William Halford

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William Halford
William Halford.jpg
Coxswain William Halford, circa 1870
Born (1841-08-18)August 18, 1841
Gloucestershire, England[1]
Died February 7, 1919(1919-02-07) (aged 77)
Oakland, California
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1869 – 1910
1917 – 1919
Rank Lieutenant

USS Saginaw
USS Benicia[2]
USS Lackawanna[3]
USS San Francisco[4]

USS Monterey[5]
Awards Medal of Honor

William Halford (August 18, 1841 – February 7, 1919) was a sailor, and later an officer, in the United States Navy. He also received the Medal of Honor.


Born in Gloucestershire, England, Halford enlisted in the United States Navy in 1869. He was serving on board USS Saginaw, when she ran aground near Kure Atoll on October 29, 1870. Halford was one of four sailors who volunteered to sail the ship's boat 1,500 miles to Honolulu for help, along with the ship's executive officer, Lieutenant John G. Talbot. After great suffering, and 31 days at sea, the party reached the island of Kauai on December 19, 1870. In attempting to land through the heavy surf, all but Halford were drowned, but he managed to reach shore and bring help to his shipmates. He received the Medal of Honor for his bravery.[6]

Halford was promoted to the warrant officer rank of gunner on April 14, 1871, and to chief gunner on March 3, 1899. He served in the Navy until 18 August 1903[1][7] when, after reaching mandatory retirement age,[8] he retired after 34 years of active service.

When the United States entered the First World War, the Navy had a dire need for experienced officers like Halford. Military law at the time provided for retired officers, if placed on active duty during time of war, to be returned at the rank they would have achieved had they remained on active duty.[9] Halford was recalled up to duty and promoted to lieutenant on July 1, 1918 and continued to serve until he died on February 7, 1919 at Oakland, California.[6] He was buried at the Mare Island Navy Yard cemetery in Vallejo, California.


Medal of Honor citation[edit]

Rank and organization: Coxswain, U.S. Navy. Born: 18 August 1841, Gloucester, England. Accredited to: California. G.O. No.: 169, 8 February 1872.[10]


Halford was sole survivor of the boat's crew sent to the Sandwich Islands for assistance after the wreck of the Saginaw, October 1870. Promoted to acting gunner.[10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Lieutenant Halford, Naval Hero, Dies in Oakland". New-York Tribune. 15 February 1919. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  2. ^ "Official". The Pacific Commercial Advertiser. 28 February 1874. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  3. ^ "USS Lackawanna arrives". The Pacific Commercial Advertiser. 30 July 1881. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  4. ^ "Naval Matters". The Hawaiian gazette. 25 November 1890. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  5. ^ "Official Changes". The Morning Call (San Francisco, CA). 23 March 1893. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. [1].
  7. ^ "Officers who will give up active service in Army and Navy". Evening Star (Washington, DC). 5 January 1903. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  8. ^ "Hero of Saginaw Wreck Retires from Service". San Francisco Call. 23 May 1903. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  9. ^ The Military Laws of the United States. Para 958f: U.S. Government Printing Office. 1915. p. 207. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  10. ^ a b Robeson, George M. (February 8, 1872). "General Order, No. 169". General orders and circulars issued by the Navy Department. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office (1863–1887): 111. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  11. ^ "William Halford, Medal of Honor recipient". Interim Awards, 1866-1870. United States Army Center of Military History. 13 August 2013. Retrieved 2 February 2015.