Leonard, William Nicholas, RADM

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Last Rank
Rear Admiral Upper Half
Last Primary NEC
131X-Unrestricted Line Officer - Pilot
Last Rating/NEC Group
Line Officer
Primary Unit
1968-1971, 131X, Naval Safety Center
Service Years
1938 - 1971
Rear Admiral Upper Half
Rear Admiral Upper Half

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This Military Service Page was created/owned by Bersley H. Thomas, Jr. (Tom), SMCS to remember Leonard, William Nicholas (True Navy Hero), RADM USN(Ret).

If you knew or served with this Sailor and have additional information or photos to support this Page, please leave a message for the Page Administrator(s) HERE.
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Date of Passing
Aug 27, 2005
Location of Interment
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 Obituary From the Richmond Times Dispatch Aug. 27 2005

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William Nicholas Leonard
Rear Admiral, United States Navy
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  Admiral Leonard, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, took a prominent part in the Battle of Midway in World War II.  He was received two (2) awards of the Navy Cross for his Naval service, as well as the Legion of Merit the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal (8 awards) and the Bronze Star Medal. 

He is related to Charles Frederick Leonard, Colonel, United States Army, Charles Frederick Leonard, Jr., Major General, United States Army, John Wallis Leonard, Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army, who was killed in World War II, and Charles Frederick Leonard III, Captain, United States Army, who died in 1967.

Previously published information concerning Admiral Leonard has been removed from this site at the request of the family on 28 January 2006.

WN Leonard PHOTO
United States Naval Academy Photo

Courtesy of and with the permission of the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
Originally Published: 27 August 2005

Rear Admiral William N. Leonard, United States Navy (retired) passed away on Sunday, August 21, 2005, after a brief illness.

Admiral Leonard was born on January 12, 1916, in Douglas, Arizona, and was a 1938 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. He was the son of the late Colonel Charles F. and Mrs. Hannah L. Leonard. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 55 years, the former Mary Louise Butt, of Norfolk, Virginia. He is survived by his children, William N. Leonard Jr. and his wife, Victoria, of Midland, Virginia, John W. Leonard of Herndon, Virginia, Elizabeth L. Sufit and her husband, Dr. Carl R. Sufit, of Escalon, California, Richard A. Leonard and his wife, Desiree of Chester, Virginia, and Miss Mary Louise Leonard also of Chester; his brother, Major General Charles F. Leonard Jr., United States Army (retired) of Fairfax, Virginia; his sister-in-law, Miss Virginia Butt of Chester; eight grandchildren, Kathryn Leonard, Colleen Leonard, Elise Dawson, Kaitlin Sufit, Carolyn Sufit, Megan Leonard, Sarah Leonard, and John W. Leonard Jr.; one great-grandchild, Alison Dawson; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Admiral Leonard was designated Naval Aviator # 6953 in December 1940. A World War II fighter pilot, he was an early leader and an ace in the Pacific battles of the Coral Sea, Midway and in the Solomons. He played a key role in the wartime development of Navy fighter tactics and was a pioneer in using captured enemy aircraft for training purposes. At war's end, he was an operations officer with Commander Task Force 38 in the drive to victory in the Pacific. After the war, he continued as a leader in Naval Aviation, commanding VF-171, the first Navy jet squadron to operate from an aircraft carrier.

A founding test pilot at the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, he later directed the team that developed the requirements for the A-6 Intruder. Other commands included Commander, Air Group 17; Commander, VX-5; Captain, USS Salamonie; Captain, USS Ranger; Commander, Carrier Division 14, bringing his flag aboard USS Wasp; and Commander, Naval Safety Center. His promotion to Rear Admiral came in 1965.

By the end of his career, he had operated from 18 different aircraft carriers. Admiral Leonard was awarded two Navy Crosses for Valor at the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway. His other awards included four Legions of Merit, one with Combat 'V', the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star with Combat 'V'; six Air Medals, and other commendation and service ribbons.

Retiring to Virginia Beach, Virginia, in 1971, Admiral Leonard and his wife, Mary Lou, enjoyed 25 years of quiet happiness together and in the company of their loving family, until her untimely death in 1996. In retirement, he avidly pursued a wide range of interests, including timepieces, woodworking, and gardening. He frequently was sought out by historians of Naval Aviation and World War II carrier operations, and responded generously to their needs, tirelessly reviewing and commenting on manuscripts and providing source material, insights, and contacts for further research. He moved to his son's home in Chester in 2001.

Interment will be at Arlington National Cemetery, with full honors, on November 16, 2005. In lieu of flowers, it is requested that memorial donations be made to the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, 1750 Radford Blvd, Suite B, Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida 32501.

Webmaster: Michael Robert Patterson

 DATE OF BIRTH: 01/12/1916 
 DATE OF DEATH: 08/21/2005 

 DATE OF BIRTH: 03/04/1920 
 DATE OF DEATH: 12/03/1996 

Posted: 4 December 2005 Updated: 30 January 2006 Updated: 6 October 2006 Updated: 27 December 2006 Updated: 19 October 2007
US Naval Academy SEAL

Navy Cross - 2 awards

Legion of Merit - 4 awards

Distinguished Flying Cross

Bronze Star Medal With Combat V

Air Medal - 6 Awards

Other Comments:
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 Ribbon Bar
Naval Aviator Wings
Command at Sea
Command Ashore

 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
USS Honolulu (CL-48)USS Arkansas (BB-33)Naval Aviation Preflight Indoctrination (API), NAS Pensacola, FLVS-41 Shamrocks
VS-42USS Ranger (CV-4)USS Wasp (CV-7)USS Yorktown (CV-5)
VF-3 TomcattersUSS Hornet (CV-8)VF-11 Sun DownersUS Navy
VF-171 AcesNaval Air Test Center (NATC) PAX, NAS Patuxent River (NASPAX)VX-5USS Salamonie (AO-26)
USS Ranger (CV-61)Carrier Division 4 (COMCARDIV 4)Naval Safety Center
  1938-1939, 110X, USS Honolulu (CL-48)
  1939-1940, 110X, USS Arkansas (BB-33)
  1940-1941, 139X, Naval Aviation Preflight Indoctrination (API), NAS Pensacola, FL
  1941-1941, 131X, VS-41 Shamrocks
  1941-1941, 131X, VS-42
  1941-1941, 131X, USS Ranger (CV-4)
  1941-1941, 131X, USS Wasp (CV-7)
  1941-1942, 131X, USS Yorktown (CV-5)
  1942-1942, 131X, VF-3 Tomcatters
  1942-1942, 131X, USS Hornet (CV-8)
  1942-1943, 131X, VF-11 Sun Downers
  1943-1944, 131X, COMFLTAIR
  1944-1945, 131X, CTF 38
  1945-1948, 131X, VF-171 Aces
  1948-1952, 131X, Naval Air Test Center (NATC) PAX, NAS Patuxent River (NASPAX)
  1958-1958, 131X, VX-5
  1958-1960, 131X, USS Salamonie (AO-26)
  1961-1962, 131X, USS Ranger (CV-61)
  1965-1968, 131X, Carrier Division 4 (COMCARDIV 4)
  1968-1971, 131X, Naval Safety Center
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1942-1942 Central Pacific Campaign (1941-43)/Battle of the Coral Sea
  1942-1942 Central Pacific Campaign (1941-43)/Battle of Midway
 Colleges Attended 
United States Naval Academy
  1934-1938, United States Naval Academy
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