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Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy

U.S. Navy

(6 May 1875 – 20 July 1959)

7th Chief of Naval Operations

(2 January 1937 – 1 August 1939)

As Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Leahy led efforts to prepare the Navy for a war that was imminent in the late 1930s. He initiated advanced war planning to deal with potential hostilities with Germany and Japan and promoted a robust U.S. air and naval base establishment.

William D. Leahy was born in Hampton, Iowa, and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1897. Soon afterward, he saw action during the Boxer expedition and the Philippine American War. Beginning in 1912, Leahy served in a number of staff billets in Washington. As Aide to the Secretary of the Navy in 1915 he established a close relationship with then Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt. He later held several sea commands. As Chief of Naval Operations he worked on strategic war plans, advocated expansion of base facilities to support a two-ocean war, and won congressional approval for additional air bases in the Western Hemisphere. After retirement, he served as governor of Puerto Rico and in 1941 and early 1942 as U.S. Ambassador to “Vichy” France. In July 1942, President Roosevelt recalled him to active service to serve as the President’s personal chief of staff and to oversee the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In recognition of his stellar performance, which included high-level involvement in the wartime conferences at Casablanca, Tehran, and Yalta, Congress promoted him to Fleet Admiral. USS Leahy (DLG-16, later CG-16) was commissioned in his honor.

Source: Biography compiled by the staff of the Naval Historical Center.

11 August 2008