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
  • William F. Halsey, Jr., wasn't destined for academic stardom at the Naval Academy, but he applied himself just enough to make respectable marks without adversely affecting his preferred social and athletic pursuits. Once, when Halsey came dangerously close to failing theoretical mechanics, his father strongly advised him to drop football. That, of course, was out of the question. Instead, Bill recruited the scholars in his class to tutor him and a few others similarly challenged. When the exam was over, Bill went to his father's quarters for lunch and was immediately asked if the results had been posted. "Yes, sir," Bill answered, and then reported that he had made 3.98 out of 4.0. His father stared at him for a full minute and finally asked incredulously, "Sir, have you been drinking?"
    • Walter R. Borneman, The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy and King- The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea (2012), p. 45
  • Even after they were checked at Midway and Guadalcanal in 1942, many Japanese remained convinced that the Anglo-American enemy was indeed psychologically incapable of recovering In actuality, the contrary was true, for the surprise attack provoked a rage bordering on the genocidal among Americans. Thus, Admiral William Halsey, soon to become commander of the South Pacific Force, vowed after Pearl Harbor that by the end of the war the Japanese language would be spoken only in hell, and rallied his men thereafter under such slogans as "Kill Japs, kill Japs, kill more Jap." Or as the U.S. Marines put it in a well-known variation on Halsey's motto: "Remember Pearl Harbor- keep 'em dying."
    • John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War (1986), p. 37
  • Indeed, in wartime jargon, the notion of "good Japanese" came to take on an entirely different meaning than that of "good Germans," as Admiral William F. Halsey emphasized at a news conference early in 1944. "The only good Jap is a Jap who's been dead for six months," the commander of the U.S. South Pacific Force declared, and he did not mean just combatants. "When we get to Tokyo, where we're bound to get eventually," Halsey went on, "we'll have a little celebration where Tokyo was." Halsey was improvising on a popular wartime saying, "the only good Jap is a dead Jap," and his colleagues in the military often endorsed this sentiment in their own fashion.
    • John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War (1986), p. 79
  • Among the Allied war leaders, Admiral Halsey was the most notorious for making outrageous and virulently racist remarks about the Japanese enemy in public. Many of his slogans and pronouncements bordered on advocacy of genocide. Although he came under criticism for his intemperate remarks, and was even accused of being drunk in public, Halsey was immensely popular among his men and naturally attracted good press coverage. His favorite phrase for the Japanese was "yellow bastards," and in general he found the color allusion irresistible.
    • John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War (1986), p. 85
  • Simian metaphors, however, ran a close second in his diatribes. Even in his postwar memoirs, Halsey described the Japanese as "stupid animals" and referred to them as "monkeymen." During the war he spoke of the "yellow monkeys," and in one outburst declared that he was "rarin' to go on a new naval operation "to go get some more Monkey meat." He also told a news conference in early 1945 that he believed the "Chinese proverb" about the origin of the Japanese race, according to which "the Japanese were a product of mating between female apes and the worst Chinese criminals who had been banished from China by a benevolent emperor." These comments were naturally picked up in Japan, as Halsey fully intended them to be, and on occasion prompted lame responses in kind. A Japanese propaganda broadcast, for example, referred to the white Allies as "albino apes." Halsey's well-publicized comment, after the Japanese Navy had been placed on the defensive, that "the Japs are losing their grip, even with their tails" led a zookeeper in Tokyo to announce he was keeping a cage in the monkey house reserved for the admiral.
    • John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War (1986), p. 85
  • Shortly before the Pearl Harbor attack his CarDiv was returning from delivering aircraft to Wake Island, already on full war alert (Halsey was one of several officers who understood the meaning of "this is considered to be a war warning"). During the war he had an active, varied, and distinguished career: the raids on the Mandates, the Doolittle Raid, the Guadalcanal Campaign, the Solomons Campaign, and finally as leader of the Third Fleet in the Central Pacific. After the war he retired as a fleet admiral, and entered business. Shortly before his death he led an ultimately futile campaign to preserve the carrier Enterprise as a war memorial. Halsey was a tough, aggressive officer who made surprisingly few mistakes (the most glaring being his failure to adequately cover the "jeep carriers" off Samar during the Battle of Leyte Gulf).
    • James F. Dunnigan & Albert A. Nofi, The Pacific War Encyclopedia, Volume 1: A-L (1998), p. 260-261
  • Behind the sixty-year-old admiral was a distinguished career first in destroyers and latterly as a carrier commander. His more than medium height, broad shoulders, and barrel chest gave him a strong presence and "a wide mouth held tight and turned down at the corners and exceedingly bushy eyebrows gave his face, in a grizzled sea dog way, an appearance of good humor." He was not so impulsive as the nickname "Bull" (which was not used by his friends) suggested, but he always displayed a certain indifference to detail that looked like carelessness.
    • Richard B. Frank, Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle (1990), p. 335
  • Although agreeing with Ghormley's current dispositions, within hours of taking command Halsey put his personal stamp on operations. First he simply seized a headquarters ashore from sensitive Free French officials whom Ghormley had never confronted, despite desperate conditions of crowding on Argonne. Within forty-eight hours he scuttled the Ndeni operation, as should have been done weeks before. But this same day Halsey was forcefully reminded of one of the sources of displeasure with Ghormley's stewardship when I-176 torpedoed heavy cruiser Chester in the stretch of waters frequented by American task forces called "Torpedo Junction", in a wry play upon the title of the popular song "Tuxedo Junction". On his third day in command, Halsey decided to move the main fleet base from Auckland to Noumea, and he did not merely ask for but demanded a million square feet of covered storage space.
    • Richard B. Frank, Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle (1990), p. 335
  • One simple order revealed more about his attitude than any rhetorical flourish: henceforth naval officers in the South Pacific would remove ties from tropical uniforms. Halsey said he gave this order to conform to Army practice and for comfort, but to his command it viscerally evoked the image of a Brawler stripping for action and symbolized a casting off of effete elegance no more appropriate to the tropics than to war. His national popularity would endure, but later events would put his effectiveness into serious doubt. Indeed, one of his ablest subordinates would observe that by 1944 "the war simply became too complicated for Halsey." But in mid-October 1942 with his country at bay and locked in mortal combat with a relentless foe, Halsey was in his element. Within one week of taking command, Halsey sent an order to Admiral Kinkaid that would electrify the entire Navy: "Strike, repeat, strike."
    • Richard B. Frank, Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle (1990), p. 335-336
  • 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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