William S. Pye

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William Satterlee Pye
William Satterlee Pye.jpg
Vice Admiral William S. Pye, USN
Born (1880-06-09)9 June 1880
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Died 4 May 1959(1959-05-04) (aged 78)
Bethesda, Maryland
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Navy
Years of service 1901–1945
Rank US-O9 insignia.svg Vice Admiral
Commands held President of the Naval War College
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Navy Cross
Legion of Merit
World War I Victory Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Spanish Campaign Medal
American Defense Service Medal

Vice Admiral William Satterlee Pye, United States Navy, (9 June 1880 – 4 May 1959) was an Admiral in the U.S. Navy who served in World Wars I and II. His last active-duty appointment was as President of the Naval War College, in 1942–1945. His awards included the Navy Cross for his service in World War I.

Career through World War I[edit]

Pye was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on 9 June 1880. Entering the United States Naval Academy in 1897, he graduated in 1901 and was commissioned an Ensign in June 1903. From 1901 through 1915, he served in several ships, among them five battleships and an armored cruiser, and was also assigned to the staffs of the Naval Academy and Naval War College. In 1915–1916 he placed the new destroyer USS Jacob Jones (DD-61) into commission, commanding her until early 1917, when he joined the staff of the Atlantic Fleet's Commander in Chief. He served in that position through the First World War, receiving the Navy Cross "for exceptionally distinguished and valuable service on the staff of the commander in chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, in addition to excellent performance of his routine staff duties in preparing a series of orders for the conduct of battleship and fleet, based upon the best thought and experience of the United States fleet and British fleet during the late war.".[1]

Interwar years[edit]

Pye was on duty with the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations during 1919–1921, and was Executive Officer of the battleship Pennsylvania in 1922–1923. After briefly commanding a destroyer squadron, he returned to Washington, D.C., for further Navy Department service that lasted into 1927. In the next five years, he commanded the minelayer USS Oglala (CM-4), had more Navy Department duty and was head of the U.S. Naval Mission to Peru. Captain Pye was Commanding Officer of the battleship USS Nevada (BB-36) in 1932–1933.

Promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral, Pye served as Chief of Staff to Commander Scouting Force, attended the Naval War College, had further Navy Department service, and was Commander Destroyers in both the Scouting Force and Battle Force. With the temporary rank of Vice Admiral, he was Commander Battleships, Battle Force in 1940 and Commander Battle Force in 1941.

World War II and post-war years[edit]

He is perhaps best known for his 6 December 1941 remark that "The Japanese will not go to war with the United States. We are too big, too powerful, and too strong."[citation needed] Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 and the subsequent relief of Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, Vice Admiral Pye was Acting Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet from 17 December until 31 December 1941. His major action in this position was to send a relief force built around the USS Saratoga to the aid of Wake Island. In a controversial decision, Pye recalled the relief force on 22 December after reports of additional landings on the island-for fear of losses. After relinquishing command of the Pacific Fleet to Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Pye became the commander of Task Force One, comprising the remaining operational battleships in the Pacific fleet, based in San Francisco. Pye ordered this force to sortie to patrol the West Coast during the Battle of Midway, as a precaution against a possible Japanese attack in that area. His fears proved unfounded and Task Force One remained on training and patrol duties between Hawaii and the West Coast until Pye was relieved in October 1942. After Wake Island and Midway, he never commanded operating forces again. Vice Admiral Pye then became President of the Naval War College and simultaneously commanded the Naval Operating Base, Newport, Rhode Island. Though he officially retired in July 1944, he remained on as War College President until relieved of active duty in December 1945. Vice Admiral William S. Pye died at Bethesda, Maryland, on 4 May 1959. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

References[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Husband E. Kimmel
Commander in Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet
1941
Succeeded by
Chester W. Nimitz
Preceded by
Edward C. Kalbfus
President of the Naval War College
1942-1946
Succeeded by
Raymond A. Spruance