Halsey was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, on 30 October 1882, the son of Master William F. Halsey, USN. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1904 and spent his early service years in battleships and torpedo craft. The latter became a speciality -- he commanded the First Group of the Atlantic Fleet's Torpedo Flotilla in 1912-1913 and several torpedo boats and destroyers during the 1910s and 1920s. Lieutenant Commander Halsey's World War I service, including command of USS Shaw (DD-68) in 1918, was sufficiently distinctive to earn a Navy Cross.
In 1922-1925, Halsey served as Naval Attache in Berlin, Germany, and commanded USS Dale (DD-290) during a European cruise. During 1930-1932, Captain Halsey led two destroyer squadrons. He studied at the Naval War College in the mid-1930s and also received instruction as a Naval Aviation Observer. He then commanded the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV-3) and the Naval Air Station at Pensacola, Florida. Halsey was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1938, commanding Carrier Divisions for the next three years, and, as a Vice Admiral, also serving as Commander Aircraft Battle Force.
Vice Admiral Halsey was at sea in his flagship, USS Enterprise (CV-6), during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. During the first six months of the war, his carrier task force took part in raids on enemy-held islands and in the Doolittle Raid on Japan. Beached by illness just before the June 1942 Battle of Midway, he took command in the South Pacific in mid-October 1942, at a critical stage of the Guadalcanal Campaign. After Guadalcanal was secured in February 1943, Admiral Halsey's forces spent the rest of the year battling up the Solomon Islands Chain to Bougainville, then isolated the Japanese fortress at Rabaul by capturing positions in the Bismarck Archipelago.
Admiral Halsey left the South Pacific in May 1944, as the war surged toward the Philippines and Japan. During September 1944 - January 1945, he led the Third Fleet during campaigns to take the Palaus, Leyte and Luzon, on many raids on Japanese bases, and during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. He commanded the Third Fleet through the end of the Pacific War and was present when Japan formally surrendered on the deck of his flagship, USS Missouri (BB-63), on 2 September 1945. Promoted to the rank of Fleet Admiral in December 1945, Halsey retired from active duty in March 1947. Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey died on 20 August 1959 and was interred in Arlington National Cemetery.