Born in Hampton, Iowa, 6 May 1875, William Daniel Leahy entered the Naval Academy in 1893 from Wisconsin. He was commissioned ensign 1 July 1899 and through subsequent promotions attained the rank of rear admiral in October 1927; vice admiral July 1935; admiral January 1937; and fleet admiral December 1944.
He sailed in Constellation on a midshipman’s cruise. Upon graduation he served on Oregon, a key part of the powerful “new Navy” of that era, during the destruction of the Spanish fleet in Santiago 3 July 1898. In October he joined Texas, and in 1899 proceeded to the Asiatic Station where he saw active service during the Philippine Insurrection and Boxer Rebellion in China. He returned to the United States in 1904, and in June was on board Boston stationed at Panama during early construction of the Canal. After instructing at the Naval Academy, then serving as navigator of California, in 1912 he commanded American naval forces during the occupation of Nicaragua.
In September 1915 he assumed command of gunboat Dolphin operating in the West Indies searching for German supply ships, became executive officer of Nevada July 1917, and in 1918 won the Navy Cross as commander of Princess Matoika transporting troops to France.
In April 1921 he commanded St. Louis, flagship of the naval detachment protecting American interests during the Greco-Turkish War. After command of New Mexico in 1926, he returned to the Navy Department as Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance October 1927. In June 1931 Admiral Leahy became Commander, Destroyers, U.S. Fleet, and May 1933 was appointed to the board then reorganizing the Navy Department.
In 1936 he became Commander in Chief, Battle Force, and broke his flag in California. Appointed Chief of Naval Operations, he took the oath 2 January 1937 and held that office until he retired 1 August 1939. Several days prior to his retirement the President presented him with the Distinguished Service Medal.
He became Governor of Puerto Rico 11 September 1939, and Ambassador to France 23 November 1940 in the critical early years of World War II. On 20 July 1942 he was returned to active duty as Chief of Staff to President Roosevelt, and for a time was senior member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On 15 December 1944, he was appointed Fleet Admiral (with only three other admirals to receive the distinction of a fifth star: King, Nimitz, and Halsey). He remained on active duty in an advisory capacity in the Office of the Secretary of the Navy until his death 20 July 1959.
“Eminently qualified by his experience in the fields of government and international affairs, Fleet Admiral Leahy contributed his deep wisdom and judgment to the guidance of his country following the victorious conclusion of the last war. His supreme loyalty to his country and his appreciation of its place in world affairs, supplemented by his fundamental concern in the welfare of humanity as a whole, transcended his already vast knowledge of military affairs to culminate in statesmanship beyond that required of any naval officer in our history...”
(DLG-16: dp. 4,650; l. 533'; b. 54'10"; dr. 26'; s. 30+ k.; cpl. 377; a. 4 3", 6 tt., ASROC, Terrier Missiles; cl. Leahy)
Leahy (DLG-16) was laid down by Bath Iron Works Corp., Bath, Maine, 3 December 1959; launched 1 July 1961; sponsored by Mrs. Michael J. Mansfield, wife of Senator Mansfield, Mont., Senate Majority Leader; and commissioned 4 August 1962, Capt. Robert L. Baughan, Jr., in command.
After shakedown in the Caribbean, Leahy departed Boston 19 September 1963 and reported to Charleston, S.C., where Rear Adm. E. E. Grimm, Commander Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla 6, selected her as his flagship. She then proceeded to the Jacksonville operating areas for type training, and briefly put in to home port in November before returning to the Caribbean to participate in AA warfare exercises.
On 2 January 1964 the DLG was again bound for the Caribbean for missile training which ended 26 February. From 1 to 10 April she joined in an amphibious exercise, “Quick Kick V,” and on 1 June was permanently assigned to Destroyer Squadron 6.
Leahy departed for duty with the 6th Fleet 17 July as part of a Fast Carrier Task Group which included Forrestal (CVA-59), and participated in a coordinated fleet exercise. “MEDLANDEX-64,” between the Balearic Islands and Sardinia. She then carried out independent training in the eastern Mediterranean before departing Naples, Italy, 22 September to join in NATO exercise, “FALLEX-64.” She returned to Naples 26 October, and in November participated in another fleetwide exercise, “POOPDECK-IV,” which brought some 40 ships of T.F. 60 together off the coast of Spain.
Leahy departed Barcelona, Spain, 2 December for replenishment, and on 14 December drew the curtain on 32,750 miles of steaming while deployed with the 6th Fleet. She arrived Charleston 22 December and began a period of restricted availability in preparation for extensive tests to evaluate the Terrier Guidance Missile System. During these tests, which were completed in September, Leahy was briefly deployed in the Dominican Republic Operations from 28 April to 7 May 1965 as a unit of the Strike and Covering Force.
She departed Charleston 31 November for the Mediterranean and relieved William V. Pratt (DLG-13) at Polensa, Majorca, 9 December. During this second deployment with the 6th Fleet, she operated throughout the Mediterranean participating in ASW, gunnery, and AA warfare exercises as well as major fleet tactical operations supporting our NATO Allies.
Leahy returned home to Charleston on 8 April 1966. During June and July she gave some 60 midshipmen from Annapolis valuable at-sea training, and visited ports along the Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean. Following this, Leahy conducted exercises with the navies of many South American countries as part of operation UNITAS VII. She sailed through the Panama Canal in early September, thence south and through the Straits of Magellan at the end of October.
The operation was completed on 6 December and the DLG returned to Charleston on the 15th. Leahy then prepared for massive modernization at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, arriving there 27 January 1967, and decommissioning 18 February. For over a year she received new AAW and ASW equipment, allowing her to utilize the most recent developments in the technology of naval warfare. She was placed in commission, special, on 4 May 1968 for the extensive period of testing her updated weapons systems. Leaving Philadelphia on 18 August, she arrived at her new home port, Norfolk, 3 days later, and continued the process of sharpening her expanded capabilities, into 1969. She is scheduled to return to a full commission status in mid-1969.