John Lesslie Hall, Jr., born in Williamsburg, Va., on 11 April 1891, to Dr. John L. and Margaret F. (Farland) Hall, attended Williamsburg High School and William and Mary College in Williamsburg, before entering the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md., on 17 June 1909. As a midshipman, Hall lettered in football, baseball, and basketball. As a first classman, he served as President of the Midshipmen’s Athletic Association and received the Navy Athletic Association Sword for general excellence in sports. He graduated and was commissioned as an Ensign on 7 June 1913.
As a junior officer he served successively in North Dakota (Battleship No. 29) (6 June–15 September 1913), Reina Mercedes (station ship at the Naval Academy) (15 September–26 November 1913), fuel ship Hannibal (15 December 1913–25 November 1914), and Utah (Battleship No. 31) (25 November 1914–17 January 1918). Hall trained engineering Sailors on board Illinois (Battleship No. 7) (17 January–13 February 1918). He then served as an engineer officer on board Philip (Destroyer No. 76), from her fitting out at Bath Iron Works, Bath, Me., through the end of the war (13 February 1918–22 January 1919).
Hall was detached from Philip and served as the assistant engineer officer on board Pennsylvania (Battleship No. 38) for three months (January–March 1919), and then (April–November 1919) helped with the fitting out Dahlgren (Destroyer No. 187). Detached before she was commissioned, Hall joined Schenck (Destroyer No. 159) as her executive officer. He briefly (29 September–5 October 1920) assumed command of Schenck (redesignated DD-159 on 17 July 1920), and following that tour became an instructor at the Naval Academy (5 October 1920–23 May 1922).
He returned to sea as the engineer officer on board the light cruiser Olympia (CL-15) until she was decommissioned on 9 December 1922. Hall served in destroyer Farenholt (DD-332) (31 January–21 June 1923), and as an aide on the staff of Commander Destroyer Squadron (DesRon) 12 (21 June 1923–29 May 1925). After Hall returned to the United States, he served as an aide to Commandant Sixth Naval District, Charleston, S.C. (27 July 1925–1 September 1927), then joined submarine tender Camden (AS-6) as her executive officer (6 September 1927–13 December 1928). He commanded destroyer Childs (DD-241) (28 December 1928–31 May 1930), after which tour he returned to the Naval Academy for three years duty in the Department of Physical Training. During the last two years in that billet he served as Graduate Manager of Athletics and Director of Football (5 June 1930–29 May 1933).
Hall resumed his sea service as navigator of training ship Wyoming (AG-17) (31 May 1933–1 September 1934), and then deployed to the Asiatic Station as the first lieutenant and damage control officer of heavy cruiser Augusta (CA-31) (20 October 1934–3 January 1935). He commanded gunboat Asheville (PG-21) (3 January 1935–13 April 1936), that served as station ship at Shanghai, China, and on the South China Patrol. Hall continued to serve in the Asiatic Fleet and broke his pennant as Commander Destroyer Division (DesDiv) 15 in destroyer Peary (DD-226) (17 April 1936–20 March 1937).
Following his return to the United States, Hall attended the Senior Course at the Naval War College, Newport, R.I. (26 June 1937–14 May 1938). He then shifted roles at the college and served as a member of that institution’s staff (14 May 1938–18 May 1940). Capt. Hall commanded battleship Arkansas (BB-33) (3 June 1940–28 April 1941). He continued his service with the Atlantic Fleet and reported (3 May 1941) to battleship Texas (BB-35) as an aide and operations officer on the staff of Commander Battleship Division (BatDiv) 5. Hall served briefly (8–30 May 1942) on the staff of Commander Cruiser Division (CruDiv) 7, followed by a tour as chief of staff and aide to Commander Battleships, Atlantic Fleet (9 June–5 September).
Hall received a temporary appointment as rear admiral on 17 October (to rank from 14 June 1942), and briefly (5 September–17 October 1942) served in the Headquarters of Adm. Ernest J. King, Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, Washington, D.C. Hall was then detached and took part in Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of Vichy French North Africa on 8 November 1942. He reported to Commander Advance Unit, Atlantic Fleet (17 October–19 November), and then as acting chief of staff to Rear Adm. H. Kent Hewitt, Commander Western Naval Task Force, who landed troops commanded by Maj. Gen. George S. Patton, USA, near Casablanca, Morocco.
The admiral followed these assignments by taking command of Sea Frontier Forces, Western Task Force (4 February 1943, re-designated as the Moroccan Sea Frontier on 17 February), as well as serving as the Commandant Naval Operating Base Casablanca. Hall received the Distinguished Service Medal for preventing sabotage during the U.S. occupation of Casablanca, Fedala (Mohammedia), Port Lyautey (Kenitra), and Safi. “His tireless energy, proficient leadership and unyielding devotion to duty contributed to the successful accomplishment of a highly important objective…” He re-established the services of these ports, which supported the Allied advance across North Africa, removed merchant ships that blocked the harbors, and salvaged U.S. vessels damaged during the landings.
Also in February 1943, he was transferred to duty as Commander Amphibious Force, Northwest African waters. Hall received the Legion of Merit for “exceptionally meritorious conduct” in that command during Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily (9 July–17 August 1943). “The excellence of detailed plans and training operations conducted under his capable leadership contributed materially to the successful landing executed on hostile shores by the Task Force under his command, operating jointly with the forces of the United States Army. His inspiring devotion to the accomplishment of an important and hazardous mission reflects great credit upon him and his command.” Hall continued in charge of important components of Operation Avalanche, the invasion of the Italian mainland (3–16 September).
He sailed from North Africa for England in November 1943 to assume command of the Eleventh Amphibious Force in preparation for Operations Neptune/Overlord, the invasion of Normandy, France. During the landings (6 June 1944), he commanded Amphibious Force O, which landed the U.S. Army’s V Corps, comprising the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions, on Omaha Beach. Hall received the Distinguished Service Medal for carrying out “the assault against enemy opposition on the coast of Normandy with great skill and determination. He landed [the soldiers and sailors] on selected beaches against determined enemy opposition. The execution of this operation and the previous planning thereafter contributed greatly to the successful assault of the First United States Army on the Beaches in the Vierville-Colleville Area.”
Rear Adm. Hall watches the bitter fighting on Omaha Beach from on board amphibious force flagship Ancon (AGC-4) during the D-Day landings in Normandy, France, 6 June 1944. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-59419, copy held in Photographic Section, Naval History & Heritage Command)
Following the Normandy landings, Hall was designated Commander Amphibious Group 12, Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet (29 October 1944). He received the Distinguished Service Medal for his role in Operation Iceberg, the invasion of Okinawa in the Ryūkyū Islands (1 April–10 June 1945), for “expertly directed the landing of assault troops and equipment on the beach and the devastating gunfire of his ships against assigned objectives despite incessant attacks by hostile suicide boats and aircraft. Effectively synchronizing his surface and air units in dispersing enemy troop concentration and in the destruction of gun emplacements, defense installations and aircraft, he was in large measure responsible for the success of his Task Force in reducing Japanese resistance and in providing effective support for our ground forces as they advanced against tremendous odds to capture this vital stronghold…”
He was detached (18 September 1945) following the Japanese capitulation, and served briefly as Commander Amphibious Group 5. In October, he became Commander Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet, receiving the rank of vice adm. shortly thereafter (10 December). Following service as Commandant, Fourteenth Naval District, and Commander Hawaiian Sea Frontier (May 1946–30 March 1948), he became Commandant Armed Forces Staff College. His final assignment was as Commander Western Sea Frontier and Commander Pacific Reserve Fleet (1 August 1951–1 May 1953). Upon leaving active duty, he was advanced to the rank of admiral.
“He was a giant of a man…huge…tall,” Dr. Susan H. Godson, Hall’s niece, recalled. “He had an overwhelming dignity about him, befitting an admiral, but at the same time he had great humility and an extraordinary gentleness. His hands looked like large bear paws, but he was as gentle as a lamb with children and spent the last years of his life caring for his invalid wife [Beall].” John L. Hall, Jr., died at Scottsdale, Arizona, on 6 March 1978.
(FFG-32: displacement 4,100; length 453'; beam 47'; draft 26'; speed 30 knots; complement 219; armament RIM-156 SM-1MR Standard surface-to-air missiles, RGM-84 Harpoon surface-to-surface missiles, 1 76 millimeter rapid fire gun, 1 Mk 15 Close In Weapon System (CIWS), 6 Mk 32 torpedo tubes; aircraft 2 Kaman SH-2 Seasprite Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) II helicopters; class Oliver Hazard Perry)
John L. Hall (FFG-32) was laid down on 5 January 1981 at Bath, Maine, by Bath Iron Works Corp.; launched on 24 July 1981; sponsored by Dr. Susan H. Godson, niece of the late Adm. Hall; and commissioned on 26 June 1982, Cmdr. Andrew W. Fahy in command.
The colors of the chevron in the center of the lower portion of the shield are blue and gold. The three blue chevrons symbolize the three assault landing invasions in which Adm. Hall’s outstanding leadership abilities contributed toward a successful conclusion. The top blue chevron is pointing in the direction of the embattled area which is red. This represents the penetration of fortified land areas from the sea. The stars denote the admiral’s rank.
The colors blue and gold are traditional to the U.S. Navy and further allude to two awards of the Navy Distinguished Service Medal to Adm. Hall; red and white refer to two awards of the Legion of Merit. The rampart heraldic goat refers to the Naval Academy where Hall began his career. The naval cannon, along with a lightning bolt symbolizing electronic communications, allude to Hall’s concept of cross-training Navy gunners and Army artillerymen so that his ships carried out their call-fire missions in direct support of troops fighting ashore. The heraldic mount in base represents the land areas upon which Hall’s assault landing concepts proved so successful in the Mediterranean, Atlantic, and Pacific theaters.
An aerial bow view of John L. Hall underway off the coast of Maine during her sea trials, 23 March 1982. (U.S. Navy photograph DN-SC-85-04366, donated by Bath Iron Works, Defense Visual Information Center)
Fireworks explode above John L. Hall while she moors at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, during an Independence Day celebration, 4 July 1982. (Photographer’s Mate Airman Randall Damm, U.S. Navy Photograph 040704-N-9362D-001, Navy NewsStand)
Terrorists detonated a truck bomb at the U.S. Embassy Annex at Awkar near Beirut, Lebanon, killing 20 people, including two U.S. servicemembers (Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Michael R. Wagner and Chief Warrant Officer, Two (CWO2) Kenneth V. Welch, USA, both assigned to the U.S. Defense Attaché Office in Beirut) and wounding more than 75 (20 September 1984). Shreveport, guided missile destroyer Semmes (DDG-18), and John L. Hall, sailed (at different times) to the Eastern Mediterranean to render assistance.
Shreveport’s four embarked Sikorsky RH‑53D Sea Stallions of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 14, Cmdr. Chester F. Harrison, in command, together with an embarked CH-53E Super Stallion of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) 4, flew logistics, medical, and embassy staff evacuation missions. Helicopters shuttled Ambassador Richard W. Murphy, Assistant Secretary of State for East and South Asian Affairs, between Larnaca, Cyprus, and Beirut in the preliminary days on station for situation assessment. Shreveport provided additional support when a 20 man combined team of ship and squadron sailors assisted the Federal Bureau of Investigation in an on-site bomb investigation for five days. Capt. Robert L. Goodwin, Jr., Commander Destroyer Squadron (DesRon) 20, broke his flag in Shreveport as Officer in Tactical Command (OTC) for Beirut Contingency Operations (24–30 September). Shreveport came about (4 October), the Super Stallion departed for Sigonella (8 October), and she offloaded the Sea Stallions at Rota the following day.
While John L. Hall conducted surveillance operations in the vicinity of Havana, Cuba, she detected a Soviet surface action group (SAG), consisting of guided missile destroyer Otlichnyy (DDG.403), guided missile frigates Razitelnyy (FFG.804) and Zadornyy (FFG.937), replenishment oiler Dnestr (AOR.615), and a Cuban Koni class frigate (FF.356), sail from the harbor (18 January 1986). John L. Hall came about and tracked the SAG as the East Bloc ships steamed into the Gulf of Mexico. She passed through the Old Bahama Channel in close surveillance of the SAG (22 January), and the following day transited the Crooked Island Passage as the Soviets headed in a southerly direction.
The SAG anchored in Cienfuegos, Cuba (25 January 1986), and during the afternoon watch, John L. Hall refueled from Military Sealift Command-operated oiler Mississinewa (T-AO 144). The Soviet ships returned to sea and John L. Hall shadowed them until they anchored off Banco de Jardinillos, Cuba, the following day. Guided missile frigate Samuel Eliot Morison (FFG-13) relieved John L. Hall on 28 January. Her busy deployment included a final success as the ship sailed through the Yucatan Channel and gained an identification friend or foe (IFF) contact on an aircraft suspected of smuggling narcotics. She relayed the information to Commander Task Group 24, and the authorities apprehended the smugglers when they landed in the United States.
John L. Hall, with a Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Team (TACLET) embarked, deployed for counter-narcotics operations in the southern Caribbean (6 July–22 August 1987). The ship responded to a search and rescue call from a Colombian fishing boat that ran aground off the coast of Nicaragua (18 July). U.S. authorities suspected the boat of smuggling narcotics, and John L. Hall made full speed for the area. When she arrived at the scene, 18 hours later, the ship sent away her TACLET, who boarded the vessel and discovered enough marijuana residue to arrest the three crewmembers. John L. Hall subsequently rendezvoused with Colombian guided missile frigate Caldas (FM.52) and transferred her prisoners.
John L. Hall passes through the “English Narrows” of the Chilean Inland waterway around the southern tip of South America to reach the Pacific during UNITAS 37-96, 18 September 1996. The task group for the annual international operation also includes tank landing ship La Moure County (LST-1194) and attack submarine Narwhal (SSN-671). (Photographer’s Mate 1st Class James Slaughenhaupt, U.S. Navy Photograph 960918-N-1030S-003, Navy NewsStand)
Lt. Cmdr. Thomas A. Kennedy, Lieutenants James B. Smelley and Mike Zaner, Lt. (j.g.) Thomas F. Foster, Jr., Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 1st Class Bill Trippett, and Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 2nd Class Brian Mowry of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron Light (HSL) 44 Detachment 5, manning a Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawk, embarked on board John L. Hall, assisted in the recovery of more than 2,000 pounds of cocaine from two boats near Panama (8 July 1998).
When Al-Qaeda terrorists attacked the United States on “9/11” (11 September 2001), John L. Hall had just returned from a voyage to Northern European waters (1 April–21 August), and most of her crew were on post-deployment leave. The ship initiated an emergency recall of her sailors, and she then (18–19 September) put to sea to serve as an offshore radar defense station and monitored air traffic with the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) as part of Operation Noble Eagle, the defense of the United States.
An SH-60 Seahawk from HSL-48 Detachment 2, embarked on board John L. Hall, coordinated with maritime patrol aircraft and Coast Guard cutter Diligence (WMEC-616), and intercepted a 40 foot go-fast vessel in the Caribbean (28 January 2003). The four smugglers scuttled their boat upon capture, but the combined Navy-Coast Guard team recovered 4,265 pounds of cocaine with an estimated street value of $130 million.
Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico (29 August 2005). A catastrophic storm surge inundated the levees along the Mississippi River and the rising waters flooded 80% of New Orleans, La. John L. Hall and guided missile frigate Stephen W. Groves (FFG-29) emergency sortied from Pascagoula, Miss., to Mayport, Fla., to escape the devastating storm. The following month (8 September), they sortied again to escape Hurricane Ophelia, and rode out the tempest at Pensacola, Fla., before returning to Mayport.
John L. Hall, Cmdr. Richard M. Meyer in command, was decommissioned at Mayport on 9 March 2012.
Detailed history under construction.
Mark L. Evans
31 December 2013