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.
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.
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.