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First Name: William

Last Name: Standley

Birthplace: Ukiah, CA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Middle Name: Harrison

Date of Birth: 18 December 1872

Date of Death: 25 October 1963

Rank or Rate: Admiral

Years Served: 1895-1937, 1941-1945
William Harrison Standley

Graduate, U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1895

•  Spanish-American War (1898)
•  Philippine-American War (1899 - 1902)
•  World War I (1914 - 1918)
•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


William Harrison Standley

Admiral, U.S. Navy

William Harrison Standley was born on 18 December 1872 in Ukiah, CA, where his grandfather operated a hotel, and his father, "Doc" Standley was Mendocino County Sheriff.

William Standley graduated from the Naval Academy in 1895. He then served the required two years' sea duty in the cruiser USS Olympia (C-6) before he received his commission as an Ensign in 1897. During the Spanish-American War, he served in the monitor USS Monterey (BM-6) and later in the gunboat USS Alert (AS-4). After the fighting with Spain had ended, he joined the gunboat USS Yorktown (PG-1), during the Philippine-American War. He won a commendation for bravery during a volunteer reconnaissance mission carried out at Baler on 11 April 1899. In conjunction with a feint conducted by Lt. J. C. Gilmore, Standley-then an Ensign-ventured into enemy territory to reconnoiter insurgent positions.

Ordered to the gunboat USS Marietta (PG-15) on 29 May 1901, Standley later became Officer in Charge, Branch Hydrographic Office, San Francisco, CA, in October of the same year. Assigned to the training ship USS Pensacola in June 1902, he later served as Engineer in the ship USS Adams and as Aide to the Commandant of the Naval Station at Tutuila, Samoa. Designated as the Captain of the Yard there in 1905, Standley discharged his duties as Officer in Charge of the native guard and Chief Customs Officer until detached with orders to the U.S. in October 1906.

Reporting to the receiving ship USS Independence in January 1907, Standley served as Executive Officer of the cruiser USS Albany (CL-23) from February 1909 to August 1910. From January 1910, he also discharged duties as Albany's Navigator. Standley then reported to the armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania (ACR-4) on 3 November 1910 and was navigator of that ship until becoming Aide to the Commandant of the Mare Island Navy Yard at Vallejo, CA. After three years in that post, Standley became Executive Officer of the battleship USS New Jersey (BB-16) and later took command of the gunboat USS Yorktown on 15 May 1915.

World War I

Standley returned to the Naval Academy on 14 October 1916 as Assistant to the Superintendent in charge of Building and Grounds. He later served for 11 months as Commandant of Midshipmen. Under his direction, the new seamanship and navigation buildings were constructed, and over four million dollars were expended in enlarging Bancroft Hall to accommodate the increased number of midshipmen appointed during the World War I period. For his "highly meritorious" service in those posts at Annapolis, Standley received a special letter of commendation from the Secretary of the Navy.

Detached from the Naval Academy in July 1919, Standley later assumed command of the pre-dreadnought battleship USS Virginia (BB-13) and, a year later, received orders to attend the Naval War College. After completing his studies at Newport, Standley returned to sea, serving as Assistant Chief of Staff to the Commander-in-Chief, Battle Fleet, from 5 July 1921 to 30 June 1923, before he reported to Washington for duty heading the War Plans Division in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). Completing the latter tour on 1 February 1926, Standley then commanded USS California (BB-44) from 15 February 1926 to 11 October 1927.

He returned to shore duty in Washington as Director of the Fleet Training Division, Office of the CNO, and held that post until 14 May 1928. He then served as Assistant CNO until 17 September 1930, when he became Commander, Destroyer Squadrons, Battle Fleet, a title that changed to Commander, Destroyers, Battle Force, U.S. Fleet, on 1 April 1931, with additional duty as Commander, Destroyers, U.S. Fleet. Designated as a member of the Navy Department's Selection Board on 18 November 1931, Standley became Commander, Cruisers, Scouting Forces-with additional duties as Commander, Cruisers, U.S. Fleet, and Commander, Cruiser Division 5-on 16 December of the same year. Standley was promoted to Vice Admiral on 20 January 1932 while in command of the Battle Force's cruisers.

On 20 May 1933 he was placed in Command of the Battle Force, U.S. Fleet, with the four-star rank of Admiral. Breaking his flag in his former command, California, the Admiral remained at sea until 1 July 1933, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him CNO.

Before being retired at his own request on 1 January 1937 and handing over the reins of office to Admiral William D. Leahy, Admiral Standley frequently performed the duties of Acting Secretary of the Navy, due to the declining health of Secretary of the Navy Claude A. Swanson. Standley represented the U.S. as a delegate to the London Naval Conference between 7 December 1935 to 25 March 1936 and signed that accord on behalf of the U.S. In addition, during his tenure as CNO, Standley initiated the Vinson-Trammell Naval Bill that provided for establishing, building, and maintaining the U.S. Navy at treaty strength.

World War II

Recalled to active duty on 13 February 1941, Standley served as Naval representative on the Planning Board of the Office of Production Management (OPM) for seven months. After leaving the OPM in the autumn of 1941, Standley served as the American naval member on the Beaverbrook-Harriman Special War Supply Mission to the USSR. Upon his return from the Soviet Union, Standley became a member of the Navy Board for Production Awards.

When President Roosevelt established the Roberts Commission to investigate the attack on Pearl Harbor, he selected Admiral Standley as one of the members of that sensitive body that studied the attack into early 1942. In February 1942, Standley was appointed American Ambassador to the USSR, a post he held into the autumn of 1943.

Subsequently recalled to active duty again in March 1944, Standley served in the Office of Strategic Services throughout the remaining period of hostilities. He was finally relieved of all active duty on 31 August 1945.

Standley then lived in retirement in San Diego, CA, until his death.


The cruiser USS William H. Standley (CG-32) was named in his honor.

Admiral William Standley State Recreation Area, a California state recreation area, is named for him, as is a middle school in San Diego.

Death and Burial

Admiral William Harrison Standley died on 25 October 1963. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, in Section 2, Lot 1188-2, Map Grid T/31.

Honoree ID: 654   Created by: MHOH




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