William Daniel Leahy was born in Iowa in 1875 and his family soon moved to Wisconsin. He graduated from Ashland High School in 1892 and for the rest of his life considered Ashland his home town.
Leahy graduated from the Naval Academy and served in the Spanish-American War. He planned naval operations for U.S. interventions in Nicaragua (1912), Haiti (1916), and Mexico (1916). During World War I, he became friendly with Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Leahy was made Chief of the Bureau of Ordinance in 1927, rear admiral in 1930, and Chief of Naval Operations in 1937.
During the darkest hours of World War II in 1942, President Roosevelt appointed Leahy chief of staff to the commander-in-chief. Leahy's tact and resourcefulness made him a valuable aide in military and diplomatic undertakings, including the inter-Allied conferences at Tehran, Yalta, and Potsdam.
Admiral Leahy became the first American sailor, and the only Wisconsinite, to attain the five-star rank of Fleet Admiral. He died in 1959 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.