13th Chief of Naval Operations
(16 August 1951 - 17 August 1953)
Admiral William M. Fechteler retired from active Navy duty in July 1956, after forty years of commissioned service. During that time he served in three wars, held the Navy's highest command post as Chief of Naval Operations, was a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and was responsible for NATO defenses in Italy, Greece and Turkey.
Born in San Rafael, California, on March 6, 1896, he was graduated from the Naval Academy in 19l6.
During World War I the Admiral served aboard the USS Pennsylvania in the Atlantic Fleet. Between world wars he commanded the destroyer USS Perry, was a battleship gunnery officer, and held various destroyer staff billets. He was Chief of Staff to Rear Admiral M. F. Draemel, Commander, Destroyers, Battle Force, US Fleet, when this country entered World War II.
After serving as Director of Officer personnel in the Navy Department in 1942-43, Admiral Fechteler joined the Pacific Fleet as Commanding Officer of the USS Indiana. Later in the war, as an amphibious group commander, he participated in ten amphibious operations against Japanese-held New Guinea and the Philippines. He received the Distinguished Service Medal for his work in the planning and coordination of joint assault operations in the Southwest Pacific while serving as Commander, Amphibious Group EIGHT.
In 1945-46, Admiral Fechteler was Assistant Chief of Naval Personnel in Washington, DC, and after commanding Atlantic Fleet Battleship and Cruiser Forces he served for three years as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Personnel.
He became Commander in Chief, US Atlantic Fleet, in 1950, with additional duty as the United States Representative to NATO's Planning Group. He left that assignment during the Korean War to become Chief of Naval Operations, following the sudden death of Admiral Forrest Sherman, and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In that dual responsibility he was largely responsible for the expansion of naval forces to meet the needs of the Korean conflict and for the planning of naval operations in support of the United Nations' Forces in Korea. Fechteler worked especially hard to refine command relationships between US and NATO commanders and at the same time to build up alliance naval forces. He tirelessly advocated quality of life benefits for naval personnel, including pay increases, incentive allowances, and survivors benefits. He devoted considerable attention to the Navy' program to build the first large-deck aircraft carriers of the Forrestal class and promoted the design and construction of USS Nautilus , which would be the world's first nuclear-powered submarine. He was named Commander in Chief, Allied Forces, Southern Europe, in 1953, a post he held until his retirement in July l956.
After entering retired status, Admiral Fechteler continued on active duty as a member of a special committee studying security matters for the Secretary of Defense. On December 6, 1956, he was named a planning consultant in General Electric Company's Atomic Products Division, located in Washington, DC, and engaged in long-range planning in the atomic energy field.
He died at the Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland, on July 4, 1967.
Date and Place of Birth: March 6, 1896, San Rafael, California
Parents: Rear Admiral Augustus F. Fechteler, USN and Mrs. Maud (Morrow) Fechteler
Wife's Name and Date of Marriage: Goldye Stevens of Washington, DC, May 24, 1928
Children: Rodney H, Dobson (stepson) and Joan Stevens Fechteler
Education: Western High School, Washington, DC; Naval Academy (Class of 1916); Naval War College (correspondence courses in Strategy and Tactics and International Law)
Midshipman. 16 July 1912 Ensign. 3 June 1916 Lieutenant (jg) (Temporary). 15 October 1917 Lieutenant (Temporary). 10 January 1918 Lieutenant (jg). 3 June 1919 Lieutenant. 1 July 1920 Lieutenant Commander. 16 July 1926 Commander. 1 July 1936 Captain for temporary service. 24 December 1941 Captain (date of rank backdated). 8 December l941 Rear Admiral for temporary service. 18 January 1944 Rear Admiral (Upper Half). 18 December 1945 Appointed Commander Battleships-Cruisers, Atlantic Fleet, with rank of Vice Admiral. 11 January 1946 Vice Admiral (spot). 1 February 1947 Rear Admiral (P) to rank from 3 December 1942. 7 August 1947 Appointed Commander in Chief, Atlantic and US Atlantic Fleet, with rank of Admiral. 1 February 1950 Appointment as Vice Admiral terminated. 13 April 1950 Appointed Chief of Naval Operations, with rank of Admiral. 16 August 1951 Designated Commander in Chief, Allied Forces, Southern Europe, rank of Admiral. 17 August 1953 Transferred to the Retired List of the US Navy. 1 July 1956
Decorations and Medals:
Distinguished Service Medal (Navy), with Gold Star
Distinguished Service Medal (Army)
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star Medal with Combat 'V'
Letter of Commendation by SECNAV (Ribbon)
World War I Victory Medal, 'Atlantic Fleet' Clasp
Navy Expeditionary Medal (China 1925)
American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with ten stars
World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Philippine Liberation Ribbon with two stars
Distinguished Service Medal: 'For exceptionally meritorious service to the Government of the United States in a duty of great responsibility as Attack Group Commander, participating in landing operations at enemy Japanese-controlled Los Negros on February 29, Humboldt Bay, April 22; and as Attack Force Commander during the Invasion of Biak, May 27; Noemfoor Islands, July 2; and Cape Sansapor, July 30, 1944...Rear Admiral Fechteler conducted his command in close cooperation with Army and Air Force Commanders and by his marked initiative and superb tactical ability was directly instrumental in solving operational problems attendant upon precisely timed action involving forces participating simultaneously over wide areas. His foresight and resourcefulness in the formulation of plans designed for the high degree of flexibility essential for complete coordination of the units taking part were largely responsible for the success of these vital and hazardous invasions...'
Gold Star in lieu of a second Distinguished Service Medal: 'For exceptionally meritorious service...as the Chief of Naval Operations and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 16 August 1951 to 15 August l953...Admiral Fechteler's cooperation was of the highest order as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in making plans for the defense of the United States. He exercised the highest quality of Command as the Chief of Naval Operations in directing the unified commands for which he was the Naval Executive agent. He was responsible for instituting an orderly program of new construction and replacement of obsolete Naval vessels in order to maintain the high combat readiness demanded of the operating Naval Forces. His leadership and forceful command of the United States Navy which was engaged in the Korean action during his tenure of office was exceptional...'
Distinguished Service Medal (by the War Department): 'For service as Attack Group Commander in the Southwest Pacific Area from 31 July 1944 to 15 March l945.'
Legion of Merit: 'For exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States as Assistant Chief of Naval personnel from March 26 to November 1, 1945...'
Bronze Star Medal with Combat 'V': For meritorious achievement as Commanding Officer of the USS Indiana during operations against enemy Japanese forces in the South and Central Pacific War Area from August 10, 1943, to January 13, 1944...'
Chronological Transcript of Service:
||Atlantic Fleet (Aide on Staff)
||Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (Regimental Officer)
||USS Israel (Executive Officer), Asiatic Fleet
||USS Shirk (Executive Officer) Desrons, Battle Fleet
||Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (Instructor, Electrical Engineering and Physics)
||Battle Fleet (Aide and Flag Lieutenant to Commander)
||USS West Virginia (Assistant Gunnery Officer)
||Battleship Division Three (Aide and Flag Secretary)
||Battleships, Battle Force (Aide and Flag Secretary)
||Division of Fleet Training, Naval Operations, Navy Department
||USS Perry (Commanding)
||Scouting Force (Staff, as Gunnery Officer)
||Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (Staff of Post-Graduate School)
||Destroyer Flotilla ONE, Battle Force (Staff, as Operations Officer)
||Destroyers, Battle Force (Staff)
||Destroyers, Battle Force (Chief of Staff and Aide)
||Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department [Changed to Bureau of Naval Personnel] (Assistant Director, later Director, Officer Personnel Division)
||USS Indiana (Commanding)
||Seventh Amphibious Force: Commander Group EIGHT
||Bureau of Naval Personnel, Navy Department (Assisant Chief of Naval personnel and Assistant Chief of Bureau of Naval Personnel)
||Battleships-Cruisers, Atlantic Fleet (Commander)
||Office of Naval Operations, Navy Department (Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Personnel)
||Commander in Chief, Atlantic, and US Atlantic Fleet
||Chief of Naval Operations, Department of the Navy
||Commander in Chief, Allied Forces, Southern Europe
||Transferred to the Retired List of the US Navy
||Office of the Secretary of Defense (member of a special committee studying security matters)
|July 4, 1967
||Died at the Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland
Source: Adapted from the biographical sketch for Admiral William Morrow Fechteler, Modern Officer Biographical Files, Navy Department Library, Naval History and Heritage Command.