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Admiral William Veazie Pratt, U. S. Navy
A Sailor's Life

by
Gerald E. Wheeler

The Author and the Book

During World War II Gerald E. Wheeler served as a Naval Aviator (Airship), an Air Navigator, and an Assistant Navigator on the aircraft carrier Bunker Hill (CV-17). After the war, he taught at the Naval Academy as Assistant Professor in the Department of English, History and Government. Having moved to California, he received his doctorate in history from the University of California in 1957, served as an Aviation Technical Training Officer in reserve squadron VP-871 at Oakland Naval Air Station with the rank of lieutenant commander in the Naval Air Reserve, and joined the faculty of San Jose State University where for a quarter century (1957-1983) he would be a professor and eventually serve as Chair of the History Department, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, and Dean of the College of Social Sciences; he found time to write numerous articles on naval topics and to serve on the various editorial boards, among others several years as editor of the American Aviation Historical Society Journal.

The biography of Admiral Pratt presented here was written when Prof. Wheeler was Ernest J. King Professor of Maritime History at the Naval War College in 1968‑1969. As we might expect from an author who made his name in naval history, however, the strictly biographical aspect of Admiral Pratt's life didn't engage the author's attention as much as did his naval career and wider questions of naval policy: a lacuna that makes itself felt here and there in the course of the book, as the admiral's "old friends" are suddenly introduced never having been mentioned before; the period of his life from birth to his graduation from the Naval Academy is covered in six scant pages of text.

Prof. Wheeler does give us, though, a thoroughgoing study of the years between the world wars, as seen from the standpoint of one of its key American naval officers; the biography is one of his three books on 20c American naval history. Prelude to Pearl Harbor (University of Missouri Press, 1963) is also onsite; Kinkaid of the Seventh Fleet: A Biography of Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid, U. S. Navy (Naval Institute, 1995) is not, and remains under copyright for at least another fifty years.

 p. xvii  Contents

vii
xi

The Foundation Years

1

Building a Service Reputation

27

Education in Sims' Band of Brothers

67

Assistant Chief of Naval Operations during World War I

89

Proving Himself at Sea

137

The General Board

169

Battleship Division Four

215

Up the Fleet Ladder

241

Commander in Chief, United States Fleet

281

Chief of Naval Operations

315

Primrose Hill

377

Epilogue

421

Abbreviations Used

427

Bibliography

429

Index

439

 p. xix  Illustrations

(Illustrations identified by numbers preceded by NH or NR&L are located in the Naval History Division, Washington, DC. All others are located in the National Archives, Washington, DC.)

Admiral William Veazie Pratt

frontispiece

Birthplace of William Veazie Pratt

1

Nichols Pratt

3

Naval Academy class of 1889 on board Constellation

9

Class of 1889 at the Naval Academy

10

USS Atlanta

16

Lieutenant Commander M. R. S. MacKenzie

20

USS Petrel

23

Naval Academy Officers' Baseball Team

28

Ensign Pratt and his fiancee, Louise Johnson

30

Captain Bowman H. McCalla

37

USS Newark

40

Lieutenant Pratt

43

USS Kearsarge

46

Rear Admiral Francis J. Higginson

49

Lieutenant Pratt's Fitness Report, 1905

52

Louise J. Pratt on horseback

56

USS St. Louis

58

Lieutenant Commander Pratt

59

USS California (later San Diego)

63

USS Dixie

72

USS Birmingham

78

Secretary Daniels and Admiral Benson

91

Admiral Henry T. Mayo

120

Admiral William S. Sims

124

USS New York

139

Admiral Hugh Rodman

143

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt

155

Officers of the Destroyer Force, Pacific Fleet

161

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.

178

Admiral Robert E. Coontz

187

Admiral Hilary P. Jones

194

Rear Admiral William Adger Moffett

200

Rear Admiral Pratt relieving Rear Admiral Charles F. Hughes

216

Vice Admiral Henry A. Wiley

220

Louise J. Pratt and William ("Billy") V. Pratt, Jr.

232

Secretary of the Navy Curtis D. Wilbur

237

Rear Admiral Richard H. Leigh

247

Vice Admiral Pratt, Commander Battleships, Battle Fleet

261

USS California

267

Admiral Pratt, Commander Battle Fleet

271

Visit of President-elect Herbert Hoover to the Battle Fleet

273

Admiral Pratt and Rear Admiral Joseph M. Reeves

274

Aircraft carrier Saratoga

276

Admiral Pratt's orders to serve as Commander in Chief, U. S. Fleet

279

 p. xx  Change of command ceremony, San Pedro Harbor, 21 May 1929

282

Admiral Charles F. Hughes

297

American representatives to the London Naval Conference

300

Admiral Pratt during his visit to Honolulu

312

Senior Officials of the Navy Department, 1929‑1931

317

Secretary of the Navy Charles F. Adams and Admiral Pratt

319

Admiral's House

320

Admiral Frank H. Schofield and Admiral Pratt

351

Admiral Pratt inspecting USS Constitution

360

Rear Admiral Arthur J. Hepburn

363

Franklin D. Roosevelt's inaugural parade

366

Admiral Pratt and his Aide, Lieutenant C. W. A. ("Jimmy") Campbell

374

Primrose Hill

378

Admiral Pratt participating in a radio panel broadcast

393

Admiral Pratt attending a dinner in honor of Admiral Kichisaburo Nomura

402

Technical Details

Edition Used

The edition followed in this transcription is marked simply "First Edition", with no date. Published by "Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York and London", the book bears no copyright notice — properly, since it is an official report of the United States Navy and thus in the public domain; details here on the copyright law involved.

Illustrations

The 60 illustrations, all black-and‑white photographs, are very well placed in the print edition, as close as possible to the text they illustrate. For the most part therefore I've kept the original placement, only once or twice taking advantage of the flexibility offered by the Web to move one to what I felt was a slightly better place. Their original placement is given in the table above, but the links are of course to the actual location in my Web transcription.

The photograph of Admiral Pratt's official portrait that serves as the book's frontispiece is in black-and‑white like the other; I've substituted a color reproduction of the same portrait. The portrait itself, painted around 1930, is in the public domain; faithful flat reproductions of it are public domain per Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corporation.

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is shown in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line); p57  these are also local anchors. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the author's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.

Proofreading

As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if successful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

My transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree; a red background would mean that the page had not been proofread. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The printed book was remarkably well proofread. The inevitable typographical errors were very few, and all trivial: I marked them with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the underscored words to read the variant. Similarly, glide your cursor over bullets before measurements: they provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles.

A number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic ‑‑> in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked. They are also very few.

Any other mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have a copy of the printed book in front of you.



[image ALT: A photograph of a man in late middle age, seated in a 19c wooden chair of which only the elegant arms can be seen. He wears a naval uniform with the stripes and single star of a rear admiral in the United States Navy, and two rows of decorations. His right hand, bare, rests on the arm of the chair, as does his left forearm; in his left hand, gloved, he holds his other glove and his hat resting on his thigh. He is Admiral William Veazie Pratt, and the image serves as the icon on this site for his biography by Gerald E. Wheeler.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is cropped from the portrait of Admiral Pratt that serves as the book's frontispiece, above.


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Site updated: 27 Sep 14