Willis Lee was a distant relative of Gen. Robert E. Lee and the great-great-grandson of the third Attorney General of the United States, Charles Lee. With that background, Lee headed to the US Naval Academy, from which he graduated in 1908. While a midshipman in 1907, he became the only person to win the national championship in rifle and pistol shooting in the same year. He was a member of the Navy rifle teams of 1908, 1909, 1913, 1919, and 1930. Lee served during World War I but rose to the top of Navy officers during World War II. In 1941 he was appointed assistant chief of staff to the US fleet commander-in-chief and later served as commander of battleships for the Pacific fleet. With the exception of the Battle of Midway Island, he participated in all the major naval engagements in the Pacific during World War II. He commanded the task force which defeated the Japanese on Guadalcanal in 1942, a victory which was termed pivotal in the Pacific war. He was a Vice-Admiral at the time of his untimely death, just days before the signing of the Japanese surrender. Lee is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.