Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee, Jr., USN (1888-1945)



Willis A. Lee, Jr. was born in Natlee, Kentucky, on 11 May 1888. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1908. Over the next two decades, he served in several ships and on shore duty as an inspector of ordnance, while also representing the Navy in rifle competitions and on the U.S. Olympic rifle team. He was Commanding Officer of three destroyers during the 1920s and attended the Naval War College late in that decade.

During the 1930s and early 1940s, Lee was several times assigned to the Fleet Training Division, commanded the light cruiser Concord, and served on the staff of Commander, Cruisers, Battle Force. In early 1942, following his promotion to the rank of Rear Admiral, Lee became Assistant Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet.

In August 1942, Rear Admiral Lee was sent to the Pacific to command a Battleship Division. Flying his flag in USS Washington (BB-56), he was active through the Guadalcanal Campaign and led his force to victory over a Japanese surface group in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on the night of 14-15 November 1942. He was later promoted and placed in charge of the Pacific Fleet's fast battleships. In May 1945, he was sent to the Atlantic to command a special unit researching defenses against the Kamikaze threat. While serving in that position on 25 August 1945, Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee died suddenly after suffering a heart attack.

Information on Naval Olympians

This page features images of Willis A. Lee, Jr.

Click photograph for a larger image

Photo #: NH 48284

Captain Willis A. Lee, Jr., USN


Photographed during the later 1930s or early 1940s.

NHHC Collection

Online Image: 64KB; 540 x 765

 
Photo #: NH 95009

Rear Admiral Willis A. Lee, Jr., USN


Portrait photograph, taken circa 1942.

From RAdm. Samuel Eliot Morison photographic files.

NHHC Collection

Online Image: 64KB; 600 x 765

 
Photo #: 80-G-159187

Rear Admiral Willis A. Lee, Jr., USN
,
Commander Battleship Division Six

Pencil sketch portrait by Commander Dwight Shepler, USNR, December 1942.
The original sketch is part of the U.S. Navy Art Collection.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.

Online Image: 115KB; 580 x 765

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

 
Photo #: NH 48283

Rear Admiral Willis A. Lee, Jr., USN


Halftone reproduction of a photograph taken on board USS Washington (BB-56), circa 1942-43.

NHHC Collection

Online Image: 69KB; 590 x 765

 
Photo #: 80-G-322412

Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee, Jr., USN
,
Commander Battleship Squadron Two

On board USS South Dakota (BB-57), circa 1945.
This photograph was received by the Navy Photographic Science Laboratory on 24 May 1945.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.

Online Image: 67KB; 590 x 765

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

 
Photo #: NH 93286

Rear Admiral Harold R. Stark, USN
,
Commander, Cruisers, Battle Force, and Commander, Cruiser Division Nine (seated, center)

Photographed with commanders of his Cruiser Divisions and ships, probably on board USS Honolulu (CL-48), circa 1939.
Those present are identified in Photo # NH 93286 (complete caption).

Collection of Admiral Harold R. Stark.

NHHC Collection

Online Image: 108KB; 740 x 595

 
Photo #: 80-G-37031

Rear Admiral Willis A. Lee, Jr., USN
(center)

Is presented with the Navy Cross by Admiral William F. Halsey, during ceremonies on board a U.S. Navy warship in the South Pacific, circa January 1943.
RAdm. Lee received the decoration in recognition of his achievements during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, 14-15 November 1942.

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives.

Online Image: 115KB; 740 x 615

Reproductions may be available through the National Archives

 
Photo #: NH 49705

Admiral Raymond A. Spruance
,
Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher,
Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and
Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee, Jr.
(listed from left to right)

Photographed on board USS Indianapolis (CA-35) in February 1945.
The original photograph has been autographed by Admiral Spruance and Fleet Admiral Nimitz.

Collection of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN.

NHHC Collection

Online Image: 101KB; 740 x 625

 




For higher resolution images see: Obtaining Photographic Reproductions



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