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Adapted from the biographical sketch for Admiral William Morrow Fechteler, Modern Officer Biographical Files, Navy Department Library, Naval History and Heritage Command.

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  • Korean Conflict 1950-1954
  • World War II 1939-1945
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William Morrow Fechteler

6 March 1896 - 4 July 1967

Photo #: 80-G-302299 Rear Admiral William M. Fechteler, USN

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.

Personal Data:

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 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:

June 1916 August 1919 USS Pennsylvania
August 1919 July 1921 Atlantic Fleet (Aide on Staff)
July 1921 January 1922 USS Barney
January 1922 June 1924 Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (Regimental Officer)
September 1924 July 1926 USS Israel (Executive Officer), Asiatic Fleet
September 1926 May 1927 USS Shirk (Executive Officer) Desrons, Battle Fleet
May 1927 May 1929 Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (Instructor, Electrical Engineering and Physics)
May 1929 May 1930 Battle Fleet (Aide and Flag Lieutenant to Commander)
May 1930 June 1932 USS West Virginia (Assistant Gunnery Officer)
June 1932 August 1932 Battleship Division Three (Aide and Flag Secretary)
August 1932 October 1932 Battleships, Battle Force (Aide and Flag Secretary)
October 1932 May 1935 Division of Fleet Training, Naval Operations, Navy Department
May 1935 June 1936 USS Perry (Commanding)
June 1936 June 1937 Scouting Force (Staff, as Gunnery Officer)
June 1937 December 1939 Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (Staff of Post-Graduate School)
December 1939 September 1940 Destroyer Flotilla ONE, Battle Force (Staff, as Operations Officer)
September 1940 December 1940 Destroyers, Battle Force (Staff)
December 1940 February 1942 Destroyers, Battle Force (Chief of Staff and Aide)
February l942 July 1943 Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department [Changed to Bureau of Naval Personnel] (Assistant Director, later Director, Officer Personnel Division)
August 1943 January 1944 USS Indiana (Commanding)
January l944 March 1945 Seventh Amphibious Force: Commander Group EIGHT
March 1945 January 1946 Bureau of Naval Personnel, Navy Department (Assisant Chief of Naval personnel and Assistant Chief of Bureau of Naval Personnel)
January 1946 February 1947 Battleships-Cruisers, Atlantic Fleet (Commander)
February 1947 January 1950 Office of Naval Operations, Navy Department (Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Personnel)
February 1950 August 1951 Commander in Chief, Atlantic, and US Atlantic Fleet
August 1951 August 1953 Chief of Naval Operations, Department of the Navy
August 1953 July 1956 Commander in Chief, Allied Forces, Southern Europe
July 1956   Transferred to the Retired List of the US Navy
July 1956 December 1956 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.

Published: Mon Dec 21 07:15:28 EST 2020