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Stark, Harold Raynsford (1880-1972)


Photograph of Harold R. Stark

Naval Historical Center #NH 49967

Known by the unlikely nickname of “Betty”, Stark was Chief of Naval Operations, the highest position in the United States Navy, at the start of the Pacific War.  Like many high-ranking officers, Stark was a Roosevelt protégé who was appointed to his post over many more senior officers.  He was an Anglophile who faithfully carried out Roosevelt’s policy of confrontation with the German U-boats in the Atlantic.

Stark was one of the chief proponents of the "Germany First" strategy, as outlined in his Plan Dog memorandum of November 1940 to Secretary of the Navy Knox. Described by Symonds (2011) as "one of the most consequential documents ever submitted to the government by a naval officer", this recommended postponing Plan Orange in the event of war with the Axis, and instead adopting a defensive posture in the Pacific while devoting the nations' chief energies to defeating Germany.

Tainted by the disaster at Pearl Harbor, Stark was reassigned as naval commander of the European Theater of Operations, where his British connections were put to good use.

Stark was a workaholic and intellectual rather than an aggressive combat commander in the mold of his successor, King. Some of his colleagues believed he was the right leader for preparing the Navy for a global war, but the Secretary of War, Stimson, considered him a timid and ineffective advisor to the President.

Service record

1880-11-12     

Born at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
1903
Midshipman     
Graduates from Naval Academy, standing 30th in a class of 50. Assigned to Hartford.
1905-2-2
Ensign

1907

BB Minnesota
1914

Commander, DD Patterson
1917

Commander, Torpedo Flotilla, Asiatic Fleet
1917-11
Commander     
Staff, Naval Forces in European Waters
1924

Commander, AE Nitro
1925

Inspector of Ordnance, Naval Proving Grounds, Cahlgree, Virginia
1928

Staff, Destroyers, Battle Fleet
1930

Aide to the Secretary of the Navy
1933
Captain
Commander, West Virginia
1934-11
Rear admiral     
Chief, Bureau of Ordnance
1937-9

Commander, Cruiser Division 3
1938-7
Vice admiral     
Commander, Cruisers, Battle Force
1939-8-1
Admiral
Chief of Naval Operations
1942-4-30

Commander, Navy Forces, Europe
1943-3-15

Commander, 12 Fleet
1945-4-15

Testifies before Pearl Harbor investigative boards; held partially responsible for the disaster
1945-4-30

Commander, Naval Forces, European Theater
1946-4

Retires
1972-8-20

Dies at Washington, D.C.

References

Arlington National Cemetery Website (accessed 2008-1-31)

Boatner (1996)

Naval Historical Center (accessed 2008-1-31)
Pettibone (2006)

Prange (1981)

Symonds (2011)



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