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Chester Nimitz - History

Chester Nimitz - History

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Chester Nimitz

1885- 1966

American Admiral

Admiral Chester William Nimitz was born on February 24, 1885 in Fredericksburg Texas. Nimitz was a graduate of the US Naval Academy, class of 1905. Franklin Roosevelt had the opportunity to become acquainted with him when Nimitz served as Chief of the Bureau of Navigation.

In December 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Nimitz was appointed commander of the US Pacific Fleet. He was a very effective commander, and led the US to victory in the Pacific. Nimitz received the Japanese surrender at the end of the war.

An aircraft carrier was subsequently named in his honor.

Nimitz was born to Chester William Nimitz Sr. and Catherine Vance (née Freeman) Nimitz at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, [4] while the couple, with their daughter Catherine Vance "Kate" (born the year before), lived at 415 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, and Nimitz Sr. was working on the USS Maumee at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. [5]

Nimitz attended the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, graduating with the class of 1936. [4]

Nimitz married Joan Leona Labern at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard on 18 June 1938. [6] She was born in León, Nicaragua in 1912 to British parents, [7] William Oscar Stonewall and Frances Mary (née Wells) Labern. [8] With her parents she returned to England at the outbreak of World War I in 1914, [9] and was raised in England. [10] Joan came to the United States in 1938 to study dentistry at the University of California Dental School in San Francisco, and met Chester at a cocktail party at Mare Island. [6] She made news in 1944 when she failed her test to become a United States citizen [7] two days later she did become an American citizen. [11]

The couple had three daughters, Frances Mary, [12] Elizabeth Joan, [12] and Sarah Catherine. [4] [13]

Commands Edit

  • Served aboard the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35)
  • Served aboard the submarine USS Sturgeon (SS-187) during the Philippines campaign (1941–1942)
  • Commanded the U.S. Navy Submarine USS Haddo and inflicted 14,756 tons of shipping losses upon the Imperial Japanese Navy during the period of August 22, 1944 – September 21, 1944 [14]
  • Commanded the U.S. Navy Submarine USS Sarda (SS-488)
  • Commanded Submarine Squadron 6 based in Norfolk, Virginia
  • Commanded the submarine tenderUSS Orion (AS-18) from August 11, 1956, to July 25, 1957

Chester Nimitz Jr. retired from the navy as rear admiral in 1957. He joined Texas Instruments, and spent four years there. He later joined Perkin-Elmer Corporation, a manufacturer of scientific instruments based in Norwalk, Connecticut. He became president, chief executive officer (CEO) and a director in 1965, and was elected chairman of the board in 1969, serving until retirement in 1980. [15] [16]

Nimitz was an honorary trustee and honorary member of the corporation of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. [16]

Death Edit

The health of Nimitz and his wife, Joan, deteriorated in their later years. Joan was blind, and Nimitz had lost 30 pounds due to a prolonged stomach disorder. He was also suffering from congestive heart failure. On January 2, 2002, Chester Nimitz Jr. committed voluntary suicide with his wife Joan by ingesting a quantity of sleeping pills in their home at a retirement residence in Needham, Massachusetts. [4] He left a note stating: [17]

Our decision was made over a considerable period of time and was not carried out in acute desperation. Nor is it the expression of a mental illness. We have consciously, rationally, deliberately and of our own free will taken measures to end our lives today because of the physical limitations on our quality of life placed upon us by age, failing vision, osteoporosis, back and painful orthopedic problems.

Nimitz and Joan are buried at Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. [18]


Charles Henry Nimitz, German merchant sailor and grandfather of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, was born in Bremen in Germany. He emigrated to the United States by way of South Carolina in 1844. In 1846, Nimitz moved to Fredericksburg with the initial settlers. In 1848, he married Sophie Dorothea Mueller, and nine of the couple's twelve children lived to adulthood. [2] Local trouble maker James P. Waldrip tried unsuccessfully to recruit Nimitz into Die Haengebande. [3] Charles Nimitz built the Nimitz Hotel in 1852, and deeded it over to his son Charles H. Nimitz, Jr., in 1906. Locals referred to it as the Steamboat Hotel because of the ship's bow front. The hotel had its own saloon and brewery, a ballroom that doubled as a theatre, a smokehouse, and a bath-house. [4] In its heyday, the hotel hosted such guests as Horace Greeley, Johnny Ringo, President Rutherford B. Hayes, General Robert E. Lee, General James Longstreet, General Phil Sheridan, William Sydney Porter and General Ulysses S. Grant. [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

Anna Henke Nimitz, the wife of his son Chester Bernard Nimitz became pregnant with their only child Chester William Nimitz. The senior Chester died before his son was born on February 24, 1885. Little Chester's grandfather Charles served as a father figure the first five years of his life. In 1890, the widow Nimitz married her husband's brother William Nimitz and moved with him to Kerrville where he managed the St. Charles Hotel. While still a teenager, Chester was accepted for enrollment in the United States Naval Academy, where he graduated seventh out of a class of 114. Chester Nimitz rose to the rank of Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Forces in World War II. Fleet Admiral Nimitz died February 20, 1966. [10]

The Nimitz Hotel was designated an historical marker in 1989, marker number 10089. [11]

The Admiral Nimitz Foundation was established in 1964 (as the Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz Naval Museum, Inc.) to support a museum honoring Fredericksburg's native son, Commander-in-Chief of Allied Forces, Pacific Ocean Area.

The hotel owned by Nimitz's grandfather Charles Henry Nimitz was restored to its original design and renamed the Admiral Nimitz Museum by an act of the Texas legislature in 1968. [12] The original intent was to focus only as a memorial to Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. [13] In 2000, the complex was renamed Admiral Nimitz State Historic Site – National Museum of the Pacific War and is dedicated exclusively to the Pacific Theater battles of World War II. [14] The conning tower and foc'sle of USS Pintado (SS-387) is at the main museum entrance. [15]

The Pacific Combat Zone is a re-creation of a Pacific island battlefield, and includes a Quonset Hut, a PT boat and base, Japanese tank, palm trees, and machine gun placements. Re-enactments, called Living History exhibits, are held throughout the year. [16] The Veterans' Walk of Honor and Memorial Wall can be found within the Memorial Courtyard. [17] Also located at the Pacific Combat Zone, the Quonset Hut now serves as the base for the museum's STEAM Lab.https://www.pacificwarmuseum.org/discover/field-trips/

On May 8, 1976, the 130th anniversary of the founding of Fredericksburg, the Japanese government gifted the museum with the Japanese Garden of Peace. The garden was designed by Taketora Saita as a replica of the private garden of Gensui The Marquis Tōgō (1848–1934), the main Imperial Japanese Navy commander in the Russo-Japanese War. [18] Fleet Admiral Nimitz personally admired the Marquis Tōgō, having previously helped to establish a war memorial to the Japanese admiral. [19] [20]

The outdoor Plaza of the Presidents was dedicated on September 2, 1995, the 50th anniversary of Fleet Admiral Nimitz' acceptance of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender aboard the USS Missouri (BB-63) . The plaza is a tribute to the ten United States Presidents who served during World War II: Franklin D. Roosevelt (Commander in Chief), Harry S Truman (Commander in Chief), General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower (Army), John F. Kennedy (Navy), Lyndon B. Johnson (Navy), Richard Nixon (Navy), Gerald Ford (Navy), Jimmy Carter (Navy), Ronald Reagan (Army) and George H. W. Bush (Navy). [21] [22]

George H.W. Bush cut the ribbon in 1991 for the $3 million gallery bearing his name. The George H.W. Bush Gallery is home to an I.J.N. Ko-hyoteki class midget submarine (which participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor), a Japanese Kawanishi N1K "Rex" floatplane, and an American North American B-25 Mitchell. In 1991, the land for the Bush Gallery was bought from H-E-B Grocery. [14] Money for the gallery was privately raised in the 1990s through the efforts of finance chairman Lee Bass and a board that included baseball star Nolan Ryan and Ernest Angelo, a former mayor of Midland. Admission tickets cover both museums. In addition, the museum is currently home to the PT boat PT-309. [23] [24]

Bush later reflected that "terrifying experiences" of war helped him to become a man: "I have often wondered why me, why was I spared when others died." [25]

On December 7, 2009, the museum hosted the Grand Reopening of the newly expanded George H. W. Bush Gallery where the second floor houses the Nimitz Education and Research Center. Former President George H. W. Bush his wife Barbara, along with Texas Governor Rick Perry, cut the ribbon. The ceremony was attended by survivors of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, and drew a crowd of 5,000 people. [26]

Historic Texans: Admiral Chester A. Nimitz

September 2, 1945 marked the formal end of World War II, as Admiral Chester A. Nimitz accepted Japan’s surrender on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

Nimitz was born and raised in Fredericksburg, Texas, about 80 miles dues west of the state capitol in Austin. Like many towns in the Texas Hill Country, Fredericksburg was founded by German settlers and was a quiet place for the most part until the 1940s, when the US entered the Second World War and Nimitz rose to fame as a brilliant military commander.

Nimitz’s rise is the stuff that great books are made of. His father died before he was ever born, and he was raised by his paternal grandfather, Charles Henry Nimitz, who taught him, “the sea, like life itself, is a stern taskmaster. The best way to get along with either is to learn all you can, then do your best and don’t worry, especially about things over which you have no control.”

Amazingly, Nimitz was nearly an Army man, but there were no appointments at West Point in the early 1900s. Instead he was appointed to the Navy by his local congressman and graduated seventh in the class of 1905.

Remarkably, Nimitz was given a reprimand just three years after graduating when his ship, the Decatur ran aground on a sand bar in the Philippines. A year later, he began serving as a teacher on the school ship USS Ranger, as the US added its first submarine flotilla in the 1910s.

His ability to understand submarines and his fluency in German made Nimitz a key figure in the US’ involvement in World War I, despite his youth. By the time World War II broke out more than 20 years later, he had risen to commander of Battle Division I, Battle Force, and was appointed Chief of the Bureau of Navigation.

A mere 10 days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Nimitz was selected as commander in chief of the US Pacific Fleet, doing so fittingly on top of a submarine. Despite the decimation of a huge portion of the fleet, Nimitz led a successful counter-attack that included victories at the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Battle of Midway, the Mariana Islands, and the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

Nimitz’s contributions to the country cannot, but his contributions to his hometown are far less well-known outside of the Hill Country.

In 1961, Nimitz, then Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson, who 13 years younger than Nimitz, grew up in nearby Johnson City about 30 miles east of Fredericksburg, and Konrad Adenauer, the first Chancellor of West Germany, traveled by helicopter to the Fredericksburg fairgrounds for a reception.

With so many of the 4,629 residents of Fredericksburg German, only Nimitz and Johnson gave speeches in English.

Just 2-1/2 years later, Johnson took over as president for the assassinated John F. Kennedy, and Fredericksburg was thrust back into the news as media descended on the area to size up the roots of their new commander-in-chief, with many of them staying at the Nimitz Hotel in Fredericksburg.

The influx of media and attention made Fredericksburg a trendy tourist spot, not just for those in San Antonio, Austin , and the like hoping for a weekend away from the big-city bustle, but for visitors from other states captivated by the tiny area that had produced the US’ top World War II admiral as well as its current president.

Seeking to capitalize on the influx of visitors, the Admiral Nimitz Foundation was established in 1964 to support a museum, with the hotel owned by his grandfather restored to its original design as a museum by the Texas legislature in 1968.

In 1995, on the 50th anniversary of Nimitz accepting the Japanese surrender, the Plaza of the Presidents opened up at the museum, commemorating the 10 US Presidents who served in World War II: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush.

Bush was on hand for the occasion as well as the 1991 opening of the George HW. Bush Gallery, which houses a Japanese midget submarine that participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In 2000, the complex got a huge overhaul, expanding it from just the Nimitz Museum to the Admiral Nimitz State Historic Site – National Museum of the Pacific War. One of the best attractions if the Pacific Combat Zone, which features recreations of a Pacific Island battlefield, along with a hut hospital a PT boat, a Japanese tank, machine gun placements, etc.

Most historians agree that the fighting in the Pacific, on very small purchases of land and against an opponent culturally bred not to surrender until the last man was dead, was some of the most intense of all time.

To give the general public some idea of that ferocity and intensity, the museum hosts “Living History” re-enactments throughout the year. For more information online, visit www.pacificwarmuseum.org.

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General Overviews

In his younger years, Chester Nimitz was characterized by his purposefulness and dedication to intense study. In his Navy career prior to World War II, he was known for his innovation, organizational prowess, and faculty for relating well to the people around him. As commander in chief of the Pacific Ocean Area, he was most respected for his leadership and decision-making ability. The most useful biographies of Nimitz stress these factors that shaped his career in the Navy. Elmer B. “Ned” Potter gives an excellent perspective of the entire career of Fleet Admiral (FADM) Nimitz, including important insights on his leadership during key battles, in Nimitz (Potter 1976). Nimitz is a complete and well-researched book that includes many insights on such things as intelligence and its relationship to strategy and operational details that do not exist in other secondary sources. Morison 1947–1962 provides excellent context for the battles of the Pacific war that help to explain Admiral Nimitz’s strategic analysis and decisions as the war progressed. Reynolds 1978 gives a concise and focused overview of the life and career of Nimitz. Pfannes and Salamone 1983 provides brief but useful biographical information on the life and career of FADM Nimitz. Hoyt 1970 places Nimitz within the context of the great naval leaders of World War II in the Pacific. Potter and Nimitz 1981 provides a complete survey of the important naval battles of history from the earliest battles recorded through the original 1960 publication date. Baer 1994 provides an overview of the political and strategic situation leading up to and during World War II that had to be considered in Nimitz’s decision processes in addition to a strictly military focus. Smith 2006 evaluates the key decisions made by Admiral Nimitz in fighting the Pacific war, rating his performance as a strategic and operational thinker in that war. Fleet Admiral Nimitz’s diary for World War II in the Pacific—his Gray Book—is available online as an authenticated chronicle of the war and his correspondence with and direction of senior subordinates.

Baer, George W. One Hundred Years of Sea Power: The U.S. Navy, 1890–1990. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994.

Provides an excellent overview of the political and strategic situation faced by Admiral Nimitz on assuming his position as commander in chief, Pacific.

Hoyt, Edwin P. How They Won the War in the Pacific: Nimitz and His Admirals. New York: Weybright & Talley, 1970.

Provides useful chronological overview of the Pacific War and how FADM Nimitz interacted with his principal commanders in conducting it.

Morison, Samuel Eliot. History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. 15 vols. Boston: Little Brown, 1947–1962.

Volumes 3–9 and 12–14 apply to the Pacific War. Considered by many the definitive source on Navy activities in World War II. This source was written close to the end of World War II, and while it is replete with excellent source material, errors do exist in it, since it is based on incomplete documentation. It remains a valuable resource, however, and it includes many considerations of the war not offered elsewhere. Reprinted in 2001 by Castle Books, Edison, NJ.

Nimitz, Chester W., Fleet Admiral. Gray Book. American Naval Records Society.

The so-called Gray Book (because of the color of its cover) represents FADM Nimitz’s diary for the Pacific Command from 7 December 7 1941, until two days before the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay (31 August 1945). This compilation of Nimitz correspondence with major commanders is called “Admiral Nimitz command summary, running estimate and summary, 1941- 1945.” It is the most authoritative source on the Pacific war available anywhere.

Pfannes, Charles E., and Victor A. Salamone. The Great Admirals of World War II. Vol. 1, The Americans. New York: Kensington, 1983.

Provides good and highly focused, but limited, information on Nimitz and his conduct during the Pacific War.

Potter, Elmer B. Nimitz. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1976.

Well-researched and complete documentation of the life and Navy career of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz including personal anecdotes, detailed presentation of wartime decision process, and interaction with major commanders during key battles.

Potter, E. B., and Chester W. Nimitz, Fleet Admiral. Sea Power: A Naval History. 2d ed. Annapolis, MD: US Naval Institute Press, 1981.

A classic and well-researched treatment of naval and maritime warfare throughout history. Sections on World War II in the Pacific are excellent and concise. This is a standard text for courses in maritime history. It also gives insights into the depth of historical knowledge on war at sea that Admiral Nimitz brought to his position as commander in chief, Pacific. Originally published in 1960.

Reynolds, Clark G. Famous American Admirals. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1978.

Written by an expert on World War II in the Pacific Theater. Provides good and highly focused, but limited, information on Nimitz and his conduct of the Pacific War.

Smith, Douglas V. Carrier Battles: Command Decision in Harm’s Way. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2006.

Considers Fleet Admiral Nimitz’s leadership and decision making in key World War II battles.

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Admiral Chester Nimitz and the “Silent Service” in World War II

The anniversary Chester Nimitz’s birth came recently, February 24, 1885. Nimitz is one of America’s greatest military leaders though his contributions are often not fully appreciated. The scope and complexity of World War II was unlike any previous conflict. Top commanders were as much administrators as strategists. Like Dwight D. Eisenhower, Nimitz never held a battle command. Their success came from efficient management of a vast and diverse array of warships, aircraft, and land forces. Carrier planes made for sensational headlines in World War II, but submarines made a far larger contribution than is generally known. With a lengthybackground in submarines, Nimitz used the “Silent Service” very effectively. Submarines could not achieve victory alone, but the effective combination of surface fleets and submarines resulted a war winning strategy.

When thinking about the Pacific Theater in World War II, the first image that comes to mind is usually an aircraft carrier and rightly so. Much of the footage that survives the war involves carriers and planes. Seeing US carriers moving closer to Japan provided the US public with tangible evidence of progress towards victory. Submarines could not accommodate reporters or cameras and frequently operated behind enemy lines. Highlighting their activities was impractical and potentially dangerous.

A Gato Class sub sinking a Japanese vessel at night in Japanese waters

The Japanese sank most US battleships in the Pacific on December 7, 1941. Losing the battleship fleet would have proved fatal in an earlier era. In their first sneak attack in 1904, the Japanese sank Russia’s Asiatic battleship fleet before declaring war. The Russians never recovered and lost the Russo-Japanese War. The US Navy did not suffer the same fate because US carriers were not at Pearl Harbor and because they featured a revolutionary new weapon. Though only invented 38 years before Pearl Harbor, the airplane had blossomed into a truly amazing innovation. The first airplanes were slowwith a limited range. By 1941, the Japanese Zeros that led the Pearl Harbor attack had a maximum speed of 350 mph, a ceiling of 30,000 feet with a range of over 1,000 miles.

Japanese Zeros over Pearl Harbor

World War II saw the advent of a new form of naval warfare. Airplanes surpassed battleships as the primary naval weapons, particularly in the great expanse of the Pacific Ocean. At Pearl Harbor, the Japanese Navy sank or damaged 17 US warships without coming within 50 miles of Hawaii. Naval ships no longer had to sight each other to inflict destruction.

The shock and destruction at Pearl Harbor threw the US into turmoil. President Franklin Roosevelt immediately brought in new leadership promoting George Marshall to command of the US Army and Admiral Earnest King to the Navy. Admiral King needed an efficient problem solver to restore the decimated Pacific Fleet. He turned to an officer he had known for decades, Chester Nimitz. King’s choice was not immediately obvious. Unlike most prominent naval officers, Nimitz was a submariner. Early in his career he ran a destroyer aground in the Philippines in 1908. He was reprimanded and shunted to the less prestigious fledgling submarine arm of the Navy.

The Confederate H. L. Hunley was the first submarine to sink an enemy vessel, the USS Housatonic in Charleston Harbor in 1863. The Hunley was hand powered by a crew of eight

Submarines have existed for hundreds of years but mostly as a novelty. Originally powered by hand, they had limited speed and range. The Industrial Revolution changed that. In 1863, a Frenchman invented the first steam powered submarine. The design was impractical and unwieldy underwater but started the ball rolling. With electrical engines emerging, better submarine designs came into being, but it was the internal combustion engine and development of batteries that made them practical. In the 1890s, American John Holland created a submarine that used a diesel engine on the surface and ran on a battery powered electrical engine underwater. The US purchased Holland’s design in 1900. The British invented a self-propelled torpedo in 1866 which eventually gave submarines a lethal weapon.

Though the early submarine service had limited opportunities for advancement in the more prestigious surface fleet, Nimitz made the best of the situation becoming an expert on submarines and diesel engines. Timing and luck was on his side. By 1913, the Navy wanted to develop diesel engines for surface ships and Nimitz was the best qualified to head up the project. World War I proved providential as well. The German Kriegsmarine demonstrated the potency of submarines. The US Navy began pouring more resources into development and Nimitz benefitted becoming commander of the Pacific submarine fleet which led to several surface fleet commands in the interwar years including command of a battleship division aboard the USS Arizona in the late 1930s.

Admiral Nimitz, Admiral King and Rear Admiral Ray Spruance

In 1939, Nimitz received appointment to a desk job with the Bureau of Navigation. Though he did not relish a non-combat ommand, being moved off the USS Arizona may have saved his career and life. The Arizona was sunk at Pearl Harbor with most of its crew. Even if Nimitz had survived, he likely would have lost his command. Many officers in office when the Pearl Harbor attack took place were replaced. As a former submariner himself, new Navy chief Admiral King knew and respected Nimitz’ command abilities and temperament. He appointed Nimitz to command the Pacific Fleet.

By necessity, Nimitz engaged in a defensive strategy to preserve his warships still afloat while awaiting the arrival of new generations of advanced naval vessels still under construction in US shipyards. Nimitz focused on low risk raids on Japanese bases and supply lines. The Japanese became lazy in updating their radio codes which American code breakers deciphered in April of 1942. Learning that the Japanese planned to invade Midway Island, Nimitz saw his chance. He deployed his three carriers north of Midway. Carrier borne planes surprised the Japanese Fleet sinking four of their aircraft carriers and repulsing the invasion. The loss crippled the Japanese Navy which remained on the defensive for the remainder of the war.

The USS Lexington is sunk by Japanese planes in the Battle of the Coral Sea, May 8, 1942. For the first time in a naval engagement, neither fleet sighted the other or came within 100 miles of each other. All damage was inflicted by carrier aircraft. US carrier based Dauntless Dive Bombers strike a devastating blow at the Battle of Midway.

After Midway, the US went on the offensive beginning with the Marine landings on Guadalcanal. Rather than invade every Japanese occupied island, US forces progressed towards Japan bypassing many of the strongly garrisoned islands. Japanese troops could be isolated and starved without actually having to fight them directly. American carriers supported land battles at Guadalcanal, Saipan, Iwo Jima and others. The US Navy fought sea battles in Guadalcanal that resulted in losses to both sides. US industry soon replaced losses with greater numbers of more advanced vessels. Japan’s smaller, inefficient shipyards with shortages in raw materials could not keep pace. The decisive victory in the Philippines Sea ended meaningful Japanese naval participation in the war after June, 1944 . Carrier borne aircraft have received due credit for their prominent role, but US submarines made important contributions as well.

In spite of the great success of the surface fleet at the Battle of the Philippines Sea, US subs sank two of the three Japanese carriers lost in the battle. Over the course of the war, the “Silent Service” sank eight of the twenty Japanese carriers lost.

By late 1942, advanced Gato Class submarines came into service. Known as the “Silent Service,” submarines served as scouts for US fleets, raided Japanese supply lines, and hunted stray surface warships. Submarines began to take a toll on Japanese shipping sinking 180 Japanese vessels, mostly merchant vessels, amounting to 725,000 gross tons in 1942. Initially submarines suffered from a defective torpedo design which limited early results. Correcting the defect generated improved the torpedo and its accuracy and lethality. In 1943, the “Silent Service” took a greater toll sinking 22 Japanese warships and 296 merchant vessels for a total of 1.335 million gross tons.

Periscope view of the sinking of the Japanese destroyer Yamakaze from the submarine USS Nautilus.

As the first “stealth” weapons, US submarines could operate where the surface fleet could not: in the waters around Japan and in the supply lanes behind Japanese lines. As an island, Japan was totally dependent on merchant ships to supply raw materials for the war manufacturing and to feed their population.

Throughout 1944, more submarines, better commanders and improved tactics fundamentally altered the conduct of the war. US subs began operating in all Japanese supply lanes and in the Japanese home waters. Supplies slowed to a trickle starving Japanese garrisons nd the industrial base . Japanese occupiers in 1944 morosely joked that they could walk from Singapore to Tokyo by stepping on US periscopes. The Japanese could neither evacuate nor reinforce their troops . Remaining Japanese warships and merchant ships were rendered essentially useless by the end of 1944 as US subs interdicted nearly oil supplies from the Asian mainland.

Periscope view of a torpedoed Japanese merchant vessel sinking.

By war’s end, US submarines sank 1,150 merchant ships totaling 4.8 million gross tons representing 45% of the total losses. The Japanese merchant marine ceased to function by early 1945. Those vessels not sunk were trapped, they could not risk sailing to or from Japan. Starvation and lack of essentials rapidly increased throughout the last six months of the war. The “Silent Service” also sank 201 Japanese warships (27%), more than the 161 sunk by carrier planes. US subs were so wildly successful, their kill rate actually declined in 1945 for a lack of targets. See Appendix I below for summary of Japanese losses.

By the end of World War II, Nimitz’ Pacific Fleet had rendered the Japanese Navy irrelevant and halted Japanese war production and supply. German U-boats often overshadow their US counterparts, but the “Silent Service” achieved what the Germans could not against Britain. Clearly, the submarines could not win the war alone. US carrier-based fleets provided support for island invasions that subs could not. However, submarines and Nimitz’ integrated strategy deserves more attention.

After the war, Nimitz continued to play an important role in the Navy. Shortly after the war he said: “the Navy of the future will be capable of launching missiles from surface vessels and submarines.” Nimitz backed the development of the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear powered warship and submarine launched in 1958. When he died in 1966, Nimitz may have done more than any other person to build the US Navy into the world’s most powerful and diverse naval power.

Statistics on Losses Inflicted by US Military Forces on the Empire of Japan in World War II

Naval Vessels Merchant Vessels
Sinking Agent No. Tons % No. Tons %
Submarines 201 540,192 27% 1,113 4,779,902 49%
Surface Craft 112 277,817 15% 11 43,349 1 %
Army Aircraft 70 62,165 10% 240 639,667 10 %
Navy Aircraft 172 724,638 447 1,608,959 19 %
Carrier-Based 161 711,236 22% 359 1,390,241 15%
Land-Based 11 13,402 1% 88 218,718 4%
Army, Navy, Marine Aircraft combined 9 48,750 1% 23 114,306 2%
736 2,378,200 2,281 8,795,142
Total Vessels
No. Tons %
Sinking Agent 1,314 5,320,094 44%
Submarines 123 321,166 4%
Surface Craft 310 701,832 10%
Army Aircraft 619 2,333,597 21%
Navy Aircraft 520 2,101,477 17%
Carrier-Based 99 232,120 3%
Land-Based 32 163,056 1%
Army, Navy, Marine Aircraft combined
736 3,017 2,496,653

Appendix I: US Naval History and Heritage Command

Japanese Zeros over Pearl Harbor courtesy of Google.

The H. L. Hunley by Conrad Wise Chapman courtesy of the Museum of the Confederacy.

Chester William Nimitz: 26 Fast Facts

Admiral Chester William Nimitz contributed to the success of the United States Navy from his beginnings at Annapolis 1905 to this very day. His accomplishments, contributions, and 61 years of service led to advancements in command strategy, naval education, good will measures, and the engineering and building of gas, diesel, and nuclear engines for navy vessels – especially submarines.

His leadership during WWII won the war in the Pacific and on September 2, 1945, Nimitz signed for the United States when Japan formally surrendered on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

The former Nimitz Hotel now serves as the Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, TX

Chester William Nimitz was born in Fredericksburg, TX in 1885 – six months after his own father’s death.

His primary male role model was his hardy, sea loving grandfather, who had been a German Merchant Marine, one of the first Texas Rangers, and a Confederate captain. His grandfather’s experiences and advice were influential in the building of Nimitz’s character and achievements. His grandfather told him “the sea – like life itself – is a stern taskmaster. The best way to get along with either is to learn all you can, then do your best and don’t worry – especially about things over which you have no control.”

His childhood home was the Nimitz Hotel in Fredericksburg, TX which was built with the essence and elements of a ship so that Grandfather Nimitz would feel connected to the sea he missed so much. The young Chester had as his home and playground a ship’s bridge and a pilot house that looked out not over the sea, but out on the Texas hills.


Nimitz’s first choice of school was West Point, and he applied at the age of 15. Unfortunately, there were no appointments available. On the advice of his Congressman, he studied hard for the one appointment available at Annapolis. He graduated from the Naval Academy 7 th in his class of 114 in 1905. He had left high school to attend and did not receive a high school diploma until decades later when he was an admiral.

His classmates said of him that he was “a man of cheerful yesterdays and confident tomorrows”.

Commanding the Sea
With General MacArthur and President Roosevelt

By 1908, he was an ensign that had served on four ships before running the fifth, the Decatur, aground on a sand bar in the Philippines. He was court martialed and received a letter of reprimand.

A fast learner, he started instruction in the First Submarine Flotilla in January of 1909 and had command of the flotilla by May. He also had the command of the USS Plunger, the USS Snapper, and the USS Narwhal by November of 1910. By the end of 1911, he was Commander 3 rd Submarine Division Atlantic Torpedo Fleet.

Over the next several years, Nimitz proved himself through several endeavors. In 1918, during WWI, he was appointed Chief of Staff to Admiral Samuel S. Robinson – the Commander of the Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet – and was awarded a Letter of Commendation for meritorious service. That October, he was appointed a senior member of the Board of Submarine Design.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, he served on various naval vessels and was appointed the chief of the Bureau of Navigation in 1939.

On December 17 th , 1941 (ten days after Pearl Harbor), Roosevelt promoted him to Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet with the rank of Admiral.

When the Pacific theater was divided into three areas of command in 1942, Admiral Nimitz was given command over all sea, air, and ground units of the Pacific Ocean Areas as their Commander in Chief.

Admiral Nimitz was victorious in the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Battle of Midway, and the Solomon Islands Campaign.

An Act of Congress in 1944 recognized his contributions and created the grade of Fleet Admiral which would be the highest rank in the Navy and to which President Roosevelt promoted Nimitz the day following that act.

In 1945 he was named Commander in Chief of the United States Fleet.

Signing the Japanese Instrument of Surrender aboard the USS Missouri

When Nimitz was first married, before WWI, he and his wife spent time in Germany and Belgium where he was educated on the building of diesel engines. He used that training to build the diesel engines of the Maumee when he returned to the U.S., becoming the executive and engineer officer of that vessel. It was the first diesel engine used in a surface Navy vessel.

The Maumee, with Nimitz on board, was the first vessel to conduct underway refuelings. It served as a refueling ship for Navy destroyers on their way across the Atlantic during WWI.

While bolstering his education with naval command training at the Navy War College in the 1920s, Nimitz worked on a hypothetical plan for how to win engagements in a Pacific War. That plan was later used in the Pacific Theater during WWII.

Nimitz helped win the war with not only battle strategy, but maintenance plans – by creating forward repair stations and maintenance squadrons.

During WWII, he organized his single fleet into separate “staff” with supporting directives, so that while one did this, the other could do that. By having one staff commanding and the other planning upcoming assaults, the Japanese were continuously deluded into thinking the Navy fleet was much larger. This ingenious plan led to the future honing of command procedures.

USS Nimitz

Admiral Nimitz was the US signer of the peace treaty with Japan after their surrender in WWII aboard the battleship Missouri.

His influence, expert knowledge of submarines, and support of Captain Hyman G. Rickover’s proposal for a nuclear submarine led to the building of the first nuclear powered submarine, the USS Nautilus.

He was the last officer to ever serve as Fleet Admiral, he was Chairman of the Presidential Commission on Internal Security and Individual Rights, a roving ambassador for the United Nations, the first professor of Naval Science at the University of California, a regent of the University of California, and in retirement was Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy in the Western Sea Frontier.

Admiral Nimitz submitted an affidavit to the Nuremberg Trials supporting unrestricted submarine warfare which both he and German Admiral Karl Donitz had employed during the war. This affidavit may have been one of the reasons Donitz was only required to serve 10 years.

He won more awards and received more decorations than can be listed here, including several Gold Stars. Roosevelt declared October 5 th “Nimitz Day”. He was present for a parade in his honor on that day in 1945 and on October 17 th , 1964 on “Nimitz Day” at the University of California.

Nimitz participated in fund raising to help restore the Japanese Imperial Navy battleship, the Mikasa, with the intention of restoring goodwill with Japan.

Nimitz is featured on a United States stamp and several things have been named after him including ships, schools, foundations, museums, freeways, military institutions, hills, summits, a glacier, musical compositions, eight schools, and even the town of Nimitz, WV.

Pearl Harbor What If: Say Admiral Chester W. Nimitz Had Been in Charge

Would World War II have taken a different course had Admiral Chester W. Nimitz been in charge at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese hammer blow fell? Almost assuredly.

Here's What You Need to Remember: In all likelihood, then, U.S. naval forces would have been better prepared to defend themselves on December 7 than they were under Kimmel’s stewardship. If they were—if they put up a spirited fight and avoided massive losses of life and ships—then the hypothetical CINCPAC Nimitz may have escaped the fate that befell CINCPAC Kimmel in real life.

Would World War II have taken a different course had Admiral Chester W. Nimitz been in charge at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese hammer blow fell? Almost assuredly. History may have followed a more positive trajectory had U.S. forces on Oahu been prepared for an aerial assault. Or it may have turned out worse—perhaps far, far worse.

That’s because individual leadership matters. It matters a great deal whether a Nimitz or an Admiral Husband Kimmel superintends grand endeavors such as naval warfare and postwar peacemaking.

Believe it or not, the claim that individuals count fuels an age-old argument within the ivory tower. Seventy years ago T. S. Eliot heralded the study of Greek history and political life because it deals with compact city-states for the most part. Writes Eliot, the classics have to do with “a small area, with men rather than masses, and with the human passions of individuals rather than with those vast impersonal forces which in our modern society are a necessary convenience of thought, and the study of which tends to obscure the study of human beings.”

The ancients accented the human factor—which helps explain their lasting allure. We see people like ourselves living in unfamiliar times and combating what often look like unendurable stresses. Perchance we learn from antiquity. Now, vast impersonal forces—geography, economics, demographics, and on and on—exist. And they’re important beyond a doubt. That’s why the masters of politics and strategy are so vehement about acquaintanceship with the surroundings. Florentine philosopher-statesman Niccolò Machiavelli, to name one, deems conforming to the times—and adapting to keep up with them—a cornerstone of republican or princely rule.

Sovereigns who fall out of tune with the times expose themselves to dire peril. You seldom read this in these pixels, but Karl Marx may have said it best: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” Vast impersonal forces may try to sweep us along to our destiny, and they certainly bound and constrain our actions. Yet we need not yield to them in full. We get a say.

Who accomplishes most while working within the boundaries imposed by impersonal forces is the best leader.

Whether Kimmel or Nimitz was commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, then, is no idle question. Nor is it a flight of fancy. As biographer E. B. Potter recalls, Nimitz was offered CINCPAC early in 1941, after President Franklin Roosevelt deposed Admiral James O. Richardson from the post. Yet Nimitz turned it down. He was serving in a plum job at the time as the overseer of the U.S. Navy’s Bureau of Navigation. Accepting, furthermore, would have vaulted him over candidates senior to him. He refused the appointment to avoid embittering long-serving officers with their sense of entitlement.

Such are the vagaries of flag-officer promotions.

To derive value from this foray into alt-history, consider how U.S. naval history may have changed had Chester Nimitz accepted appointment as CINCPAC in early 1941, as he well could have done, and how history may have changed after the Japanese attack. In effect that means subtracting Kimmel’s contributions, virtues, and vices from history leading up to December 7 and postulating what Nimitz would have added to the mix. And it means speculating about whether Nimitz would have been cashiered—and pilloried—the way Kimmel was after Japan struck. If he was, another CINCPAC would have taken his place—perhaps prosecuting operations under a different philosophy heading into 1942. Kimmel himself might have gotten the nod.

Let’s extrapolate from what we know. A few things stand out from studying Nimitz’s life. To name one, he had a bit of Alice in Wonderland’s White Rabbit in his temperament, namely a bias against impulsive action. (The Rabbit famously upbraided Alice: “Don’t just do something, stand there!”) As historian Samuel Morison recalls, Nimitz was “a fortunate appointment” when he took over the Pacific Fleet after Pearl Harbor. He was “calm in demeanor,” and “had the prudence to wait through a lean period to do nothing rash for the sake of doing something.” At the same time, says Morison, he displayed “the courage to take necessary risks, and the wisdom to select, from a variety of intelligence and opinions, the correct strategy to defeat Japan.”

So Nimitz was calm, prudent, and cautious, and he listened to and heeded counsel from others. Kimmel disregarded disturbing information such as indications that the Imperial Japanese Navy had improvised shallow-water torpedoes able to run within Pearl Harbor rejected deploying torpedo nets to guard battleships’ sides and took lightly the (admittedly vague) “war warning” that issued forth from Washington on November 27, instructing Pacific commanders to “execute an appropriate defensive deployment” as a precursor to war. The idea that Nimitz would have done the same beggars the imagination.

In all likelihood, then, U.S. naval forces would have been better prepared to defend themselves on December 7 than they were under Kimmel’s stewardship. If they were—if they put up a spirited fight and avoided massive losses of life and ships—then the hypothetical CINCPAC Nimitz may have escaped the fate that befell CINCPAC Kimmel in real life. He may have kept his job once the political uproar over the attack subsided. History may have unfolded more or less as it did. Things may even have gone better for America than they did, with a greater fraction of the fleet preserved for action, and with continuity of leadership in Honolulu.

Heavy surface combatants could have joined the 1942 carrier raids on Japanese-held Pacific islands—distracting the IJN from its conquests in Southeast Asia, cutting Japan’s navy down to size, and readying the American armada for a transpacific counteroffensive.

Suppose not, though. Perhaps Congress and the American people would have gone on the hunt for senior leaders’ scalps no matter the circumstances. If so, Nimitz may have gotten the Kimmel treatment, expelled from his post. Someone else would have shown up to take charge of the Pacific Fleet late in December 1941. Suppose Kimmel got the call, and the two historical figures in effect traded places. How would the Pacific War have unfolded had CINCPAC Kimmel made and executed strategy in 1942?

Edward Miller, the historian of War Plan Orange, does not play what-if, but he does hint that Kimmel would have been a disaster had he wielded command from 1942 on. Miller notes that Kimmel had a pedestrian understanding of naval strategy coupled with an insatiable lust for a Pacific Trafalgar. He was the archetypal battleship officer, moreover, exhibiting little appreciation for carrier aviation except as an auxiliary to the surface battle fleet. Aircraft carriers were for surveillance and targeting in his view, while battlewagons remained the chief repository of combat power.

Miller ascribes Kimmel’s failures in real life to his desire to be America’s Lord Horatio Nelson, an officer who swept enemies from the sea in epic battles. Yet he was out of step with the times, unsuited to the coming air age at sea. Machiavelli would nod knowingly. In all likelihood his tenure at CINCPAC would have been a short one—even if untainted by disaster at Pearl Harbor. A glory hound with an average understanding of trends in naval warfare would be prone to underperform as naval supremo.

To be fair to both of these officers, Machiavelli disparages individuals’ capacity to change, the Nimitzes as well as the Kimmels. They cannot master their natures, contends the Florentine scribe. In fact, he declares that republics have to change out people to change direction. They have to find new blood suited to new times.

Machiavelli may take his critique too far, but it is fair that it takes a jolt to goad individuals into change. What we know of Chester Nimitz’s wartime leadership comes from after the jolt administered to the U.S. Navy by Pearl Harbor. He wouldn’t have benefited from that catalyst as our hypothetical prewar CINCPAC, and thus he may not have showed the same sterling qualities he showed after garnering the job in real life. Contrariwise, it is conceivable that Pearl Harbor would have stunned Husband Kimmel into new flexibility of character. Seeing the fleet on which your heroic vision of yourself depends wounded gravely will do that for you.

Even so—even if Kimmel found new sobriety in the wake of the Japanese onslaught—it’s doubtful he would have overcome what Miller terms his “mundane” gift for strategy in a few short weeks. Nor would the IJN have transformed Kimmel into a master of naval aviation, even by dint of their aerial onslaught. Changing your temperament, however hard, is easier than reinventing your intellectual capacity and education on the fly. There’s little sign Kimmel was the rare individual who could pull it off.

The Chester Nimitz Story

Chester Nimitz, Sr. was a fleet admiral of the United States Navy. He played a major role in the naval history of World War II as Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas, commanding Allied air, land, and sea forces during World War II.

Nimitz was the leading US Navy authority on submarines. Qualified in submarines during his early years, he later oversaw the conversion of these vessels’ propulsion from gasoline to diesel, and then later was key in acquiring approval to build the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus, whose propulsion system later completely superseded diesel-powered submarines in the US. He also, beginning in 1917, was the Navy’s leading developer of underway replenishment techniques, the tool which during the Pacific war would allow the US fleet to operate away from port almost indefinitely. The chief of the Navy’s Bureau of Navigation in 1939, Nimitz served as Chief of Naval Operations from 1945 until 1947. He was the United States’ last surviving officer who served in the rank of fleet admiral.

Ten days after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Nimitz was selected by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to be commander-in-chief, United States Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT). He was promoted to the rank of admiral, effective December 31, 1941. Nimitz immediately departed Washington for Hawaii and took command in a ceremony on the top deck of the submarine Grayling. The change of command ceremony would normally have taken place aboard a battleship, but every battleship in Pearl Harbor had been either sunk or damaged during the attack. Assuming command at the most critical period of the war in the Pacific, Admiral Nimitz organized his forces to halt the Japanese advance, despite the shortage of ships, planes, and supplies. He had a significant advantage in that the United States had cracked the Japanese diplomatic naval code and had made progress on the naval code JN-25. The Japanese had kept radio silence before the attack on Pearl Harbor, but now events were moving so rapidly that they had to rely on coded radio messages that they did not realize were being read in Hawaii.

On March 24, 1942, the newly formed US-British Combined Chiefs of Staff issued a directive designating the Pacific theater an area of American strategic responsibility. Six days later, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) divided the theater into three areas: the Pacific Ocean Areas, the Southwest Pacific Area (commanded by General Douglas MacArthur), and the Southeast Pacific Area. The JCS designated Nimitz as “Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas”, with operational control over all Allied units (air, land, and sea) in that area.

Nimitz, in Hawaii, and his superior Admiral Ernest King, the Chief of Naval Operations, in Washington, rejected the plan of General Douglas MacArthur to advance on Japan through New Guinea and the Philippines and Formosa. Instead they proposed an island-hopping plan that would allow them to bypass most of the Japanese strength in the Central Pacific until they reached Okinawa. President Roosevelt compromised, giving both MacArthur and Nimitz their own theaters. The two Pacific theaters were favored, to the dismay of generals George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower, who favored a Germany-first strategy. King and Nimitz provided MacArthur with some naval forces, but kept most of the carriers. However, when the time came to plan an invasion of Japan, MacArthur was given overall command.

Nimitz faced superior Japanese forces at the crucial defensive actions of the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway. The Battle of the Coral Sea, while a loss in terms of total damage suffered, resulted in the strategic success of turning back a Japanese invasion of Port Moresby on the island of Papua–New Guinea. Two Japanese carriers were temporarily taken out of action in the battle, which would deprive the Japanese of their use in the Midway operation that shortly followed. The Navy’s intelligence team figured that the Japanese would be attacking Midway, so Nimitz moved all his available forces to the defense. The severe losses in Japanese carriers at Midway affected the balance of naval air power during the remainder of 1942, and was crucial in neutralizing Japanese offensive threats in the South Pacific. Naval engagements during the Battle of Guadalcanal left both forces severely depleted. However, with the allied advantage in land-based air power, the results were sufficient to secure Guadalcanal. The US and allied forces then undertook to neutralize remaining Japanese offensive threats with the Solomon Islands campaign and the New Guinea Campaign, while building capabilities for major fleet actions. In 1943, Midway became a forward submarine base, greatly enhancing US capabilities against Japanese shipping.

In terms of combat, 1943 was a relatively quiet year, but it proved decisive inasmuch as Nimitz gained the materiel and manpower needed to launch major fleet offensives to destroy Japanese power in the central Pacific region. This drive opened with the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign from November 1943 to February 1944, followed by the destruction of the strategic Japanese base at Truk Lagoon, and the Marianas campaign that brought the Japanese homeland within range of new strategic bombers. Nimitz’s forces inflicted a decisive defeat on the Japanese fleet in the Battle of the Philippine Sea (June 19–20, 1944), which allowed the capture of Saipan, Guam, and Tinian. His Fleet Forces isolated enemy-held bastions on the central and eastern Caroline Islands and secured in quick succession Peleliu, Angaur, and Ulithi. In the Philippines, his ships destroyed much of the remaining Japanese naval power at the Battle of Leyte Gulf, October 24 to 26, 1944. With the loss of the Philippines, Japan’s energy supply routes from Indonesia came under direct threat, crippling their war effort.

By Act of Congress, passed on December 14, 1944, the rank of fleet admiral — the highest rank in the Navy — was established. The next day President Franklin Roosevelt appointed Nimitz to that rank. Nimitz took the oath of that office on December 19, 1944.

In January 1945, Nimitz moved the headquarters of the Pacific Fleet forward from Pearl Harbor to Guam for the remainder of the war. Nimitz’s wife remained in the continental United States for the duration of the war, and did not join her husband in Hawaii or Guam. In 1945, Nimitz’s forces launched successful amphibious assaults on Iwo Jima and Okinawa and his carriers raided the home waters of Japan. In addition, Nimitz also ordered the Air Force to mine the Japanese ports and waterways by air with B-29 Superfortresses in a successful mission called Operation Starvation, which severely interrupted the Japanese logistics.

The surrender of Japan aboard USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, September 2, 1945: Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, representing the United States, signs the instrument of surrender. (Source: Wikipedia)

Bridges: Nimitz helped lead America through some dark days

Chester Nimitz was a Texan ready to serve his country in its darkest days. Through clever planning and fearless determination, Nimitz led naval forces in the Pacific to victory in World War II.

Chester William Nimitz was born in Fredericksburg in 1885. His father died just before he was born, and he was raised by his mother and paternal grandfather, Charles Nimitz. The elder Nimitz was a German immigrant and had been a sailor before he settled in Texas in the 1850s. He also had served as a captain in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He had a profound impact on the younger Nimitz.

As he reached adulthood, he wanted to serve his country and applied for admission to the U. S. Military Academy at West Point. His congressman convinced him to apply to the U. S. Naval Academy, where he graduated seventh in his class in 1905. He served with distinctions on a number of battleships and destroyers after his graduation, mostly serving in the Pacific fleet. In 1909, he was assigned to serve with the navy&rsquos first submarine fleet and helped with the construction of the ships and training of the earliest crews.

During World War I, he served as chief engineer on a destroyer and later served as an aide to Adm. Samuel Robison, commander of the Atlantic submarine fleet. After the war, he was given his first command, the cruiser USS Chicago. In 1926, he established the navy&rsquos first ROTC program to ensure a steady supply of reliable, educated officers for the navy. He steadily rose through the ranks, respected for his dedication and his imagination in modernizing engine designs, submarine construction, and even mid-ocean refueling techniques.

On Dec. 17, 1941, 10 days after the disastrous attack on the Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt named Nimitz commander-in-chief of the Pacific fleet. The fleet was in shambles, and Nimitz was responsible for holding back the tide of the Japanese navy threatening American shores.

He quickly rallied American ships to stop the Japanese advance on Australia with the Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942. Learning that Japan was trying to finish off the navy, he organized a massive fleet to meet the Japanese at Midway that June. Midway was a tremendous victory for America, allowing the U. S. to recapture the Central Pacific. Japanese officials realized they had lost the war at that point but fought on.

Nimitz organized the &ldquoisland-hopping&rdquo campaigns of the South Pacific as American forces fought to liberate key island groups. His tactics at the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944 broke the back of the remaining Japanese navy and led to the recapture of the Philippines. When Japan finally surrendered in 1945, Nimitz was on the USS Missouri to accept their capitulation.

After the war, Nimitz was named Chief of Naval Operations and oversaw the dismantling of the massive fleet the nation had built during the war. At the same time, he pushed for modernization of the fleet as oversaw the construction of the submarine USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered naval vessel. He retired from his duties as chief of naval operations in 1947, but his status as a fleet admiral kept him on active duty. He served as a Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy, advising the navy on special issues. He also served as a regent for the University of California system during the 1950s.

He died at his home in California in 1966. The nation revered the great hero after his passing. Eight communities named schools after him, including a high school in Irving and an elementary school in Kerrville. In 1971, his hometown of Fredericksburg honored him by opening the Chester Nimitz Museum which has since expanded into the National Museum of the Pacific War. In 1975, the navy commissioned the USS Nimitz, a top-of-the-line nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, a vessel still serving to this day.