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First Name: William

Last Name: Halsey

Birthplace: Elizabeth, NJ, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Middle Name: Frederick

Date of Birth: 30 October 1882

Date of Death: 16 August 1959

Rank or Rate: Fleet Admiral

Years Served: 1904-1959
William Frederick Halsey, Jr.

Graduate, U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1904

•  World War I (1914 - 1918)
•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


William Frederick "Bull" Halsey, Jr.
Fleet Admiral, U.S. Navy

The Early Years

William Frederick Halsey, Jr. was born in Elizabeth, NJ, on 30 October 1882, the son of William F. Halsey, Sr., Captain, U.S. Navy. His father was a descendant of Senator Rufus King, an American lawyer, politician, diplomat, and Federalist candidate for both Vice President (1804 and 1808) and President of the United States (1816). Young Halsey attended the Pingry School, a highly-rated boy's school that provided both scholastic training and moral education.

After waiting two years for an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy (his father was a USNA graduate, class of 1872), Halsey Jr. decided to study medicine at the University of Virginia (UVA) and then get into the Navy as a doctor. He chose UVA because his best friend, Karl Osterhause, was a student there. Years later, Halsey admitted that he learned little during his one and only year at Virginia; but he had a wonderful time. Despite that, Halsey was a member of the elite and secretive Seven Society. He also joined the prestigious Delta Psi fraternity (AKA St. Anthony Hall) at UVA in 1899. President McKinley gave him an appointment to the Naval Academy in 1900.

At the Naval Academy he distinguished himself in class committees and athletics, but not in academics. He was a member of the "Lucky Bag" yearbook staff; won his letter in football as a fullback; and was President of the Athletic Association. As a First Classman, he had his name engraved on the Thompson Trophy Cup as the Midshipman who had done the most during the year for the promotion of athletics. [Later in life, when "some drunken correspondent" in Halsey's words, changed "Bill" Halsey to "Bull," the nickname stuck. Halsey disliked it because it seemed flamboyant.]

Upon graduation in February 1904, Halsey was assigned to the battleship USS Missouri (BB-11) and later transferred to the gunboat USS Don Juan de Austria (formerly a Spanish Navy unprotected cruiser, she was captured in 1898 during the Spanish-American War and commissioned into the U.S. Navy). While assigned to that ship, on 2 February 1906, he was commissioned an Ensign after having completed the two years at sea that was then required by law. In 1907, he joined the newly-commissioned battleship USS Kansas (BB-21) and made the famous world cruise of the Great White Fleet. (The Great White Fleet was the popular nickname for the U.S. Navy battle fleet that completed a circumnavigation of the globe from 16 December 1907 to 22 February 1909 by order of President Theodore Roosevelt. It consisted of 16 battleships divided into two squadrons, along with various escorts. Roosevelt sought to demonstrate growing American military power and blue-water navy capability.)

In 1909, the Navy was expanding and was short on officers; on 2 February, Halsey became one of the few Ensigns who were promoted directly to full Lieutenant, without serving time in the rank of Lieutenant (junior grade). He was also given command of the torpedo boat USS DuPont (TB-7). Torpedoes and torpedo boats became his specialties, and he commanded the First Group of the Atlantic Fleet's Torpedo Flotilla in 1912-13. He also commanded several torpedo boats and destroyers during the 1910s and 1920s. His destroyer commands included USS Lamson (DD-18); USS Flusser (DD-20); and USS Jarvis (DD-38). In 1915, Halsey went ashore for two years of duty in the Executive Department at the Naval Academy. On 29 August 1916, he was promoted to lieutenant commander.

During WWI he served in the Queenstown Destroyer Force in command of USS Benham (DD-49) and USS Shaw (DD-68). Halsey's World War I service, including command of USS Shaw in 1918, was sufficiently distinguished to earn a Navy Cross (it was not a medal for life and death valor, as it later became). On 1 February 1918, Halsey was promoted to commander.

The Inter-War Years

On 29 November 1918, Commander continued his destroyer service in command of destroyer USS Yarnell (DD-143), commissioned on that date. He later commanded the destroyers USS Chauncey (DD-296) and USS John Francis Burnes (DD-299); and Destroyer Division Thirty-Two. In October 1920 he assumed command of USS Wickes (Halsey later stated in his memoirs that Wickes was "the best ship I ever commanded; she was also the smartest and the cleanest.") and of Destroyer Division Fifteen (at that time a destroyer division commander also commanded the division flagship.)

Another shore cruise sent him to duty in the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington, DC, which was his only duty assignment in that city. In October 1922, he received orders as 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 17 June 1924, the destroyer USS Dale (DD-290) sailed from Newport under the command of Commander William F. Halsey, Jr. to make courtesy visits to ports in Germany, Denmark, Norway, Scotland, England, France, Spain, and Portugal. Arriving at Gibraltar on 21 September, she cruised in the Mediterranean until June 1925, engaging in battle practice, intelligence work, and international goodwill calls. She departed Gibraltar 2 July 1925 for New York, arriving 16 July.

Upon completion of that cruise, he returned to sea again, in European waters, in command of the destroyers Dale and USS Osborne (DD-295). Upon his return to the U.S. in 1927 (he was promoted to captain on 10 February 1927), he served one year as Executive Officer of the battleship USS Wyoming (BB-32) -- and then for three years in command of the protected cruiser USS Reina Mercedes (IX-25), station ship at the Naval Academy. He continued his destroyer duty on his next two-years at cruise, starting in 1930 as Commander Destroyer Division Three of the Scouting Force. In 1932 he was a student at the Naval War College.

Halsey embarked on his aviation career in 1934 when he reported to Naval Air Station Pensacola, FL, for flight training. He was designated a Naval Aviator on 15 May 1935, and was placed in command of the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV-3) for two years, followed by one year in command of Naval Air Station Pensacola. On 1 March 1938, he was promoted to the flag rank of rear admiral. [At the time of Halsey's promotion to rear admiral, the U.S. Navy did not use a one-star rank. Halsey was therefore promoted from captain directly to the rank of 2-star rear admiral (upper half).] He then held successive commands of Carrier Division Two in USS Yorktown (CV-5) and Carrier Division One in Saratoga. On 13 June 1940, he became Commander, Aircraft Battle Force with the rank of Vice Admiral.

World War II

He was still Commander, Aircraft Battle Force, at sea aboard the carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) when during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Sunday morning, 7 December 1941.

Upon learning of the Japanese attack, he was rumored to have remarked, "Before we're through with 'em, the Japanese language will only be spoken in hell." Halsey's contempt for the Japanese was well-displayed throughout the war to the officers and sailors under his command in very successful campaigns to boost morale. One such example was the slogan attributed to Halsey, "Kill Japs, Kill Japs, Kill More Japs! The more of the little yellow bastards you kill, the quicker we go home!"

In April 1942, he was designated Commander Task Force Sixteen, in Enterprise, and ordered to escort the carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) to within 800 miles of Tokyo for a bombing raid on Japan. This was the legendary Doolittle Raid, on 18 April 1942, the first air raid by the U.S. to strike the Japanese Home Islands (specifically Honshu) during World War II. By demonstrating that Japan itself was vulnerable to American air attack, it provided a vital morale boost and opportunity for U.S. retaliation after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. The raid was planned and led by Lieutenant Colonel James "Jimmy" Doolittle using sixteen U.S. Army Air Forces B-25B Mitchell medium bombers. During the first six months of the war, his carrier task force took part in raids on enemy-held islands and in the Doolittle Raid on Japan. By this time he had adopted the slogan, "Hit hard, hit fast, hit often."

Just before the Battle of Midway he was beached by an irritating skin disease from which he suffered throughout most of his life. He lent his chief of staff, Captain Miles Browning, to his hand-picked successor for participation in the seaborne defense of Midway Island, Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance, who, under the overall command of Rear Admiral Frank Fletcher, and despite difficulties from Browning, led the American carrier forces to a victory against the Japanese Combined Fleet.

In mid-October 1942, Halsey took command of South Pacific Forces and South Pacific Area, at a critical stage of the Guadalcanal Campaign. Among his staff officers was his Assistant Intelligence Officer, noted Hollywood producer and screenwriter, Commodore (later Rear Admiral) Gene Markey, USNR. On 18 November 1942, Halsey was promoted to the rank of Admiral. After Guadalcanal was secured in February 1943, Admiral Halsey's forces spent the rest of the year battling up the Solomon Islands Chain to Bougainville; then isolating the Japanese fortress at Rabaul by capturing positions in the Bismarck Archipelago.

Admiral Halsey left the South Pacific in May 1944 as the war surged toward the Philippines and Japan. In June 1944, he assumed command of the U.S. Third Fleet, and was designated Commander, Western Pacific Task Forces. From September 1944 to January 1945, he led the Third Fleet during campaigns to take the Palau's, Leyte and Luzon, and on many raids on Japanese bases, including on the shores of Formosa, China, and Vietnam.

Leyte Gulf

In October 1944, amphibious forces of the U.S. Seventh Fleet carried out 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 a vast operation (known as 'Sho-Go') involving almost all their surviving fleet, and aimed at destroying the invasion shipping in Leyte Gulf. A force built around a relatively weak group of Japanese aircraft carriers (Admiral Ozawa's 'Northern Force') was meant to lure the covering U.S. forces away from the Gulf while two other forces (the 'Southern' and 'Center' Forces), built around a total of 7 battleships and 16 cruisers, broke through to the beachhead and attacked the invasion shipping. This operation was to bring 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 and attacked by American picket submarines on 23 October, and on 24 October, in the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, Third Fleet's aircraft attacked it, sinking the giant battleship Musashi and damaging other ships. Kurita turned westwards, towards his base, but later reversed course and headed again for San Bernardino Strait through which he intended to pass to reach Leyte Gulf. By this stage, the carriers of Ozawa's decoy Northern Force had been located by Halsey's aircraft. Halsey made the momentous decision to take all his available strength northwards on the night of 24-25 October to strike the Japanese carrier force on the following morning. He resolved to leave San Bernardino Strait entirely unguarded. As C. Vann Woodward wrote, "not so much as a picket destroyer was left."

Halsey had swallowed the bait. He also failed to advise Admiral Kinkaid and Seventh Fleet of his decision. However, the Seventh Fleet intercepted an organizational message from Halsey to his own task group commanders, which led Kinkaid and his staff to believe that Halsey was taking his three available carrier groups northwards, but would be leaving Task Force 34-a powerful battleship and cruiser force-guarding San Bernardino Strait.

Despite ominous aerial reconnaissance reports on the night of 24-25 October, Halsey continued to assume that the approaching Japanese Center Force had been neutralized, and he continued to take his entire available strength northwards, away from San Bernardino Strait and Leyte Gulf.

As a result, when Kurita's powerful Center Force emerged from San Bernardino on the morning of 25 October, they found not one Allied ship to oppose them. Advancing down the coast of the island of Samar towards their objective-the invasion shipping in Leyte Gulf-they took Seventh Fleet's escort carriers and their screening ships entirely by surprise. In the desperate and unequal Battle off Samar which followed, Kurita's ships destroyed one of the small escort carriers and three ships of the carriers' screen, and damaged many USN ships, but the heroic resistance of the escort carrier groups took a heavy toll on Kurita's ships, and his nerves. He decided to withdraw towards San Bernardino Strait and the west without achieving anything further.

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, an anxious message was received - "Turkey trots to water. Where is repeat where is Task Force 34? The world wonders" - from Admiral Chester Nimitz, the CINCPAC, Halsey's immediate superior, referring to the battleship-cruiser force thought to have been covering San Bernardino Strait, and thus the Seventh Fleet's northern flank. The tail end of this message was intended as padding designed to confuse enemy decoders, but was mistakenly left in the message when it was handed to Halsey. The vaguely insulting tone of the message threw Halsey into a screaming fit.

Halsey turned the battleships and their escorts southwards at 11:15, more than an hour after he received the signal from Nimitz. This cost Task Force 34 more than two hours to make it back to the position it had been when Nimitz's signal was received. As the battle force came south it slowed to 12 knots so the battleships could top up the destroyers with fuel, incurring another two and a half hour delay. By then, it was too late for Task Force 34 either to assist the Seventh Fleet's escort carrier groups or to prevent Kurita's force from making its escape.

This succession of actions on Halsey's part during 24 and 25 October was thought by some observers to have damaged his reputation. Professor Samuel Morison of Harvard University, cited as the country's most prolific naval historian, called the Third Fleet run to the north "Halsey's Blunder." Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy remarked afterwards "We didn't lose the war for that but I don't know why we didn't." The operation has derisively been called "The Battle of Bull's Run."


After the Leyte Gulf engagement, Third Fleet was confronted with another powerful enemy in mid-December-Typhoon Cobra (also known as "Halsey's Typhoon"). While conducting operations off the Philippines, the force remained on station rather than avoiding a major storm, which sank three destroyers and inflicted damage on many other ships. Some 800 men were lost, in addition to 146 aircraft. A Navy court of inquiry found that while Halsey had committed an error of judgment in sailing into the typhoon, it stopped short of unambiguously recommending sanction.

In January 1945, Halsey passed command of his fleet to Admiral Spruance (whereupon its designation changed to 'Fifth Fleet'). Halsey resumed command of Third Fleet in late-May 1945 and retained it until the end of the war. In early June 1945, Halsey again sailed the fleet into the path of a typhoon and, while ships sustained crippling damage, none were lost. Six lives were lost and 75 planes were lost or destroyed, with almost 70 badly damaged. Again a Navy court of inquiry was convened, and it suggested that Halsey be reassigned, but Admiral Nimitz recommended otherwise due to Halsey's prior service.

Admiral Halsey's flag was flying on USS Missouri (BB-63) on 2 September in Tokyo Bay when the formal Japanese surrender was signed onboard.


On 11 December 1945, Halsey was promoted to the rank of 5-star Fleet Admiral. And in January 1946, he served as best man at Commodore Markey's wedding to Hollywood actress Myrna Loy at San Pedro, CA. Halsey retired from active duty with the U.S. Navy in March 1947.

From the late forties to the late fifties, he was involved in several failed efforts to preserve his former flagship USS Enterprise (CV-6) as a memorial in New York harbor.

Military Medals and Awards

Navy Cross
Distinguished Service Medal with Three Gold Stars
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Presidential Unit Citation
Mexican Service Medal
Victory Medal, Destroyer Clasp
American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Philippine Liberation Medal


• Two ships have been named for Admiral Halsey: USS Halsey (CG-23), a Leahy-class guided missile cruiser, and USS Halsey (DDG-97), an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer.
• The airfield at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, CA, was dedicated in honor of Halsey on 20 October 1960, during a celebration of 50 years of naval aviation (1911-1961).
• At least two American colleges have buildings named after Halsey: Halsey Hall at the University of Virginia and the Halsey Fieldhouse at the U.S. Naval Academy.
• A street, Halsey Court, is named after him in Pittsburgh, PA.
• Elizabeth High School in Elizabeth, NJ, has a complex-Halsey House-named for Halsey.
• Halsey Terrace, US Navy housing in Honolulu, HI.
• Halsey Society at Texas A&M University Naval ROTC.

Halsey in Popular Culture

• Halsey was portrayed by James Cagney in the 1960 bio-pic, The Gallant Hours; by James Whitmore in the 1970 film, Tora! Tora! Tora!; and by Robert Mitchum in the 1976 film, Midway. As a note to the changing times, when Tora! Tora! Tora! was released in 1970, James Whitmore, portraying Halsey, quotes Halsey's famous line regarding the idea that the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell after the War. In contemporary (2000s) screenings of this film, on cable and in current DVD releases, the line is dubbed out of the film by cutting the scene in which this statement was made.
• Halsey is popularly referred to by the nickname "Bull." According to historian Samuel Eliot Morison, no one who knew Halsey personally ever called him that, and the name arose as a typographic error of "Bill" in a press release, and stuck in the popular imagination.
• 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.
• On 4 March 1951, Halsey appeared as a mystery guest on episode #40 of the game show, What's My Line, where the panel correctly deduced his identity.
• In the film The Hunt for Red October, Jack Ryan tells Captain Ramius that he authored a biography of Halsey entitled The Fighting Sailor about naval combat tactics. Ramius responds that he knows the book, and that Ryan's conclusions were all wrong. "Halsey acted stupidly," Ramius says.
• 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?"

Death and Burial

Halsey died on 16 August 1959 on Fishers Island, NY, and was interred at Arlington National Cemetery. His wife, Frances Grandy Halsey (1887-1968), is buried with him. Halsey Minor, a descendant, is named after him.

Honoree ID: 11   Created by: MHOH




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