Admiral William Halsey was a senior American naval commander in the Pacific region during World War Two. Halsey led the naval forces that accompanied the army and marines to places like the Philippines and Okinawa. By the time of his retirement, Halsey held the rank of Fleet Admiral.

US Navy Attacks Japanese Shipping
US Navy Attacks Japanese Shipping

William Halsey was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, on October 30th, 1882. His father, also William, was a naval officer and it was highly likely that William Jnr would follow his father into the American Navy. Halsey joined the Naval Academy in 1900. While at the academy, Halsey gained a reputation for his athletic ability and he became president of the Athletic Association.

In February 1904, he graduated from the Academy and joined the ‘USS Missouri’, later transferring to the ‘USS Don Juan de Austria’. As required by law, Halsey spent two years at sea and after this he gained his commission as an Ensign.

For many years, Halsey’s experience was almost exclusively with destroyers, starting in 1909 when he commanded the ‘USS Du Pont’. Between 1915 and 1917, he worked ashore in the Executive Department at the Naval Academy. During World War One, he took command of two destroyers – the ‘USS Dale’ and the ‘USS Osborne’.

Between the two wars, Halsey spent a great deal of time, once again, on destroyers, though he did spend time ashore working in Naval Intelligence in Washington DC. In 1930, he was appointed Commander Destroyer Division Three of the Scouting Force. In 1932, Halsey became a student at the Naval War College.

However, in 1934, Halsey’s career in the navy took a different turn when he joined naval aviation. By this time, Halsey had become convinced about the importance and effectiveness of aircraft carriers in battle – he viewed them as more important than battleships. He saw future naval confrontations whereby the battleships and cruisers of a fleet would protect the carriers. In the mid-1930’s, the opposite was deemed to be true – carriers protected the capital ships of a fleet.

In May 1935, he was passed as a Naval Aviator and took command of the ‘USS Saratoga’ for two years. In 1938, Halsey, now a Rear-Admiral, took command of Carrier Division Two in ‘USS Yorktown’ and later of Carrier Division One in ‘USS Saratoga’.

In 1940, Halsey had been promoted to Vice Admiral and became Commander Aircraft Battle Force where he flew his flag on the ‘USS Enterprise’. He was in this position when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour in December 1941. On December 8th, he sailed on the Enterprise in an unsuccessful attempt to find the Japanese fleet that had carried the planes that had attacked Pearl Harbour.

In April 1942, Halsey, in ‘USS Enterprise’, escorted the ‘USS Hornet’ to within 800 miles of Japan so that the first bombing raid on Tokyo could take place – a carrier-launched raid known as the ‘Doolittle Raid’. His participation in the raid, meant that he did not fight in the Battle of Coral Sea. He also missed the Battle of Midway as he was ill, having passed his command to Raymond Spruance.

In October 1942, Halsey was made Commander South Pacific Forces and South Pacific Area. One month later, he was promoted to full Admiral. He held this position for the next 18 months until he was appointed commander of the Third Fleet and was made Commander Western Pacific Task Forces. It was while Halsey was in this position that America had victories over Japan in the Philippines, Okinawa and the South China Sea.

His forces made their last attack on Japan on August 13th, 1945. Halsey’s flag flew on the ‘USS Missouri’ when Japan signed her formal surrender.

In November 1945, Halsey was given special duties in the office of the Secretary of War. On December 11th, 1945, he was promoted to Fleet Admiral.

Halsey was relieved of active duty in December 1946 and transferred to the retired list in March 1947. For the next ten years he served on the board of two subsidiaries of ITTC (International Telephone and Telegraph Co).

Admiral William Halsey died on August 16th, 1959.