Chester W. Nimitz

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Our armament must be adequate to the needs, but our faith is not primarily in these machines of defense but in ourselves.

Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz (24 February 188520 February 1966) was a US Navy officer who was Commander in Chief of Pacific Forces (CINCPAC) for the United States and Allied forces during World War II.

Quotes[edit]

I wish to be in a position of sufficient prominence so that I will then be considered as one to be sent to sea...
Through the skill and devotion to duty of their armed forces of all branches in the Midway area our citizens can now rejoice that a momentous victory is in the making.
Engraving at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Among the Americans serving on Iwo island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.
We have a solemn obligation — the obligation to ensure that their sacrifice will help make this a better and safer world in which to live.
The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military standpoint, in the defeat of Japan.
  • I do believe we are going to have a major war, with Japan and Germany, and that the war is going to start by a very serious surprise attack and defeat of U.S. armed forces, and that there is going to be a major revulsion on the part of the political power in Washington against all those in command at sea, and they are going to be thrown out, though it won't be their fault necessarily. And I wish to be in a position of sufficient prominence so that I will then be considered as one to be sent to sea, because that appears to be the route.
    • On his expectations of war, and that he would someday become the Chief of Naval Operations, in a conversation during the mid 1930s with his son, Chester W. Nimitz, Jr.; as quoted in Nimitz (1976) by E. B. Potter. ISBN 0870214926
  • A ship is always referred to as "she" because it costs so much to keep her in paint and powder.
    • Remarks to the Society of Sponsors, U.S. Navy, 13 February 1940
  • Through the skill and devotion to duty of their armed forces of all branches in the Midway area our citizens can now rejoice that a momentous victory is in the making.
    It was on a Sunday just six months ago that the Japanese made their peace‑time attack on our fleet and army activities on Oahu. At that time they created heavy damage, it is true, but their act aroused the grim determination of our citizenry to avenge such treachery, and it raised, not lowered, the morale of our fighting men.
    Pearl Harbor has now been partially avenged. Vengeance will not be complete until Japanese sea power has been reduced to impotence. We have made substantial progress in that direction. Perhaps we will be forgiven if we claim we are about midway to our objective!
  • Is the proposed operation likely to succeed?
    What might be the consequences of failure?
    Is it in the realm of practicability in terms of matériel and supplies?
    • "Three favorite rules of thumb" Nimitz had printed on a card he kept on his desk, as quoted in LIFE magazine (10 July 1944)
  • By their victory, the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions and other units of the Fifth Amphibious Corps have made an accounting to their country which only history will be able to value fully. Among the Americans serving on Iwo island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.
  • They fought together as brothers in arms; they died together and now they sleep side by side...To them, we have a solemn obligation — the obligation to ensure that their sacrifice will help make this a better and safer world in which to live.
    • Of those who died in the war in the Pacific, after ceremonies in Tokyo Bay accepting the official surrender of Japan (2 September 1945).
  • The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima and before the Russian entry into war. ... The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military standpoint, in the defeat of Japan.
    • Public statement quoted in The New York Times (6 October 1945) and in The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb (1996) by Gar Alperovitz
  • When I assumed command of the Pacific Fleet in 31 December, 1941; our submarines were already operating against the enemy, the only units of the Fleet that could come to grips with the Japanese for months to come.
    It was to the Submarine Force that I looked to carry the load until our great industrial activity could produce the weapons we so sorely needed to carry the war to the enemy. It is to the everlasting honor and glory of our submarine personnel that they never failed us in our days of peril.
    • Foreword, in United States Submarine Operations in World War II. (1949) by Theodore Roscoe, p. v
  • That is not to say that we can relax our readiness to defend ourselves. Our armament must be adequate to the needs, but our faith is not primarily in these machines of defense but in ourselves.
    • Speech at the University of California, Berkeley (22 March 1950)
  • God grant me the courage not to give up what I think is right even though I think it is hopeless.
    • Appended to a variant of the Serenity Prayer in The Armed Forces Prayer Book (1951)
  • We shall never forget that it was our submarines that held the lines against the enemy while our fleets replaced losses and repaired wounds.
    • As quoted in Historic Ship Exhibits in the United States (1969), by United States Naval History Division, United States Navy, p. 24
  • I felt that it was an unnecessary loss of civilian life... We had them beaten. They hadn't enough food, they couldn't do anything.
    • On the use of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as quoted by his widow, who also stated that he had "always felt badly over the dropping of that bomb because he said we had Japan beaten already" in The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth (1995) by Gar Alperovitz
  • The enemy of our games was always Japan, and the courses were so thorough that after the start of World War II, nothing that happened in the Pacific was strange or unexpected.
  • The war with Japan had been enacted in the game rooms at the War College by so many people and in so many different ways that nothing that happened during the war was a surprise—absolutely nothing except the kamikaze tactics toward the end of the war. We had not visualized these.
  • Hindsight is notably cleverer than foresight.
    • Quoted in The Magnificent Mitscher by Theodore Taylor, p. 266

Employment of Naval Forces (1948)[edit]

Employment of Naval Forces : "Who Commands Sea — Commands Trade", printed in monthly NEWSLETTER (March 1948)
Sir Walter Raleigh declared in the early 17th century that "whoever commands the sea, commands the trade; whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself." This principle is as true today as when uttered, and its effect will continue as long as ships traverse the seas.
Our present undisputed control of the sea was achieved primarily through the employment of naval air-sea forces in the destruction of Japanese and German sea power.
  • Sir Walter Raleigh declared in the early 17th century that "whoever commands the sea, commands the trade; whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself." This principle is as true today as when uttered, and its effect will continue as long as ships traverse the seas.
  • The United States possesses today control of the sea more absolute than was possessed by the British. Our interest in this control is not riches and power as such. It is first the assurance of our national security, and, second, the creation and perpetuation of that balance and stability among nations which will insure to each the right of self-determination under the framework of the United Nations Organization.
  • Our present control of the sea is so absolute that it is sometimes taken for granted.
  • Our present undisputed control of the sea was achieved primarily through the employment of naval air-sea forces in the destruction of Japanese and German sea power. It was consolidated by the subsequent reduction of these nations to their present impotence, in which the employment of naval air-sea forces against land objectives played a vital role. It can be perpetuated only through the maintenance of balanced naval forces of all categories adequate to our strategic needs (which include those of the non-totalitarian world), and which can flexibly adjust to new modes of air-sea warfare and which are alert to develop and employ new weapons and techniques as needed.
  • The basic objectives and principles of war do not change.
    The final objective in war is the destruction of the enemy's capacity and will to fight, and thereby force him to accept the imposition of the victor's will.
    This submission has been accomplished in the past by pressure in and from each of the elements of land and sea, and during World War I and II, in and from the air as well. The optimum of pressure is exerted through that absolute control obtained by actual physical occupation. This optimum is obtainable only on land where physical occupation can be consolidated and maintained.
  • If we are to project our power against the vital areas of any enemy across the ocean before beachheads on enemy territory are captured, it must be by air-sea power; by aircraft launched from carriers; and by heavy surface ships and submarines projecting guided missiles and rockets. If present promise is developed by research, test and production, these three types of air-sea power operating in concert will be able within the next ten years critically to damage enemy vital areas many hundreds of miles inland.
    Naval task forces including these types are capable of remaining at sea for months. This capability has raised to a high point the art of concentrating air power within effective range of enemy objectives.
  • Naval forces are able, without resorting to diplomatic channels, to establish offshore anywhere in the world, air fields completely equipped with machine shops, ammunition dumps, tank farms, warehouses, together with quarters and all types of accommodations for personnel. Such task forces are virtually as complete as any air base ever established. They constitute the only air bases that can be made available near enemy territory without assault and conquest; and furthermore, they are mobile offensive bases, that can be employed with the unique attributes of secrecy and surprise — which attributes contribute equally to their defensive as well as offensive effectiveness.

Quotes about Nimitz[edit]

Nimitz was a leader who conquered any personal urge to drive, and achieved his ends more by persuasion and inspiration to men under his command. ~ Edwin Palmer Hoyt
Alphabetized by author
In World War II, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz commanded thousands of aircraft and millions of men, amounting to more military power than had been wielded by all the commanders in all previous wars. ~ E. B. Potter
  • The qualities of the Nimitz character were apparent in his face, in his career, and in his heritage; combined these factors made him precisely the man he was and placed him in this particular situation at this moment in history. ... He was not a cold man, or a bad tempered man — quite the contrary — to the world he presented a figure of almost total complacency; he seldom lost his temper or raised his voice. ... It could be said that King was a driver who knew how to lead; it could also be said that Nimitz was a leader who conquered any personal urge to drive, and achieved his ends more by persuasion and inspiration to men under his command.
    • Edwin Palmer Hoyt in How They Won the War in the Pacific : Nimitz and His Admirals (2000), p. 28 - 29
  • On April 13, 1943, Allied radio intelligence intercepted a message carrying the travel itinerary of Admiral Yamamoto. The detail in the message listed flight and ground schedules and included what type of fighter escort would be provided. Major Red Lasswell of FRUPAC broke the coded message. The decision of what to do with the information was left to Admiral Nimitz. Nimitz consulted Layton as to what the ramifications would be if Yamamoto were removed. They considered that he might be replaced with a better commander, and Nimitz felt familiar with Yamamoto as his opponent. Layton felt nobody could adequately replace Yamamoto, and based on this opinion Nimitz gave Admiral Halsey the authority to carry out the intercept of Yamamoto’s aircraft. On 18 April, a flight of P-38 fighters with specially selected pilots and equipped with long-range fuel tanks shot down Yamamoto’s aircraft, killing one of Japan’s top naval leaders.
    • Ricky J. Nussio, in Sherman and Nimitz: Executing Modern Information Operations (2001)
  • He surrounded himself with the ablest men he could find and sought their advice, but he made his own decisions. He was a keen strategist who never forgot that he was dealing with human beings, on both sides of the conflict. He was aggressive in war without hate, audacious while never failing to weigh the risks.
    • E. B. Potter, Naval historian at the US Naval Academy, quoted on the cover jacket of his book Nimitz (1976), ISBN 0870214926
  • In World War II, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz commanded thousands of aircraft and millions of men, amounting to more military power than had been wielded by all the commanders in all previous wars. The operations he directed and, to a large extent, devised involved projecting across the Pacific Ocean forces that blasted Japan and defeated an enormously expanded Japanese empire.
    • E. B. Potter, in Nimitz (1976), p. 1
  • Nimitz considered the atomic bomb somehow indecent, certainly not a legitimate form of warfare.
    • E. B. Potter, in Nimitz (1976), p. 386
  • The Admiral was frequently the despair of his public relations men; it simply was not in him to make sweeping statements or to give out colorful interviews.
    • Robert Sherrod, TIME journalist, in On to Westward : War in the Central Pacific‎ (1945), p. 234; also quoted in profile of Nimitz at PBS
  • He brought to his new job a number of advantages, including experience, a detailed knowledge of his brother officers, and a sense of inner balance and calm that steadied those around him. He had the ability to pick able subordinates and the courage to let them do their jobs without interference. He molded such disparate personalities as the quiet, introspective Raymond A. Spruance and the ebullient, aggressive William F. Halsey, Jr. into an effective team.
    • Robert William Love, on the rise of Nimitz to CINCPAC in The Chiefs of Naval Operations (1980), p. 184

External links[edit]

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