(See also: Chief of Naval Operations bio)
Harold Raynsford Stark was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on Novmber 12, 1880, son of Benjamin Franklin and Mary Frances (Warner) Stark. He attended the Wilkes-Barre public schools and Harry Hillman Academy before his appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy from the Twelfth District of his native state in 1899. As a midshipman, he was a member of the crew. He graduated with the class of 1903 on February 2, 1903, and after two years of service at sea, then required by law before commissioning, was commissioned Ensign on February 3, 1905.
Following graduation from the Naval Academy, he served with USS Minnesota from her commissioning on March 9, 1907, until April 15, 1909. That battleship was present at the Jamestown Exposition from April to September 1907, and made the cruise around the world with the Great White Fleet, leaving Hampton Roads on December 16, 1907, returning on February 22, 1909, when the Fleet was received by President Theodore Roosevelt. During the following six years, he successively commanded the destroyers Porter, Stringham, Lamson, and Patterson, and was Engineer Officer of the cruiser Brooklyn. From June 1915 to February 1917, he had shore duty at the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, Rhode Island.
In June 1917, shortly after the entry of the United States into World War I, he assumed command of Torpedo Flotilla, Asiatic Fleet. In November of that year, he joined the staff of Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces operating in European waters. Continuing in that assignment during the remainder of the war until January 1919, he had additional duties during a part of this time as Recruiting Officer, London, and Commanding Officer of the Detachment, U.S. Naval Headquaters, London. For his World War I service, the Italian government conferred upon him the Grade of Officer of the Order of the Crown of Italy, and he was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal.
From April 1919 until May 1922, he served successively as Executive Officer of USS North Dakota, and of the Naval Training Station, Norfolk. He completed the senior course at the Naval War College, Newport, in May 1923, after which he served as Executive Officer of USS West Virginia, from her commissioning until December 9, 1923, when he assumed command of USS Nitro. He next served as Naval Inspector of Ordnance in Charge of the Naval Proving Ground, Dahlgren, and of the Naval Powder Factory, Indian Head.
During this period, October 1928 to October 1930, in the rank of Captain, he served as Chief of Staff to the Commander, Destroyer Squadron Battle Fleet. In November 1930, he was appointed Aide to the Secretary of the Navy, Charles Francis Adams, and later served as Aide to Secretary Claude Swanson from March until December 1933. After commanding USS West Virginia for a year, he returned to Washington to serve as Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance from November 2, 1934 until August 27, 1937, with the accompanying rank of Rear Admiral.
Returning to sea duty in September 1937 as Commander, Cruiser Division Three, Battle Force, Admiral Stark was given command of Cruisers, Battle Force, in May 1938. While so serving, his flag in USS Honolulu, he was chosen to succeed Admiral William D. Leahy as Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), and on August 1, 1939, assumed duty as CNO with the accompanying rank of Admiral.
Shortly after Admiral Stark assumed duties as CNO, hostilities erupted in Europe. He foresaw the possibility of U.S. involvement, and in the face of strong isolationist public opinion, he was able to convince Congress of the need for naval strength capable of exercising control of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Under his guidance, a strong Navy including all of the necessary supporting vessels and bases was planned and actual construction was inititated, with the result that when the country was eventually drawn into war, the Navy had achieved a vastly improved state of readiness.
He was relieved of duty as CNO by Admiral Ernest King, when under Executive Order of March 12, 1942, the duties of Commander-in-Chief of the United States Fleet and the duties of the Chief of Naval Operations were combined.
Admiral Stark then served as Commander, United States Naval Forces Europe from April 30, 1942, to August 15, 1945, and as Commander, Twelfth Fleet from October 1, 1943, to August 15, 1945. His commands embraced all United States naval forces assigned to British waters and to the Atlantic coastal waters of Europe, and those assigned to the Allied forces for the Normandy landings in June 1944. He was responsible for the training and maintenance of all United States naval units in his area. For his services in the campaign to liberate Europe, he was awarded the Army's Distinguished Service Medal by General Eisenhower.
Returning to the United States in the fall of 1945, he was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations until April 1, 1946, when he was detached from all active duty and ordered to the Retired List with the rank of Admiral.
Because he had been CNO when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he was named an interested party when the Navy convened a Court of Inquiry in 1944. He was later a witness before the Congressional inquiry into the attack.
In addition to three Distinguished Service Medals and the Army Distinguished Service Medal, Admiral Stark was awarded the Mexican Campaign Medal, the Navy Expeditionary Medal, the Victory Medal, the Destroyer Clasp (WWI), the American Defense Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. Stark Field at Terminal Island, Long Beach, California, was named in his honor on October 1, 1941.
Admiral Stark died in Washington, DC, on August 20, 1972, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetary.
Scope and Content Notes
The Harold Stark Papers collection contains documents related to Admiral Stark's naval career, and includes personal & official correspondence, speeches, cruises, Pearl Harbor Investigation data, news clippings, manuscript of Pearl Harbor attack, letter book, diary, photos, and microfilm. The collection spans the years 1813-1981, but the majority of the material is from World War II.
Boxes 1-3: Correspondence
Box 4: Diaries and Journals
Boxes 5-27: Subject Files
Boxes 28-38: Pearl Harbor Investigation
Boxes 39-41: Speeches and Articles
Box 42: Speeches by Others
Box 43: Scrapbooks
Boxes 43-45: Newspaper Clippings
Boxes 46-51: Miscellaneous Publications
Boxes 52-86: Documents Related to Pearl Harbor Attack
Oversized containers: Scrapbooks, Recordings, and Maps
This collection should be cited as the Papers of Harold R. Stark, Archives Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, D.C.
See also: Royal Letters: A Selection from the Harold Stark Papers
For associated photographic materials, please visit the photo archive donated collections related to Harold R. Stark