Lee, Willis Augustus Jr, a distant relative of Confederate General Robert Eward Lee, “Marble Man” died age 63 on 12-10-1870,
was born in the rural town of Natlee in Owen County, Kentucky on 11-05-1888. The son of Judge Willis Augustus Lee and Susan Arnold, he was known as “Mose” Lee to family and friends. He entered the U.S Naval Academy in 1904. While at the Naval academy, his Chinese-sounding last name, compounded by his fondness for the Far East earned him the nickname “Ching” Lee. Following graduation, Lee joined the academy’s rifle team twice. He was assigned to the battleship Idaho, from October 1908 to May 1909, before returning to the naval academy and re-joining the rifle team. From November 1909 until May 1910, Lee served aboard the protected cruiser New Orleans, and then transferred to the gunboat Helena. Upon being detached back to the United States, Lee re-joined the Academy shooting team a third time. In July 1913, Lee re-joined the Idaho, and later transferred to the battleship New Hampshire to participate in the occupation of Vera Cruz. Lee participated in 14 events at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp. He won 7 medals, 5 gold, 1 silver, and one bronze, all in team events.
Lee and Spooner ended the 1920 Olympics with 7 medals each, the most anyone had ever received in a single games. It would not be until Alexander Dityatin in the 1980 games that anyone would beat that record. Lee attended the Naval War College in the late 1920s, and was promoted to the rank of Captain in 1936. During the 1930s and early 1940s, Lee was several times assigned to the Fleet Training Division, commanded the light cruiser Concord, and served on the staff of Commander, Cruisers, Battle Force. In early 1942, following his promotion to the rank of Rear Admiral, Lee became Assistant Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet. Lee’s specialty in life was gunnery. At the age of 19 in 1907 “he became the only American to win both the US National High Power Rifle and Pistol championships in the same year.” In 1914 during the Vera Cruz campaign in Mexico he drew the fire of three enemy snipers, thereby exposing their positions and then shot them at long range. He understood the powerful guns of a battleship as an extension of the law of ballastics and adapted his expertise to the new age of technology. When Admiral Lee engaged IJN Admiral Kondo’s battleship Kirishima on the evening of 14-11-1942 in the waters off Guadalcanal, he became naval history’s first battleship commander to conduct a “gunfight” primarily by radar remote control. In August 1942, Rear Admiral Lee was sent to the Pacific to command Battleship Division Six, consisting of the battleships USS Washington and USS South Dakota. Flying his flag in the Washington, Lee engaged an IJN surface fleet under the command of Vice Admiral Nobutake Kondo, Kondo died age 66 on 19-01-1953, during the second night of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on the night of 14–15 November 1942. While riding in the battleship Washington, which served as his flagship during this sea-fight, Lee’s battleship decisively gunned the IJN battleship Kirishima into a wreck, resulting in her scuttling shortly afterwards. With 300 Imperial sailors still entombed within her hull, she slid into Ironbottom Sound leaving Admiral Lee’s flagship Washington America’s only battleship during World War II to sink an enemy battleship in a “one on one” gunfight. Lee was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions at the battle. Lee was promoted to Vice Admiral in 1944 and placed in charge of the Pacific Fleet’s fast battleships, as Commander, Battleships, Pacific Fleet. Bull Halsey presents Lee with the Navy Cross for his actions during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, circa January 1943.
In May 1945, he was sent to the Atlantic to command a special unit researching defenses against the threat of Japanese kamikaze planes.
Death and burial ground of Lee, Willis Augustus Jr “Ching”.
While serving in that position on 25-08-1945, Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee died suddenly after suffering a heart attack. He married Mabelle Allen Elspeth (1894–1949) on 14-07-1919. They had no children. Lee is buried with his wife Maybell, born Allen, who died age 55 in 1949, on Arlington National Cemetery, Section 6. Short by Major General, Commander 44th Artillery Division, General Beiderlinden, Major General, worked with Garand on the Development of the machinegun, Guy Drewry, Lieutenant General, Commander XIII Corps, Alan Cullom Gillem, Infantry Lieutenant General, Commander 1st Infantry Division, D-Day, Clarence Huebner and Major General, Chief Allied Military Government, Edgar Hume.
Cemetery location of Lee, Willis Augustus Jr “Ching”