8]

He cooled but continued to steam Third Fleet northward closing on Ozawa's Northern Force for a full hour after receiving the signal from Nimitz.[27] Then, Halsey ordered Task Force 34 south. As Task Force 34 proceeded south they were further delayed when the battle force slowed to 12 knots so that the battleships could refuel their escorting destroyers, costing perhaps another two and a half hour delay.[27] By the time Task Force 34 arrived it was too late to assist the Seventh Fleet's escort carrier groups. Kurita had already decided to retire and had left the area. A single straggling destroyer was caught by Halsey's fastest cruisers and destroyers, but the rest of Kurita's force was able to escape.

In the meantime, Halsey used the major part of his Third Fleet to continue pursuing Ozawa's Northern Force, which included one fleet carrier (the last surviving Japanese carrier of the six that had attacked Pearl Harbor) and three light carriers. The result: Halsey's Third Fleet eviscerated Ozawa's Northern Force, sinking all four of Ozawa's carriers, in what is known as the Battle of Cape Engaño.

The same attributes that made Halsey an invaluable leader in the desperate early months of the war, his desire to bring the fight to the enemy, his willingness to take on a gamble, worked against him in the later stages of the war. Halsey received much criticism for his decisions during the battle, with naval historian Samuel Morison terming the Third Fleet run to the north "Halsey's Blunder."[28] However, the destruction of the Japanese carriers had been the prime goal of Pacific naval battles up to that point, and the failure to pursue the Japanese fleet carriers and destroy them had been a major criticism of Spruance in some circles, whose Fifth Fleet missed the opportunity at the Battle of the Philippine Sea.[N 2]

Halsey's Typhoon

CVL Langley struggles in Typhoon Cobra.

After the Leyte Gulf engagement, December found the Third Fleet confronted with another powerful enemy in the form of Typhoon Cobra which was dubbed "Halsey's Typhoon" by many. While conducting operations off the Philippines, the fleet had to discontinue refueling due to a Pacific storm. Rather than move Third Fleet away, Halsey chose to remain on station for another day. In fairness, he received conflicting information from Pearl Harbor and his own staff. The Hawaiian weathermen predicted a northerly path for the storm, which would have cleared Task Force 38 by some two hundred miles. Eventually his own staff provided a prediction regarding the direction of the storm that was far closer to the mark with a westerly direction.[29] However, Halsey played the odds, declining to cancel planned operations and requiring the ships of Third Fleet to hold formation. On the evening of December 17 the combat air patrol over Third Fleet was unable to land their aircraft aboard the pitching and rolling carriers. The pilots were forced to ditch in the ocean. The aircraft were lost but all the pilots were picked up by escorting destroyers. By 10:00 am the next morning the barometer on the flagship was noted to be dropping precipitously. Still the fleet attempted to maintain stations. Finally, at 11:49 a.m., Halsey issued the order for the ships of the fleet to take the most comfortable course available to them, something which many ships had already been forced to do. Between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., the typhoon did its worst damage, tossing the ships in seventy-foot waves. The barometer continued to drop and the wind roared at eighty-three knots with gusts well over 100 knots. At 1:45 p.m. Halsey issued a typhoon warning to Fleet Weather Central. By this time the Third Fleet had already lost three destroyers. The storm inflicted damage on a great many ships in the fleet, with the loss of some 802 men and 146 aircraft. Third Fleet conducted search and rescue operations for three days following the storm, finally retiring for repairs at Ulithi on December 22.

Following the typhoon a Navy court of inquiry was convened on board the USS Cascade (AD-16) in the Naval base at Ulithi. Admiral Nimitz, CINCPAC, was in attendance at the court. Forty-three-year-old Captain Herbert K. Gates, of the Cascade, was the Judge Advocate.[30] The inquiry found that though Halsey had committed an error of judgement in sailing the Third Fleet into the heart of the typhoon, it stopped short of unambiguously recommending sanction.[31] The events surrounding Typhoon Cobra were similar to those the Japanese navy itself faced some nine years earlier in what they termed "The Fourth Fleet Incident."[32]

End of the war

Fleet Admiral Nimitz signing the documents of surrender on board USS Missouri. Behind him stand Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Adm. William Halsey and Rear Adm. Forrest Sherman.

In January 1945, Halsey passed command of the ships that made up Third Fleet to Admiral Spruance, whereupon its designation changed to Fifth Fleet. Returning home Halsey was asked about General MacArthur. General MacArthur was not the easiest man to work with, and vied with the Navy over the conduct and management of the war in the Pacific.[33] Halsey had worked well with MacArthur and did not mind saying so. When a reporter asked Halsey if he thought General MacArthur's fleet (7th Fleet) would get to Tokyo first, the admiral grinned and answered "We're going there together." Then seriously he added "He's a very fine man. I have worked under him for over two years and have the greatest admiration and respect for him."[34]

Spruance held command of 5th Fleet until May, when command returned to Halsey. In early June 1945 3rd Fleet again sailed through the path of a typhoon. On this occasion, six men were swept overboard and lost, along with 75 airplanes lost or destroyed, with another 70 badly damaged. Though some ships sustained significant damage, none were lost. A Navy court of inquiry was again convened, this time recommending that Halsey be reassigned, but Admiral Nimitz declined to abide by this recommendation, citing Halsey's prior service record.[31]

Halsey led Third Fleet through the final stages of the war, striking targets on the Japanese homeland itself. Third Fleet aircraft conducted attacks upon Tokyo, the naval base at Kure and the northern Japanese island of Hokkaidō, and Third Fleet battleships engaged in the bombardment of a number of Japanese coastal cities in preparation for an invasion of Japan, which ultimately never had to be undertaken.

After the cessation of hostilities, Halsey, still aggressively cautious of Japanese kamikaze attacks, ordered Third Fleet to maintain a protective air cover with the following communiqué:

Cessation of hostilities.
War is over.
If any Japanese airplanes appear, shoot them down in a friendly way.[35]

He was present when Japan formally surrendered on the deck of his flagship, USS Missouri, on September 2, 1945.




Immediately after the surrender of Japan, 54 ships of the Third Fleet, with Halsey's four-star flag flying from the USS South Dakota, returned to the United States for the annual Navy Day Celebrations in San Francisco on October 27, 1945. He hauled down his flag in November of that year and was assigned special duty in the office of the Secretary of the Navy. On December 11, 1945, he took the oath as Fleet Admiral, becoming the fourth and last officer to hold the rank. Fleet Admiral Halsey made a goodwill flying trip through Central and South America, covering nearly 28,000 miles and 11 nations. He retired from active service in March 1947, though as a Fleet Admiral he was not taken off active duty status.

Asked about the weapons used to win the war, Halsey offered:

If I had to give credit to the instruments and machines that won us the war in the Pacific, I would rate them in this order: submarines first, radar second, planes third, bulldozers fourth.[36]

Admiral Halsey joined the New Jersey Society of the Sons of the American Revolution in 1946.

Upon retirement, he joined the board of two subsidiaries of the International Telephone and Telegraph Company, including the American Cable and Radio Corporation, and served until 1957. He maintained an office near the top of the ITT Building at 67 Broad Street, New York City during the late 1950s. He was involved in a number of efforts to preserve his former flagship, the USS Enterprise (CV-6), as a memorial in New York harbor. These proved fruitless, as they were unable to secure adequate funding to preserve the ship.

Halsey died on August 16, 1959, on Fishers Island, New York[37] and was interred in Arlington National Cemetery. His wife, Frances Grandy Halsey (1887–1968), is buried with him.

Asked about his contribution in the Pacific and the role he played in defending the United States, Halsey said merely:

There are no great men, just great challenges which ordinary men, out of necessity, are forced by circumstances to meet.[38]

Dates of rank

Navyacademylogo.jpg United States Naval Academy Midshipman – Class of 1904
Ensign Lieutenant, Junior Grade Lieutenant Lieutenant Commander Commander Captain
O-1 O-2 O-3 O-4 O-5 O-6
US Navy O1 insignia.svg US Navy O2 insignia.svg US Navy O3 insignia.svg US Navy O4 insignia.svg US Navy O5 insignia.svg US Navy O6 insignia.svg
February 2, 1906 February 2, 1909 February 2, 1909 August 29, 1916 February 1, 1918 February 10, 1927
Rear Admiral (lower half) Rear Admiral (upper half) Vice Admiral Admiral Fleet Admiral
O-7 O-8 O-9 O-10 O-11
US Navy O7 insignia.svg US Navy O8 insignia.svg US Navy O9 insignia.svg US Navy O10 insignia.svg US Navy O11 insignia.svg
Never Held March 1, 1938 June 13, 1940 November 18, 1942 December 11, 1945

Halsey never held the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade, as he was appointed a full Lieutenant after three years of service as an Ensign. For administrative reasons, Halsey's naval record states he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant (junior grade) and Lieutenant on the same day.[4]

At the time of Halsey's promotion to Rear Admiral, the United States Navy did not maintain a (Commodore) one-star rank. Halsey was therefore promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral of the line (upper half; two-star) from captain.

Awards and decorations

Naval Aviator Badge.jpg Naval Aviator insignia
Navy Cross
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Navy Distinguished Service Medal with three gold stars
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Presidential Unit Citation (United States)
Mexican Service Medal ribbon.svg Mexican Service Medal
World War I Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War I Victory Medal with Destroyer clasp
American Defense Service ribbon.svg American Defense Service Medal with Fleet clasp
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg National Defense Service Medal
Phliber rib.png Philippine Liberation Medal

Foreign awards

Brazil – Order of the Southern Cross (Grand Cross)
Chile – Al Merito, First Class, Insignia and Diploma
Chile – Grand Cross of Order of Merit of Chile
Colombia – Grand Cross of Boyaca
Cuba – Order of Naval Merit (Cuba)
EcuadorOrder of Abdon Calderón
GRE Order Redeemer 5Class.png Greece – Order of the Redeemer
Panama – Orden Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Grand Cross
Peru – Order of Ayacucho
Order BritEmp rib.png United Kingdom – Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire
Venezuela – Order of the Liberator

Additionally, Admiral Halsey was made an Honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire by the Government of Great Britain and Guatemala made him a Supreme Chief in the Order of the Quetzal.[39][40][41][42]


Halsey Field, NAS North Island in Coronado, California, dedicated October 20, 1960 celebrating 50 years of Naval Aviation (1911–1961).[43]
Halsey Society, student Naval ROTC organization at Texas A&M University[44]
Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr. Leadership Academy & William F. Halsey House, Elizabeth High School in Elizabeth, New Jersey[45]
Halsey Field House, United States Naval Academy
Halsey Hall, University of Virginia
Halsey Terrace, U.S .Navy housing in Honolulu, Hawaii[46]
Halsey Hall, Jonathan Dayton High School
USS Halsey (CG-23), a Leahy-class guided-missile cruiser
USS Halsey (DDG-97), an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer

Halsey Street sign in Alexandria, Louisiana

Admiral Halsey Drive, NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Halsey Street, Alexandria, Louisiana
Halsey Street, Auckland, New Zealand
William F. Halsey Avenue, Bakersfield, California
Halsey Street, Chula Vista, California
Admiral Halsey Avenue, Daytona Beach, Florida[47]
Halsey Drive, Flower Mound, Texas
Halsey Street, Newark, New Jersey
Admiral Halsey Service Area, a north-bound rest area along the New Jersey Turnpike at mile marker 111 on Interstate 95, at the present New Jersey Route 81 interchange, in New Jersey[48]
Admiral Halsey Slope, Nouméa, New Caledonia
Halsey Court, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Admiral Halsey Road, Plymouth, Massachusetts
Halsey Court, Princeton, New Jersey
Halsey Street, Princeton, New Jersey
Halsey Street, Colonel Bud Day Field, Sioux City, Iowa
Halsey Avenue, Yuba City, California
Halsey Rd, Jacksonville, Florida

In popular culture

  • Halsey was portrayed by James Cagney in the 1959 bio-pic, The Gallant Hours; by James Whitmore in the 1970 film, Tora! Tora! Tora!; and by Robert Mitchum in the 1976 film, Midway.
  • Halsey makes a brief appearance in Herman Wouk's novel The Winds of War, and has a more substantial supporting role in the sequel War and Remembrance. Halsey was portrayed in the 1983 television miniseries adaptation of The Winds of War by Richard X. Slattery, and in the 1988 miniseries adaptation of War and Remembrance by Pat Hingle.
  • Halsey has been portrayed in a number of other films and TV miniseries, played by Glenn Morshower (Pearl Harbor, 2001), Kenneth Tobey (MacArthur, 1977), Jack Diamond (Battle Stations, 1956), John Maxwell, (The Eternal Sea, 1955) and Morris Ankrum (Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, 1944).
  • An "Admiral Halsey" is mentioned in the Paul and Linda McCartney song "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey". The chorus of "hands across the water, heads across the sky" was a reference to the American aid programs of World War II. McCartney later specified that Admiral Halsey was indeed in honor of William Halsey.[49]
  • On March 4, 1951, Halsey appeared as a mystery guest on episode No. 40 of the game show, What's My Line, where the panel correctly deduced his identity.[50]
  • In the television series, McHale's Navy, one of Captain Binghampton's catchphrases whenever he would get frustrated with one of McHale's schemes was, "What in the name of Halsey is going on here?"
  • Admiral Halsey is mentioned in The Hunt for Red October. Russian submarine commander Marko Ramius, while engaged in battle with the Soviet attack submarine Konovalov, asks Jack Ryan what book he wrote for the CIA. Ryan replies that it was about Admiral Halsey, entitled The Fighting Sailor (not to be confused with a real book of the same title). Ramius reveals his awareness of the book and expresses disdain for Ryan's assessment of Halsey, saying, "Your conclusions were all wrong, Ryan; Halsey acted stupidly."

See also

List of Fleet and Grand Admirals
List of United States military leaders by rank
List of military figures by nickname


  1. The "Big Blue Fleet" was the name given to the main fleet of the US Navy in the Pacific. The term stems from pre-war planning, called the color plans because each naton included was given a color code name. In these potential plans the British navy was red, the German navy black, and so forth. The Imperial Japanese Navy was termed the "Orange Fleet". The US fleet was the "Blue Fleet". The "Big Blue Fleet" was the massive fleet that the US Navy anticitpated they would win the war with. It was thought this fleet would largely come into being by late 1943, early 1944.[24]
  2. This view, however, was not held by Chester Nimitz, who told Spruance he had done exactly the right thing.
  1. U.S. officers holding five-star rank never retire; they draw full active duty pay for life.Spencer C. Tucker (2011). The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History. ABC-CLIO. pp. 1685. ISBN 978-1-85109-961-0. 
  2. "Halsey",
  3. Berger, Meyer. "HOME TOWN ROARS SALUTE TO HALSEY; THE COMMANDER OF THE THIRD FLEET RETURNS TO HIS HOMETOWN IN NEW JERSEY New Pingry Boys Cheer White Horse Atop Cake", The New York Times, November 8, 1945. Retrieved February 11, 2011.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Wukovits, John (2010). Admiral "Bull" Halsey: The Life and Wars of the Navy's Most Controversial Commander. ISBN 978-0-230-60284-7. 
  5. "Fleet Admiral William Frederick Halsey, Jr.". Naval Historical Center. 
  6. Morison The Rising Sun in the Pacific, page 190
  7. Wildenberg, Thomas. Midway: Sheer Luck or Better Doctrine? Naval College War Review, Winter 2005, Vol. 58, No. 1. Wildenberg quotes Browning's thesis: "Every carrier we have knows what it means to be 'bopped' with all planes on deck, because her hands were tied by uncertainty as to her next move..."
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Books: The General and the Admiral". Time. November 10, 1947.,9171,793941,00.html#ixzz1aL8AA1Tz. 
  9. Millis, page 357
  10. J. Bryan (1947). Admiral Halsey's Story. Whittlesey House. pp. 75–76. ISBN 978-1-4325-6693-7. 
  11. Potter Bull Halsey
  12. Potter Nimitz page 85
  13. Potter Nimitz page 84
  14. Potter Nimitz page 86
  15. Potter Bull Halsey p. 150
  16. Morison, p. 199–207; Frank, p. 368–378; Dull, p. 235–237.
  17. Morison The Struggle for Guadalcanal p.183
  18. Richard Frank (1990). Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-016561-6. 
  19. Seal, Jon and Michael Ahn. "An Interview with Joseph Jacob 'Joe' Foss." Microsoft Games Studios, March 2000. Retrieved: August 3, 2011.
  20. Taylor p. 145
  21. Potter Bull Halsey p. 221
  22. Potter, Admiral Arliegh Burke pp 98-99
  23. Parshall and Tully, Shattered Sword pp. 416–430
  24. 24.0 24.1 Potter p. 112
  25. Cutler The Battle of Leyte Gulf p. 209
  26. Tuohy, William (2007). America's Fighting Admirals:Winning the War at Sea in World War II. Zenith Press. p. 323. ISBN 978-0-7603-2985-6. 
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 Willmott, H. P.. "Six, The Great Day of Wrath". The Battle of Leyte Gulf: The Last Fleet Action. Indiana University Press. pp. 192–197. ISBN 0-253-34528-6, 9780253345288. 
  28. Potter Bull Halsey pp. 376-380
  29. Barrett Tillman (July 2007). "William Bull Halsey: Legendary World War II Admiral". 
  30. Drury
  31. 31.0 31.1 Melton, Sea Cobra
  32. Evans, David; Peattie, Mark (1997). Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy 1887–1941. Naval Institute Press. p. 243. ISBN 978-0-87021-192-8. 
  33. Willmott p. 178-181
  34. Utica Daily Press 2/20/45
  35. Kemp Tolley (1983). Caviar and Commissars: the Experience of a US Naval Officer in Stalin's Russia. Naval Institute Press. p. 245. ISBN 978-1-55750-407-4. 
  36. Halsey, William (1947). Admiral Halsey's Story. McGraw-Hill. p. 69. ISBN 978-1-4367-1143-2. 
  37. (Following Advance for Use Sunday, Aug. 16) | North Dakota News
  38. Brady, James (2000). Flags of Our Fathers. Bantom Books. p. 579. ISBN 978-0-553-11133-0. 
  39. "Bull" Halsey bio
  40. Bull Halsey biography, Naval History & Heritage
  41. Army Times Hall of Valor
  42. Wm. Halsey bio
  43. Sudsbury, Elretta Sudsbury (1967). Jackrabbits to Jets: The History of North Island, San Diego, California. Neyenesch Printers, Inc. 
  44. Halsey Society at Texas A&M
  45. Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr. Leadership Academy
  46. Halsey Terrace
  47. Admiral Halsey Avenue
  48. Admiral Halsey Service Area
  49. McGee, Garry (2003). Band on the Run: A History of Paul McCartney and Wings. New York: Taylor Trade Publishing. p. 196. ISBN 0-87833-304-5. 
  50. Episode No. 40 Summary
Primary sources
  • Halsey, William J.; Joseph Bryan III, (1947). Admiral Halsey's Story. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-1-4367-1143-2. 

Further reading

External links

Preceded by
Jimmy Doolittle
November 23, 1942
Cover of Time Magazine
William Halsey
November 30, 1942
Succeeded by
Ernest King
December 7, 1942

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