CHESTER W. NIMITZ Biography - Pioneers, Explorers & inventors


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Name: Chester William Nimitz                                                                 
Born: 24 February 1885                                                                       
Died: 20 February 1966                                                                       
Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz (February 24, 1885 - February 20,                       
1966) was the Commander-in-Chief of Pacific Naval Forces ("C-in-C Pac"                       
pronounced "sink-pack") for the United States and Allied forces during World War             
II. He was the United States' leading authority on submarines, as well as Chief               
of the Navy's Bureau of Navigation in 1939. He was his country's last surviving               
Fleet Admiral.                                                                               
Chester W. Nimitz, a German Texan, was the son of Chester Bernhard and Anna (Henke)           
Nimitz. He was born in Fredericksburg, Texas, where his house is now a museum.               
His father died before he was born. He was significantly influenced by his                   
grandfather, Charles H. Nimitz, a former seaman in the German Merchant Marine,               
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."                             
Originally, young Nimitz had hoped to attend the United States Military Academy               
at West Point and become an Army officer, but there were no appointments                     
available. His congressman, James L. Slayden, told him that he had one                       
appointment available for the Navy and that he would award it to the best                     
qualified candidate. Nimitz felt that this was his only opportunity for further               
education and spent extra time studying to earn the appointment. He was                       
appointed to the United States Naval Academy from Texas's 12th congressional                 
district in 1901, and he graduated with distinction on January 30, 1905, seventh             
in a class of 114.                                                                           
He joined the battleship Ohio (BB-12) at San Francisco, and cruised in her to                 
the Far East. In September 1906, he was transferred to Baltimore (C-3); and, on               
31 January 1907, after the two years at sea then required by law, he was                     
commissioned as an Ensign. Remaining on Asiatic Station in 1907, he successively             
served in Panay, Decatur, and Denver.                                                         
While Nimitz was a 22-year-old ensign in the Philippines in command of the                   
destroyer Decatur (DD-5), his ship ran aground on a mudbank. Nimitz was court-martialed       
and convicted of hazarding a Navy ship and received a letter of reprimand.                   
This incident should have ended his career.                                                   
Nimitz returned to the United States in the USS Ranger when that vessel was                   
converted to a school ship, and in January 1909 began instruction in the First               
Submarine Flotilla. In May of that year he was given command of the flotilla,                 
with additional duty in command of Plunger, later renamed A-1. He commanded                   
Snapper (later renamed C-5) when that submarine was commissioned on February 2,               
1910, and on November 18, 1910 assumed command of Narwhal (later renamed D-1).               
In the latter command he had additional duty from October 10, 1911, as Commander             
3rd Submarine Division Atlantic Torpedo Fleet. In November 1911 he was ordered               
to the Boston Navy Yard, to assist in fitting out Skipjack and assumed command               
of that submarine, which had been renamed E-1, at her commissioning on February               
14, 1912. On March 20, 1912 he rescued Fireman Second Class W. J. Walsh, from                 
After commanding the Atlantic Submarine Flotilla from May 1912 to March 1913, he             
supervised the building of diesel engines for the tanker Maumee, under                       
construction at the New London Ship and Engine Building Company, Groton,                     
Nimitz married Catherine Vance Freeman on April 9, 1913, at Wollaston,                       
In the summer of 1913, Nimitz studied engines at the diesel engine plants in                 
Nuremberg, Germany, and Ghent, Belgium. Returning to the New York Navy Yard, he               
became Maumee's Executive Officer and Engineer on her commissioning October 23,               
1916. On 10 August 1917 Nimitz became aide to Rear Admiral Samuel S. Robinson,               
Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. On February 6, 1918 he was                   
appointed Chief of Staff and was awarded a Letter of Commendation for                         
meritorious service as Chief of Staff to the Commander, U.S. Atlantic Submarine               
Fleet. On September 16, 1918, he reported to the Office of the Chief of Naval                 
Operations, and on October 25, 1918 was given additional duty as Senior Member,               
Board of Submarine Design.                                                                   
From May 1919 to June 1920 he served as executive officer of South Carolina. He               
then commanded Chicago with additional duty in command of Submarine Division 14,             
based at Pearl Harbor. Returning to the United States in the summer of 1922, he               
studied at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, and in June 1923,                   
became Aide and Assistant Chief of Staff to Commander Battle Fleet, and later to             
the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet. In August 1926 he went to the University of               
California, Berkeley to establish the Navy's first Naval Reserve Officer                     
Training Corps unit.                                                                         
Nimitz lost part of one finger in an accident with a diesel engine, only saving               
the rest of it and his career when the machine jammed against his Annapolis ring.             
He also suffered a severe ear infection, becoming partially deaf. He compensated             
by becoming proficient at reading lips.                                                       
In June 1929 he took command of Submarine Division 20. In June 1931 he assumed               
command of Rigel and the destroyers out of commission at San Diego, California.               
In October 1933 he took command of Augusta and cruised in him to the Far East,               
where in December he became flagship of the Asiatic Fleet. In April 1935, he                 
returned home for three years as Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Navigation,                 
before becoming Commander, Cruiser Division 2, Battle Force. In September 1938               
he took command of Battleship Division 1, Battle Force. On June 15, 1939 he was               
appointed Chief of the Bureau of Navigation.                                                 
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz pins the Navy Cross on Dorie Miller, at ceremony on                 
board warship in Pearl Harbor, May 27, 1942                                                   
Ten days after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 he was selected                 
Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC), with the rank of Admiral,                   
effective from December 31. Assuming command at the most critical period of the               
war in the Pacific, Admiral Nimitz, despite the losses from the attack on Pearl               
Harbor and the shortage of ships, planes and supplies, successfully organized                 
his forces to halt the Japanese advance.                                                     
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 (POA), the Southwest Pacific               
Area (SWPA, commanded by General Douglas MacArthur), and the South East Pacific               
Area. The JCS designated Nimitz as Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas                   
CINCPOA, with operational control over all Allied units (air, land, and sea) in               
that area.                                                                                   
As rapidly as ships, men, and material became available, Nimitz shifted to the               
offensive and defeated the Japanese navy in the Battle of the Coral Sea, the                 
Battle of Midway, and in the Solomon Islands Campaign.                                       
On October 7, 1943 he was designated Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, and                   
Pacific Ocean Areas. By Act of Congress, approved December 14, 1944, the grade               
of Fleet Admiral of the United States Navy the highest grade in the Navy was                 
established and the next day President of the United States Franklin Roosevelt               
appointed Admiral Nimitz to that rank. Nimitz took the oath of that office on                 
December 19, 1944.                                                                           
In the final phases in the war in the Pacific, he attacked the Mariana Islands               
invading Saipan, inflicting a decisive defeat on the Japanese Fleet in the                   
Battle of the Philippine Sea and capturing Saipan, Guam, and Tinian. His Fleet               
Forces isolated enemy-held bastions of the Central and Eastern Caroline Islands               
and secured in quick succession Peleliu, Angaur, and Ulithi. In the Philippines,             
his ships turned back powerful task forces of the Japanese Fleet, a historic                 
victory in the multi-phased Battle for Leyte Gulf 24 to October 26, 1944. Fleet               
Admiral Nimitz culminated his long-range strategy by successful amphibious                   
assaults on Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In addition, Nimitz also persuaded the United               
States Army Air Forces 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.                                                 
In January 1945, Nimitz moved the headquarters of the Pacific Fleet forward from             
Pearl Harbor to Guam for the remainder of the war. Mrs. Nimitz remained on the               
mainland of the USA for the duration of the war, and she did not join her                     
husband at Hawaii or Guam.                                                                   
On September 2, 1945 Nimitz signed for the United States when Japan formally                 
surrendered on board the Missouri in Tokyo Bay. On October 5, 1945, which had                 
been officially designated as "Nimitz Day" in Washington, DC, Admiral Nimitz was             
personally presented a Gold Star in lieu of the third Distinguished Service                   
Medal by the President of the United States "for exceptionally meritorious                   
service as Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas, from               
June 1944 to August 1945...."                                                                 
Nimitz was known throughout World War II as the "Island Hopper" during the                   
Pacific campaign.                                                                             
On November 26, 1945 his nomination as Chief of Naval Operations was confirmed               
by the US Senate, and on 15 December 1945 he relieved Fleet Admiral Ernest J.                 
King. He had assured the President that he was willing to serve as the CNO for               
one two-year term, but no longer. He tackled the difficult task of reducing the               
most powerful Navy in the world to a fraction of its war-time strength, while                 
establishing and overseeing active and reserve fleets with the strength and                   
readiness required to support national policy.                                               
On March 14, 1950, in United Nations Security Council Resolution 80 the                       
governments of India and Pakistan both agreed that he should administer the                   
plebiscite that would determine the fate of Jammu and Kashmir.                               
For the post-war trial of German Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz at the Nuremberg                 
Trials, Admiral Nimitz furnished an affidavit in support of the practice of                   
unrestricted submarine warfare, a practice that he himself had employed                       
throughout the war in the Pacific. This evidence is widely credited as a reason               
why Dönitz was only sentenced to ten years of imprisonment. After Dönitz was               
released, Admiral Nimitz went to vist Dönitz.