Fleet Adm. William F. Halsey

Admiral William F. Halsey and Vice Admiral John S. McCain on board USS Missouri (BB-63) shortly after the conclusion of the surrender ceremonies, 2 September 1945. (Photo: U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)
Admiral William F. Halsey and Vice Admiral John S. McCain on board USS Missouri (BB-63) shortly after the conclusion of the surrender ceremonies, 2 September 1945. (Photo: U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

"Hit hard, hit fast, hit often" was Fleet Adm. William F. "Bull" Halsey's slogan for his Third Fleet during World War II. His choice of words would not surprise anyone who ever saw the tight-jawed commander of South Pacific Forces and the South Pacific Area in action. Thus it seems ironic Halsey called the moment when the hitting ceased "the climax of my life." At 9:25 a.m., Aug. 29, 1945, on the starboard veranda deck of Halsey's flagship the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Japan formally surrendered to the United States.

Ironically, too, both Halsey and his Japanese counterpart, Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, graduated from their countries' naval academies in 1904. Halsey's first assignment as a commissioned officer was the Missouri. During World War I, he served on two destroyers and won the Navy Cross. In 1934, Halsey, born on Oct. 30, 1882, became the oldest person to earn naval aviator's wings.

At the start of World War II, then-Vice Adm. Halsey early and often advocated an offensive. On Feb. 1, 1942, he married words to action, conducting bombing attacks against Japanese installations in the Marshall and Gilbert Islands. This first big naval offensive of the war resulted in minimal damage, but maximal morale boosting. Halsey was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

On April 18 of the same year, Halsey and his team launched 16 B-25 bombers from the deck of the U.S.S. Hornet -- Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle's famed raid over Tokyo. Again, while physical damage was minimal, the damage to the Japanese spirit was huge. Halsey missed the Battle of Midway due to medical problems, but he was integral to the Guadalcanal campaign.

However, his greatest mark on history was his participation in what is widely considered to be the greatest of all naval confrontations, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Oct. 23-25, 1944. The Japanese never recovered from the devastating blows his ships dealt them there. At war's end, when he took the oath as fleet admiral, Halsey became the fourth and last officer to hold that rank. Halsey died on Aug. 16, 1959, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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