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William Leahy

William Leahy was born in Hampshire, Iowa, on 6th May, 1875. Educated at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis he graduated in 1897.

As a member of the United States Navy Leahy saw service in the Spanish-American War (1898), the Philippines (1899-91), China (1900), Nicaragua (1912), Haiti (1916) and Mexico (1916).

During the First World War Leahy was captain of the dispatch boat used by Franklin D. Roosevelt, the assistant secretary of the navy. The two men became close friends for the rest of their lives.

By 1936 Leahy had reached the rank of admiral and the following year he was became chief of naval operations and held the post until he retired from the United States Navy in August 1939.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was now president, highly valued Leahy's diplomatic skills and he now appointed him governor of Puerto Rico. Leahy did well in this post and in January 1941, Roosevelt decided to give him the much more difficult task of making him ambassador to the recently formed Vichy government in France.

Leahy's first task was to try to save the French Navy based in Toulon for the Allies. This proved impossible and although he developed good relationships with Henri-Philippe Petain, Pierre Laval and Jean-Francois Darlan he was unable to to reduce the influence that Nazi Germany was having on the Vichy government.

After the United States entered the war Franklin D. Roosevelt decided he needed a senior military officer as personal adviser and point of contact with his three service chiefs, Ernest King, George Marshall and Henry Arnold. The service chiefs resisted this move until Marshall suggested that only Leahy would be accepted in this post.

On 6th July, 1942, Leahy was appointed chief of staff to the commander in chief of the United States. He was a great success in this post and using his considerable diplomatic skills he was able to work effectively with the three service chiefs. Leahy and Harry Hopkins were the only advisers authorized to originate messages from the White House to Winston Churchill.

In December 1944 Leahy was promoted to the five star rank of fleet admiral. After the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt Leahy continued as chief of staff under Harry S. Truman. Leahy, like Dwight D. Eisenhower, was unable to persuade Truman against dropping the atom bomb on Hiroshima (6th August) and Nagasaki (9th August).

Leahy resigned in March 1949 and the following year published his war memoirs, I Was There. William Leahy died at Bethesda Naval Hospital on 20th July 1959.




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