Fleet Admiral Leahy
William Daniel Leahy was born in Hampton, Iowa, on May 6, 1875. His father, Michael Leahy, a lawyer, had been Captain of Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers during the Civil War. Young Leahy originally hoped to attend West Point, but there were no appointments available. When he completed high school in Ashland, Wisc., in 1893, he was able to win an appointment to the Naval Academy. He graduated in 1897, 15th in a class of 47.
Midshipman Leahy was assigned to USS Oregon, then in
the Pacific. He was in that battleship when she made her famous
dash around the horn in the Spring of 1898 to participate in the
battle of Santiago on July 3.
Having completed the two years' sea duty -- then required
by law -- he was commissioned Ensign on 01 July 1899. At that
time, he was on the Asiatic Station, where, during the Philippine
Insurrection and the Boxer uprising in China, he served in USS
Castine, USS Glacier and commanded the gunboat USS
Mariveles. He returned to the United States in 1902,
and for the next five years did duty in USS Tacoma and
USS Boston which was stationed in Panama during the early
period of construction of the canal.
His first shore cruise was at the Naval Academy. Beginning
in 1907, he served as instructor in the Department of Physics
and Chemistry for two years. He went to sea in 1909 and served
as navigator of the armed cruiser USS California in the
Pacific Fleet. During the American Occupation of Nicaragua in
1912, he was Chief of Staff to the Commander Naval Forces there.
Late in 1912, he came ashore in Washington as Assistant Director
of Gunnery Exercises and Engineering Competitions. In 1913, he
was assigned to the Bureau of Navigation as a detail officer where
he served until 1915. At that time, he took command of the dispatch
gunboat USS Dolphin, and established a very close friendship
with the then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt,
who cruised with him on the ship. He was in that assignment in
early 1917 in West Indian waters and had additional duty as Senior
Aide on the Staff of Commander Squadron Three of the Patrol Force
He served for almost a year as the Executive Officer of USS
Nevada and in April 1918 went to command USS Princess Matotika,
formerly Princess Alice , transporting troops to France.
After a short cruise in that command, he came ashore in 1918
and served for three years as director of Gunnery Exercises and
Engineering Competition in the Navy Department, and as senior
member of the Fire Control Board. In 1921, he went to sea in command
of USS St. Louis, flagship of the Naval Detachment in Turkish
waters during the war between Turkey and Greece. At the end of
that war, he was given command of Mine Squadron One, and in 1922
further additional duty as commander, Control Force.
When he returned to the U.S. and from 1923 to 1926, he served
as Director of Officer Personnel in the Bureau of Navigation,
and then had one year in command of the battleship USS New
Mexico. In 1927, he reached flag rank and became Chief of
the Bureau of Ordnance. After almost four years, he went to sea
in 1931 as Commander Destroyers Scouting Force.
In 1933, he came ashore in Washington as Chief of the Bureau
of Navigation for two years, when he went to sea as a vice admiral,
and Commander Battleships Battle Force. In 1936, he hoisted his
four-star flag in USS California and Commander in Chief
He was appointed Chief of Naval Operations, took the oath
of office in January 1937 to serve until August 1939 when he was
placed on the retired list. On that occasion, President Roosevelt
said "Bill, if we have a war, you're going to be right back
here helping me run it."
Immediately following his retirement, Admiral Leahy was assigned
the duties of Governor of Puerto Rico in September 1939. He served
in that capacity until November 1940 when he was appointed U.S.
Ambassador to France where he served from January 1941 until recalled
in May 1942.
In July of that year, he was called back to active duty as
Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, U.S. Army and Navy,
the President of the United States. As such, he presided over
the Joint Chiefs of Staff and, when our country was host, over
the combined Chiefs. In December 1944, he accepted the appointment
and was confirmed as the newly created rank of Fleet Admiral.
On 25 March 1949, the President accepted his resignation from
that assignment. He continued on duty in an advisory capacity
in the office of the Secreatry of the Navy, and served as President
of the Naval Historical foundation.
He died on 20 July 1959.
Graduated from the Naval Academy - Class of 1897
Ensign - 01 July 1899
Lieutenant (junior grade) - 01 July 1902
Lieutenant - 31 Dec. 1903
Lieutenant Commander - 15 Sept. 1909
Commander - 29 Aug. 1916
Captain - 01 July 1918
Rear Admiral - 14 Oct. 1927
Vice Admiral - 13 July 1935
Admiral - 02 Jan. 1937
Fleet Admiral - 15 Dec. 1944
DECORATIONS and AWARDS
Distinguished Service Medal with two gold stars
Spanish Campaign Medal
Philippine Campaign Medal
Nicaraguan Campaign Medal (1912)
Mexican Service Medal
Dominican Campaign Medal
World War I Victory Medal with "Overseas" clasp
American Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal