William Frederick Halsey, Jr.

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There are no great men, there are only great challenges that ordinary men are forced by circumstances to meet.

William Frederick Halsey, Jr., GBE (October 30, 1882August 16, 1959) (commonly referred to as "Bill" or "Bull" Halsey), was an American Fleet Admiral in the United States Navy. He commanded the South Pacific Area during the early stages of the Pacific War against Japan. Later he was commander of the Third Fleet through the duration of hostilities.


  • Before we're through with them, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell.
    • Remark in December 1941, after the attack of Pearl Harbor, as quoted in Roger Parkinson, Attack on Pearl Harbour (1973), p. 117; James Bradley, Flyboys (2004), p. 138.
  • Never before in the history of warfare has there been a more convincing example of the effectiveness of sea power than when, despite this undefeated, well armed, and highly efficient army, Japan surrendered her homeland unconditionally to the enemy without even a token resistance. The devastation wrought by past bombings plus the destruction of the atomic bombs spelled nothing less than the extinction of Japan. The bases from which these attacks were launched- Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa- were to have been the spring boards for the mightiest sea-borne invasion yet conceived by man. The "fighting fleets" of the United States which had made possible every invasion victory for America were ready and waiting. The Japanese had two alternatives; to fight and face destruction, or to surrender. The Imperial Japanese Empire chose to surrender.
    • Battle Stations! Your Navy in Action (1946), "The Surrender of Japan", p. 360
  • I'll take it! If anything gets in my way, we'll shoot first and argue afterwards.
    • On taking responsibility for the war, as quoted in Joseph Bryan, Admiral Halsey's story (1947), p. 76.
  • There are no great men, there are only great challenges, which ordinary men like you and me are forced by circumstances to meet.
  • Missing the Battle of Midway has been the greatest disappointment of my career, but I am going back to the Pacific where I intend personally to have a crack at those yellow bellied sons of bitches and their carriers.
    • Speech at the Naval Academy, as quoted in James C. Bradford, Quarterdeck and Bridge: Two Centuries of American Naval Leaders (1997), p. 350.
  • Kill Japs, kill Japs, kill more Japs!
    • Reported in James Bradley, Flyboys (2004), p. 138; Thomas Evans, Sea of Thunder (2006), p. 1; Paul Fussell, Wartime (1990), p. 119.

Quotes about Halsey[edit]

Alphabetized by author
  • FLEET ADMIRAL WILLIAM FREDERICK HALSEY, JR., USN. Born New Jersey 1882. Annapolis Class of 1904. First command, USS DuPont, 1909. Commanded USS Flusser, 1912; Jarvis, 1913. Awarded Navy Cross, 1918, for services as Comdr., USS's Benham and Shaw. Commanded USS Saratoga, 1935-7. As Rear Admiral, commanded Carrier Divisions 2 and 1, 1938-9. Designated Comdr., Aircraft, Battle Force, 1940. Awarded DSM, 1942, as Comdr., Marshall Raiding Force. Appointed Comdr., South Pacific Force, Oct. 1942. Awarded Army DSM, second Navy DSM for services, 1942-4. Assumed command famous Third Fleet, 1944; won third, fourth Navy DSM's for services, 1944-5. Holds numerous foreign Decorations. On Dec. 11, 1945, achieved highest rank, Fleet Admiral.
    • Biographical Notes on Halsey in Battle Stations! Your Navy in Action (1946), p. 396
  • The only man in the class who can compete with General in the number of offices he has held. Started out in life to become a doctor and in the process gained several useful hints. Honorary member of the S.P.C.A. for having so many times saved Shutuby from persecution. A real old salt. Looks like a figurehead of Neptune. Strong sympathizer with the Y.M.C.A. movement. Everybody's friend and Brad's devoted better half.
    • Description of Halsey in Lucky Bag (1904), yearbook of the United States Naval Academy, p. 41
  • Halsey, the public's favorite in the Navy, will always remain a controversial figure, but none can deny that he was a great leader; one with the true "Nelson touch." His appointment as commander South Pacific Force at the darkest moment of the Guadalcanal campaign lifted the hearts of every officer and bluejacket. He hated the enemy with an unholy wrath, and turned that feeling into a grim determination by all hands to step up to hit hard, again and again, and win. His proposal to step up the Leyte operation by two months was a stroke of strategic genius which undoubtedly shortened the Pacific war. Unfortunately, in his efforts to build public morale in America and Australia, Halsey did what Spruance refused to do- built up an image of himself as an exponent of Danton's famous principle, "Audacity, more audacity, always audacity." That was the real reason for his fumble in the Battle for Leyte Gulf. For his inspiring leadership in 1942-1943, his generosity to others, his capacity for choosing the right men for his staff, Halsey well earned his five stars, and his place among the Navy's immortals.
    • Samuel Eliot Morison, The Two-Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War (1963), p. 582
  • William F. Halsey was Commander of the South Pacific Fleet and the war's most colorful admiral.
    • C.L. Sulzberger, in his book The American Heritage Picture History of World War II (1966), p. 335

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