No battle theater in World War II was worse than Guadalcanal, an island about 1,000 miles northwest of Australia.
And no commander was tougher or more electric than Adm. William “Bull” Halsey.
Arriving at Edson’s Ridge, he wore a ragged cap and drove around in a muddy jeep in which he refused to stand and wave.
“It smells of exhibitionism—the hell with it,” he said.
Instead, Halsey mingled one-on-one with the Marines, traded salty talk and “saw their gaunt, malaria-ridden bodies, their faces lined from what seemed a nightmare of years,” their general wrote. Halsey bucked them up with rough and derisive remarks against the enemy, and they felt he was one of them.
“If I have any principle of warfare that is burned within my brain,” he later wrote, “it is that the best defense is a strong offense.”
Bottom line: Through force, grit and bombast—and being one with his team—Halsey secured a decisive naval victory at Guadalcanal and a turning point in the South Pacific.
— Adapted from Admiral “Bull” Halsey: The Life and Wars of the Navy’s Most Controversial Commander, John Wukovits, Palgrave Macmillan.