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Oyler: Retired professor tells tale of World War II hero ‘Bull’ Halsey |

Oyler: Retired professor tells tale of World War II hero ‘Bull’ Halsey

John Oyler
| Saturday, February 4, 2017 12:31 a.m

The Bridgeville Area Historical Society heard the story of World War II hero “Bull” Halsey for its January program meeting.

Jack Aupperle a retired United Methodist minister and St. Vincent College professor, provided the information on Adm. William Halsey, an ordinary man who rose to great challenges.

Halsey was born in 1882 and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1904. He immediately showed great promise at a time when the Navy was in a massive transition from romantic sailing vessels to mechanized fleets akin to floating industrial facilities.

When World War I broke out, Lt. Cmdr. Halsey commanded a destroyer — the USS Shaw — so well that he earned the Navy Cross. In 1934 he was offered command of the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga. Halsey accepted, with the provision he be permitted to learn to fly. At age 52, he became the oldest officer in the Navy to earn his wings.

In 1940, his carrier fleet relocated to Hawaii, and Halsey was promoted to vice admiral. In early December 1941, the fleet was transporting aircraft to Wake Island to fend off a potential sneak attack by the Japanese, when they learned that Pearl Harbor was the actual target. Although they missed the opening act of the Pacific War, they soon saw significant action.

In April they rendezvoused with the USS Hornet and provided cover for the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo. In October 1942, Halsey assumed command of all the forces in the South Pacific Command. His first task was salvaging the Allies’ position on Guadalcanal. That was followed by successful campaigns in the Solomon Islands and the Bismarck Archipelago. Halsey’s aggressive use of naval aircraft was a key factor in their success.

When the war shifted from the South Pacific to the Central Pacific he received command of the Third Fleet, which operated effectively in campaigns in the Palaus, Leyte, and Luzon. Halsey’s fighting career ended when he stood on the deck of the USS Missouri and witnessed the signing of the articles of surrender ending World War II.

According to Aupperle, Halsey’s trademarks were integrity, loyalty to the men who served with him, aggressiveness, and impulsiveness. The latter trait betrayed him occasionally. The speaker summed up his presentation by concluding that we must accept the fact that even our greatest heroes are not entirely perfect.

The society’s next program meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Feb. 26, in the Chartiers Room of the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Department. Todd Wilson, who along with his wife, Helen, authored the book “Pittsburgh’s Bridges,” will be the speaker.

John Oyler is a Tribune-Review contributing writer. He can be reached at 412-343-1652 or Read more from him at

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