Halsey, William F.

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Halsey, William F. (1882–1959) fleet admiral, U.S. Navy, World War II.Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Halsey graduated from the Naval Academy in 1904. In the 1930s, he learned to fly and became a leading advocate of carrier warfare. During the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he was at sea, commanding the carrier Enterprise. In the spring of 1942, he helped orchestrate a series of carrier raids in the Pacific against enemy strongholds, including the famous James Doolittle bomber attack on Tokyo. Later, as commander of the South Pacific theater in 1942–44, he directed forces that captured Guadalcanal, Bougainville, and several other key islands in the Solomons.

During and after the Battle of Leyte Gulf (October 1944), Halsey was criticized for sailing his fleet northward in pursuit of enemy decoy carriers and leaving the San Bernardino Straits open to defended attack by a main enemy force. Later that year, he was again questioned for heading into a typhoon and losing three ships. By war's end, however, the aggressive commander, known as “Bull” Halsey, was hailed as a popular hero, awarded a fifth star, and promoted to the rank of fleet admiral.

In retirement, Halsey often defended his Leyte Gulf decision, claiming that under the circumstances it was the best of all options. Above all, he was an energetic and demanding leader, who had the ability to invigorate the U.S. Navy's fighting spirit when most required.
[See also Guadalcanal, Battle of; Navy, U.S.: 1899–1945; Navy Combat Branches: Surface Forces; World War II, U.S. Naval Operations in: The Pacific.]


E. B. Potter , Bull Halsey, 1985.

Donald D. Chipman