William Frederick Halsey, Jr.
United States admiral
Fleet Admiral William Frederick Halsey, Jr., GBE (October 30, 1882 – August 16, 1959) (commonly referred to as "Bill" or "Bull" Halsey), was an American Fleet Admiral in the United States Navy. He commanded the South Pacific Area during the early stages of the Pacific War against Japan. Later he was commander of the Third Fleet through the duration of hostilities.
- Kill Japs, kill Japs, kill more Japs!
- Reported in James Bradley, Flyboys (2004), p. 138; Thomas Evans, Sea of Thunder (2006), p. 1; Paul Fussell, Wartime (1990), p. 119.
- There are no great men, there are only great challenges, which ordinary men like you and me are forced by circumstances to meet.
- Quoted in the Congressional Record, 11 December 1971.
- Dear Ernie,
It has been an education, and a very pleasant one, to serve under you this past winter. May I thank you for your patience of me personally and for the professional lessons you have given me- I should be proud to serve under you any time- anywhere, & under any conditions. The best of luck always- may your new job be to your liking- and here's hoping for more stars afloat.
Always sincerely yours,
- Handwritten note from Halsey to Ernest King on 22 June 1939, as quoted by Walter R. Borneman in The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King: The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea (2012), p. 180
- Before we're through with them, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell.
- Remark in December 1941, after the attack of Pearl Harbor, as quoted in Roger Parkinson, Attack on Pearl Harbour (1973), p. 117; James Bradley, Flyboys (2004), p. 138.
- Missing the Battle of Midway has been the greatest disappointment of my career, but I am going back to the Pacific where I intend personally to have a crack at those yellow bellied sons of bitches and their carriers.
- Speech at the Naval Academy, as quoted in James C. Bradford, Quarterdeck and Bridge: Two Centuries of American Naval Leaders (1997), p. 350.
- Never before in the history of warfare has there been a more convincing example of the effectiveness of sea power than when, despite this undefeated, well armed, and highly efficient army, Japan surrendered her homeland unconditionally to the enemy without even a token resistance. The devastation wrought by past bombings plus the destruction of the atomic bombs spelled nothing less than the extinction of Japan. The bases from which these attacks were launched- Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa- were to have been the spring boards for the mightiest sea-borne invasion yet conceived by man. The "fighting fleets" of the United States which had made possible every invasion victory for America were ready and waiting. The Japanese had two alternatives; to fight and face destruction, or to surrender. The Imperial Japanese Empire chose to surrender.
- Battle Stations! Your Navy in Action (1946), "The Surrender of Japan", p. 360
Admiral Halsey's Story (1947)Edit
- This book was co-written by Halsey and J. Bryan, III, the latter of whom wrote the introduction. The rest of the book is written from Halsey's point of view. All quotes are from the 1947 hardcover edition, published through Whittlesey House, a division of McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. of New York, New York.
- To the officers and men of the United States Navy and Naval Reserve, with respect, affection, and gratitude
- I don't want to be remembered as "Bull" Halsey, who was going to ride the White Horse. "Bull" is a tag the newspapers tied to me. I was named for my father, so I started out as "Young Bill"; then I became plain "Bill"; and more recently I suppose it is inevitable for my juniors to think of me, a fleet admiral and five times a grandfather, as "Old Bill." Now that I am sitting down to my autobiography, it is Bill Halsey whom I want to get on paper, not the fake, flamboyant "Bull."
Correction: This will not be an autobiography, but a report. Reports are the only thing I know how to write, since half my time in the Navy has gone to preparing them. Although I intend for this once to throw in as many stories as I like, rattle some skeletons, and offer some apologies and second guesses- amusements which official reports discourage- I don't intend to discard the official form completely. This report will be as clear and true as I can make it; it will contain all the pertinent facts I can remember, whether they're to my credit or not; it will avoid fields like philosophy or politics, where I am easily lost; and it will be consecutive, beginning with my ancestors and ending with my retirement from active duty.
- p. 1
- All this was long ago. Nearly two-thirds of my classmates are dead, and not one of us is left on active duty. But there might be one if a close friend of mine received his justice. I refer, and will refer again, to Husband E. Kimmel.
- p. 8
- Miles Browning, Paul Putnam, and I were still the only ones who knew our destination, so my order burst on the task force like a thousand-pounder. My operations officer, Comdr. William H. Buracker, brought it to me and asked incredulously, "Admiral, did you authorize this thing?" "Yes." "Do you realize that this means war?" "Yes." Bill protested, "Goddamnit, Admiral, you can't start a private war on your own! Who's going to take responsibility?" I replied, "I'll take it! If anything gets in my way, we'll shoot first and argue afterwards."
- p. 76.
- As the day passed, the lookouts' jitters became worse. Finally I sent this signal to the task force:
IF ALL THE TORPEDO WAKES REPORTED ARE FACTUAL, JAPANESE SUBMARINES WILL SOON HAVE TO RETURN TO BASE FOR A RELOAD, AND WE WILL HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR X IN ADDITION, WE ARE WASTING TOO MANY DEPTH CHARGES ON NEUTRAL FISH X TAKE ACTION ACCORDINGLY.
This rebuke was not intended for our patrols, who were less excitable but equally alert. Next day, indeed, they spotted three enemy subs. One dived before she could be bombed, but the second was classed as "damaged," and the third sank vertically, leaving for of her deck crew struggling in the water.
This same day, the Enterprises radar failed temporarily, just as our lookouts reported the approach of a large flight of planes. We were on the point of opening fire and repeating one of the most painful features of December 7 when the planes were recognized as part of our inner air patrol.
- p. 83
- It was the Pacific Fleet, the big fleet, the fleet maimed at Pearl Harbor, that had now paid the first installment on its bill. Miles Browning's strategy won him a promotion to captain, and he and I were each given a Distinguished Service Medal. When I received it, I called in my staff and told them, "This is as much for you as it is for me. You made it possible." A few nights later, I went to a movie on the Enterprise. Before it started, I told the audience, the ship's company, "I want to make a little speech. I just want to say that I've never been so damn proud of anyone as I am of you!"
- p. 97
- We were free again at the end of December, however, so I asked Chester's permission to enter the China Sea on completion of our next assignment- covering MacArthur's Lingayen Gulf landing on January 9. The day after we sortied was New Year's Eve. That night I picked up the TBS and broadcast a message to all hands, under my code name. This is Blackjack himself. Your work so far has been superb. I expect even more. Keep the bastards dying!
- p. 242
- My first thought at the great news was, "Victory!" My second was, "God be thanked, I'll never have to order another man out to die!" And my next was, "I am grateful for the honor of being in command of the Third Fleet on this day." Then plain joy took over. I yelled, "Yippee!" and pounded the shoulders of everybody within reach.
- p. 271
- I ordered the carriers to stow their bombers and torpedo planes on their hangar decks, to spot their flight decks only with fighters, and to maintain an augmented and extravigilant CAP. My trust in the Japs was still less than whole-hearted, and I was taking no chance that a kamikaze would seize a last-minute opportunity to win honor for his ancestors. In fact, I had our fighter directors call our CAP pilots by radio and instruct them, "Investigate and shoot down all snoopers- not vindictively but in a friendly sort of way."
I was told later that one pilot had been overheard to ask, "What do you mean, 'not vindictively'?" And another answered, "I guess they mean for us to use only three guns instead of six."
- p. 272
- Now that the fighting has ended, there must be no letdown. There must be watchful waiting. Victory is not the end, but the beginning. We must establish peace- a firm, a just, and an enduring peace.
- Excerpt from Halsey's radio broadcast to the United States Third Fleet at 1300 on 15 August 1945, p. 272
- Before I left Tokyo, I had requested retirement as soon as I was relieved of command. Chester Nimitz gave my application a damn nice endorsement, and Ernie King put on one as complimentary as he ever puts on anything; but instead of being released, I was given another sugarplum- promotion to fleet admiral- and kept on active duty until April 1, 1947. Now, at long last, my story is done. I have nothing more to add except to repeat what I told the South Dakotas company as my flag was being hauled down for the last time:
"I am terminating a seagoing career of slightly over 45 years. This is far from a pleasure, but I deem it necessary for men of my age to step aside so that younger men can take over the greatest Navy in the world... You have heard the nation say, 'Well done!' I say it again and again: 'Well done! Well done! Well done!' May you all have happy careers! Godspeed and God bless you!"
- p. 292
Quotes about HalseyEdit
- Alphabetized by author
- FLEET ADMIRAL WILLIAM FREDERICK HALSEY, JR., USN. Born New Jersey 1882. Annapolis Class of 1904. First command, USS DuPont, 1909. Commanded USS Flusser, 1912; Jarvis, 1913. Awarded Navy Cross, 1918, for services as Comdr., USS's Benham and Shaw. Commanded USS Saratoga, 1935-7. As Rear Admiral, commanded Carrier Divisions 2 and 1, 1938-9. Designated Comdr., Aircraft, Battle Force, 1940. Awarded DSM, 1942, as Comdr., Marshall Raiding Force. Appointed Comdr., South Pacific Force, Oct. 1942. Awarded Army DSM, second Navy DSM for services, 1942-4. Assumed command famous Third Fleet, 1944; won third, fourth Navy DSM's for services, 1944-5. Holds numerous foreign Decorations. On Dec. 11, 1945, achieved highest rank, Fleet Admiral.
- Biographical Notes on Halsey in Battle Stations! Your Navy in Action (1946), p. 396
- The only man in the class who can compete with General in the number of offices he has held. Started out in life to become a doctor and in the process gained several useful hints. Honorary member of the S.P.C.A. for having so many times saved Shutuby from persecution. A real old salt. Looks like a figurehead of Neptune. Strong sympathizer with the Y.M.C.A. movement. Everybody's friend and Brad's devoted better half.
- Description of Halsey in Lucky Bag (1904), yearbook of the United States Naval Academy, p. 41
- William F. Halsey, Jr., wasn't destined for academic stardom at the Naval Academy, but he applied himself just enough to make respectable marks without adversely affecting his preferred social and athletic pursuits. Once, when Halsey came dangerously close to failing theoretical mechanics, his father strongly advised him to drop football. That, of course, was out of the question. Instead, Bill recruited the scholars in his class to tutor him and a few others similarly challenged. When the exam was over, Bill went to his father's quarters for lunch and was immediately asked if the results had been posted. "Yes, sir," Bill answered, and then reported that he had made 3.98 out of 4.0. His father stared at him for a full minute and finally asked incredulously, "Sir, have you been drinking?"
- Walter R. Borneman, The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy and King- The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea (2012), p. 45
- King was never shy about promoting his talents, but despite his role as COMINCH, it was Nimitz and his principal deputies who got more press attention. And while King usually held the respect of even his critics, he was simply too aloof and lacked the likability and follow-you-anywhere personality that radiated from both Nimitz and Halsey. From Nimitz, it came from studied calm; Halsey's resulted more from his volcanic "hit em again harder" football mentality. If Marshall and King had agreed on only one thing, it would have been that each of them had their public heroes to nurture and attempt to control: MacArthur for Marshall and Halsey for King. And in the end, it was this recognition of Halsey's place in the public consciousness that seems to have tipped King from Spruance to Halsey in recommending that fourth set of five stars. Halsey was too much of an institution in the American press to be denied. Had Spruance been of a similar ilk as Halsey and sought the spotlight rather than shunned it, the result might have been different. As it was, Spruance passed off attempts to be called the hero of Midway by recognizing the staff he had inherited from Halsey and Frank Jack Fletcher's commanding role.
- Walter R. Borneman, The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy and King- The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea (2012), p. 416
- Heat-of-battle decisions at Leyte and typhoons aside, it is difficult to argue that Bill Halsey didn't deserve the five stars of a fleet admiral, although with King's procrastination, he didn't receive them until December 11, 1945. But there is convincing evidence that of the remaining American admirals of World War II, Raymond A. Spruance was no less deserving of five stars than Halsey. Indeed, with the exception of Spruance, it is difficult to imagine another of their contemporaries on the same level as Leahy, King, Nimitz, and Halsey. In 1950, Congress resolved a similar dilemma in the army when it accorded Omar Bradley a fifth set of army five stars, in part for his postwar role. It could have done Spruance similar justice by making a similar provision for the navy.
- Walter R. Borneman, The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy and King- The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea (2012), p. 417
- The Congress during World War II created a limited number of five-star ranks for the Army and the Navy, designated General of the Army and Fleet Admiral. The Navy by law was authorized four Fleet Admirals. Three were easily chosen: Ernest J. King, Chester W. Nimitz, and William S. Leahy, chief of staff to President Roosevelt. The choice for the fourth was between Halsey and Spruance. Secretary of the Navy Forrestal told King that he would have to decide between the two. It was a difficult task, because Halsey and Spruance both had influential supporters in Washington. The most powerful was Representative Carl Vinson, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who had publicly endorsed Halsey. The Navy did not like to oppose Vinson on anything. King put off the decision for several months, then sent a memorandum to Forrestal summarizing the pros and cons of each candidate. There were many things in Halsey's favor. He was the senior admiral, he had been at sea since 1938, his performance in the South Pacific in the dark days of 1942-1943 had been brilliant, and his raids against the Japanese empire in late 1944 had been spectacular and devastating. Against him, wrote King, were his errors in judgment in not evading two typhoons that severely damaged his fleet in the latter part of the war. King said very little about Halsey's questionable decisions at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. King then turned to Spruance, whom he would have endorsed for CNO had it not been for Spruance's mandatory retirement age. "As to brains," wrote King, "the best man in every way." His record in the Pacific was self-evident. The only argument against Spruance was that he had held relatively subordinate commands during the early part of the war.
- Thomas B. Buell, The Quiet Warrior: A Biography of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance (1987), p. 471-472
- Halsey eventually received the five-star rank. The Congress, in an effort to compensate Spruance and to acknowledge his wartime achievements, authorized full pay for life as a four-star admiral, whereas all other naval officers received reduced pay upon retirement. A controversy has continued ever since, the gist being that Halsey's publicity had own his fifth star, and that Spruance had been at a disadvantage because he had avoided publicity. Many efforts were subsequently made to promote Spruance to Fleet Admiral, all reportedly thwarted by Vinson. After Vinson retired, still more attempts were made, but the Navy has been unwilling to reopen the case. The Navy's reasoning is that Spruance was the only World War II naval officer who retired on full pay by a special act of Congress, and thereby he had been appropriately recognized and honored by the people of America. Spruance expressed his personal feelings on the matter in a 1965 letter to Professor E.B. Potter of the United States Naval Academy. "So far as getting my five star rank is concerned," wrote Spruance, "if I could have had it along with Bill Halsey, that would have been fine; but, if I had received it instead of Bill Halsey, I would have been very unhappy over it. The present situation is that World War II will have been over twenty years next August, which is a long time. Also, the central and western parts of the Pacific Ocean are a long way from Washington."
- Thomas B. Buell, The Quiet Warrior: A Biography of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance (1987), p. 472
- Even after they were checked at Midway and Guadalcanal in 1942, many Japanese remained convinced that the Anglo-American enemy was indeed psychologically incapable of recovering In actuality, the contrary was true, for the surprise attack provoked a rage bordering on the genocidal among Americans. Thus, Admiral William Halsey, soon to become commander of the South Pacific Force, vowed after Pearl Harbor that by the end of the war the Japanese language would be spoken only in hell, and rallied his men thereafter under such slogans as "Kill Japs, kill Japs, kill more Jap." Or as the U.S. Marines put it in a well-known variation on Halsey's motto: "Remember Pearl Harbor- keep 'em dying."
- John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War (1986), p. 37
- Indeed, in wartime jargon, the notion of "good Japanese" came to take on an entirely different meaning than that of "good Germans," as Admiral William F. Halsey emphasized at a news conference early in 1944. "The only good Jap is a Jap who's been dead for six months," the commander of the U.S. South Pacific Force declared, and he did not mean just combatants. "When we get to Tokyo, where we're bound to get eventually," Halsey went on, "we'll have a little celebration where Tokyo was." Halsey was improvising on a popular wartime saying, "the only good Jap is a dead Jap," and his colleagues in the military often endorsed this sentiment in their own fashion.
- John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War (1986), p. 79
- Among the Allied war leaders, Admiral Halsey was the most notorious for making outrageous and virulently racist remarks about the Japanese enemy in public. Many of his slogans and pronouncements bordered on advocacy of genocide. Although he came under criticism for his intemperate remarks, and was even accused of being drunk in public, Halsey was immensely popular among his men and naturally attracted good press coverage. His favorite phrase for the Japanese was "yellow bastards," and in general he found the color allusion irresistible.
- John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War (1986), p. 85
- Simian metaphors, however, ran a close second in his diatribes. Even in his postwar memoirs, Halsey described the Japanese as "stupid animals" and referred to them as "monkeymen." During the war he spoke of the "yellow monkeys," and in one outburst declared that he was "rarin' to go on a new naval operation "to go get some more Monkey meat." He also told a news conference in early 1945 that he believed the "Chinese proverb" about the origin of the Japanese race, according to which "the Japanese were a product of mating between female apes and the worst Chinese criminals who had been banished from China by a benevolent emperor." These comments were naturally picked up in Japan, as Halsey fully intended them to be, and on occasion prompted lame responses in kind. A Japanese propaganda broadcast, for example, referred to the white Allies as "albino apes." Halsey's well-publicized comment, after the Japanese Navy had been placed on the defensive, that "the Japs are losing their grip, even with their tails" led a zookeeper in Tokyo to announce he was keeping a cage in the monkey house reserved for the admiral.
- John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War (1986), p. 85
- Shortly before the Pearl Harbor attack his CarDiv was returning from delivering aircraft to Wake Island, already on full war alert (Halsey was one of several officers who understood the meaning of "this is considered to be a war warning"). During the war he had an active, varied, and distinguished career: the raids on the Mandates, the Doolittle Raid, the Guadalcanal Campaign, the Solomons Campaign, and finally as leader of the Third Fleet in the Central Pacific. After the war he retired as a fleet admiral, and entered business. Shortly before his death he led an ultimately futile campaign to preserve the carrier Enterprise as a war memorial. Halsey was a tough, aggressive officer who made surprisingly few mistakes (the most glaring being his failure to adequately cover the "jeep carriers" off Samar during the Battle of Leyte Gulf).
- James F. Dunnigan & Albert A. Nofi, The Pacific War Encyclopedia, Volume 1: A-L (1998), p. 260-261
- Behind the sixty-year-old admiral was a distinguished career first in destroyers and latterly as a carrier commander. His more than medium height, broad shoulders, and barrel chest gave him a strong presence and "a wide mouth held tight and turned down at the corners and exceedingly bushy eyebrows gave his face, in a grizzled sea dog way, an appearance of good humor." He was not so impulsive as the nickname "Bull" (which was not used by his friends) suggested, but he always displayed a certain indifference to detail that looked like carelessness.
- Richard B. Frank, Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle (1990), p. 335
- Although agreeing with Ghormley's current dispositions, within hours of taking command Halsey put his personal stamp on operations. First he simply seized a headquarters ashore from sensitive Free French officials whom Ghormley had never confronted, despite desperate conditions of crowding on Argonne. Within forty-eight hours he scuttled the Ndeni operation, as should have been done weeks before. But this same day Halsey was forcefully reminded of one of the sources of displeasure with Ghormley's stewardship when I-176 torpedoed heavy cruiser Chester in the stretch of waters frequented by American task forces called "Torpedo Junction", in a wry play upon the title of the popular song "Tuxedo Junction". On his third day in command, Halsey decided to move the main fleet base from Auckland to Noumea, and he did not merely ask for but demanded a million square feet of covered storage space.
- Richard B. Frank, Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle (1990), p. 335
- One simple order revealed more about his attitude than any rhetorical flourish: henceforth naval officers in the South Pacific would remove ties from tropical uniforms. Halsey said he gave this order to conform to Army practice and for comfort, but to his command it viscerally evoked the image of a Brawler stripping for action and symbolized a casting off of effete elegance no more appropriate to the tropics than to war. His national popularity would endure, but later events would put his effectiveness into serious doubt. Indeed, one of his ablest subordinates would observe that by 1944 "the war simply became too complicated for Halsey." But in mid-October 1942 with his country at bay and locked in mortal combat with a relentless foe, Halsey was in his element. Within one week of taking command, Halsey sent an order to Admiral Kinkaid that would electrify the entire Navy: "Strike, repeat, strike."
- Richard B. Frank, Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle (1990), p. 335-336
- While in Pensacola, Halsey earned what was known as "the flying jackass" award. Whenever a pilot taxied over a runway light, he was obliged to wear a piece of medal shaped like a jackass across his chest except when actually flying, at least until the next student earned it. Although he was a captain among mostly ensigns, he wore the jackass without complaint. When he time came to pass it on, he took it off but declined to part with it. He said: "I want to keep it. When I take command of the Saratoga, I'm going to put it on the bulkhead of my cabin. If anybody aboard does anything stupid, I'll take a look at the jackass before I ball him out and say to myself 'Wait a minute, Bill Halsey, you're not so damn good yourself.'"
- George M. Hall, The Fifth Star: High Command in an Era of Global War (1994), p. 108
- In time, Halsey was moved up to commander of the entire Pacific-fleet carrier force- coupled with a promotion to vice admiral. It was in this capacity that he sailed into Pearl Harbor shortly after the Japanese attack and began to emerge from an obscure officer into the most popular admiral in American history. Simply put, he was a natural fighter- at the only time in the history of the United States Navy that there was a prolonged struggle in an ocean-based theater of war.
- George M. Hall, The Fifth Star: High Command in an Era of Global War (1994), p. 108
- Halsey immediately conducted raids on a few of the outermost Japanese-held islands. The actual damage was not great, but it put Japan on notice that the United States was assuming the offensive. He also accepted the carrier support mission for the famed Doolittle raid over Tokyo in April 1942. The raid was a grave risk, not only to Halsey but to the U.S. fleet. If the fleet were spotted by the Japanese- which is what happened- and then sunk, it would have left the United States with only two carriers. Halsey's adroit maneuver tactics during the withdrawal avoided those consequences. However, the successful raid and subsequent getaway motivated the Japanese to attempt to put the American fleet out of action once and for all. To do this, they planned a decisive battle near Midway, and Halsey itched for it. Unfortunately he had to give priority to another type of itch, this one a dermatitis so painful that he was hospitalized for several months. The disappointment planted a seed that would later engender serious problems at Leyte Gulf.
- George M. Hall, The Fifth Star: High Command in an Era of Global War (1994), p. 108-109
- In the interim, Halsey was sent on an inspection trip of the Southwest Pacific, or so he thought. At the time, the navy and marine corps were fighting desperately to retain their toehold on Guadalcanal and thus prevent the Japanese from cutting their line of communications from the United States to New Zealand and Australia. As mentioned in previous chapters, the commander of this mission, Admiral Ghormley, was not up to the job. So just as Halsey's seaplane landed at Ghormley's headquarters, Halsey was handed a classified message telling him to assume command immediately. Morale shot up, and sailors were sometimes overheard arguing whether Halsey was worth two or three carriers. That hyperbole is not as fanciful as it seems and comes under the expression "leadership as a combat force multiplier." A competent admiral will make much better use of his fleet, inflict more damage on his opponent, and suffer less damage to his own. Hence, in a very real way, Halsey was worth a carrier or two, if not three. It all depends on the consideration given to the factor of time. This is not to say that his leadership in the Solomons was perfect. He lost too many ships in various tactical battles without exacting a commensurate price on the Japanese. Yet like Grant at the Battle of the Wilderness, he persevered and that meant success.
- George M. Hall, The Fifth Star: High Command in an Era of Global War (1994), p. 109
- Halsey was dubbed "Bull" by the press, but he hated that nickname as much as he hated all pretense and showmanship. What he did not hate, he loved, and chief among the latter were his men.
- George M. Hall, The Fifth Star: High Command in an Era of Global War (1994), p. 111
- Then we got the news: the Old Man had been made COMSOPAC. I'll never forget it! One minute we were too limp with malaria to crawl out of our foxholes; the next, we were running around whooping like kids. I remember two Marines working up to a brawl. One of them was arguing that getting the Old Man was like getting two battleships and two carriers, and the other was swearing he was worth two battleships and three carriers. If morale had been enough, we'd have won the war right there.
- Roger Kent, air combat information officer with the U.S. Navy who was stationed ashore during the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942. As quoted by William Frederick Halsey, Jr., and J. Bryan III in Admiral Halsey's Story (1947). New York: Whittlesey House, p. 116
- On the afternoon of 28 February 1939 King and Halsey went together on board Houston where some twenty or more flag officers of the United States Fleet had been summoned to pay their respects to the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy. President Roosevelt was in high spirits, for he loved the Navy and always visibly expanded when at sea. As the admirals greeted him, he would have some pleasant, half-teasing personal message for each. King, when his turn came, shook hands and said that he hoped the President liked the manner in which naval aviation was improving month by month, if not day by day. Mr. Roosevelt seemed pleased by this, and, after a brief chat, admonished King, in his bantering way, to watch out for the Japanese and the Germans. King made no attempt to hold further conversation with the President, even though Admiral Bloch urged him to do so. He had never "greased" anyone during his forty-two years of service and did not propose to begin, particularly at a moment when many of the admirals were trying so hard to please Mr. Roosevelt that it was obvious. He had paid his respects civilly; he was in plain sight, and felt that the President could easily summon him if there were anything more to say. He believed that his record would speak for itself, and that it was not likely to be improved by anything that he might say at this moment. It seemed that the die was already cast, although the President's decision would not be made known for some weeks.
- Ernest King and Walter M. Whitehill, Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record (1952), p. 291-292
- World War II gave King the opportunity of putting in practice another conviction. His earliest studies of the Napoleonic campaigns had indicated to him that the great weakness of the French military system of the period was that it required the detailed supervision of Napoleon. His belief that one must do the opposite, and train subordinates for independent action, had been confirmed and strengthened through his years of association with Admiral Mayo. During World War II King would jokingly maintain that he managed to keep well by "doing nothing that I can get anybody to do for me," but in all seriousness he could not have survived the four years of war without having made full use of the decentralization of authority into the hands of subordinate commanders, who were considered competent unless they proved themselves otherwise, and who were expected to think, decide, and act for themselves. Upon Nimitz in the Pacific, Edwards, Cooke and Horne in Washington, Ingersoll in the Atlantic, Stark in London, Halsey, Spruance, Kinkaid, Hewitt, Ingram and many other flag officers at sea, King relied with confidence and was not disappointed.
- Ernest King and Walter M. Whitehill, Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record (1952), p. 645
- I marveled that Halsey could remember the personal lives of all 2,200 sailors. He never forgot anything, or so it seemed. Halsey had a different approach with the officers. If he saw a khaki-uniformed officer, he saluted and said, "Welcome aboard." However, he confronted white-uniformed officers, asking them, "You're in whites. Why is that?" If they offered a reasonable excuse, Halsey grunted and let them pass. If they said something like, "I thought that was the proper uniform, sir," he'd snarl, "This is a working ship! Go back and change!" I instantly liked his command style. He got right to the point and noticed everything. I used to think that admirals were horrible people and they should be avoided like crazy dogs. But Halsey had the habit of appearing everywhere, and he looked out for us pilots. Once he watched while a SBD was being launched by the hydraulic catapult on the hangar deck. During the launch, the catapult malfunctioned. The pilot received no "jolt" but stopped his plane before it reached the edge of the ship. The next day the catapult had been removed for repairs under Halsey's orders.
- Norman Jack "Dusty" Kleiss, Never Call Me A Hero: A Legendary American Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers The Battle Of Midway (2017), p. 96
- Bill, when you leave, the Pacific will become just another ocean.
- Douglas MacArthur, following the signing of Japan's surrender documents, thus ending World War II, on 2 September 1945. As quoted by George M. Hall in The Fifth Star: High Command in an Era of Global War (1994), p. 105
- History gives us ample precedence for making decisions at the speed of relevance. In 1941, General Douglas MacArthur was planning a landing in the Southwest Pacific. He wrote to Admiral William Halsey, in charge of the South Pacific, asking for a naval campaign to divert the Japanese forces. Only two days later, Halsey wrote back, pledging his support. There was no need for extended exchanges between staffs. The shared objective was to shatter the Japanese forces. All else was secondary. Two strong-willed commanders collaborated to unleash hell upon the enemy.
- James Mattis, Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead (2019), p. 57-58
- Halsey, the public's favorite in the Navy, will always remain a controversial figure, but none can deny that he was a great leader; one with the true "Nelson touch." His appointment as commander South Pacific Force at the darkest moment of the Guadalcanal campaign lifted the hearts of every officer and bluejacket. He hated the enemy with an unholy wrath, and turned that feeling into a grim determination by all hands to step up to hit hard, again and again, and win. His proposal to step up the Leyte operation by two months was a stroke of strategic genius which undoubtedly shortened the Pacific war. Unfortunately, in his efforts to build public morale in America and Australia, Halsey did what Spruance refused to do- built up an image of himself as an exponent of Danton's famous principle, "Audacity, more audacity, always audacity." That was the real reason for his fumble in the Battle for Leyte Gulf. For his inspiring leadership in 1942-1943, his generosity to others, his capacity for choosing the right men for his staff, Halsey well earned his five stars, and his place among the Navy's immortals.
- Samuel Eliot Morison, The Two-Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War (1963), p. 582
- On Wednesday, January 7, the Enterprise force returned to Pearl from patrol, and its commander, crusty warrior Vice Admiral Halsey, came ashore. Halsey's ferocious scowl, which announced to all that he hated the enemy like sin, could not conceal the twinkle in his eye that bespoke his affection for his fellow sailors, particularly those who served under him. We lack eyewitness records of what happened next, but we know that Halsey barged into the CincCPac conference that day or the next and cleared the air by sounding off loudly, and no doubt profanely, against the defeatism he found. He then and there permanently endeared himself to his commander in chief by backing him and his raiding plan to the hilt. Because he was a vice admiral and Commander, Aircraft, Battle Force, and was liked and respected by all, his words carried decisive weight. Long afterward, when Halsey came under criticism, Nimitz recalled this difficult period and refused to participate in the general censure. "Bill Halsey came to my support and offered to lead the attack," he said. "I'll not be party to any enterprise that can hurt the reputation of a man like that."
- E.B. Potter, in Nimitz (1976), p. 288-289
- William F. Halsey was Commander of the South Pacific Fleet and the war's most colorful admiral.
- C.L. Sulzberger, in his book The American Heritage Picture History of World War II (1966), p. 335
- Halsey was a navy junior who spent three boyhood years at the academy while his father was an instructor there. His application for appointment was automatic.
- Jack Sweetman, The United States Naval Academy: An Illustrated History (1995), 2nd Edition, edited by Thomas J. Cutler, p. 150
- Halsey, who belonged to the last class to enter the academy less than 100 strong, was the most athletic [of the future five-star admirals]. A winner of the Thompson Trophy Cup, he was elected president of the Midshipmen's Athletic Association and was the starting fullback on the Navy teams of 1902 and 1903. In later life he liked to say he was the poorest fullback on the poorest teams Navy ever produced (their two-year record was 8-14). He also took an active part in class activities, serving on the class supper, crest, Christmas card, graduation ball, and cotillion committees. He was less active in the classroom and finished forty-third of sixty-seven, wearing the stripes of Second Battalion adjutant. At graduation, the academy's chief master-at-arms congratulated him with the words, "I wish you all the best luck in the world, Mr. Halsey, but you'll never be as good a naval officer as your father!"
- Jack Sweetman, The United States Naval Academy: An Illustrated History (1995), 2nd Edition, edited by Thomas J. Cutler, p. 152
- At the sea south of Japan, the Third Fleet received Nimitz's ceasefire order at 6:14 a.m. on August 15- west of the International Date Line, and thus one day ahead of the United States. Before dawn that morning, Task Force 38 had launched hundreds of warplanes to hit Tokyo- and the first wave was already over the Japanese capital, dropping bombs and firing rockets. The American airmen found Japanese fighter resistance unexpectedly fierce, calling it "the most determined air opposition since the Okinawa operation." Seven U.S. aircraft went down in air combat on the morning of V-J Day, and another two were lost to accidents. The others turned for home, and were back aboard their carriers by eleven o'clock. At noon, the Missouri sounded her whistle and siren for one full minute. Her battle flags and admiral's four-star flag were broken out at the main. Halsey ordered a signal run up: "Well Done." He told the carriers to stow their attack planes on their hangar decks, so that the flight decks could be reserved for defensive fighter operations. The combat air patrol was reinforced. Halsey was not convinced that the peace would stick- and even if the Japanese government really meant to surrender, there was every reason to expect kamikaze attacks by defiant pilots. In a message that prompted hearty laughter throughout the fleet, he ordered the Hellcat and Corsair pilots to "investigate and shoot down all snoopers- not vindictively, but in a friendly sort of way." Halsey's wariness was well-founded. Twenty minutes later, radar scopes detected inbound bogeys. The combat air patrol and picket destroyers shot down eight Japanese warplanes during the next several hours. The last, at 2:45 p.m. on V-J Day, drew the final curtain on the Third Fleet's war: the fleet did not fire another shot in anger.
- Ian W. Toll, Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945 (2020), p. 747-748
- ...on October 18 we did receive a greatly needed morale boost: a dispatch announcing Ghormley's relief in favor of Bill Halsey. I held nothing personal against Ghormley, whom I liked. I simply felt that our drastic, imperiled situation called for the most positive form of aggressive leadership at the top. From what I knew Halsey would supply this like few other naval officers.
- Alexander Vandegrift, Once A Marine: The Memoirs of General A.A. Vandegrift, U.S.M.C. (1964). New York: W.W. Norton & Company, p. 181-182
- On November 8 Halsey flew in like a wonderful breath of fresh air. During a tour of the area he showed extreme interest and enthusiasm in all phases of the operation, concurring with my existent positions and future plans. More important, he talked to a large number of Marines, saw their gaunt, malaria-ridden bodies, their faces lined with what seemed a nightmare of years. I believe then and there he decided to get us out as fast as possible.
Halsey's fine sense of humor demonstrated itself that evening when he complimented me on the dinner and asked to see my cook, Butch Morgan. Morgan appeared spick and span in clean skivvy shirt and khaki trousers, his red mustache carefully combed. He stood smartly at attention while Halsey effusively praised his cooking. As the admiral went on and on, Butch looked increasingly uncomfortable and began to twist his skivvy shirt and toe the ground. I knew something was coming from him but I wasn't sure what. Finally Halsey stopped for breath, an opportunity Butch exploited with, "Aw, ...., ...., ...., Admiral."
I dismissed him as the group dissolved into laughter. The story quickly spread through the fleet and even reached Washington. The next morning Halsey decorated some of my officers and men before I escorted him to the airfield. At the plane he turned and with eyes twinkling said, "Vandegrift, don't you do a thing to that cook."
- Alexander Vandegrift, Once a Marine: The Memoirs of General A.A. Vandegrift, U.S.M.C. (1964). New York: W.W. Norton & Company, p. 196