William "Bull" Halsey (United States, 1882-1959)

Figure 1.--Here we see Admiral Halsey after the War when he brought major units of the Big Blue Fleet back to America. The press caption read, "Another horse for Halsey: Laughingh Adm. William E. Halsey, visting in New Orleans., grips the hand of Allen Walley, 8-year old cripple, after the boy presented the Admiral with a tiny white horse."

Legendary Ammerican World War II carrier commander William "Bull" Halsey was born in 1882. We do not know much about his boyhood. All we know about hisboy hood clothing at his time is that he wore sailor suits as a boy. He entered the U.S. Naval Accademy at Anapolis in 1900. He was popular, but not abilliant student. He graduated 43rd in a class of 62. He was a part of the Geat White Fleet that President Theodore Rooseveltsent on a world tour. It called at Yokahama which was Halsey's first experience with the Japanese. His first command was a torpedo boat. Much of his naval career was spent on destroyers. He followed aviation with considerable interest. At the time planes were primarily conceived as scouts for the fleet. He was offered command of the Saratoga in 1934. This required to earn his wings. At age 52 he chose the most difficult program--that for a pilot.


Halsey explained about his ancestors in his memoirs, "Most were seafarers and adventurers, big, violent men, imptient of the law, and prone to strng drink and strong language." [Halsey and Bryan] The sea ran in William's blood. One ancestor was even a pirate--or at least arivateer--Cpt. Jack Halsey. BUt it was not as deep as he portrayed. His parental grandfather was a rather ordinary Episcopal minister who plunged to his death when he got dizzy looking out the rectory window. His father was an Anapolis graduate. Captain William F. HalseyHe pursued a succesful career in the Navy, but one without great destinction. Of course without a major war there were few opportunities for destinctive service.


Legendary Ammerican World War II carrier commander William "Bull" Halsey was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey during 1882. President McKinley gave him an appointment in 1900. We do not know much about his boyhood. We know he liked sports, especially football. All we know about his boy hood clothing at his time is that he quite aopropriately wore sailor suits as a boy.


Halsey entered the University of Virginia (UVA). He enjoyed the heavy drinking fraternity life and the ethos of cavalier ethos. President McKinnely provided an appointment to Anapolis. After a year at UVA, Halsey jumped at the opportunity to enter Anapolis. He entered the U.S. Naval Accademy at Anapolis in 1900. He was popular, but sarecely a billiant student. At Anapolis he distinguished himself in class committees and especially athletics. He struggled with his academic studies. He joined the 'Lucky Bag' yearbook staff. He won his letter in football as a football fullback and was voted president of the Athletic Association. As a First Classman in his final year, Halsy had his name engraved on the Thompson Trophy Cup as the Midshipman who did the most during the year for the promotion of athletics at the Academy. He graduated 43rd in a class of 62 midshipmen (1904).

Early Duty

Halsey graduated from the Naval Academy (February 1904). His first assignment was the USS Missouri. He then transferred to USS Don Juan de Austria. It was there he was commissioned an Ensign after having completed 2 years at sea. Atvthe time this was required by law to be awardes a commission. Next he was assigned to the USS Kansas (1907). In was on the Kansas that he paricipated with the Great White Fleet that Presiden Theodore Roosevelt disparched on a world cruise. Kansas called at Yokahama which was Halsey's first experience with the Japanese. He didn't like the Japanese then and his opinion of them did not improve during the ensing years.


Much of his naval career was spent on destroyers. His first command was a torpedo boat USS DuPont (TB-7 commissioned in 1897). The torpedo was a an inovative naval weapon. A smakl torpedo boat could take out a massive battkleship. This require a major rethinkn in naval tactics. The torpedo boat was the forerunner of the modern destroyer. For nearly 25 years practically all his sea duty with the Fleet was in destroyers, starting in 1909 with command of. The USS Lamson, USS Flusser and USS Jarvis followed. He began ashore sury for 2 years in the Executive Department at the Naval Academy (1915).

World War I (1917-18)

The United States after the Germans resumed unrestricted submaeine warfare deckared war on Germany enteringvWorld war I (April 1917). The United States did not have a sizeable army to send to France. Men had to recruited abnd trained. Thus it wiuld be aear befire the Aneruvan infantry could begin to be cimmitted to the Western Front in numbers. The United States did havec sizable Navy. Halsey was assigned to the Queenstown Destroyer Force as commanfer of the USS Benham and USS Shaw.

Post-War Destroyer Service

After World War I he continued service on destroyers (1918-21). He commanded the USS Yarnell, USS Chauncey, and USS John Francis Burnes. He was given command of Destroyer Division Thirty-two. He assumed command of USS Wickes and of Destroyer Division Fifteen (October 1920 ) At the time a destroyer division commander also commanded the division flagship.

Shore Duty

Halseys carrer then involved a series of shore assignnments. He served in the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), in Washington (1920-21). This was his only duty assignment in WAshington during his long career. It foreshadowed a relationship with ONI that would play a major role in the Pacifi War. He was assugned to the American Embassy in Berlin, Germany as the naval attache (October 1922). , he was ordered as Naval Attache at the American Embassy in Berlin, Germany. The next year he was given further attache assignments at the American Embassies in Christiana, Norway; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Stockholm, Sweden.

More Destroyer Work

A range of assignments fillowed his attache work, but continued to focus on destroyers. He returned to sea duty, working with destroyers in European waters. He commandedv the USS Dale and USS Osborne. v He retuned to the United States (1927). He served one year as Executive Officer of the battleship USS Wyoming. He had an extended appointment on the USS Reina Mercedes, station ship at the Naval Academy (1928-30). Then it was back to destroyers (1930). He commanded Destroyer Division Three of the Scouting Force (1930). He went as a student to the Naval War College (1932).

Naval Aviation (1934)

Halsey had been following naval aviation as it developed after World war I with considerable interest. At the time planes were primarily conceived as scouts for the fleet, not as a major striking force. His association with naval aviation began when he was offered command of the USS Saratoga (1934). This required him tyo to earn his wings. At age 52 he chose the most difficult program--that for a pilot. He reported to the Naval Air Station, Pensacola for flight training and was designated a Naval Aviator (May 1935). He was huvden command of the USS Saratoga (1935-37). Hre then commanded the Naval Air Station, Pensacola. He was promoted to flag rank. He then commanedCarrier Division Two in USS Yorktown and Carrier Division One in USS Saratoga. He was made Commander Aircraft Battle Force with the rank of Vice Admiral (1940).

Pearl Harbor (December 1941)

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor fortunateky, the principal targets, the American carriers were not at Pearl. Halsey was on the USS Enterprise steaming for Pearl. Adter searching for the Japanese, he entered a devestated Pearl Harbor to see a row of sucken American battleships--what had been the heart of the Pacific fleet.

Carrier Task Forces (December 1941- May 1942)

The U.S. Pacific Fleet was in aifficult situation after Pearl Harbor. The Imperial Fleet outckassed the Anerucabns in every category. The Americans would have to hold off the Japanese for a year until the new Essex Class carriers and improved aircraft could reach the Fleet. Naval doctrine mandated that the Jaoanese should press home their advantage and destroy the American carriers. Instead they supported various other operations for several months. It was fortunate that Halesy and Enterrise did not find the Japanese carriers off Pearl. The American pilots werevnot nearly as well trained as the Japanese or have planes up to the Japanese standards. It could have kead to disaster. After Pearl, Halsey led Enterprise and its air crews on a series of raids on Japanese occupied islands to perfect their skills. He was yhen given command of Task Force Sixteen tasked with delivering the Doolittke Raiders (April 1942). Enterprise escorted the USS Hornet carry B-25 Mitchell bombers to within 800 miles of Tokyo. This brought them within range to carry out the first bombing of the Japanese Home Islands. This causedcAdmoral Yanamoto to push forward the Miday Operation, and finally destroy the American carriers. Halsey and Enterprise were ordered to support Lexington and Yorktown to support operations in the Coral Sea, but arrived too late. Halsey would have commanfed operations at Midway, but he had contracted a skin disease. Nimitz asked for suggestions about who should replace him and Halsey chose Ray Spruance. Halsey was thus not at Mudway, akthough he had played a key role in preparing the aur crews and ship commanders and setting the battlevin motion..

The South Pacific (October 1942-43)

The American victory at Midway (June 1942) substantially changed the calculations of naval power. This made possivke the Anerican invasion of Guadalcanal (August 1942). It prived a terrible orderal with a series of frightfull naval battles in and around the Solomons. The Japanese loss iof four carriers at Midway had substanially lesened the margin of their naval supperority, but not yet given the Allies the edge. The American commanders were thinking about pulling ghe Marines off Guadalcanal. Admiral Robert Gomerly, Commander South Pacific Area, concluded that he did not have adequate naval forces to support them. It is at this point that Nimitz makes Halsey Commander South Pacific Forces and South Pacific Area. With the rank of Admiral. He commited the U.S. Navy to support the Marines on Guadalcanal. It was a huge risk. The Big Blue Fleet did not yet exist. The Japanese had very powerful naval forces. Theree great naval battles ebsued: Santa Cruz (October 26), Guadalcanal (Novenber 12-15), and Tassafaronga (November 29-30). It proved to be thec turning pont if the War. Both sides suffered substantialm lossess. But the Marines held on Guadalcanal and ultimately it was the Imperial Navy that withdrew. The Japanese simply could not sustain thec levelm of combat with the Americans. They could not replace the shios lost in the Solomons, the Americans could. The Imperial Navy had to withdraw from the South Pacific. Halsey for the next 18 months commanded the South Pacific area.

Big Blue Fleet--3rd Fleet

Halsey he assumed command of the Third Fleet (June 1944). He was designated Commander Western Pacific Task Forces. He oversaw operations against the Japanese in the Palaies, Philippines, Formosa, Okinawa and South China Sea.

Leyte Gulf (October 1944)

The Battle of Leyte Gulf was the largest naval battle in history--the culmination of over two milenia of war at sea. The Japanese designed the Sho-Go Victory Plan for the Nttle of Leyte Gulf on Halsey's agressive character. [Thomas] Halsey had been critical, although openly, of Sprance's cautious conduct of the Battle of the Philippines Sea off Saipan which allowed much of the Imperial Fleet to escape. Thus the Japanese offered up Admiral Ozawa's Northern Force comsisting of the Imperial Fleet's remaining carriers in the hope that the Central Force could pass through the San Bernadino Straits. This is just what occurred. Hasey can not be crticised for going after the Northern Force.He can be criticised for not making sure the Sn Bernadino Straits were closed. In the end the powerful Central Force was turned back by Taffy 2 and 3--an incrediblt weak force of destoyers and escort carriers.

Operations Off Japan (1945)

After the Okinawa campaign, Halsey began striking at the HomevIskabds (July 1945). The Third Fleet struck at Tokyo and othervtargets on the the Japanese Home Islands. The Allies began preparing for the invasionof Kishu. The last attack was (August 13, 1945. Admiral Halsey's flag was flying on USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay when Japanese formaly signed the surrender documents (Septenber 2).


Halsey, William F. and J. Bryan III, Admiral Halsey's Story (New York: McGraw Hill, 1947).

Thomas, Evan. Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign, 1941-1945 (Simon & Schuster: New York, 2006), 414p.


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Created: September 18, 2002
Last edited: 2:08 AM 7/17/2013