William Bull Halsey: Legendary World War II Admiral

By Barrett Tillman
6/7/2007 • World War II

William F. Halsey was a sailor born and bred. His heart was Navy blue and gold, and it pumped salt water each of his seventy-six years. As a first to last combatant of the Pacific War, he launched aircraft into the Sunday surprise on December 7, 1941, and forty-five months later stood witness to the end of Imperial Japan on the deck of the battleship Missouri. Along the way Halsey became America’s most acclaimed fighting admiral and his own worst enemy.

His strengths were manifest in his faults: extreme aggressiveness driven by instinct rather than intellect. Historians still ponder the what-ifs of his career: the ailment that prevented him from commanding during the battle at Midway, the lapses that led to unnecessary losses at Leyte Gulf and “Halsey’s Typhoon,” the December 1944 storm that sank three destroyers and wrecked much of his Third Fleet.

Halsey was born into a navy family and, like so many navy juniors, followed the same path as his father, graduating the Naval Academy in 1904, forty-second in a class of sixty-two. In the years to follow he accumulated an enormous amount of seagoing experience. From 1909 to 1932 he was captain of twelve different torpedo boats and destroyers, commanded three destroyer divisions, and served as executive officer of the battleship Wyoming. His shore duty included naval intelligence, Annapolis, and attaché duty in Europe during the 1920s.

Naval aviation was meanwhile steadily growing in size and importance, and Congress had decreed that all aviation units of the U.S. Navy be commanded by a naval aviator. Recognizing the shortage of qualified commanders to fill these roles, the navy offered a quick course at Pensacola, Florida, where senior officers could earn their wings. In 1934, at the age of fifty-one and with a waiver permitting him to fly with glasses, Halsey became one of these “JCLs”—Johnny Come Latelys—as the young pilots called them. He completed the course in May 1935, the last in his class to solo, and, after commanding the carrier Saratoga for two years, continued his career as an aviation officer, commanding the Pensacola Naval Air Station in 1937.

Halsey was a captain for eleven years, from 1927 to 1938—not unusual during the dolorous Depression years. Upon elevation to flag rank he commanded carrier divisions in the Atlantic and Pacific. Receiving his third star in June 1940, Vice Admiral Halsey commanded Aircraft, Battle Force, based in Hawaii—the premier peacetime carrier assignment. It became his wartime ticket to fame.

Halsey’s superior in Hawaii was his Naval Academy classmate Adm. Husband Kimmel, commander of the Pacific Fleet. As tensions increased with Japan, Kimmel reinforced outlying bases such as Wake Island and Midway, obvious targets in the event of war. On one such mission, Halsey left Pearl Harbor on November 28, 1941, flying his pennant on the carrier Enterprise, and delivered marine fighters to Wake six days later.

Early on December 7, on the way home, the carrier launched aircraft to scout ahead. They arrived at Pearl Harbor in the middle of the Japanese attack and several were shot from the sky. The next day when Enterprise returned there, Halsey glowered at the wreckage and exclaimed, “Before we’re through with them, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell.”

He meant it from his core. Halsey detested the Japanese Empire and seldom missed an opportunity to excoriate the enemy while encouraging his men to slay the foe in increasing numbers. Halsey was about results, and his priorities were expressed in visceral terms: “Kill Japs! Kill Japs! Kill more Japs!” Later in the war he told a stateside audience, “The only good Jap is one that’s been dead six months.”

The smoke had barely cleared at Pearl Harbor when Adm. Chester A. Nimitz replaced Kimmel. The new Pacific Fleet commander quickly learned who was motivated. When a difficult job popped up, it often went Halsey’s way. If he was not the brightest admiral in the Pacific Fleet, he was eager to fight—an attitude that endeared him to Nimitz, whose own job was on the line.

Halsey’s Enterprise task force began a series of hit-and-run raids against the periphery of the Japanese Empire: the Gilbert and Marshall islands in February, Wake and Marcus in March. Although the early raids inflicted little damage on the enemy, the public welcomed any American offensive—and Halsey made good copy. When “some drunken correspondent,” in Halsey’s words, changed “Bill” Halsey to “Bull,” the name stuck. Certainly he did not shun publicity. He enjoyed playing the seadog, wearing a sou’wester with his face in the wind or donning an absurdly long-billed cap with starched khakis.

Halsey’s command of the famous Doolittle Raid against Tokyo in April 1942 powerfully enhanced his public image (in some quarters it was even the “Halsey–Doolittle” Raid). Then, in May, just as the biggest battle of the war was shaping up, Halsey contracted advanced dermatitis. Frustrated beyond reckoning, he was “beached” in Hawaii.

Nimitz’s code breakers learned that month of Japan’s plan to seize Midway Atoll, only 1,100 miles from Oahu, making a counterstroke essential. Nimitz asked Halsey who should take over Task Force 16, and his response was immediate: Rear Adm. Raymond Spruance, who had commanded Halsey’s screen for months. Enterprise and Hornet sailed for Midway in late May, followed by Yorktown with Task Force 17.

Spruance, a nonaviator, relied on Halsey’s staff for aviation expertise and was not well served. The chief of staff was Capt. Miles Browning, an egotistical airman who had lost touch with advancing technology. When the pilots of the Enterprise air group rightly questioned his order for an excessively long-range strike, Browning interpreted it as a coup. Spruance backed the pilots, leading Browning to throw a fit and sulk in his cabin. Nevertheless, though Task Force 17 returned minus Yorktown and a destroyer, Spruance won a historic victory.

In mid-October 1942 Nimitz selected Halsey, still recovering from dermatitis, to relieve Vice Adm. Robert L. Ghormley as commander of the South Pacific area. Ghormley was an old friend of Halsey’s, but however painful the turnover, Halsey immediately set to work in New Caledonia, along with many of his Enterprise staffers—including the erratic Captain Browning.

As South Pacific commander, Halsey was responsible for much more than Guadalcanal. While the island necessarily remained his focus, he inherited a vast area east of the 160th meridian.

After ten months of war Halsey’s professional instincts had only sharpened. He saw the war as a gut-level conflict and ordered his priorities accordingly. Reportedly shortly after landing at Nouméa he declared, “If it helps kill Japs it’s important. If it doesn’t help kill Japs it’s not important.”

ithin days of Halsey’s arrival, the Japanese navy and army launched a rare combined operation, a truly joint effort to secure Guadalcanal once and for all. While the Japanese army strove to capture Henderson Field, the emperor’s “sea eagles” rose from four carriers well at sea. The outcome became the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands.

The American commander’s exhortation to his forces was vintage Halsey: “Strike, repeat, strike!”

The carrier engagement on October 26, 1942, resulted in an American tactical defeat: Hornet was sunk in exchange for damage of two Japanese flattops. But the outcome benefited the larger campaign since events at sea did not alter the situation ashore. Henderson Field remained under management of the U.S. Marines, and Japanese carrier aircraft losses gave the Americans air superiority in the subsequent showdown.

As the sanguinary Guadalcanal campaign approached its peak, Halsey committed as many assets as he could scrape together—land, sea, and air. It proved barely enough. The slugfest known as the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal was fought and won on November 12–15. The combined surface and air action proved costly for both sides: nine American warships and thirty-six aircraft versus two Japanese battleships, four other warships, eleven transports, and sixty-four aircraft. But Tokyo finally had enough: within weeks the emperor’s forces sought to extricate themselves from the sinkhole of Guadalcanal.

Halsey was promoted to full admiral that month, in acknowledgment of the South Pacific’s growing importance. The Japanese evacuated their remaining troops from Guadalcanal in February 1943, permitting the Allies to consolidate their hold in the Solomons. Subsequently Halsey became the first practitioner of the bypass strategy. After the bloody campaign on New Georgia, he executed the first “leapfrog” when he bypassed Kolombangara for Vella Lavella. It was a major contribution to American strategy, and Gen. Douglas MacArthur took note. Although the concept had been discussed previously, Halsey was the one to do it. It was perhaps the best example that he could be more than an instinctual fighter.

Halsey remained at the helm of the South Pacific theater until early 1944, occasionally coordinating with MacArthur’s adjoining Southwest Pacific theater. The two commanders would work together again, and not entirely for the best.

Allied grand strategy in the Pacific required a two-pronged advance toward Tokyo: Nimitz’s largely naval command advancing through the Central Pacific and MacArthur’s mainly army command through the New Guinea–Philippines approach. Toward that end, in mid-1944, Nimitz established two huge and “separate but equal” fleets: the Third under Halsey and the Fifth under Spruance. The genius of the arrangement was that Third and Fifth Fleet staffs alternated in planning and conducting operations with essentially the same units, notably the Fast Carrier Task Force. Meanwhile, Vice Adm. Thomas C. Kinkaid’s Seventh Fleet supported MacArthur’s amphibious operations.

In June 1944 the Fifth Fleet seized the Marianas, putting B-29s within range of Tokyo. At the end of the operation, Halsey stepped up with Third Fleet, placing his cross hairs on Japanese bases in a series of powerful strikes before the two Pacific paths intersected in the Philippines.

The 1944 operations dwarfed anything Halsey had commanded two years previously. As South Pacific commander he had disposed of perhaps three carriers and two battleships at a time: now he had four task groups, each with that many ships or more. There was nothing on earth to match Task Force 38, let alone the entire Third Fleet. He commanded his huge fleet from the new battleship New Jersey.

Halsey craved a shot at the main Japanese fleet, which had not been seen since late 1942. But Third Fleet’s primary responsibility was protecting the amphibious forces. Nevertheless, in planning the Philippines attack for October 1944, Nimitz threw the old seadog a bone by adding, “In case opportunity for destruction of a major portion of the enemy fleet is offered or can be created, such destruction becomes the primary task.”

Nimitz knew he was trying to have it both ways: keeping Halsey on a short leash yet trusting that he would break the panic snap when provoked to attack. But he hadn’t anticipated just how far afield the Bull would go when he did break loose.

A widely unappreciated factor in the chaotic Battle of Leyte Gulf was the responsibility the theater commander bore for the mess that ensued. MacArthur had required that messages between Halsey and Kinkaid go through his headquarters in the Admiralty Islands. It was an absurd arrangement and unnecessarily complex—MacArthur’s staff could have merely monitored naval traffic without the onerous task of receiving it, sorting it, and deciding which messages among hundreds should be forwarded immediately. The end result was a delay of hours, when minutes counted. Both Halsey and Kinkaid can be faulted for accepting the arrangement, however. Kinkaid was more of a company man than the Bull, but apparently neither appealed the communication plan to MacArthur or to Nimitz.

Running up to Leyte, the army and navy both botched intelligence estimates. MacArthur’s staff expected no substantial opposition to the landings while Halsey predicted small operations similar to the Solomons’ “Tokyo Express.”

So the drama played out. Kinkaid’s amphibious craft went ashore at Leyte on October 20, and four days later Third Fleet air strikes sank the monster battleship Musashi in the Sibuyan Sea.

With the enemy’s reported withdrawal, Halsey was buoyant. On the afternoon of the twenty-fourth, scouts from Task Force 34 found Vice Adm. Jisaburo Ozawa’s four carriers off the northeast end of Luzon. Never suspecting they were a deliberate decoy, the Bull wanted to pursue immediately but needed the rest of the day to consolidate his task groups. By the next morning Halsey’s entire striking force—fast carriers and battleships—was steaming north to destroy Ozawa. Halsey went to bed that night confident of a bigger bag on the morrow. At that moment Bull Halsey committed the sin of complacency, and men not under his command would pay the penance.

Meanwhile, during the night, Avengers from the light carrier Independence’s nocturnal air group tracked Japanese fleet units in San Bernardino Strait and found that rather than retreating they had reversed course and were steaming back to threaten the amphibious beachhead at Leyte. The tailhookers made a timely report and returned to their roost. But for reasons still unknown, Halsey’s staff failed to act on this vital intelligence.

In the wee hours of the twenty-fifth, the last major surface action in naval warfare history occurred in Surigao Strait, between Leyte and Mindanao. It cost Japan two battleships, a cruiser, and three destroyers in exchange for an American PT boat. The American southern flank was secure.

Shortly past dawn, Seventh Fleet units off Samar saw pagoda masts on the horizon. It was Vice Adm. Takeo Kurita’s Center Force. Four battlewagons, eight swift cruisers, and eleven destroyers had defied the Americans’ serene confidence and completed their transit of San Bernardino in the dark.

Thus began “The Battle of the Taffies,” named for the call sign of Kinkaid’s escort carrier groups. Directly imperiled was Rear Adm. Clifton “Ziggy” Sprague’s Taffy 3 with six escort carriers and seven support ships. Sprague did the only thing he could: make smoke, turn away, launch aircraft, and holler for help.

At that point the entire American command structure had failed. MacArthur’s insistence on running naval messages through his headquarters complicated an already dire situation, but more trouble was soon apparent. In Hawaii, Nimitz tried to make sense of the confused situation and dispatched one of the most famous messages in naval history.

To confuse enemy cryptanalysts, radio messages contained nonsensical phrases or “padding.” But when New Jersey’s radio watch decoded the message, it retained the end padding: “Where repeat where is Task Force 34? The world wonders.”

Unfortunately, the second sentence appeared logical in context, and when Halsey read it, he went into shock. Chester Nimitz, a gentleman to his core, had seemingly jabbed Bill Halsey with a bitterly sarcastic rebuke.

Meanwhile, Seventh Fleet waited three hours for clarification that Halsey’s battleships were charging northward to engage Ozawa. Clifton Sprague was largely on his own. Halsey dithered for over an hour before he even replied to the dire message from the south. The delay remains inexplicable and condemns him to history. He indulged himself in what a later generation would call a hissy fit, venting his anger and frustration while American sailors died under Japanese guns two hundred miles away.

Third Fleet’s staff watched the spectacle in stunned alarm. At length Rear Adm. Robert “Mick” Carney confronted his boss: “Stop it! What the hell’s the matter with you?” The subordinate literally ordered the admiralissimo to pull himself together.

In that dreadful hour, William Halsey proved himself unsuited to high command. He could not lead a fleet because he could not control himself. It was almost noon before he ordered some of his heavy units to reverse helm and head south—an action that he later regretted because his battleships were so close to Ozawa.

At that point it mattered little that Task Force 38 sank all four of Ozawa’s decoy carriers. Kinkaid’s vulnerable forces only escaped destruction when Kurita unexpectedly broke contact with Taffy 3 and retired westward. But the outcome was bad enough: an escort carrier and three other ships were lost, and another escort carrier was sunk that day by kamikazes. “The Battle off Samar was for a time the victory whose name the navy dared not speak,” Historian Jim Hornfischer noted. Since the navy had lauded Halsey for so long, it was felt that full disclosure of the story would besmirch the admiral and the service.

Meanwhile, Nimitz wrote to the chief of naval operations, Adm. Ernest J. King, conceding, “It never occurred to me that Halsey, knowing the composition of the ships in the Sibuyan Sea, would leave San Bernardino Strait unguarded.”

In his memoir, Halsey sacrificed his long friendship with Kinkaid by writing, “I wondered how Kinkaid had let ‘Ziggy’ Sprague get caught like this.” While Kinkaid was not without fault—he could have posted a picket destroyer in the strait—Halsey had failed in his responsibility to protect the amphibious craft and tried to pass the blame. And he got away with it.

Nor was that all. After Leyte Gulf, which cost Japan four carriers, three battleships, and twenty other combatants, Halsey kept attacking in the Philippines. While supporting operations against Luzon he faced a more formidable opponent than the Imperial Navy. It was nature herself, and this time Bull Halsey was completely outmatched. On December 17 a fleet refueling was interrupted by worsening weather. Halsey, aggressive as ever, chose to ignore some of the signs and remained in position to support the Mindoro landings. In fairness, he received conflicting information from Pearl Harbor and his own staff. The Hawaiian weathermen predicted a northerly path for the storm, which would have cleared Task Force 38 by some two hundred miles. Eventually his own staff was far closer to the mark with a westerly direction but Halsey played the odds, declining to cancel planned operations. The next day the storm had mutated into a full-grown typhoon, with heaving seas and ninety-knot winds.

New Jersey’s weathermen noted a precipitous barometric drop at 10:00 a.m., sure sign of a typhoon. Only just before noon did Halsey order the fleet to steer southeast, away from the growing wind. Almost two hours later Third Fleet issued a typhoon warning, by which time three of his destroyers had capsized with 790 sailors and 146 aircraft lost.

A court of inquiry found Halsey responsible for the losses, citing “errors of judgment committed under stress of war operations.” Nimitz softened the blow, inserting a passage about “insufficient information” in the final report.

In January 1945, Halsey turned his command over to Spruance in the Third Fleet–Fifth Fleet rotation. Then from May onward Halsey presided over the final naval campaign, steering his fleet into another typhoon on June 5. King and Nimitz probably would not have tolerated such a poor showing from another flag officer, but Halsey’s public popularity insulated him from accountability. Thus, he was present when Japan surrendered aboard Missouri on September 2. It brought an eerie symmetry to Halsey’s career, as his first assignment out of Annapolis had been on Missouri’s namesake predecessor four decades before.

In December 1945 Halsey was promoted to Fleet Admiral, a year after King, Nimitz, and White House chief of staff William D. Leahy. The promotion still is controversial considering that between Leyte and the typhoon, Halsey was responsible for the loss of seven warships and 1,450 men, without accountability. In vivid contrast, Lt. Gen. George Patton had been sidelined for nearly two years after slapping two GIs in Italy. But Halsey had allies if not always friends in high places. Nimitz apparently felt a lingering loyalty to the Bull of 1942, and whereas King was notably unsentimental, he refused to hand the army a talking point when the postwar political climate clearly showed more feuds over budgets, roles, and missions.

Today, the dwindling number of men who sailed under Halsey remain divided in their opinion of the leader, if not the man. His failures at Leyte and “Halsey’s Typhoon” evoke either tolerance or contempt. But his elevation to five-star rank is especially resented by survivors of Taffy 3, many of whom see his promotion as a denigration of their shipmates’ sacrifice—an insult that no amount of political rationalization can justify.

This article was written by Barrett Tillman and originally published in the July/August 2007 issue of World War II Magazine. For more great articles, subscribe to World War II magazine today!

61 Responses to William Bull Halsey: Legendary World War II Admiral

  1. Herbert Angel says:

    I served in Comsopac under Adm Halsey, who is endeared in my memories of WWII. A fine fit of a man who all admired and revered.

  2. Monty McDaniel says:

    My uncle S/Sgt Paul E Alexander was killed in action on June 14, 1944 while serving with the 9th Infantry Division, 60th Infantry Regiment, Company G in Normandy, France. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross the second highest award for heroism. His family was never informed of his heroism untill I located the ABMC website which has a database for all soldiers buried overseas. The site stated he was a recipient of the DSC. I located his General Orders and case file from the National Archives. With the help of Senator Richard Lugar his only living sister was sent the medal. There are several stories like my uncle’s. You can find several stories on the Home of Heroes website. I located the family of Larence Gunderson in Minnesota they too never knew of their brothers heroism. Senator Mark Dayton presented the medal to his family.
    I would like to see a story about medals never presented to families because I believe there are several other stories out there. They are using my uncles story trying to get a bill through Congress involving a National Database listing the men and women who were awarded medals in all wars. You can find information about my uncle on Doug Sterner’s Home of Heroes website. The story in in the Talking Points of the website. You can also find the stories if you Google my name Monty McDaniel. There was an editioral in Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Times about my uncle. Any help or information would be most appreciated, I would be more than happy to send the information I have acquired.

    Monty McDaniel
    Bloomington, IN.

  3. Deven jones says:

    hes my grandpa actually i didnt know this till a couple months ago

  4. jackson vanburen says:

    not bad

  5. john clements says:

    admiral halsey proves once again that leaders , be it a admiral or a president–requires more than just glangular responce to actions that put in harms way the lives of its subordinates!!

  6. jacob halsey says:

    william bull halsey was my great great uncle my grandma has all his picks from the family with him is there any way i can any more stories about him

    • Martin Halsey says:

      I have been told that I am a decendent of Adm. Halsey. Did he have any Brothers/Sons? I am trying to trace him to the Jersey City, NJ Halsey family. Specifically John J. Halsey, Jr. (My uncle) and Sr. There was also a William (Bill) Halsey, and Marie (Jule) Halsey, all of Jersey City. Any family information would be appreciated.

      • Mitchell Maged says:

        My mother is Marie Jule Halsey, now last name Maged. (Still alive) Uncle Bill died years ago. Uncle John lived in Florida passed away around 5 years ago.

      • Scott Halsey English says:

        My grandfather is related to Admiral Halsey. His name was Halsey English. My father, William Halsey English is his son. I am also named after the Admiral. I am not sure how we are all related.

      • Nicole says:

        My mother is a Halsey – her name is Maryjoanne (baby of family).
        She had a Brother Bill Halsey (he died from cancer – agent orange). She had 5 other siblings (all deceased).

    • Richard Lafontaine says:

      Can you tell me if Admiral Halsey ever was on the destroyer USS Louisville between June 1931 and Dec 1933?
      Thank you in advance for an answer.


    • Mike Connor says:

      Dear Mr. Jacob Halsey,

      That is so cool that you are actually related to Fleet Admiral “Bull’ Halsey. He is one of my personal heroes. Do you have any cool stories you can share with me? Thank you.

      – Mike

    • hemantha says:

      I am a student in a military. i have been given a task to do a presentation on leadership of Fleet Admiral william bull halsey. can some one please help me?

    • Scott Halsey English says:

      Hi Jacob, I just had a son in August and we named him Jacob Halsey English.

  7. @Doomdauk i hope they do that with all the seasons now that its finishing!!

  8. Paul says:

    Great article. Anyone interested in Typhoon Cobra or “Halsey’s Typhoon” must read the book “Halsey’s Typhoon” and you will see how the actions of the top brass affect the front line soldiers. The actions of the crew of the Tabber led by Henry Plage make one so proud to know that men like this exist and serve our country. Congress should award him the Medal of Honor posthumously. I do not understand why it has not happened yet. I also read Stephen Ambrose Citizen Soldiers and once again the top brass had no idea what it was like on front lines and sacraficed to many brave men for nothing gained. But thanks to these men we did win the war in europe and pacific and our fighting men certainly are heroes to the penultimate degree. Again, I wish I could thank them all for their honorable service to save the world from tyranny. In spite of Halsey’s actions during Typhoon Cobra, he at least knew what it was like for his fighting men. He appears to me to be quite a leader. With a name like “Bull” Halsey he must have been born to lead! The Generals in the ETO on the other hand had a lot of Blood and Guts. Their guts and the GI’s blood! Beware the fury of an aroused democracy! Those words still ring true today! Ask Osama Bin Laden if one can find the cave he is hiding in (or he is probably already dead!) Thank God for the American GI and sailor, if not for their gallantry, we would all be speaking German or Japanese!

  9. JOHN says:


    • Opera Ghost says:

      Yes, one surely does wonder. I can only conclude that the skin ailment was heaven-sent.

      Poor Spruance! Unjustly criticized after Midway, and denied his well-deserved promotion to Fleet Admiral by Carl Vinson. Spruance was worth two of Halsey.

    • nicholas says:

      June 4th, 1942 would have started out much as it did, with the Japanese attacking Midway island while the US forces were trying to locate the Japanese carrier group. Once sighted, Halsey would have attacked with everything he had, just as Fletcher and Spruance did. The real departure would have been what happened next. Halsey almost certainly would have pursued the Japanese more aggressively, but he was no fool either, and would not have been lured into the Japanese main body. My guess is the battle would have played out much as it did.

      The toughness of Halsey, and the innate leadership of the man is best seen in the battles for the Solomons in 1942. If Ghormley had been left in command of South Pacific, it is very possible the US would have had to withdraw the marines from Guadalcanal.

      • Joseph - Pa says:

        The word is NOT ‘toughness’ – it is ‘stubbornness’ – no desire to be complementary towards this man

  10. […] William Bull Halsey: Legendary World War II Admiral » HistoryNetwilliam bull halsey was my great great uncle my grandma has all his picks from the family with him is there any way i can any more stories about him… […]

    • Leandrea orr says:

      No way! Bull Halsey was my cuzin. I’m trying to get facts about him. My grandma I believe has pictures of him because her husband was Bill Halsey.

      • Scott Halsey English says:

        My father is also a cousin. His Father was named Halsey English. Me and my father are also both named Halsey.

  11. Jeanette says:

    My brothers served in WWII. I was just a kid but knew some of the horrors they went through. They were so brave and so young. Halsey was well thought of and so was McArthur and certainly Nimitz. All were heroes to my generation, and all who served seemed so noble. Ironic that all of the territory the U. S. & Allies fought for, died for and won has been returned to the original owners or a few lands were made independent. And we are buying Sony products, Toyota, etc. Not to mention us pouring much money into Germany’s economy. Food for thought.

  12. Dan says:

    Thanks for a thought provoking summary of the Admiral’s wartime leadership. Much has been made of Halsey’s northward jaunt during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, but I find it supremely understandable given the aggressiveness Nimitz found so promotable. Halsey was looking at 4 large Japanese carriers steaming straight for him! While I’m sure he had information suggesting that their air strike capacity might be somewhat limited, 4 carriers still must have seemed an unlikely decoy. Put together with Halsey’s arrival at Pearl Harbor the day after it was bombed and his forced absence from Midway, it had to be one helluva fat carrot to dangle in front of his face. Given the tangle MacArthur had made of communication and the fact that Kinkaid still had a largely intact force with which to reconnoiter, avoid or interdict additional threats, what else could have been expected of Halsey than to try and take out what was left of the Japanese seaborne air strike ability?

  13. Loretta Carr says:

    It sounds to me like Halsey blew it more than once, but the Navy didn’t want any bad reports to tarnish his or the Navy’s reputation. My second cousin Paul Henry Carr was killed onboard the Samuel B. Roberts in the Battle off Samar in the Phillipines. Those destroyers and destroyer escorts were left to fend for themselves against much larger Japanese battleships thanks to Halsey’s misjudgment, and to make matters even worse, the survivors weren’t rescued for days.
    How dare he take credit for victory in the Pacific.
    Talk to the survivors of Taffy 3 and their families about Halsey’s “leadership.”

    • Joseph - Pa says:

      The Sea battle with Taffy3 would have been much different had Halsey allowed task force 34 to remain behind.

      At issue was the fact that Halsey – with all his experience (and others attained up to that time) should have clearly known better!
      He was, IMO, ‘focused’ too much on being ‘a Hero’. It is amazing to read that he, even after the first battle with the center force, He ceased to go after them with his powerful air assets. Especially knowing that the most powerful ships Japan had in that center fleet!
      1 – It was not a question what to bring along North to attack Japanese carriers but rather ‘what to leave behind to DEFEND the Leyte landings and the American Naval ships that were designed to support land units. He most of all knew Destroyers – with a 5 inch guns limited striking distance and Light carriers with limited speed were forces requiring defending along with Leyte. The MAIN reason he NEEDED to leave behind task force 34.
      2 – Going after carriers with the entire 3rd fleet was IMO very puzzling which brings into question his motivation. Consider that the surrounding area had numerous Japanese held airfields – WHY?? go after carriers?! This in itself – made Halsey actions and decisions appear absolutely STUPID!
      3 – At the time and place the Japanese did NOT have the fuel resources to send their carriers EAST to attack the U.S. – this was known. Therefore the carriers were NOT a significant threat. Japan clearly at the time in an extreme defensive posture.

      Halsey was directly responsible for the deaths of the sailors on the ships sunk during that Sea battle. Had he assigned task force 34 to remain – he could have had it all.

      I’m sure Halsey knew He lost big because of his decisions there. To my understanding – the reason there is not any ship named after him. I would bet he thought a lot about those days when a carrier was named for Nimitz!

  14. patricio l. labayen says:

    i remember this vividly in 1944. it was about 4 in the afternoon when i was watching about 85 japanese war vessels passing throug guimaras strait through sibuyan sea toward san bernardlino strait. as i understand these vessels apparently came the surigao strait. i was 14 yrs. old then. we were at the shore of negros occidental. i cannot remember how long we stood watching those vessels. i just came across about the japanese battleship sinking at sibuyan sea which is north of the province where we are, bacolod city. it was quiet an exper-ience watching those dogfights, since our place had airfield for the japanese planes. those were the days of p-38, grumman dive bombers and later with corsairs, it was so beautiful to see those bombs from the dive bombers. this was the time when leyte was landed with gen. douglas macarthur had “returned.”

  15. zachary halsey says:

    Hi i just reasently found out that he is my grandpa’s uncle its very interesting on what i have read about him to me he sounds like a pretty cool guy even though he made mistakes after reading about him it influenced me to join the navy. cant wait to join and live up to the halsey name.

  16. zachary halsey says:

    If anyone is still alive that has been erved with him i would love to here tories if you dont mind talking about it im very interested on learning more about him

    • Leandrea orr says:

      Agreed! I don’t know alot about the halseys and there my family so if anyone can tell us about him or them I would be sooo happy!

  17. Amy Neitzel says:

    In 1974, my beautiful cousin, Maureen Maharry, was supposedly murdered by Admiral Halsey’s grandson in Maui. As a curious adult and with the ease of the internet, I am finding possible connections to a CIA cover-up. Or, is this a diversion from the truth to keep the Halsey name in good standing. Maureen’s death left her family devastated. My Aunt and Uncle are the most gracious of souls and never deserved the sorrow of Maureen’s murder.

    • Alice says:

      I grew up in Whittier California. I knew Maureen. I rode on the school bus with her. We went to Mar Vista elementary school. She was beautiful.

  18. Scott Halsey English says:

    I am also a relative of Halsey and would like to hear from other relatives.

  19. Hugh Young says:

    It is not hard to breed, and to celebrate a relationship due to that factor is idiotic much like the celebration of monarchy. Interestingly, we note that most all of the glowing comments were not to the bravery and sacrifice of ordinary seamen, but about a ridiculous bravado that placed the lives of fine ordinary men in harm’s way, unnecessarily so. Everyone is related to someone and that is no cause for celebration, but recognizing the lives and sacrifices of ordinary military people is always just. Or do most of you think that the war was gained by just a handful of detached dinosaurs? You place your congratulations of memory where it does not belong by glorifying the military elite and their notorious blunders. When does the human race leave the barbaric dark ages of aristocratic history and war? Perhaps when we stop glorifying the generals and the lawyer-politicians.

  20. nicholas says:

    What is it you need to get your project done?

    To appreciate who Halsey was, and why he was important to our war effort in the Pacific you would have to try to put yourself into the times in which he came to the fore. From today, with the war fought and won so many years ago, and Japan being decimated by the war, it is hard to imagine those days. But if you can forget everything that has happened, and just enter into those days, December, 1941, you would have a chance of seeing what a remarkable leader Halsey was. December 1941 the United States had a rude awakening to what the war was going to be like. Their had been trouble with Japan for years, and objection to their invasion of China. The military was dominating their politics, and they were very aggressive in their outlook for what role Japan should play in Asia. As tensions rose President Roosevelt transferred the Pacific Fleet from San Diego to Hawaii to bring it closer to the theater where it might end up having to operate. It was thought the Japanese might strike at the US base on Wake Island. Instead, they attacked the Pacific Fleet while it lay at anchor in Pearl Harbor, knocking the big guns out of the war for the next few years. The came a series of lightning strikes by the Japanese, where they confounded the great powers and defeated larger armies with manuever and guile. These were dark days.

    Into this mix rose to prominence William Halsey, who as a carrier task force commander was all aggresion and had no patience for excuses. \Hit hard, hit fast, hit often\ was his motto. The sailors wanted to strike back at the Japanese for destroying our fleet at Pearl Harbor. They wanted someone who would lead them in such a fight. Halsey was a man ready to do just that.

  21. stephen mann says:

    Given that commanders suffer from the effects of the \fog of war\, their misjudgements are inevitable. The Japanese had the same problem. But winning battles creates a sense of invincibility; victory is like a drug. Halsey seemed to confuse caution with cowardice. Whenever confronted by the enemy, he would automatically attack. His problem was not allowing his staff to influence his opinion. He should have been more advisable. Not being so indicates one has too much power- but this is true of most WW II commanders. Thus, the problem of “hubris”…

  22. Judy Alverson says:

    My late husband’s mother Bessie Jane Craft was a niece of Admiral Halsey. Was the Admiral ever married, or produced children in his own line?

  23. greg halsey says:


    • Scott Halsey English says:

      My family are related to the Halseys also and are form the Union, New Jersey area too.

  24. Angela (Halsey) Hernon says:

    I am a Halsey (though now Hernon) and have always been told we are related to Admiral Halsey, but no one has given me the info to connect our family to him. I am loving that so many are connecting through this. Would love to hear stories of his personal life, since I am familiar with his career.

  25. Brian Dorsett says:

    My great grandmother is Minnie Halsey Beebe of Southampton in Suffolk County, New York. My great, grandfather is Jason William Beebe. My family history takes my family back to Thomas Halsey who came from England to America. Through Minnie Halsey I have a rich family history. Part of that is being directly related to Admiral William F. Halsey.

  26. […] Bull Halsey once summed up where heroes come from; “There are no extraordinary men…just extraordinary circumstances that ordinary men are forced to deal with.” var hupso_services_t=new Array("Twitter","Facebook","Google Plus","Pinterest","Linkedin","StumbleUpon","Digg","Reddit","Bebo","Delicious");var hupso_background_t="#EAF4FF";var hupso_border_t="#66CCFF";var hupso_toolbar_size_t="medium";var hupso_image_folder_url = "";var hupso_title_t="Oshie deflects "hero" label"; comments comments […]

  27. Dani says:

    My great grandmother was on the Admirals staff while he commanded NAS Pensacola. She was a photojournalist. Unfortunately she was killed when my mother was young so I never got to know her. My grandfather just recently gave me a metal box full of pictures from my grandmothers Navy career and from when my grandfather was a boy. There are several pictures of her and Bull Halsey. I wish she would have labeled her pictures. So much history in those pictures but I know nothing about them.

  28. […] eins“, wird Roughhead zitiert. Kann sich jemand vorstellen, daß Admiral Chester Nimitz oder “Bull” Halsey so eine abgeschmackte Aussage machen? Kann sich jemand vorstellen, was Admiral David „Damn the […]

  29. epachamo says:

    Halsey gets way too much credit for anything that happened. Spruance does not get nearly enough. Halsey clearly was not a good Admiral, yet he is still for some crazy reason held in high esteem. I don’t get it. Can anyone list an Admiral in WW2 who performed worse than Halsey?

    • Thomas Roberts says:

      Callaghan off Guadalcanal. Kimmel on 7Dec41. “Worse” is in the eye of the beholder.

      • epachamo says:

        Fair enough. So, there might be a debate for the bottom spot. I still don’t understand how he maintained his popularity and reputation.

      • 88cooper says:

        I guess we had to be there, gentleman. All we have now are accounts that have been written and rewritten over and over since the end of WWII. A change of context here, an overlooked fact there, and the whole history of Halsey is jaundiced from that point on. Like a QB, maybe he gets too much credit and too much blame. All I know is America won the war as a gigantic team. Sadly, something I don’t see happening in this current America we live in.

    • alaskaeagle says:

      Bull Halsey earned his esteem during the “dark” days of the war. Pearl Harbor was a day that made America fear the Japanese and their war machine. They had invaded China and were making head way into China. Their army was building experience and veterans on tactics. Americans were afraid that Japan could strike America. The big mistake Japan made was Pearl Harbor because it unleashed the American technology and industrial power. We had some of the best engineers and schools. The military did not have the best equipment in the Navy because of budget constraints. The Army did because we were supplying Europe. That changed after Pearl Harbor but America was demoralized by Pearl Harbor. That is where Halsey came in, His hit and run tactics boosted American moral. He got Doolittle as close to Japan for the Doolittle raid and that earned him credits in American eyes. In my eyes, he did not have to take the entire Task Force 38 with him. He could have left the battleship to guard against any attacks. He should have thought about that as a Fleet Commander. I guess hindsight is a blessing.

      • 88cooper says:

        The exploits of men like Halsey were so incredible that people like you and me are still talking about them 70+ years later. We are still captivated by WWII and can’t drift away from it it like we did WWI or the Civil War. We weren’t there so we really have no idea of the terror and hopelessness these guys went through before, during, and after the sea battles. This chapter in World History is unequaled, in my book, and so is the American effort. Can we do it again? I’m not so sure, but if history repeats itself as they say, there will be another World War, and America will right there in it.

        Regarding Halsey’s chasing down the Japanese decoy force during the Battle for Leyte Gulf and then being singled out for ridicule and scorn, I keep wondering what happened to Jesse Oldendorf’s force of battleships that were right there in the straits when the Japanese Force did that u-turn and came back through unmolested. Did Oldendorf take a mini-vacation after his great victory only hours earlier? How could that strait be left unguarded when only hours earlier there was a powerful U.S. battleship force right there. If your house has just been burglarized and you chase off the burglars do you then leave the doors unlocked and go to bed? Wasn’t Halsey correct to believe that those Oldendorf’s ships would remain until he ordered them away? After all, the job of obliterating the Japanese Fleet wasn’t done yet. Halsey was there to obliterate ships and that’s what he was doing until ordered away by Nimitz.

        More frustrating to me is that we will never know the truth because all of those men who made the decisions are dead and their stories died with them. Oh, how I long to know what really happened! So I could fully understand the vagaries of this incredible series of battles. Ain’t gonna happen, I guess, unless we invent a time machine.🤔

      • alaskaeagle says:

        This is the history of Jesse Oldendorf. http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_oldendorf_jessie.html. He was there and did participate in the last episode of battle ships. Admiral Nishimura had two battle ships that was suppose to navigate through the Surigao Strait but they were ambushed and lost one battle ship. It ended with Admiral Nishimura’s battle ship making it through the strait. It was sunk due to the modernized radar retrofitted on our battle ships. I use to read the Life magazines that mom received when I was young. I could not totally understand most of them but I got the idea that we were winning the war. All battles are an organized confusion. The best laid plans never are enough and require a lot of luck to defeat the enemy. No matter where you want your pieces to be placed – some will not be where they should be. That seemed to be the problem with the Japanese fleet. They made complicated plans and would have been successful if all their pieces were where they should have been. They did not account for delays or parts being discovered and engaging the enemy before they were in position. I can not comprehend the carnage one would experience being on a ship just before it was being sunk. The fear, the sense of duty, and the heroism displayed by many. They truly were the greatest generation.

  30. Ogmios Soimgo says:

    You do not break eggs without cracking a few shells. Someone who fought fought and then fought some more is going to make mistakes, but then every battle we have ever been in mistakes were made and mostly forgotten. But he is still celebrated as being responsible for keeping the Japanese out of Austrailia. His unusual techniques, keep the japanese quessing and that is important when in any kind of battle, if you keep them guessing them you will have given yourself a big advantage.

  31. John Jorgensen says:

    I was of the opinion that Halsey hit Simpson Harbor “with every plane he had” on 5 Nov 1943 . Hellcats had replaced Wildcats . (Ra ba ul)

    • 88cooper says:

      John – I wish Halsey would have hit Simpson in the mouth! (Oops! wrong Simpson.) Seriously, I have been rereading a bunch of books the last couple months about the Guadalcanal campaign. Halsey has been universally credited as having an immediate, tremendous, effect on morale when he replaced Admiral Ghormley, who was cracking under the stress of the Japanese assaults in the Pacific, and especially at Guadalcanal. Was Halsey perfect? Probably not, but at that terrible time in American history he stood up and went after the Japs with everything he had, and those U.S. fighting men rose up and won! It’s too bad that men who weren’t there are now “dissing” Halsey. Could these men have done better? Let’s not even discuss the dropping of the atom bombs. You had to be alive and an adult at that time to understand what happened.

      I can only imagine what it would have been like to be alive in America in those dark, dark, days. I read and reread all I can find about the Pacific War. I can now piece together things in the old WWII movies that I watched as a kid and didn’t fully comprehend. Some of the plots were based indirectly on things that men like Halsey did, but they didn’t use the actual names of the leaders. My dad and my uncles were all in WWII but they never really elaborated on their experiences. I guess that was not uncommon.

      I’m assuming that you are a WWII devotee as well. I get chills when I read the books and later contemplate how those hero’s did what they did, facing cruel deaths as they performed their duties as soldiers, sailors, and aviators. Incredible stuff, absolutely incredible!

      • John Jorgensen says:

        Yes . Saratoga with Clifton and his Hellcats went up to the Gilberts and one Hellcat did , indeed , clear a short section of beach to allow the amphibious track machines unhindered access to the inner part of the island , Tarawa . Around 20 Nov 43 , I believe . The radioactive contamination to this day prohibits the natives from getting their islands back as the Gilberts suffered from excessive atmospheric nuclear bomb testing until above ground testing was stopped . The USMC has 2 noteworthy YouTube videos .

      • 88cooper says:

        John – As I ponder how to write this correctly w/o offending another branch of the service and its brave combatants, all of my reading keeps bringing me back to how ultra-powerful the U.S. Naval Air Force was in the Pacific during WWII. The Cactus Air Force of carrier delivered planes saved the Guadalcanal campaign, and at a miniscule fraction of the cost in lives and expenditure as compared to all the U.S. Navy ships sent there and lost in night battles.

        As you recount above, one plane cleared the beach during the Pacific battle for Tarawa. This was not uncommon. Conversely, it has been proven that massive shore bombardments were not that effective. The Japs, for instance, would hole up, relatively safe from the bombardments, and later attack the Marines coming ashore. U.S. fighters and bombers, however, could spring up at any time, from any direction and create havoc on the entrenched enemy when they finally came out.

        Likewaise, at Guadalcanal, where the U.S. and Japanese navy, troops, and planes, were at equal strength for the only time during the war, when the Japs bombarded the Marines and the ulta-important, Henderson field, the bombardments alone could not break the U.S. forces backs. During the ensuing daylight, the older, less advanced U.S. planes like the Wildcats and Dauntless’s, at henderson Field, were more than able to attack the retreating Japanese fleet and deal with the Zeroes, all while exacting a frightful revenge! Once the newly designed Hellcat showed up a year later it was curtains for the Zero and the Jap ships.

        Once again, this is chilling stuff. I can’t leave it alone!

  32. Rogerjb says:

    This article’s criticism of Halsey at Leyte Gulf and regarding the typhoons are well-founded. However this article fails to give Halsey credit for his major contribution of the war — turning the Guadalcanal campaign around and winning it. This was a major turning point in the war, probably about as important as the Battle of Midway. Halsey’s leadership was instrumental in turning this campaign around and winning it.

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