h. raynsford stark

Harold Rainsford Stark

Harold Raynsford Stark (12 November 188021 August 1972) served as an officer in the United States Navy during World War I and World War II. Stark was the US Navy's 8th Chief of Naval Operations, from August 1 1939 to 26 March 1942.

Early Life and Career

Stark was appointed to the United States Naval Academy in 1899 and graduated with the class of 1903. As a plebe there he received the nickname "Betty" after Elizabeth Page Stark, wife of Revolutionary War general John Stark, who was being commemorated at the time. From 1907 to 1909, he served on the battleship Minnesota before and during the Atlantic Fleet's epic cruise around the world.

World War I

Subsequently, Stark had extensive duty in torpedo boats and destroyers, including command of the Asiatic Fleet's torpedo flotilla in 1917, when these old and small destroyers steamed from the Philippines to the Mediterranean to join in World War I operations. Stark served on the staff of Commander, US Naval Forces operating in Europe from November 1917 to January 1919.

Interwar Years

Following the war, Stark was Executive Officer of the battleships North Dakota and West Virginia, attended the Naval War College, commanded the ammunition ship Nitro and served in naval ordnance positions.

During the later 1920s and into the mid-1930s, with the rank of Captain, he was successively Chief of Staff to the Commander, Destroyer Squadrons Battle Fleet, Aide to the Secretary of the Navy, and Commanding Officer of USS West Virginia. From 1934 to 1937, Rear Admiral Stark was Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance. He then from July 1938 served at sea as Commander Cruiser Division Three and Commander of Cruisers in the Battle Fleet, with the rank of Vice Admiral.

CNO and the Beginning of World War II

In August 1939, Stark became Chief of Naval Operations with the rank of Admiral. In that position, he oversaw the expansion of the Navy during 1940 and 1941, and its involvement in an undeclared war against German submarines in the Atlantic during the latter part of 1941. It was at this time that he authored the Plan Dog memo, which laid the basis for America's Europe first policy.

His most controversial service involved the growing menace of Japanese forces in the period before America was bombed into the war by the attack on Pearl Harbor. The controversy centers on whether he and his Director of War Plans, Admiral Richmond K. Turner provided sufficient information to Admiral Kimmel, Commander of the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, about Japanese moves in the fall of 1941 to enable to Kimmel to anticipate an attack and to take steps to counter it.

Captain (later Rear Admiral) Edwin T. Layton was Kimmel's chief intelligence officer (later also Nimitz's) at the time of the attack. In his book, And I Was There: Pearl Harbor and Midway--Breaking the Secrets (1985), maintains that Stark offered meaningless advice throughout this period, withheld vital information at the insistence of his Director of War Plans, Admiral Richmond K. Turner, showed timidity in dealing with the Japanese, and utterly failed to provide anything of use to Kimmel. Layton, passim.

After Pearl Harbor

As CNO, Stark oversaw combat operations against Japan and the European Axis Powers that began in December 1941.

In March 1942, Stark was relieved as CNO by Admiral Ernest J. King. He went to England the next month to become Commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe.

From his London headquarters, Admiral Stark directed the naval part of the great buildup in England and US naval operations and training activities on the European side of the Atlantic. He received the additional title of Commander, Twelfth Fleet, in October 1943 and supervised USN participation in the invasion of Normandy in June 1944. Admiral Stark built and maintained close relations with British civilian and naval leaders, and with the leaders of other Allied powers. From August 1945 until he left active duty in April 1946, he served in Washington, D.C., and he made his home there after retirement.


He maintained a family summer residence on Lake Carey in Tunkhannock, Pa north of his native Wilkes-Barre, Pa for many years and flew in by naval sea-plane for weekends during his career. The cottage still stands on the westerly shore of the lake.


The frigate USS Stark (FFG-31) was named in honour of Admiral Stark.

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