Vice Admiral Robert L. Ghormley: In the Shadow of the Fleet
NAVAL WAR COLLEGE NEWPORT RI NEWPORT United States
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Robert L. Ghormley had a mixed experience during the Second World War. During the European phase, while the United States remained neutral, he served as President Franklin D. Roosevelts Special Naval Observer in London, where his duties were mostly diplomatic and clandestine. In this role, Ghormley proved most effective. In the second phase of his World War II career, he served as theater commander of the South Pacific, where history has judged him harshly. Ghormley set up the South Pacific command on short notice with inadequate resources, and within a month, he was ordered to launch Operation Watchtower, the American invasion of Guadalcanal, in August of 1942. After a series of setbacks and mostly unanswered complaints for more support, Admiral Chester Nimitz relieved Ghormley by replacing him with the more aggressive William Bull Halsey. This paper argues that Gormleys contributions as a leader have been overlooked because of his leadership failures in the South Pacific. While Ghormley erred in some of his decisions as the South Pacific Commander, he contributed critical strategic leadership in London before the United States entry to the war. Ghormley also made key diplomatic contributions negotiating with the Free French to safely establish parts of the South Pacific command on French islands. Although Ghormley foresaw the pending logistic problems the remote and sparsely populated islands would present while being supplied from half a world away, most of the disappointments of his command tenure were the results of material shortages. His command was plagued with poor communications, and his lack of presence due in part to his poor health.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
- Naval Surface Warfare
- Undersea and Antisubmarine Warfare