Naval Historical Center
805 Kidder Breese Street SE
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5060
Joseph Wilson Leverton, Jr. was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on 26 January 1909 to Joseph W. and Mrs. Clara B. (Robinson) Leverton. He graduated from Central High School in Washington D.C., in 1927, and entered the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, from the Third Maryland District on 5 July 1927. He graduated 222nd out of 444 midshipmen in the Class of 1931 on 4 June 1931 after serving as the Bugle Corps commander.
His first assignment was aboard USS Augusta (CA-31), while that cruiser operated with the Atlantic, Pacific, and Asiatic Fleets. In 1935, as Turret Officer, he won the Secretary of the Navy award with the highest score of the year for all 8-inch gun turrets. On 10 July 1936, he reported aboard USS Tucker (DD-374), then building at Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia. Lieutenant (junior grade) Leverton served as the First Lieutenant on Tucker from her commissioning on 23 July 1936 to 1 June 1938. Thirteen days later, he married Helen Elizabeth Bell, whom he had met at the wedding of his friend, future Rear Admiral "Muddy" Waters.
He returned to Annapolis for General Line instruction at the Post-graduate school, and assisted coaching the Naval Academy Varsity Baseball Team in his spare time. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1939. Upon completion of the course on 27 May 1939, Lieutenant Leverton reported to the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, Rear Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, as his aide. He served in that capacity until 1 July 1940, when he was detached to be the executive officer aboard USS Wasmuth (DD-338, DMS-15).
On 7 December 1941, Wasmuth was docked at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack. Rushing to the dock, Lieutenant Leverton leapt aboard the leaving destroyer minesweeper, and took her to sea in the captains absence. For his actions, Leverton was awarded the Bronze Star and promoted to Lieutenant Commander.
On 29 June 1942, Lieutenant Commander Leverton was appointed to command the Wasmuth. He conducted convoy and anti-submarine missions until 27 December 1942, when a severe storm swept two depth charges overboard. The depth charges exploded under the Wasmuth, breaking her keel. The ship broke in two, and the stern sank, while Leverton and the crew attempted to maintain watertight integrity in the bow. Due to Leverton's efforts, the Wasmuth's bow remained afloat until all of the crew had been transferred off the ship. For his actions, he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal.
After the Wasmuth's sinking, Leverton was assigned to Task Force Eight as the Aide and Flag Secretary to the Commander, North Pacific Force, Rear Admiral Kinkaid. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for his skillful administration of Army and Navy Task Forces in the Aleutians. In November, he was promoted to the temporary grade of Commander.
When Admiral Kinkaid was assigned to the Southwest Pacific, he took Leverton along, assigning him as the Public Relations Officer for the Seventh Fleet. He also served as the Operations Officer on the Staff of Commander Seventh Amphibious Force (Task Force 76).
In December 1944, Leverton was assigned to the Planning and Progress Division, Bureau of Ordnance. After completing his tour there in January 1947, he was posted as the executive officer aboard the USS New Jersey, and his commission as a Commander was made permanent. A year later, he assumed command of the New Jersey, the only O-5 to hold that position. He commanded New Jersey until her deactivation in June 1948. He then completed the Logistic Course at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, and then reported in May 1949 as a member of the faculty of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Washington, D.C. He assumed command in July 1951 of USS Fremont (APA-44), serving as her commanding officer until April 1952.
Leverton was then detached to the Strategic Plans Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. While on this assignment, he also served as a member of the Inter-American Defense Board and the Joint Brazil-United States Defense Commission. Leverton was promoted to Captain in 1953.
In August 1955, Captain Leverton assumed command of USS Truckee (AO-147) and in October 1956, he transferred to command of Destroyer Squadron Twenty-Six for just over a year. He then served as Special Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Plans and Policy) from January 1958 to October 1959. He was promoted to Rear Admiral and assigned command of Destroyer Flotilla One in Yokosuka, Japan. In January 1961, he reported as the Assistant Director of the Strategic Plans Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. A year later, he became Director of that Division.
In October 1962, Rear Admiral Leverton became the Deputy Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations to the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet with additional duty on the Joint Staff, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic and on the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, Western Atlantic Area. His hard work earned him a second Legion of Merit, but also gave him a severe heart attack that hospitalized him in June 1964. As a result, he was released from active duty, and retired, effective 1 January 1965.
After his retirement, Rear Admiral Leverton continued to be active in his community, serving in various civic positions until his death. He completed drafts for two books: one on public speaking and another on his mentor, Fleet Admiral Nimitz, but both concepts were rejected. After struggling with several illnesses, Rear Admiral Leverton passed away on 6 September 1987. He was 78.
Scope and Content Note
The Papers of Admiral Joseph Wilson Leverton, Jr., consist of collected correspondence, orders, photographs, informational booklets, and other mementos collected by Admiral Leverton during his thirty years of service.
The collection is arranged in sixteen series. Series I is Admiral Leverton's biographical data, including a few résumés, collected officer biography reports, and recollections by his family. The series is arranged alphabetically by subject, while the contents of the folders are arranged by date.
Series II contains Admiral Leverton's correspondence. The correspondence is broken down into three sub-series: Official, Orders, and Personal. The correspondence in these three sub-series is arranged by date.
Various documents, souvenirs, and photographs from Leverton's service aboard USS Augusta are included in Series III. In addition to these sort of materials, a diary and documentation from the Board of Investigation on the sinking of USS Wasmuth are included in Series IV. Series V includes mementos from the decommissioning of USS New Jersey, as well as newsletters and correspondence about the famous battleship. Series VII details Leverton's command of Destroyer Squadron Twenty-Six, and includes booklets and correspondence. Series VIII, Fleets and Forces, contains booklets from Leverton's tour as Deputy Chief of Staff of the Atlantic Fleet, as well as photographs from his tour of duty in the Aleutians, and the roster of people who served under him at the Strategic Plans Division in the Pentagon. Series IX holds speeches Leverton gave during his faculty tour with the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, as well as a variety of clippings about the College.
Series X focuses on Rear Admiral Leverton's political activities after his retirement. Included in this series is seven years of correspondence and a clipping from the Admiral after President Reagan was re-elected. The folders within the series are arranged alphabetically and then by date.
Series XI contains the manuscript and notes for a proposed book on speaking that Admiral Leverton wanted to write.
Series XII is devoted to one of Admiral Leverton's closest friends and superiors, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. Leverton collected newsletters and booklets from the Nimitz museum, and carried out work on a manuscript about Nimitz's humor, but it was turned down for publication. The folders within the series are arranged alphabetically and the documents inside are arranged by date.
Series XV is miscellaneous clippings, pictures, and naval related souvenirs that Admiral Leverton collected during his life.
The oversize collection, Series XVI, carries newspapers covering important events during Leverton's lifetime, as well as a pre-World War II map of Shanghai from his time of USS Augusta, and large photographs from USS Augusta and USS New Jersey.
This collection should be cited as Papers of Rear Admiral Joseph W. Leverton, Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Center, Washington, DC.
Subject Headings (LCSH)
Leverton, Joseph W.
Nimitz, Chester W.
United States. Navy
United States. Navy--Officers
World War, 1939-1945--Naval Operations, American
2.75 cubic feet
27 June 2001