Chester W. Nimitz
Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz (24 February 1885 – 20 February 1966) 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, United States Pacific Fleet (CinCPac), for U.S. naval forces and Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas (CinCPOA), for U.S. and Allied air, land, and sea forces during World War II.
- 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.
- 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
- Naval fleets probably never again will fight in full force... No government today can afford to run the risk of staking its entire naval force on a single battle. Therefore, it is probable that in the future fighting will be done by special units. These will be organized according to the requirements of the tasks assigned to them. One mission might require only a few cruisers, a number of destroyers, an aircraft carrier and some submarines. Another might require a battleship or two.
- As quoted in Time magazine, Volume XXXVII, p. 18
- 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.
- On board all vessels at sea and in port, and at our many island bases in the Pacific, there is rejoicing and thanksgiving. The long and bitter struggle, which Japan started so treacherously on the 7th of December 1941, is at an end.
I take great pride in the American forces which have helped to win this victory. America can be proud of them. The officers and men of the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and merchant marine who fought in the Pacific have written heroic new chapters in this Nation's military history. I have infinite respect for their courage, resourcefulness, and devotion to duty. We also acknowledge the great contribution to this victory made by our valiant Allies. United we fought and united we prevail.
The port of Tokyo, which was first opened by Commodore Perry in 1853, is now crowded with United States men-of-war. The process of bringing Japan into the family of civilized nations, which was interrupted when Japan launched her program of conquest, will soon begin again.
- Statement broadcast to the United States and the Pacific Fleet, after ceremonies in Tokyo Bay accepting the official surrender of Japan (2 September 1945)
- Today all freedom-loving peoples of the world rejoice in the victory and feel pride in the accomplishments of our combined forces. We also pay tribute to those who defended our freedom at the cost of their lives.
On Guam is a military cemetery in a green valley not far from my headquarters. The ordered rows of white crosses stand as reminders of the heavy cost we have paid for victory. On these crosses are the names of American soldiers, sailors and marines — Culpepper, Tomaino, Sweeney, Bromberg, Depew, Melloy, Ponziani — names that are a cross-section of democracy. 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 insure that their sacrifice will help to make this a better and safer world in which to live. … Now we turn to the great tasks of reconstruction and restoration. I am confident that we will be able to apply the same skill, resourcefulness, and keen thinking to these problems as were applied to the problems of winning the victory.
- Statement broadcast to the United States and the Pacific Fleet, after ceremonies in Tokyo Bay accepting the official surrender of Japan (2 September 1945); a portion of this is engraved on the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
- 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
- The U.S.'s major strength factor and weapon is its economy. If you cripple it, you cripple the military.
- As quoted in "According to Plan" in TIME magazine (13 March 1950)
- 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.
- On his training for warfare in the Pacific at the Naval War college in 1922, as quoted at The American Experience (PBS)
- 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.
- Writing the president of the US Naval War College shortly after World War II. Quoted by Donald C. Winter, Secretary of the Navy]
- Hindsight is notably cleverer than foresight.
- Quoted in The Magnificent Mitscher by Theodore Taylor, p. 266
- Once A Marine should become required reading for the young men of our country. It is a success story which highlights the fact that there is still room at the top for young men of courage, determination and the average educational advantages available to all our young people. General Vandegrift, perhaps more than any other Marine, added luster and glory to our elite Corps that had already won enviable battle honors during its long history of military achievement. His long and successful struggle to hold Guadalcanal against seemingly overwhelming odds will live long in military history. Many veterans of the Marine Corps and of the sister services who participated or were associated in the Guadalcanal episode of World War II will relive their experience in reading Once A Marine. And this includes yours truly who, perforce, had to witness this struggle from afar.
- On the back of the dust jacket of Once A Marine: The Memoirs of General A.A. Vandegrift, U.S.M.C. (1964) by Alexander Vandegrift
- 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.
- 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
- Alphabetized by author
- FLEET ADMIRAL CHESTER WILLIAM NIMITZ, USN. Born Texas 1885. Annapolis Class of 1905. First Command, USS Panay, 1907. Commanded Atlantic Submarine Flotilla, 1912-1913; USS Chicago, 1920-3. Promoted to Capt., 1927. Commanded USS's Rigel, 1931; Augusta, 1933. Attained flag rank, 1938. As Admiral, commanded Pacific Fleet, 1941; awarded DSM, and DSM by Congress, for services. In 1943, designated Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas. On Dec. 19, 1944, achieved highest rank, Fleet Admiral. Signed for U.S. when Japan formally surrendered aboard USS Missouri, Sept. 2, 1945. Awarded third DSM on Nimitz Day in Wash'n, Oct. 5, 1945. Designated Chief of Naval Operations, Nov. 1945.
- Biographical Notes on Nimitz in Battle Stations! Your Navy in Action (1946), p. 397
- In the wake of the Pearl Harbor disaster, President Roosevelt made sweeping changes in the navy high command. When word of these changes reached the submarine force, there were cheers. The key people, it seemed, were all submariners. First, and most important, Roosevelt named Admiral Ernest Joseph King, Jr., to the post of Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, and Chief of Naval Operations, replacing Admiral Stark. King had commanded the Submarine Base at New London and a division of S-boats and had played a key role in salvaging two sunken submarines in the 1920s, the S-51 and the S-4. Although King had never commanded a submarine, he wore the dolphin insignia plus his aviator's wings. Second, King appointed former submariner Chester Nimitz to replace Kimmel (and Pye) as Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet. After his submarine service before and during World War I, Nimitz had established the Submarine Base at Pearl Harbor and then commanded a division of early fleet boats, including Barracuda, Bass, and Bonita.
- Clay Blair, Jr., Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War Against Japan, p. 125
- The major reason for the submarine failure of 1942 was not mechanical, physical, or psychological. It was, to put it simply, a failure of imagination on the highest levels by King, Edwards, Nimitz, Hart, Wilkes, Withers, English, Lockwood, Christie, and Fife. All these men failed to set up a broad, unified strategy for Pacific submarines aimed at a single specific goal: interdicting Japanese shipping services in the most efficient and telling manner. The lessons of the German U-boat campaigns against Britain in World Wars I and II- the later in progress almost on Washington's doorstep- had apparently not yet sunk home. The military and maritime theories of Clausewicz and Mahan were ignored. The U.S. submarine force was divided and shunted about willy-nilly on missions for which it was not suited, while the bulk of Japanese shipping sailed unmolested in Empire waters and through the bottleneck in Luzon Strait.
- Clay Blair, Jr., Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War Against Japan, p. 361-362
- Spruance received his written orders in the evening of 27 May, the night before he got underway. They comprised ten succinct pages. All operation orders in the early stages of the war were terse, reflecting the command philosophy of King, Nimitz, and the better admirals. That philosophy was to tell the subordinate commander what you wanted done, give him the necessary resources, provide as much information as you could about the enemy, and then let him alone so he could accomplish his mission. King would upbraid any commander for the sin of oversupervising his subordinates with complex, overly detailed directives. The intent was to encourage the on-scene commander to use his initiative and not to inhibit his freedom of action. Spruance's personal belief was that the commander responsible for accomplishing the mission should develop the necessary plans; the proper role of the next highest command echelon was to establish the objective and to suggest how the objective might be achieved.
- Thomas B. Buell, The Quiet Warrior: A Biography of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance (1987), p. 136
- Nimitz wore two hats: Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC), whereby he commanded all naval and Marine Corps units in the Pacific; and Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas (CINCPOA), a combined command which gave Nimitz authority over all American and Allied naval and military forces in the Pacific theater, except those in MacArthur's Southwest Pacific Area. The task with the highest priority for Nimitz in the summer of 1942 was the seizure of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. Admiral King had insisted upon a "defensive-offensive" strategy in the Pacific in order to wrest the initiative from the Japanese, continually victorious in the Southwest Pacific and only recently checked in the Central Pacific by the Battle of Midway. Prodded by King, the JCS in the summer of 1942 directed Nimitz to seize Guadalcanal and adjacent Tulagi.
- Thomas B. Buell, The Quiet Warrior: A Biography of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance (1974), p. 151
- King's attitude was a paradox. He griped about too many people getting decorations, but he refused to establish a policy that would end the confusion. Nimitz was his voice of conscience, besieging King to approve the Purple Heart or to define different grades for the Legion of Merit. But it was futile. King did nothing. Nimitz tried to force the issue at their January 1944 meeting in San Francisco by demanding a formal board to standardize the awarding of decorations. All the services had different rules, argued Nimitz, and the Army Air Force was notably generous. If the services could not agree on a common policy, then the President should act. King stalled with a promise to study the problem. King's thinking began to change in June 1944. Just before King had left to watch the Normandy landings, Abby Dunlap had warned him that when the war was over the Army Air Force would get all the credit and the Navy would be forgotten. King thought she was too pessimistic. But when he next saw Abby and Betsy Matter following the invasion, he told Abby she had been right.
- Thomas B. Buell, Master of Sea Power: A Biography of Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King (1980), p. 382
- On October 15 he read a message from Ghormley containing a cry of resignation: "My forces [are] totally inadequate to meet [the] situation. Nimitz had already exhausted the material assistance he could give Ghormley's command, but there was one other way he could influence events, and he discussed this subject with his staff on the night of October 15. Some of them noted Nimitz's normally sunny blue eyes now flashed an icy gray as he prepared to talk about what Hanson Baldwin identified as the single greatest obstacle to American success: leadership. Ghormley, said Nimitz, was an intelligent and capable officer, but he was he tough enough to face the coming crisis, and more important, could he inspire men to feats beyond their known capabilities? The staff answered unanimously: no.
- Richard B. Frank, Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle (1990), p. 333
- This solved but half the problem, for who could replace Ghormley? Turner's name immediately resurfaced, but although he was a strong leader, the Marines were restive under Turner's government and there was the cloud of Savo Island over his head. Providentially just off the sick list was Vice Admiral William F. Halsey, a sailor known and admired throughout the Navy as a fighter, especially by the enlisted men. But the criteria for the job of COMSOPAC did not include personal popularity, and some senior officers suspected that Halsey's talents as a fighter and leader in close contact with the enemy would be mismatched to the role of theater commander. After some thought, Nimitz decided it must be Halsey and the next day requested King's approval. COMINCH's reply was a brutally short one word message: "Affirmative."
- Richard B. Frank, Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle (1990), p. 333-334
- Once the decision to build up the Navy was taken, strong men of clear vision quickly rose to the top of the service hierarchy. Chief among these were Adm Ernest King and VAdm Chester Nimitz, men of such consummate skill that the ennui of the prewar years had virtually no impact upon their abilities and sensibilities as commanders or as men. Others slightly less senior were pulled forward by the enormous suction created by King's and Nimitz's rise to the top.
- Eric Hammell, Guadalcanal: Decision at Sea: The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal November 13-15, 1942 (1988), p. 12
- 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
- World War II gave King the opportunity of putting in practice another conviction. His earliest studies of the Napoleonic campaigns had indicated to him that the great weakness of the French military system of the period was that it required the detailed supervision of Napoleon. His belief that one must do the opposite, and train subordinates for independent action, had been confirmed and strengthened through his years of association with Admiral Mayo. During World War II King would jokingly maintain that he managed to keep well by "doing nothing that I can get anybody to do for me," but in all seriousness he could not have survived the four years of war without having made full use of the decentralization of authority into the hands of subordinate commanders, who were considered competent unless they proved themselves otherwise, and who were expected to think, decide, and act for themselves. Upon Nimitz in the Pacific, Edwards, Cooke and Horne in Washington, Ingersoll in the Atlantic, Stark in London, Halsey, Spruance, Kinkaid, Hewitt, Ingram and many other flag officers at sea, King relied with confidence and was not disappointed.
- Ernest King and Walter M. Whitehill, Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record (1952), p. 645
- In the Pacific we gave our enemies a costly lesson in amphibious warfare, just as in Europe we, with our allies, demonstrated successful coalition warfare. The performance of all branches of the services in Europe under General Eisenhower, in the central and southern Pacific under Admiral Nimitz, and in the southwestern Pacific under General MacArthur brought glory to themselves and to their country.
- William D. Leahy, I Was There (1950), p. 439
- 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
- It was very clear that as difficult as his task was - to takeover the war on the Pacific, with the Pacific fleet on the bottom of Pearl Harbor - pretty much. He never lost sight of the fact that there were human beings on both sides of that war. He did his duty; he dealt very strong blows against the Imperial Japanese Navy and Army. but he never forget that there were human beings on both sides.
- After King, Nimitz was our greatest naval strategist and leader, and, as Cincpac-CincPoa, he had, after King, the biggest responsibility. Nimitz engineered, as it were, the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway; patiently but stubbornly he held out for the dual approach to Japan. He proposed the bold plan to go right into Kwajalein after securing the Gilberts, and he put it across, contrary to the advice of others. He made only two possible mistakes in the war- detaching Admiral Kinkaid prematurely from his South Pacific task force, and rejecting Halsey's proposal that Peleliu be bypassed. Nimitz probably inspired a greater personal loyalty than did any other admiral in the war. Every commanding officer, when his ship, no matter how small, put in at Pearl Harbor, was encouraged to call on Nimitz at the Cincpac-Cincpoa headquarters in Makalapa and express his views. Knowing that the finest test of a commanding officer is (in Churchill's words) "the quality of his effort," and that mistakes in battle are inevitable, Nimitz was slow to relieve any commanding officer who failed; he believed in the adage that every dog should be allowed two bites. It may be conceded that he allowed one bite too many to certain task force commanders before he relieved them; but it was fortunate for the cause that he allowed two bites to Kelly Turner, who turned out to be a practitioner of amphibious warfare second to none.
- Samuel Eliot Morison, The Two-Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War (1963), p. 580-581
- "Tumb-bells take!" Assistant to "Matchew". Possesses that calm and steady going Dutch way that gets at the bottom of things. "Now see here." Delights in a rough house. One of the cave-dwellers but determined to be a fusser. Spent two hours at his first hop picking up beads. Conducted a Plebe kindergarten Second Class year. Mixer of famous punches. Still survives after two years of Stewart's rhino and comic opera.
- Description of Nimitz in Lucky Bag (1905), yearbook of the United States Naval Academy, p. 76
- 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
- In actual practice much of the Pacific war was devised by Admirals King and Nimitz. They were thus thrown into the closest cooperation, though most of the time they were far apart geographically. They maintained a constant dialogue in the form of radio dispatches, often several a day, letters, exchanges of representatives, and periodic meetings, usually in the Federal Building, San Francisco, King flying there from Washington and Nimitz from his headquarters in the Pacific. Though Admiral King's tone in communicating with Nimitz was occasionally acerbic, as was his nature, it is clear that the two commanders greatly respected each other. At the end of the war, King recommended Nimitz to be his successor as Chief of Naval Operations. Although their styles were in sharp contrast, King and Nimitz were more alike than different. Simplicity and directness were the keynotes of their characters. They were both dedicated to their country and to the Navy, though King's interests were more narrowly naval. Both were men of integrity and keen intelligence, and both were born strategists and organizers, with a genius for clarifying and simplifying and a jaundiced eye for the useless complications and waste emotion. Their chief difference lay in their attitudes toward their fellow human beings. King had little of Nimitz's understanding of, and empathy for, people. Said one of King's wartime associates, "Every great man has his blind spot, and his was personnel." King went to great lengths to draw into his command the sort of men he wanted and to eliminate those he did not. The results were not always fortunate. Several cases of his placing the wrong man in the wrong spot for the wrong reasons could be cited.
- E.B. Potter, in Nimitz (1976), p. 32
- On the morning of the 11th, Admirals Leahy, King, and Nimitz went to the White House to get the President's approval for the Joint Chiefs' strategic plan and for the command arrangements in the Southwest Pacific. Roosevelt received them in the Oval Office. He was obviously not well. His face was ashen and his hands trembled. Yet he smiled and turned on the Roosevelt charm for his visitors. He listened with attention to the briefing and approved the strategy. He said he was glad to see that the drives were directed toward the China coast, for he was determined to keep China in the war. Roosevelt noted that the plan did not carry through to the actual overthrow of the enemy and reminded his callers that in the Pacific war his objective was the defeat of Japan as soon as the Allies had enough forces. With regard to Manus, Roosevelt said he did not know exactly where it was and it was a matter for the Joint Chiefs to handle. Lunch was served in the office, and afterward Roosevelt brought out a packet of enormous cigars, very dark in color, that Prime Minister Churchill had accidentally left in the White House. The President offered them around, but all his guests, like himself, were cigarette-smokers. Admiral Nimitz said, however, that he'd like to take one to his housemate, Dr. Anderson, who smoke cigars. He'd have the doctor keep it for some special occasion.
The President began asking irrelevant questions and making random comments. He was probably getting tired. He asked Nimitz why, after the daring raid on Truk, he had sent his carriers to raid the Marianas. Since Roosevelt prided himself on keeping abreast of the progress of the war, he obviously knew the answer. The question provided an opportunity for Nimitz to end the visit on a light note. Grinning, he said the question reminded him of the case of the elderly, fat hypochondriac who wanted to have his appendix removed. Because of his age and obesity, no local surgeon was willing to perform the operation. At last the hypochondriac obtained the services of an eminent surgeon from out of town, and the appendectomy took place. When he regained consciousness, the patient, anxious about the operation, sent for the surgeon and asked about his condition. "You're doing fine," said the surgeon. "But, doctor," the patient said, "there's something I don't understand, I have a terrible sore throat which I didn't have when I entered the hospital. What causes that?" "Well," said the doctor, "I'll tell you. In view of the circumstances, your case was a very special one, as you know. A big group of my colleagues came to watch the operation. When it was over they gave me such a round of applause that I removed your tonsils as an encore." "So you see, Mr. President," said Nimitz, "that was the way it was. We just hit Tinian and Saipan for an encore." Roosevelt threw back his head and laughed, and the visit was at an end.
- E.B. Potter, in Nimitz (1976), p. 288-289
- Nimitz considered the atomic bomb somehow indecent, certainly not a legitimate form of warfare.
- E.B. Potter, in Nimitz (1976), p. 386
- As he prepared to leave office, Admiral Nimitz was sick at heart to see the national defense being endangered by political considerations- for such appeared to him to be the case. He was almost equally disturbed by an apparent change in the character of the U.S. Navy. He had expected that in wartime, with the great influx of reservists, the Navy would undergo change. But somehow he expected that, after the war, it would again become the almost intimate association of friends he had known in, say, his Augusta days. He gradually realized that, so far as he was concerned, the Old Navy had gone forever. The Navy Department seemed to him now less like an association than like a corporation. In his own class of 1905, 144 midshipmen had been graduated. Even the immediate prewar classes never produced as many as 500 graduates. By 1947 the Naval Academy was turning out graduates by the thousand, and to these was added an increasing influx of officers from the NROTCs. The Navy was acquiring more potential commanders than there were ships to command. Nimitz, walking the corridors of the Navy Department building, was continually encountering officers he had never seen before. Above all, Nimitz was tired. For six years he had been carrying heavy burdens and had had no leave to speak of. There had been times when he regretted and rather resented Secretary Forrestal's having cut his tenure as Chief of Naval Operations from the usual four years to two. But, as December 1947 approached, he could hardly wait to lay down his burdens and get out of Washington.
- E.B. Potter, Nimitz (1976), p. 428
- Among the assets the United States could count was one which Nimitz would never dream of listing- the man himself. Neither President Franklin D. Roosevelt nor Secretary Knox ever served his country better than when they passed over an impressive seniority list to select this gentle, courtly and highly respected Texan to command the U.S. Pacific Fleet in a desperate hour. Nimitz became a rear admiral in 1938, and had served as chief of the Bureau of Navigation in Navy Headquarters since June 15, 1939. There he gained a reputation for hard work, zealous attention to detail, efficient organization, strict conformity to official form, as well as mature and ethical judgments. He had hoped for a sea command, but perforce accepted another desk job with no complaint.
- Gordon W. Prange, Miracle at Midway (1982), p. 10
- He graduated seventh- that mystic, lucky number- in the Annapolis Class of 1905. Already his classmates had him fairly well pegged. "Possesses that calm and steady-going Dutch way that gets to the bottom of things," read the Naval Academy's class book, Lucky Bag. He brought to his new command in Hawaii a solid if unspectacular background in submarines, battleships, cruisers, and Navy headquarters positions. Infinitely more important, he brought a mind, heart and spirit equal to the task. The thundering challenges, the crushing responsibilities of the Pacific command were to prove over the years that here was one of America's great men in the tradition of Robert E. Lee, whom he resembled in temperament, character, and ability.
- Gordon W. Prange, Miracle at Midway (1982), p. 10-11
- Superficially, Nimitz promised little in the way of picturesque "copy," for he was no exhibitionist and never raised his voice. If he had an eccentricity, it was a mild addiction to the homely pastime of pitching horseshoes. Nor did he look in the least like the popular conception of a gruff old sea dog. In fact, he appeared startlingly youthful, although his once incredibly blond hair had turned so white that some, behind his back, nicknamed him "Cottontail." He had a fresh, fine-textured complexion, and only the lines which experience and humor had etched at his nostrils and candid, steel-blue eyes, gave any hint of his fifty-seven years.
- Gordon W. Prange, Miracle at Midway (1982), p. 11
- 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
- While MacArthur was a forceful and colorful personality, a man of dramatic gestures and rhetoric, Nimitz was soft-spoken and relaxed, a team player, a leader by example rather than exhortation. "The Admiral was frequently the despair of his public relations men," wrote correspondent Robert Sherrod; "it simply was not in him to make sweeping statements or give out colorful interviews." An officer recalled that during tense moments, while awaiting word of the outcome of important operations or battles, Nimitz would joke with his staff "while he calmly practised on his pistol range or tossed ringers with horseshoes just outside his office." By contrast, at such moments MacArthur "would as a rule sit stonily in his chair, chewing on the stem of a corncob pipe."
- Ronald H. Spector, Eagle Against the Sun: The American War with Japan (1985), p. 145-146
- There were contrasts as well in the two men's relations with Washington. According to one of King's biographers, Thomas Buell, the Chief of Naval Operations "never entirely trusted Nimitz's judgment," believing him to be too susceptible to bad advice and too ready to compromise with the Army. Throughout the war, King held frequent personal meetings with Nimitz, usually in San Francisco or Hawaii. By contrast, Marshall saw Army theater commanders in Europe infrequently, and MacArthur only once. King's numerous conferences with Nimitz may indeed "indicate the extent of King's anxiety to keep Nimitz under his thumb; they may also have reflected King's special interest in directing Pacific strategy.
- Ronald H. Spector, Eagle Against the Sun: The American War with Japan (1985), p. 146
- Nimitz and MacArthur differed radically in style of command. Whereas Nimitz came to Pearl Harbor virtually alone, retaining many of the members of Kimmel's staff, MacArthur brought with him from the Philippines a group of loyal and deferential- critics said sycophantic- subordinates who served as his key staff officers and assistants throughout the war. In the course of his campaigns MacArthur later developed other close personal relationships, with General Robert Eichelberger, Admiral Thomas Kinkaid, General George C. Kenney- even to some extent with Admiral Halsey- but the ascendancy of "the Bataan gang" was never challenged.
- Ronald H. Spector, Eagle Against the Sun: The American War with Japan (1985), p. 146
- Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, was a mild-mannered Texan promoted past 28 officers to take over after Pearl Harbor.
- C.L. Sulzberger, The American Heritage Picture History of World War II (1966), p. 335
- Nimitz decided to apply for admission to West Point after talking to two young army officers who stopped at the Kerrville hotel. Informed by his congressman that no appointments were available at the Military Academy, he accepted the offer of one to the Naval Academy, of which until that moment he had never even heard.
- Jack Sweetman, The United States Naval Academy: An Illustrated History (1995), 2nd Edition, edited by Thomas J. Cutler, p. 150
- Nimitz came the academy in 1901, the year one of its texts provoked the notorious Sampson-Schley controversy. The book as the third volume of Edgar S. Maclay's History of the United States Navy, which covered the Spanish-American War. Maclay charged that Commodore Schley, who with Dewey and Sampson had emerged as one of the war's naval heroes, had bungled the search for Cervera and lost his nerve at the Battle of Santiago. The outraged Schley demanded that the work be withdrawn from the academy, which it was. Unfortunately, Schley did not stop there. He also demanded a court of inquiry to investigate his conduct throughout the entire war. This had the effect of polarizing naval opinion into two hostile camps, one of which agreed with Macley's interpretation and held that Sampson deserved all the credit for Santiago, while the other supported Schley. The court did not help matters by turning in a majority report condemning Schley and a majority report exonerating him. The publicity attracted by this unseemly squabble proved an embarrassment to the navy as a whole, and the episode seems to have left a lasting impression on the minds of the midshipmen of Nimitz's generation. The extreme tact most of them later observed in discussing the command decisions they made as admirals in World War Two proceeded in part from a determination to avoid any more Sampson-Schley controversies.
- Jack Sweetman, The United States Naval Academy: An Illustrated History (1995), 2nd Edition, edited by Thomas J. Cutler, p. 152-153
- Like King, Nimitz did well at the academy. A midshipman company commander, he graduated seventh in a class of 114 and pulled stroke on the varsity crew. And like King, he came close to disaster in his first-class year. At its beginning, his class was moved into the completed wing of Bancroft Hall. Nimitz was assigned a room on the third floor, from which he and his friends discovered a way to reach the roof of one of the wings still under construction. There they held moonlight beer parties, dropping their empties to explode with a gratifying crash on the blocks of granite piled below. One day it fell to Nimitz to pick up the beer from the back room of an obliging Maryland Avenue tailor. Also present at the tailor's was a distinguished-looking stranger in civilian clothes. At the next meeting of his navigation class, Nimitz was aghast to find the distinguished stranger at its head, this time in uniform. He was Lieutenant Commander Levi C. Bertolette, '87, who had just joined the academy staff. Certain that he was recognized, Nimitz awaited the summons that might herald his dismissal from the academy. It never came. Although it may have been simply that Bertolette did not place him, Nimitz was convinced that he had decided to give him another chance. years later, he commented, "This escapade taught me a lesson on how to behave for the remainder of my stay at the academy."
- Jack Sweetman, The United States Naval Academy: An Illustrated History (1995), 2nd Edition, edited by Thomas J. Cutler, p. 153-154
- Nimitz did not take command of the fleet immediately. He spent his first week getting to know the lay of the land, with Pye often at his side. Rising each day at 6:30 a.m., he did some exercises, dressed, had breakfast, and arrived at the fleet headquarters at eight. The admiral had a phenomenally good memory for faces, and surprised old colleagues and subordinates by remembering their names. Lieutenant Commander Jasper Holmes had once served as an obscure junior engineering officer in a submarine division commanded by Nimitz. "He had little reason to remember me," wrote Holmes, but when the two men came face to face in a corridor, the new C-in-C not only greeted the younger man by name but evidently knew details of his subsequent service record.
- Ian W. Toll, Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 (2012), p. 158
- William Ewing, a reporter with the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, thought Nimitz seemed too "kindly," too "fatherly," and his khaki uniform seemed at least one size too large. "I thought Admiral Nimitz looked more like a retired banker than the kind of hell-for-leather leader we needed to pull us out of the worst hole the country had ever been in." The remark anticipated Samuel Eliot Morison's observation that "war correspondents who expected admirals to pound the table and bellow as in the movies, were apt to wonder 'Is this the man?'" It was true that Nimitz was not a cinematic naval hero in the mold of Nelson, Decatur or Jones. Like most American officers of his vintage, he had no experience of combat. He had never even seen a shot fired in anger. But the fleet did not need a show of blood and thunder after the beating it had suffered; there was plenty of the real stuff to go around. Nimitz was an executive, a strategist, and a leader. He was a gentleman of the old school. It was not in him to shout or abuse the furniture or let a word of profanity fall from his lips. Holmes took comfort in the admiral's "aura of calm confidence" while Edwin Layton thought "the incisive thrust of his questions... made it clear that he was steeled for the tremendous task he was to assume."
- Ian W. Toll, Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 (2012), p. 158-159
- Nimitz crossed the dock to the headquarters and climbed the stairs to his office. He called the senior staff into the room. Having been stationed at Pearl Harbor before the Japanese attack, and having witnessed the craven recall of the Wake relief force, many of those officers carried an enervating burden of guilt, akin to a feeling of personal disgrace. They expected to be shunted off into dead-end billets for the remainder of the war, and many hoped only to be sent to sea, with a chance to redeem themselves in combat. Nimitz saw the problem clearly and understood what had to be done. "These were all fine men," he later said, "but they had just undergone a terrible shock, and it was my first duty to restore morale and to salvage these fine officers for future use, and this I proceeded to do." He spoke briefly, in a low tone. "I know most of you here," he said, "and I have complete confidence in your ability and judgment. We've taken a whale of a wallop, but I have no doubt of the ultimate outcome." December 7 would not be held against them. They were needed, and must remain, at their posts. He would listen to requests for seagoing assignments, but "certain key members of the staff I insist I want to keep." "In a very few minutes of speaking softly," one such officer recalled, "Admiral Nimitz convinced all hands of his ability to lead us out of this."
- Ian W. Toll, Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 (2012), p. 160
- In the U.S. Navy of 1942, ever admiral knew every other admiral, at least by name and face. But King and Nimitz had never been close, either personally or professionally. King's overbearing domination drew a sharp contrast to Nimitz's soft-spoken collegiality, and if it had been up to the new COMINCH to name Kimmel's replacement, it is safe to assume he would have chosen someone else. In letters to his wife, the Texan confided that he and King had not yet established trust or rapport. He would have to tread lightly, for when the COMINCH lost confidence in a man, the consequences were felt immediately.
- Ian W. Toll, Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 (2012), p. 199
- "Nimitz, The Submariner" by RADM Jerry Holland, USN
- Brief biography at the Naval Historical Center
- Brief biography at the California State Military Museum
- Brief biography at Famous Texans
- Nimitz State Historic Site in Fredericksburg, Texas
- "Chester Nimitz on the Super Chief" - an excerpt from Nimitz (1976) by E. B Potter
- Biographical notes at The American Experience (PBS)
- "On the Shoulders of Giants" by Chris Michel
- "LIBERATION — Guam Remembers"
- National Museum of the Pacific War
- USS Nimitz Association
- Nimitz-class Navy Ships at Federation of American Scientists