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Iowa History Daily: May 6 - Admiral William Leahy

Iowa History Daily: On May 6, 1875, William D. Leahy, perhaps the most critical military decision maker for the United States during World War II was born in Hampton. A fleet admiral who represents the first ever U.S. Naval officer to hold a five-star rank, Leahy also served as Governor of Puerto Rico and as United States Ambassador to France.

Born to an Irish-American Civil War veteran who attended West Point named Michael Arthur Leahy, William spent part of his childhood in Franklin County before the family relocated to Ashland, Wisconsin. After high school, Leahy wanted to follow his father’s footsteps to West Point, but ultimately ended up attending the United States Naval Academy where he graduated 15th of 47 in the class of 1897.

Graduating just in time for the Spanish-American War, Midshipman Leahy found himself on the USS Oregon in the Pacific when hostilities broke out. Aboard for the famous dash of the Oregon through the Strait of Magellan and around South America during the spring of 1898, Leahy participated in the July 3 Battle of Santiago.

A career-man, the Navy commissioned Leahy as Ensign in 1899. Sent to Asia, he served in the Philippine-American War and the Boxer Rebellion before returning to the United States in 1902. Moved to training exercises in Panama shortly after her return stateside, Leahy served on the USS Pensacola, USS Tacoma, and USS Boston. His next stop took him back to the Naval Academy where he taught Physics and Chemistry for a couple of years.

A series of other posts within the Navy followed as Leahy continued to rise and gain experience. Finally appointed Chief of Naval Operations in January 1937, becoming the highest-ranking officer in the Navy. He served until August 1939, a time during which he oversaw the bulk of America’s naval preparations for World War II. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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