Home Intro People Events Equipment Places Maps Books Photos Videos Other Reference FAQ About

World War II Database

Willis Lee file photo [829]

Willis Lee

Given NameWillis
Born11 May 1888
Died25 Aug 1945
CountryUnited States


ww2dbaseWillis Augustus Lee, Jr. was born in Natlee, Kentucky. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1908 and attended Naval War College in the late 1920s. Before the war, he held various posts on land and at sea, including time with the Asiatic Station, commanding several classes of surface ships (including the battleship Pennsylvania, BB-38), and later an officer of a Cruisers force. He was an excellent rifleman; he participated in various competitions and won several honors and awards throughout the younger portion of his career in the Navy.

ww2dbaseAfter the Pearl Harbor attack that drew the US into war, Lee was promoted to the rank of rear admiral and became assistant chief of staff to the commander-in-chief of the US Fleet. In his next role as the commander of Battleship Division 6, flying his flag on the battleship Washington he led his battleships into a victory against Japanese surface units at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in Nov 1942. In this battle, Lee's task force sank the Japanese battleship Kirishima and prevented Japanese forces from recapturing strategic locations in the region. The victory was a feat that later earned him command of all American fast battleships in the Pacific while at the same time serving as the commander of Battleship Division 6 and Battleship Squadron 2. In Nov 1943, he commanded a task force that bombarded Nauru Island by aerial bombs and naval gunfire, then in Jan 1944 his fast battleships escorted carriers as their aircrafts attacked Japanese positions near Kavieng, New Ireland. Developing fast battleships into effective carrier screening forces, he was responsible for setting the foundation for future American doctrine of battleship operations. His battleships escorted American carriers across central Pacific, hitting Truk, Tinian, and Saipan, then defended the American fleet against a Japanese air offensive at the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

ww2dbaseIn May 1945, he left the Pacific theater for the Atlantic on a special mission to develop defenses against Japanese suicide attacks known as Kamikaze. In this role, he passed away from a heart attack in Aug 1945. His awards include the Navy Cross, the Legion of Merit, and the Distinguished Service Medal with gold star. He rests in peace at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, United States.

ww2dbaseSource: Arlington National Cemetery, Naval Historical Center.

Last Major Revision: Dec 2005

Willis Lee Interactive Map


Rear Admiral Harold Stark with the commanders of his Cruiser Divisions and ships, probably aboard USS Honolulu, circa 1939Lee aboard USS Washington, circa 1942-1943
See all 7 photographs of Willis Lee


Map depicting Japanese and US Naval movements during the Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal the night of Nov 14, 1942.

Willis Lee Timeline

11 May 1888 Willis Lee was born.
25 Aug 1945 Willis Lee passed away.

Did you enjoy this article or find this article helpful? If so, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 per month will go a long way! Thank you.

Share this article with your friends:


Stay updated with WW2DB:

 RSS Feeds

Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Nancy Winton says:
10 May 2018 06:27:18 PM

Is there a museum for the Washington. My dad served on her for several years. I have several pieces of memorablia we would like to donate
2. Paul Stillwell says:
29 Apr 2019 01:50:45 PM

I am researching a biography of Admiral Lee and would welcome inputs. paulstillwell@starpower.net

All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.

Posting Your Comments on this Topic

Your Name
Your Email
 Your email will not be published
Comment Type
Your Comments


1. We hope that visitor conversations at WW2DB will be constructive and thought-provoking. Please refrain from using strong language. HTML tags are not allowed. Your IP address will be tracked even if you remain anonymous. WW2DB site administrators reserve the right to moderate, censor, and/or remove any comment. All comment submissions will become the property of WW2DB.

2. For inquiries about military records for members of the World War II armed forces, please see our FAQ.

Change View
Desktop View

Search WW2DB
More on Willis Lee
Event(s) Participated:
» Guadalcanal Campaign
» Solomon Islands Campaign
» Attack on Truk
» Mariana Islands Campaign and the Great Turkey Shoot

Ship(s) Served:
» Washington

Willis Lee Photo Gallery
Rear Admiral Harold Stark with the commanders of his Cruiser Divisions and ships, probably aboard USS Honolulu, circa 1939Lee aboard USS Washington, circa 1942-1943
See all 7 photographs of Willis Lee

Famous WW2 Quote
"The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years."

James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945

Support Us

Please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 a month will go a long way. Thank you!

Or, please support us by purchasing some WW2DB merchandise at TeeSpring, Thank you!