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Fleet Admiral Ernest Joseph King (23 November 1878 – 25 June 1956) was Commander in Chief, United States Fleet (COMINCH) and Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) during World War II. As COMINCH-CNO, he directed the United States Navy's operations, planning, and administration and was a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was the U.S. Navy's second most senior officer after Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, and the second admiral to be promoted to five star rank. He served under Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox and later under James Forrestal.
- Don't tell them anything. When it's over, tell them who won.
- King's reply when asked for a public relations strategy for the U.S. Navy in World War II. As quoted in Dictionary of Military and Naval Quotations (1966) by Robert Heinl, p. 258
- Every naval officer has a job to do. He should do that job out of a sense of duty and should not get recognition for having done what he has been trained to do. His only reward should be the satisfaction of knowing that he has done the job well and to the best of his ability.
- Said to Betsy Matter during World War II, as quoted by Thomas B. Buell, Master of Sea Power: A Biography of Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King (1980), p. 380-381
- Initiative means freedom to act, but it does not mean freedom to act in an offhand or casual manner.
- As quoted by Robert A. Fitton (editor) in Leadership: Quotations From the Military Tradition (1990), p. 126
- I don't know much about this thing called logistics. All I know is that I want some.
- As quoted by Robert A. Fitton (editor) in Leadership: Quotations From the Military Tradition (1990), p. 172
- Discipline is willing obedience to attain the greatest good by the greatest number. It means [the] laying aside, for the time being, of ordinary everyday go-as-you-please and do-what-you-like. It means one for all and all for one- teamwork. It means a machine- not of inert metal, but one of living men- an integrated human machine in which each does his part and contributes his full share.
- As quoted by Robert A. Fitton (editor) in Leadership: Quotations From the Military Tradition (1990), p. 281
- Anyone who won't take a chance now and then isn't worth a damn.
- Remark on participating in hazardous bad-weather training flights alongside his aviators aboard USS Lexington (CV-2) in 1936. As quoted by Thomas B. Buell in Master of Sea Power: A Biography of Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King (1980), p. 105
- I don't care how good they are. Unless they get a kick in the ass every six weeks, they'll slack off.
- King's comment on maintaining a strict style of leadership, in particular constantly holding drills and inspections among his sailors and officers, in 1940 when he was a 2-star rear admiral. As quoted in American Warlords: How Roosevelt's High Command Led America To Victory In World War II (2016), p. 72.
- It must be the key idea of all hands that we will make the best of what we have.
- Excerpt from Atlantic Fleet Confidential Memorandum 2CM-41, sent on 24 March 1941. As quoted in History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume One: The Battle of the Atlantic, September 1939-May 1943 (1948) by Samuel Eliot Morison, p. 52
- I expect the officers of the Atlantic Fleet to be the leaders of what may be called the pioneering spirit- to lead in the determination that the difficulties and discomforts- personnel, materiel, operations, waiting- shall be dealt with as "enemies" to be overcome by our own efforts.
- Excerpt from Atlantic Fleet Confidential Memorandum 2CM-41, sent on 24 March 1941. As quoted in History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume One: The Battle of the Atlantic, September 1939-May 1943 (1948) by Samuel Eliot Morison, p. 52
- There is work in plenty for all hands- officers and men.
- Excerpt from Atlantic Fleet Confidential Memorandum 2CM-41, sent on 24 March 1941. As quoted in History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume One: The Battle of the Atlantic, September 1939-May 1943 (1948) by Samuel Eliot Morison, p. 52
- The way to victory is long.
The going will be hard.
We will do the best we can with what we've got.
We must have more planes and ships- at once.
Then it will be our turn to strike.
We will win through- in time.
- King's first statement as Commander-in-Chief, United States fleet, sent on 24 December 1941. As quoted in History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume Three: The Rising Sun in the Pacific, 1931-April 1942 (1948) by Samuel Eliot Morison, p. 255. Also quoted on the first page and on page 58 of The United States Navy in World War II (1966) by S.E. Smith (editor).
- No fighter ever won his fight by covering up- by merely fending off the other fellow's blows. The winner hits and keeps on hitting even though he has to take some stiff blows in order to be able to keep on hitting.
- Excerpt from a late March 1942 memorandum King wrote to President Roosevelt, urging against adopting the policy of those most concerned with defending the continental United States. It is unknown if the memorandum was actually ever seen by the President. The entire memorandum is quoted by Thomas B. Buell in his book Master of Sea Power: A Biography of Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King (1980), p. 193.
- Machines are as nothing without men. Men are as nothing without morale.
- Graduation address at the United States Naval Academy, 16 June 1942, as quoted by Robert A. Fitton (editor) in Leadership: Quotations From the Military Tradition (1990), p. 193
- CINCUS to Vandegrift for his flyers- Many happy returns Sunday and congratulations- Keep knocking them off.
- Dispatch from King to then-Major General Alexander Vandegrift, commander of the 1st Marine Division, during the Battle of Guadalcanal in late August 1942. As quoted in Once A Marine: The Memoirs of General A.A. Vandegrift, U.S.M.C. (1964), p. 146
- Dear Mr. President:
It appears proper that I should bring to your notice the fact that the record shows that I shall attain the age of 64 years on November 23rd next- one month from today.
I am as always at your service.
Most sincerely yours,
Ernest J. King
Admiral, U.S. Navy
- Letter from King to Franklin D. Roosevelt on 23 October 1942, notifying the President that King was about to reach mandatory retirement age, at which time he could only be kept in the Navy at the desire of the President. Roosevelt hand-wrote on the same letter "So what, old top? I may even send you a birthday present!" and had it sent back to King. As quoted in Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record (1952), by Ernest King and Walter M. Whitehill, p. 412
- (1) Defensive phase... a boxer covering up.
(2) Defensive-offensive phase... a boxer covering up while seeking an opening to counterpunch.
(3) Offensive-defensive phase... blocking punches with one hand while hitting with the other.
(4) Offensive phase... hitting with both hands.
- King's predicted four phases of World War II for the United States and the Allies, made while conversing with reporters in Alexandria, Virginia on 30 November 1942. As quoted by Thomas B. Buell in his book Master of Sea Power: A Biography of Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King (1980), p. 265
- In the last analysis, Russia will do nine-tenths of the job of defeating Germany.
- Prediction made by King when speaking to reporters in Alexandria, Virginia on 30 November 1942. As quoted by Thomas B. Buell in his book Master of Sea Power: A Biography of Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King (1980), p. 265
- I'd say they started something at Pearl Harbor that they are not going to finish. We are going to win this war.
- From Time magazine's interview with King, Volume XL, Number 23 (December 7, 1942), p. 30
- Our days of victory are in the making.
- Remark by King in March 1942, as quoted in Time magazine's interview with King, Volume XL, Number 23 (December 7, 1942), p. 31
- It's going to be a long war. We will really hit our stride in about a year's time... Our two-ocean Navy is not yet in service. The smaller ships for it will begin to come into service around Thanksgiving or Christmas. The plain fact is we haven't got the tools. Some of our critics would have us do everything everywhere all at once. It can't be done with what we have to work with.
- From an address during a 1942 visit to Cleveland, Ohio, and Lorain, Ohio, as quoted from Time magazine's interview with King, Volume XL, Number 23 (December 7, 1942), p. 31
- I have a philosophy that when you have a commander in the field, let him know what you want done and then let him alone. I have two other philosophies. One is: Do the best you can with what you have. The other is: Do not worry about water over the dam.
- From Time magazine's interview with King, Volume XL, Number 23 (December 7, 1942), p. 32.
- We knew what Nimitz was doing. He did the right thing, and we let him alone.
- Comment on Chester Nimitz's role in the Battle of Midway in Time magazine's interview with King, Volume XL, Number 23 (December 7, 1942), p. 33
- We hear a great deal of clamor from time to time for unity of command. That's a loose term and has come to be widely used by people who don't have the full facts. Actually, many good officers are not qualified or competent to exercise unified command, but we keep on hearing amateurs suggest that some one man be called in to exercise sweeping control over all things military.
- From Time magazine's interview with King, Volume XL, Number 23 (December 7, 1942), p. 33
- The seeming helplessness of our cousins strikes me as amusing when it is not annoying. I am sure what they wish in their hearts is that we would haul down the Stars and Stripes and hoist the White Ensign in all our ships. What particularly irks me is their strong liking for mixed forces, which as you know approached anathema to me. I am willing to take over additional tasks- and we have done so- but I cannot be expected to agree to help them cling to tasks that they themselves say they are unable to do unless we lend them our ships and other forces. I think we have done enough for them in their Home Fleet.
- In a letter from King to Admiral Harold B. Stark in November 1943, as quoted in Churchill's Anchor: Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound (2000) by Robin Brodhurst.
- Stalin knew just what it was he wanted when he came to Teheran, and he got it. Stalin is a stark realist, and there is no foolishness about him. He speaks briefly and directly to the point- not a wasted word.
- Remark to reporters on 28 November 1943 during the Tehran Conference, as quoted by Thomas B. Buell in Master of Sea Power: A Biography of Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King (1980), p. 431
- Well done, Frank Knox. We dedicate ourselves, one and all, to what surely would have been his last order- 'Carry On!'
- King's public written response to the death of Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox on April 28, 1944, as quoted in Battle Stations! Your Navy In Action (1946) by Admirals of the U.S. Navy, p. 243
- SUSPEND ALL OFFENSIVE ACTION. REMAIN ALERT.
- King's final wartime message to Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander, United States Pacific Fleet, sent by cable on August 14, 1945. As quoted in American Warlords: How Roosevelt's High Command Led America To Victory In World War II (2016), p. 467.
- Well, it's all over. I wonder what I'm going to do tomorrow.
- Remark to Neil K. Dietrich on 14 August 1945; King had just learned that President Harry Truman was going to announce Japan's decision to surrender unconditionally to the Allied powers. As quoted by Thomas B. Buell in Master of Sea Power: A Biography of Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King (1980), p. 498
- I can best stress the importance of the U.S. Navy to the American people when I state that without sea power on our side the United States would never have become a nation, would not have continued to exist as a nation, and even more specifically would not have won the great World War just so successfully concluded.
- From King's Foreword in Battle Stations! Your Navy In Action (1946) by Admirals of the U.S. Navy, p. 9
- The part of the U.S. Navy alone in this war was stupendous. And I wish here to acknowledge our debt not only to the men and women of the United States Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and their several Women's Reserves, but also to those innumerable civilians who aided the Navy's war effort.
- From King's Foreword in Battle Stations! Your Navy In Action (1946) by Admirals of the U.S. Navy, p. 10
- The day after Pearl Harbor our Navy's position in the Pacific was extremely grave. The bulk of our major ships had been put out of commission for a year; only our small Asiatic Fleet under Admiral Hart in the Philippines and portions of the Pacific Fleet that had been absent from Pearl Harbor on the day of the attack were in fighting condition in the Pacific. Even Hawaii might be attacked and overrun at any moment. And in the Atlantic the Axis submarines were destroying a tremendous tonnage of our shipping within sight of our very shores. Then, even at the lowest of the war tide, the decision was made, and correctly: first fight for time, especially in the Pacific- and then assemble the might to conquer first Italy and then Germany, and then inevitably Japan must succumb.
- From King's Foreword in Battle Stations! Your Navy In Action (1946) by Admirals of the U.S. Navy, p. 10
- Nor is the Navy content to rest on its present laurels. Long a leader in invention and research, our Navy is already studying new weapons, new methods- the atomic bomb and guided missiles, for instance. Whatever new weapons, or defenses against new weapons, science can develop, the U.S. Navy intends to incorporate them into itself to make sure that the Navy shall always be strong enough to perform its historic function of defense of our own country and of offense against enemy countries. It is to be hoped that every American will exert his effort and influence to see that goal is achieved- that the U.S. Navy will always remain, as it is today, the world's greatest sea power.
- From King's Foreword in Battle Stations! Your Navy In Action (1946) by Admirals of the U.S. Navy, p. 10
- On the evening of December 8, therefore, after the Japanese had bombed the airfields and destroyed many of General MacArthur's planes, our submarines and motor torpedo boats, which were still in Philippine water, were left with the task of impeding the enemy's advance.
- From King's report on the Japanese attack on the Philippines, as quoted in Battle Stations! Your Navy In Action (1946) by Admirals of the U.S. Navy, p. 180
- Book printed out of the three major reports King issued on 23 April 1944, 27 March 1945, and 8 December 1945
- Calculating risks does not mean taking a gamble. It is more than figuring the odds. It is not reducible to a formula. It is the analysis of all factors which collectively indicate whether or not the consequences to ourselves will be more than compensated for by the damage to the enemy or interference with his plans. Correct calculation of risks, by orderly reasoning, is the responsibility of every naval officer who participates in combat, and many who do not.
- First Report, p. 34
- The war has been variously termed a war of production and a war of machines. Whatever else it is, so far as the United States is concerned, it is a war of logistics.
- First Report, p. 34
- It is no easy matter in a global war to have the right materials in the right places at the right times in the right quantities.
- First Report, p. 36
- The actions in the Coral Sea and at Midway did much to wrest the initiative from the enemy and slow down further advance. Our first really offensive operation was the seizure of Guadalcanal in August 1942. This campaign was followed by a general offensive made possible by increases in our amphibious forces and in our naval forces in general, which has continued to gain momentum on the entire Pacific front. At the end of February 1944, the enemy had been cleared from the Aleutians, had been pushed well out of the Solomons, and was forced to adopt a defensive delaying strategy. Meanwhile, our own positions in the Pacific had been strengthened.
- First Report, p. 38
- The war in the Pacific may be regarded as having four stages:
(a) The defensive, when we were engaged almost exclusively in protecting our shores and our lines of communication from the encroachments of the enemy.
(b) The defensive-offensive, during which, although our operations were chiefly defensive in character, we were able nevertheless to take certain defensive measures.
(c) The offensive-defensive, covering the period immediately following our seizure of the initiative, but during which we still had to use a large part of our forces to defend our recent gains.
(d) The offensive, which began when our advance bases were no longer seriously threatened and we became able to attack the enemy at places of our own choosing.
- First Report, p. 39
- The Battle of Midway was the first decisive defeat suffered by the Japanese Navy in 350 years. Furthermore, it put an end to the long period of Japanese offensive action, and restored the balance of naval power in the Pacific. The threat to Hawaii and the west coast was automatically removed, and except for operations in the Aleutians area, where the Japanese had landed on the islands of Kiska and Attu, enemy operations were confined to the south Pacific. It was to this latter area, therefore, that we gave our greatest attention.
- First Report, p. 49
- The Battle of Guadalcanal, in spite of heavy losses we sustained, was a decisive victory for us, and our position in the southern Solomons was not threatened again seriously by the Japanese. Except for the "Tokio express," which from time to time succeeded in landing small quantities of supplies and reinforcements, control of the sea and air in the southern Solomons passed to the United States.
- First Report, p. 61
- The operations in the Marshall Islands carried out by the forces under Vice Admiral Spruance were characterized by excellent planning and by almost perfect timing in the execution of those plans. The entire operation was a full credit to those who participated, and it is a noteworthy example of the results that may be expected from good staff work.
- First Report, p. 74
- For reasons of security, our submarine operations throughout the Pacific can be discussed only in very general terms. No branch of the naval service, however, has acquitted itself more creditably. Submarine commanding officers are skillful, daring and resourceful. Their crews are well trained and efficient. Their morale is high, and in direct ratio to the success of submarine operations. Materially our submarines are in excellent shape, and we have kept up to the minute in all features of design and scientific development and research. The versatility of our submarines has been so repeatedly demonstrated throughout the war that the Japanese know only too well that in no part of the Pacific Ocean are they safe from submarine attack. When the full story can be told, it will constitute one of the most stirring chapters in the annals of naval warfare.
- p. 77
- Both in Europe and in the Pacific long roads still lie ahead. But we are now fully entered on those roads, fortified with unity, power, and experience, imbued with confidence and determined to travel far and fast to victory.
- First Report, p. 93
- While we contemplate with pride the accomplishments of the past twelve months- accomplishments without precedent in naval history- we must never forget that there is a long, tough and laborious road ahead.
- Second Report, p. 163
- In connection with the matter of command in the field, there is perhaps a popular misconception that the Army and the Navy were intermingled in a standard form of joint operational organization in every theater throughout the world. Actually, the situation was never the same in any two areas. For example, after General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower had completed his landing in Normandy, his operation became purely a land campaign. The Navy was responsible for maintaining the line of communications across the ocean and for certain supply operations in the ports of Europe, and small naval groups became part of the land army for certain special purposes, such as the boat groups which helped in the crossing of the Rhine. But the strategy and tactics of the great battles leading up to the surrender of Germany were primarily army affairs and no naval officer had anything directly to do with the command of this land campaign. A different situation existed in the Pacific, where, in the process of capturing small atolls, the fighting was almost entirely within range of naval gunfire; that is to say, the whole operation of capturing an atoll was amphibious in nature, with artillery and air-support primarily naval. This situation called for a mixed Army-Navy organization which was entrusted to the command of Fleet Admiral Nimitz. A still different situation existed in the early days of the war during the Solomon Islands campaign where Army and Navy became, of necessity, so thoroughly intermingled that they were, to all practical purposes, a single service directed by Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr. Under General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Army, Army Aviation, and the naval components of his command were separate entities tied together only at the top in the person of General MacArthur himself. In the Mediterranean the scheme of command differed somewhat from all the others.
- Third Report, p. 172
- The final phase of the Pacific naval war commenced with the assault on Iwo Jima in February 1945, closely followed by that on Okinawa in April. These two positions were inner defenses of Japan itself; their capture by United States forces meant that the heart of the Empire would from then on be exposed to the full fury of attack, not only by our carrier aircraft but also by land-based planes, the latter in a strength comparable to that which wreaked such devastation against the better protected and less vulnerable cities of Germany. After Okinawa was in our hands, the Japanese were in a desperate situation, which could only be alleviated if they could strike a counterblow, either by damaging our fleet or by driving us from our advanced island positions. The inability of the Japanese to do either was strong evidence of their increasing impotence and indicated that the end could not be long delayed.
- Third Report, p. 173
- The defensive organization of Iwo Jima was the most complete and effective yet encountered. The beaches were flanked by high terrain favorable to the defenders. Artillery, mortars, and rocket launchers were well concealed, yet could register on both beaches- in fact, on any point on the island. Observation was possible, both from Mount Suribachi at the south end and from a number of commanding hills and steep defiles sloping to the sea from all sides of the central Motoyama tableland afforded excellent natural cover and concealment, and lent themselves readily to the construction of subterranean positions to which the Japanese are addicted. Knowing the superiority of the firepower which would be brought against them by air, sea, and land, they had gone underground most effectively, while remaining ready to man their positions with mortars, machine guns, and other portable weapons the instant our troops started to attack. The defenders were dedicated to expending themselves- but expending themselves skillfully and protractedly in order to exact the uttermost toll from the attackers. Small wonder then that every step had to be won slowly by men inching forward with hand weapons, and at heavy costs. There was no other way of doing it. The skill and gallantry of our Marines in this exceptionally difficult enterprise was worthy of their best traditions and deserving of the highest commendation. This was equally true of the naval units acting in their support, especially those engaged at the hazardous beaches. American history offers no finer example of courage, ardor and efficiency.
- Third Report, p. 174-175
- Never before in the history of war had there been a more convincing example of the effectiveness of sea power than when a well-armed, highly efficient and undefeated army of over a million men surrendered their homeland unconditionally to the invader without even token resistance. True, the devastation already wrought by past bombings, as well as the terrible demonstration of power by the first atomic bombs, augured nothing less for the Japanese than total extinction; yet without sea power there would have been no possession of Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa from which to launch these bombings. True, the Japanese homeland might have been taken by assault in one final amphibious operation of tremendous magnitude, yet without sea power such an assault could not have been attempted.
- Third Report, p. 195
- The end of the war came before we had dared to expect it. As late as August 1943 strategic studies drawn up by the British and United States planners contemplated the war against Japan continuing far into 1947. Even the latest plans were based upon the Japanese war lasting a year after the fall of Germany. Actually Japan's defeat came within three months of Germany's collapse. The nation can be thankful that the unrelenting acceleration of our power in the Pacific ended the war in 1945.
- Third Report, p. 232
- The price of victory has been high. Beginning with the dark days of December 1941 and continuing until September 1945, when the ships of the Pacific Fleet steamed triumphant into Tokyo Bay, the Navy's losses were severe. The casualties of the United States Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard reached the totals of 56,206 dead, 80,259 wounded, and 8,967 missing. Many of these gallant men fell in battle; many were lost in strenuous and hazardous operations convoying our shipping or patrolling the seas and skies; others were killed in training for the duties that Fate would not permit them to carry out. All honor to these heroic men. To their families and to those who have suffered the physical and mental anguish of wounds, the Navy includes its sympathy in that of the country they served so well. It is my sincere hope- and expectation- that the United States will hereafter remain ever ready to support and maintain the peace of the world by being ever ready to back up its words with deeds.
- Third Report, p. 232
- I'll never forgive the Army for not taking at least part of the blame for Pearl Harbor. That was why I didn't like Stimson.
- King's comment after the war on Henry L. Stimson, who was United States Secretary of War during World War II, while speaking to Commander Walter Muir Whitehill, who wrote King's memoirs for him. As quoted in American Warlords: How Roosevelt's High Command Led America To Victory In World War II (2016), p. 473
- I didn't like the atom bomb or any part of it.
- King's comment to Commander Whitehill on July 4, 1950, which was transcribed in Whitehill's notes. As quoted in The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth (1995) by Gar Alperovitz, p. 321
- This book was co-written by King and Walter Muir Whitehill, and apart from the Introduction and various instances wherein King is directly quoted throughout the book, it is written in a third-person narrative style.
- To the Class of 1901, United States Naval Academy.
- During the war I kept neither a diary nor notes. I had then neither the time nor the inclination, and like most sailors, who through necessity "travel light," I have not accumulated any substantial body of personal papers. Since my relief as Chief of Naval Operations on 15 December 1945, I have spent many hours in recalling the events of World War II and of my earlier life in the Navy. My source has been my memory, verified and supplemented by references to official records and by the recollections of officers who assisted me in my wartime duties. The reader must therefore take this book on faith, for its statements are not bolstered by citations of numerous documents. I must ask him to believe, however, that I have made a sincere and conscientious effort to avoid the inspiration of hindsight and to record matters as they seemed at the time.
- Introduction, p. viii
- War has changed little in principle from the beginning of recorded history. The mechanized warfare of today is only an evolution of the time when men fought with clubs and stones, and its machines are as nothing without the men who invent them, man them and give them life. War is force- force to the utmost- force to make the enemy yield to our own will- to yield because they see their comrades killed and wounded- to yield because their own will to fight is broken. War is men against men. Mechanized war is still men against men, for machines are masses of inert metal without the men who control them- or destroy them.
- Introduction, p. viii
- Any man facing a major decision acts, consciously or otherwise, upon the training and beliefs of a lifetime. This is no less true of a military commander than of a surgeon who, while operating, suddenly encounters an unsuspected complication. In both instances, the men must act immediately, with little time for reflection, and if they are successful in dealing with the unexpected it is upon the basis of past experience and training. As any decisions that I made during World War II sprang from the forty-four years' service that were behind me in 1941, I wish to acquaint the reader with the background of my professional life so that he may better understand their origins.
- Introduction, p. viii
- The United States has never had the tradition of a military class. The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Services, and the officers and enlisted men of the Army, Navy, and Air Force are drawn from all classes of American life and must be trained from scratch.
- Introduction, p. viii
- First, all hands gave their best and their utmost, day and night, in good weather and bad, in order that the work might progress with all practicable dispatch. Second, the divers encountered the hazards of their work with unfailing readiness, with the greatest skill and frequently the greatest intrepidity and daring; it is trite to say that the job could not have been done without them; it is true to say that none could have done more than they did. Third, the commanding officer of the Falcon, Lieutenant Henry Hartley, whose seamanship was of the highest order, whose advice in all matters was invaluable, whose judgement was eminently sound, displayed a devotion to duty which was unceasing and a constant example to all hands.
- p. 183-184. Detailing the salvaging of U.S.S. S-51, an operation which King commanded.
- Fourth, Lieutenant Commander Edward Ellsberg, Construction Corps, the salvage officer, was in direct personal charge of the actual salvage work and diving operations; his technical knowledge and resourcefulness were adequate for all of the innumerable setbacks and difficulties; he developed an improved underwater cutting torch, worked out the technique of handling the pontoons, learned to dive during the months the actual operations were suspended and actually went down on the wreck some three times during the spring operations; he was the embodiment of perseverance and determination.
- p. 184. Detailing the salvaging of U.S.S. S-51.
- Historically ... it is traditional and habitual for us to be inadequately prepared. This is the combined result of a number factors, the character of which is only indicated: democracy, which tends to make everyone believe that he knows it all; the preponderance (inherent in democracy) of people whose real interest is in their own welfare as individuals; the glorification of our own victories in war and the corresponding ignorance of our defeats (and disgraces) and of their basic causes; the inability of the average individual (the man in the street) to understand the cause and effect not only in foreign but domestic affairs, as well as his lack of interest in such matters. Added to these elements is the manner in which our representative (republican) form of government has developed as to put a premium on mediocrity and to emphasise the defects of the electorate already mentioned.
- p. 236-237.
- On the afternoon of 28 February 1939 King and Halsey went together on board Houston where some twenty or more flag officers of the United States Fleet had been summoned to pay their respects to the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy. President Roosevelt was in high spirits, for he loved the Navy and always visibly expanded when at sea. As the admirals greeted him, he would have some pleasant, half-teasing personal message for each. King, when his turn came, shook hands and said that he hoped the President liked the manner in which naval aviation was improving month by month, if not day by day. Mr. Roosevelt seemed pleased by this, and, after a brief chat, admonished King, in his bantering way, to watch out for the Japanese and the Germans. King made no attempt to hold further conversation with the President, even though Admiral Bloch urged him to do so. He had never "greased" anyone during his forty-two years of service and did not propose to begin, particularly at a moment when many of the admirals were trying so hard to please Mr. Roosevelt that it was obvious. He had paid his respects civilly; he was in plain sight, and felt that the President could easily summon him if there were anything more to say. He believed that his record would speak for itself, and that it was not likely to be improved by anything that he might say at this moment. It seemed that the die was already cast, although the President's decision would not be made known for some weeks.
- p. 291-292
- King, when told that he could have eggs or pancakes and toast and coffee, asked with the severity of expression that has often disconcerted those who do not know his fondness for teasing, why he could not have both. The waiter gasped, but shortly returned with a monumental plate of eggs and pancakes that caused Marshall to wonder how King got that huge breakfast. The answer was simple: "I asked for it!" Although in some doubt as to whether he could eat his way through what he had brought on himself, the food tasted so good after a week in wartime London that King eventually disposed of it. He then in Navy fashion thanked the mess officer, asked to look over the galley, and congratulated and shook hands with the cooks.
- Account of a visit King and George C. Marshall made to an Army mess hall in Presque Isle, Maine, in late July 1942, p. 408
- a. Would it further threaten or cut Japanese lines of communications?
b. Would it contribute to the attainment of positions of readiness from which a full-scale offensive could be launched against Japan?
- Two questions which King believed it was necessary to ask when considering any operation in the Pacific, as cited on p. 440
- Do the best you can with what you have.
Do not worry about water that has gone over the dam.
Difficulties exist to be overcome.
- p. 640
- Dear Harriet:
I have your letter of January 6th- and am interested to learn that you have to do my biography as part of your English work. As to your questions: I drink a little wine, now and then. I smoke about one pack of cigarettes a day. I think I like Spencer Tracy as well as any of the movie stars. My hobby is cross-word puzzles- when they are difficult. My favorite sport is golf- when I can get to play it- otherwise, I am fond of walking. Hoping that all will go well with your English work, I am,
Very truly yours,
Admiral, U.S. Navy
- King's reply to a sixth grade student in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, who wrote King a letter in January 1943 asking if he drank or smoked and what his favorite movie star, hobby and sport might be. Cited on p. 651
- When they get in trouble they send for the sons-of-bitches.
- Remark that King allegedly made when he was called to be Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, soon after the United States had entered World War II on December 7, 1941. Numerous sources have claimed he said a number of versions of this from World War II to the present day. However, when asked if he had said actually made the remark, King replied that he had not, but would have if he had thought of it. As quoted in Master of Sea Power: A Biography of Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King (1980) by Thomas B. Buell, p. 573, and Commander in Chief: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, His Lieutenants, and Their War (1987) by Eric Larrabee, p. 153
The alleged quote and King's reaction upon being told of it is further confirmed below:
- ""Admiral, asked McCrea, "is this story true that I hear about?" "Well, John, I don't know," replied King, deadpan. "Which story is it?" "They tell me," McCrea went on, "you were heard to say recently, 'Yes, damn it, when they get in trouble they send for the sons of bitches.'" King couldn't help but smile. "No, John, I didn't say it. But I will say this: If I had thought of it, I would have said it.""
- Conversation between Captain John L. McCrea and King in 1942, shortly after the latter's appointment as Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet. As quoted in The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy and King- The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea (2012) by Walter R. Borneman, p. 212
Quotes about King
- Alphabetized by author
- He is the most even-tempered person in the United States Navy. He is always in a rage.
- Allegedly made by one of King's daughters, this remark was repeated by U.S. Navy personnel during World War II.
- FLEET ADMIRAL ERNEST JOSEPH KING, USN. Born Ohio 1878. Annapolis Class of 1901. As Lt. Comdr., assigned first command, DD Terry, 1914. Awarded Navy Cross, 1916, for service as Assistant Chief of Staff to the Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet. Promoted to Comdr., 1917, Capt., 1922. Commanded Submarine Base, New London, 1923-1926,; USS Lexington, 1930-2. Served as Chief, Bureau of Aeronautics, 1933-6. Promoted Rear Admiral, 1939. In Feb. 1941, became Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet. Appointed Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet, Dec. 1941, and Chief of Naval Operations, 1942. On Dec. 20, 1944, achieved newly established highest rank, Fleet Admiral. Awarded 3 DSM's, numerous other decorations, American and foreign.
- Biographical Notes on King in Battle Stations! Your Navy in Action (1946), p. 396
- 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. King's staff in Washington was laced with submariners. For his deputy chief of staff he named Richard Edwards, then commanding Submarines Atlantic. Edwards, who would eventually become King's right arm, had commanded a squadron of fleet boats, and the Submarine Base at New London and had helped Lockwood fight for the Tambor class before the General Board in 1938. For his operations officer, King picked Francis Stuart ("Frog") Low, another submariner. Later, King appointed one-time submariner Charles Maynard ("Savvy") Cooke to be Assistant Chief of Staff for War Plans.
- Clay Blair, Jr., Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War Against Japan (1975), p. 125
- Diplomacy, tact, and forbearance were not words to be associated with Ernest King, even at a young age. When his mother once scolded him for expressing his dislike in front of the hostess, seven-year-old Ernest held his ground. "It's true," he insisted, "I don't like it." Absolute candor, no matter how rude or insulting, became his trademark. "If I didn't agree," King later reminisced, "I said so."
- Walter R. Borneman, The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy and King- The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea (2012), p. 28-29
- Whereas Leahy was stern, reserved, and even dour, King was nothing short of bombastic. Throughout his career, King's personality was routinely commented upon- and frequently feared- by his contemporaries and junior officers alike. His seniors usually found it merely annoying, although many- Forrestal was clearly an exception- tended to overlook his grating manner because there was no question that this demanding and strong-willed individual was also highly intelligent and capable of delivering results. King simply had no tolerance for subordinates who failed to carry out his orders to his satisfaction. Considering King's satisfaction was a very high bar, many failed to clear it. "On the job" wrote historian Robert Love in his history of the chiefs of naval operations, "[King] seemed always to be angry or annoyed." But some of that anger or annoyance may well have been a mask that was best breached when one stood up to him or took the initiative in doing what King likely would have done had he been in the other's shoes.
- Walter R. Borneman, The Admirals (2012), p. 471
- Ironically, during four years of war, MacArthur may have owed the most to the very people he was certain were out to discredit and disparage him. While never among his fans, Franklin Roosevelt and George Marshall nonetheless consistently supported MacArthur within the framework of their global priorities, from the first efforts to resupply the Philippines to MacArthur's appointment as Allied supreme commander. Even then, where would MacArthur's Southwest Pacific Area have been had not Ernie King urged the Joint Chiefs to pour resources into the Pacific and wage a two-front war?
- Walter R. Borneman, MacArthur at War: World War II in the Pacific (2016), p. 507
- In a caravan of recon cars we serpentined through traffic that churned the Normandy roads into a trail of choking white dust. It parched our throats, watered our eyes, and chalked King's neat blues. From Omaha we turned toward Isigny, past the dry, malodorous tidal basin at Grandcamp-les-Bains where the enemy had destroyed a dozen fishing craft and damaged the tidal gates. From offshore a salvo echoed across the beach as the battleship Texas lobbed its broadsides into the Carentan flats where the enemy had withdrawn behind that city. After having so persistently badgered the Navy for capital ships in the bombardment, I was anxious that King see the effects of his big guns in the streets of Isigny. Hansen had parked two armored cars in the village square to cover our party with their guns. With General Marshall, King, Arnold, and Eisenhower bunched together in three open cars, an enemy sniper could have won immortality as a hero of the Reich.
- Omar Bradley, A Soldier's Story (1951), p. 290-291
- King on the other hand is a shrewd and somewhat swollen headed individual. His vision is mainly limited to the Pacific, and any operation calculated to distract from the force available in the Pacific does not meet with his support or approval. He does not approach the problems from a worldwide war point of view, but instead with one biased entirely in favour of the Pacific. Although he pays lip service to the fundamental policy that we must defeat Germany and then turn on Japan, he fails to apply it in any problems connected with the war.
- Alan Brooke, 1st Viscount Alanbrooke, in a diary entry on 20 January 1943, later published in War Diaries, 1939-1945 (2001), edited by Alex Danchev and Daniel Todman, p. 364
- Betty Stark, known to the more junior officers of the Joint Staff Mission as "Tugboat Annie," was an easy man to get on with. Ernie King on the other hand was a difficult man to like. He had recently become Commander-in-Chief US Fleet and was effectively in charge of the day to day running of the US Navy, leaving the grand strategy to stark. This arrangement did not really work, and in March Stark moved to London as Commander-in-Chief US Naval Forces Europe, while King became both C-in-CUS and CNO. Nobody ever found King an easy man. He appeared prejudiced against all things British, but was probably better described as a ferocious Americanophile. He considered that any deployment of American forces in Europe, or, worse, North Africa was wasted as it detracted from the main theatre of the US Navy, the Pacific. His biggest dislikes were mixing US and Royal Navy ships in a combined force, or allowing US Navy ships to serve under foreign, especially British, command.
- Robin Brodhurst, Churchill's Anchor: Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound (2000), p. 206
- It seems to me that there are three qualities specially implied in this kind of genius, three powers which raise their possessor to the small inner hierarchy of leadership. The first is difficult to set down in a few words. We may call it visualizing power or sypnotic power, but these are ugly phrases. I mean the power of seeing a battle-front as a whole. A war is a contest between the total strength of two sides, not the strength in one section, not the strength in the field alone, but the sum total of qualities and assets by which nations are strong. Now there is nothing so common as the sectional view in war. A general selects one battleground as the crucial one, but unless he is a very wise man he may be wrong, especially true in modern war, where the total assets of a nation are pledged to a degree unknown in the past, and where the calculations as to where lies the true centre of gravity must necessarily be highly intricate. Indeed, I think they are too intricate for human calculation; to divine the key-point something more is needed than methodical reasoning...
- The second quality in the mysterious art of the great captains is easier to define. It is the power of reading the heart of the enemy. It is less easy to practise; indeed, it is one of the rarest talents in our moral catalogue. Founded upon a thousand pieces of evidence, it yet cannot be merely a deduction from evidence. In the last resort it is an intuition, an instinct. A general is confronted with another general and staff, as to whose mind he is almost wholly in the dark. He gets stray bits of intelligence on which he can build theories, but even the best intelligence of this sort is imperfect and rarely amounts to a logical proof. He knows that his rival is studying him closely, and that it is a race between them for the extra margin of superior knowledge. He is anxious, and anxiety is not a good basis for clear vision. You remember the famous compliment which Sherman paid to Grant: "I'll tell you where he beats me, and where he beats the world. He don't care a damn for what the enemy does out of his sight, but it scares me like hell." The great soldier must have the power of throwing off the restless anxiety of the competitor, and judging his opponent's mind calmly and objectively, and in the last resort flinging forward his own mind in a kind of inspired guess and divining that for which in the nature of things there can be no full evidence. All surprise in war is based on such intuitions...
- The third quality I find hard to describe. Perhaps I can best state it as the power to simplify, the capacity to make a simple syllogism, which, once it is made, is in the power only of genius. No great step in history, whether in war or in statesmanship, seems to us otherwise than the inevitable in retrospect. The ordinary man flatters himself that he could have done it too, it seems so easy.
- John Buchanan, in his essay "Great Captains" in Recreations and Diversions, quoted to describe King by Walter Muir Whitehill in the closing words of Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record (1952) by Ernest J. King & Walter Muir Whitehill, p. 656-657.
- In a period of one month- March 1942- King had inspired and advocated the plans and strategy that would govern the entire course of the war in the Pacific.
- Thomas B. Buell, Master of Sea Power: A Biography of Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King (1980), p. 192.
- 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
- King's bluntness went to extremes, because of his sense of self-righteousness and an undisciplined temper. Tact and discretion too often lost out to emotional excesses, especially in his early career. Together with his intellectual arrogance and lack of humility, King simply considered that he had more brains than anyone else in the Navy and acted accordingly.
- Thomas B. Buell, Master of Sea Power: A Biography of Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King (1980), p. 563.
- Paradoxically, King resented anyone who treated him the way he treated others, yet there is little evidence that he tried very hard to be more considerate or patient with other people. Throughout his life King would be a harsh and often intolerant judge of character, but his memoirs are mute on his own self-appraisal- other than when as an ensign he vowed to shed his softness and become a tough naval officer.
- Thomas B. Buell, Master of Sea Power: A Biography of Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King (1980), p. 565.
- King's role in the war was indispensable. He not only oversaw the expansion of the Navy, but he was also involved in plotting military strategy, directing the antisubmarine effort (he created the Tenth Fleet, a paper organization with himself at its head, to coordinate the antisubmarine war in the Atlantic), and helping coordinate American strategy and operations with those of the Allies. King retired in late 1945, shortly after promotion to five-star rank. For several years thereafter he served as an adviser to the Secretary of the Navy and to the President.
- James F. Dunnigan & Albert A. Nofi, The Pacific War Encyclopedia, Volume 1: A-L (1998), p. 351
- The major problem facing the Allies in 1942 was to agree on what they would do, and when and where they would do it. No plan had yet been drawn up by Eisenhower's directorate for the employment of assault landing craft for the coming conflicts in Europe and Japan. Although he would later be overruled, a stubborn Ernie King pursued a Pacific-first strategy that favored the navy.
- Carlo D'Este, Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life (2002), p. 299
- Eisenhower did not participate in the final discussions leading to the demise of Sledgehammer. At their conclusion Marshall summoned Eisenhower to his suite in Claridge's. When Eisenhower arrived, the chief of staff was occupied in the bathroom, and their brief discussion took place through the door. In characteristic fashion Marshall announced that Eisenhower was being given the new title of deputy Allied commander in charge of planning for Torch, and that both he and Admiral King were backing his appointment to command the entire operation. Temporarily in limbo as the commander of American forces, pending the president's approval, Eisenhower reflected on Napoleon's remarks that a general must not permit himself to be impatient or distracted in any manner that would weaken or interfere with the execution of a major plan. When the Combined Chiefs of Staff met on July 25 and the subject of a commander for Torch was raised, the blunt-spoken Ernie King declared that the choice seemed obvious: "Well, you've got him right here," he pointed out. "Why not put it under Eisenhower?" As he would later ascertain, Eisenhower once again had reason to regret his earlier criticism of King, who had become one of his strongest supporters.
- Carlo D'Este, Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life (2002), p. 336
- [It was Admiral King's] custom to encourage free and uninhibited debate until he had absorbed all points of view. He would then come forward with a clear-cut scheme, usually so obviously applicable as to cause all concerned to wonder why they had not thought of it themselves.
- Richard S. Edwards, Deputy Chief of Staff and Aide to the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet and then Deputy Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations during World War II. A quoted in Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record (1952) by Ernest J. King & Walter Muir Whitehill, p. 654.
- I also went to see Admiral King. He was a naval officer of the frightening type, abrupt, decisive, and frequently blunt as to frighten his subordinates. In our conversation he stressed the point that the venture on which I was going to Britain would mark the first deliberate attempt by the American fighting services to set up a unified command in the field for a campaign of indefinite length. He assured me that he would do everything within his power to sustain my status of actual "commander" of American forces assigned to me. He said that he wanted no foolish talk about my authority depending upon "co-operation and paramount interest." He insisted that there should be single responsibility and authority and he cordially invited me to communicate with him personally at any time that I thought there might be intentional or unintentional violation of this concept by the Navy.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe (1948), p. 51
- We were scarcely well on the beaches when General Marshall, Admiral King, General Arnold, and a group from their respective staffs arrived in England. I arranged to take them into the beachhead during the day of June 12. Their presence, as they roamed around the areas with every indication of keen satisfaction, was heartening to the troops. The importance of such visits by the high command, including, at times, the highest officials of government, can scarcely be underestimated in terms of their value to the soldiers' morale. The soldier has a sense of gratification whenever he sees very high rank in his particular vicinity, possibly on the theory that the area is a safe one or the rank wouldn't be there.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe (1948), p. 254
- Admiral King, commander in chief of United States Fleet, and directly subordinate to the President, is an arbitrary, stubborn type, with not too much brains and a tendency toward bullying his juniors. But I think he wants to fight, which is vastly encouraging.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, on February 23, 1942, as quoted in The Eisenhower Diaries (1981), edited by Robert H. Farrell, p. 49.
- One thing that might help win this war is to get someone to shoot King. He's the antithesis of cooperation, a deliberately rude person, which means he's a mental bully. He became Commander in Chief of the fleet some time ago. Today he takes over, also, Stark's job as Chief of Naval Operations. It's a good thing to get rid of the double head of the Navy, and of course Stark was just a nice old lady, but this fellow is going to cause a blow-up sooner or later, I'll bet a cookie.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, on March 10, 1942, as quoted in The Eisenhower Diaries (1981), edited by Robert H. Farrell, p. 50.
- Lest I look back at this book sometime and find that I've expressed a distaste for some person, and have put down no reason for my aversion, I record this one story of Admiral King. One day this week General Arnold sent a very important note to King. Through inadvertence, the stenographer in Arnold's office addressed it, on the outside, to "Rear Admiral King". Twenty-four hours later the letter came back, unopened, with an arrow pointing to the "Rear," thus: [Here a long, heavy arrow has been drawn in a diagonal line underneath and pointing to the word "Rear."] And that's the size of man the Navy has at its head. He ought to be a big help winning this war.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, on March 14, 1942, as quoted in The Eisenhower Diaries (1981), edited by Robert H. Farrell, p. 51.
- King had the brains, all right, but I hated his guts.
- James Forrestal, 48th United States Secretary of the Navy from 1944 to 1949, told an American senator this after the war. When King heard about it, he replied, "I hated his guts, too." As quoted in American Warlords: How Roosevelt's High Command Led America To Victory In World War II by Johnathan W. Jordan, p. 472.
- The campaigns in the South Pacific, however, may not be regarded as simply the inevitable products of inexorable political and military logic. Events created a milieu, and others, notably President Franklin D. Roosevelt, made important contributions, but the South Pacific strategy was forged principally by one man, Admiral Ernest Joseph King. Here the strategy and command changes resulting from Pearl Harbor intersected, for the Japanese attack completed the remarkable resurrection of King's career. In 1942, King attained his sixty-fourth birthday and completed his forty-first year as a naval officer. His father was a seaman, a bridge builder, and finally a foreman in a railroad repair shop. Drawn to his father's workplace, young Ernest absorbed the complexities of gears and lathes and the simple unpretentiousness of the workmen. After graduating fourth in a class of eighty-seven from the Naval Academy, King pursued a career remarkable for its versatility, with important work in surface ships, submarines, and naval aviation. He completed all his assignments with distinction, for the brain beneath his balding pate was agile with technical matters and he possessed a prodigious memory.
- Richard B. Frank, Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle (1990), p. 3-4
- Besides intelligence and dedication, one other pillar supported King's professional reputation: his toughness. He regarded exceptional performance of duty as the norm and evinced insensitivity or even callousness to his subordinates, upon whom he also frequently exercised his ferocious temper. But if King proved harsh with subordinates, he was no toady to superiors. Those who fell short of King's standards found he could be hostile, tactless, arrogant, and sometimes disrespectful or even insubordinate. As a junior officer this conduct earned him more than a healthy share of disciplinary action. He defined the span of his concerns beyond his career when he once commented, "You ought to be very suspicious of anyone who won't take a drink or doesn't like women. King, the father of seven, was deficient in neither category.
- Richard B. Frank, Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle (1990), p. 4
- Early in World War II, Captain George C. Dyer served on Admiral King's staff and estimated that his headquarters would require a staff of four hundred people. King blew up and said that since he got by with fourteen while a flag officer at sea, fifty would be the maximum he would tolerate on land. Dyer subsequently went to the Pacific, was severely wounded, and was sent to Bethesda Naval Hospital to recover. While Dyer was in the area, King invited him to stop by his office; and when he came in, King handed him a paper that reported current staffing at 416. It was King's way of admitting he was wrong. Admiral King was noted for his caustic personality, although for the most part it seems to have existed apart from his underlying character. It must have been; few sarcastic individuals rise to the top in the military profession- or stay there if they do- especially when the job includes tangling with the President on a frequent basis. Moreover, many officers who served with him for any length of time came to regard him with an affection and respect that belied his personality.
- George M. Hall, The Fifth Star: High Command in an Era of Global War (1994), p. 57
- King also repaired his deteriorating relationship with the press. This relationship had become so bad that journalists were circulating unfounded stories in order to force Roosevelt to relieve him. King's attorney, Cornelius H. Bull, recognized that this dismissal would not be in the country's best interests; so Bull got together with Glen Perry, the assistant chief for the New York Sun, in the Sun's Washington office. Together they proposed that King meet privately with a selected group of journalists at Bull's home in Alexandria, Virginia, and level with them off the record. King agreed reluctantly, predicting that there would only be one such meeting. In this he was dead wrong. Those meetings continued for the balance of the war, by the end of which the "members" came almost to revere King. He in turn developed a great deal of respect and regard for them. And he kept his job.
- George M. Hall, The Fifth Star: High Command in an Era of Global War (1994), p. 66
- Dear Ernie,
It has been an education, and a very pleasant one, to serve under you this past winter. May I thank you for your patience of me personally and for the professional lessons you have given me- I should be proud to serve under you any time- anywhere, & under any conditions. The best of luck always- may your new job be to your liking- and here's hoping for more stars afloat.
Always sincerely yours,
- William F. Halsey, in a handwritten note from Halsey to Ernest King on 22 June 1939, as quoted by Walter R. Borneman in The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King: The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea (2012), p. 180
- 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, Guadalacanal: Decision at Sea: The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal November 13-15, 1942 (1988), p. 12
- Admiral King's role in the development of strategy for defeating Japan is very difficult to evaluate in detail. Officially he approved or disapproved recommendations that came to him as Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, and Chief of Naval Operations and as one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, from his own naval planners, and from the joint planners in Washington. Frequently these recommendations had already been influenced by his own views. Still many of the objectives he preferred, most notably Formosa, were bypassed, and much of the time his recommendations were only in terms of areas or island groups. He accepted without question the specific objectives deemed by the operating commands most suitable. The one who came closest to Admiral King in his basic view that the Japanese should be kept under constant pressure was not a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff but the Supreme Commander, Southwest Pacific Area, General MacArthur. Although his role was to recommend and then accept a decision from the JCS, and many of his views on strategy differed sharply from those endorsed by the JCS, his repeated efforts to get more support for his area of command and to push ahead as rapidly and with as much force as possible helped to insure that the war against Japan did not become a forgotten war and were largely responsible for the development of the advance on two axes.
- Grace Person Hayes, The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in World War II: The War Against Japan (1982) by Grace Person Hayes, p. 725-726
- The military leadership styles of these two naval officers are contrasting in several ways. King was an immoral, self-serving leader who was notably brutal to subordinates and abrasive with Allied military leaders and politicians alike. Nimitz, however, was a moral leader who served is country selflessly, and he was engaging and supportive of his staff as well as sister service members and Allied military leaders and politicians. Really, both men serve as dissimilar examples of naval leadership during World War II and Nimitz's style more closely aligns with the leadership style of Marshall and Eisenhower than it does with King.
- James R. Hill, A Comparative Analysis of the Military Leadership Styles of Ernest J. King and Chester W. Nimitz (2008), p. 33
- The belief that King was well versed in naval surface and aerial warfare and that he was technically competent in the use of naval warfare is widely accepted by authors assessing King as a naval leader and is not in question in this monograph. What is examined in this monograph is King's leadership abilities absent his technical naval skills. This analysis will demonstrate that King was perceived as a toxic leader who was known to be petulant, overly emotional, stubborn, egotistical, and immoral. These leadership traits, more than anything else define King, and these negative traits affected how he engaged those he led, US and Allied leaders, and even his own family.
- James R. Hill, A Comparative Analysis of the Military Leadership Styles of Ernest J. King and Chester W. Nimitz (2008), p. 34
- Despite his efforts to win over his subordinates, King did not mind overworking his staff. When he was a flag officer, King preferred a small staff of eleven officers who were skilled and competent. He believed that this was the most efficient way to conduct naval planning and the right way to best utilize manpower. Smaller staffs, however, mean greater work for less people, and that is true as much today as it was then. Buell notes that staffers for King worked long hours and frequently on weekends, knew what King expected of them, but always received few comments for or against a submitted plan. In short, King was a difficult leader to develop plans for. He was extremely general and vague in his initial guidance, and the staff therefore had to try and figure out what he really wanted. Buell notes that even after numerous drafts, if King did not like a plan he would rip it up in front of the officer presenting it and write it himself on the spot.
- James R. Hill, A Comparative Analysis of the Military Leadership Styles of Ernest J. King and Chester W. Nimitz (2008), p. 35
- Tough as nails and carried himself as stiffly as a poker. He was blunt and stand-offish, almost to the point of rudeness. At the start, he was intolerant and suspicious of all things British, especially the Royal Navy; but he was almost equally intolerant and suspicious of the American Army. War against Japan was the problem to which he had devoted the study of a lifetime, and he resented the idea of American resources being used for any other purpose than to destroy the Japanese. He mistrusted Churchill's powers of advocacy, and was apprehensive that he would wheedle President Roosevelt into neglecting the war in the Pacific.
- Hastings Lionel Ismay, 1st Baron Ismay, chief of staff to Winston Churchill during World War II, in his book The Memoirs of General Lord Ismay (1974), p. 253.
- Our Chiefs felt that they knew so little of what was really going on in the Pacific, of what the U.S. Navy planned to do, and of the amount of resources that these plans would absorb, that some enlightenment would be valuable. They also felt that 'Uncle Ernie' would take a less jaundiced view of the rest of the world if he had been able to shoot his line about the Pacific and get it off his chest.
- Sir Ian Jacob, secretary to the British Chiefs of Staff, in a written comment on the first day of the Casablanca Conference on 14 January 1943. As quoted by Thomas B. Buell in his book Master of Sea Power: A Biography of Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King (1980), p. 271
- While Ernie King loved history, there was one story from ancient times that may have escaped his notice. As a boy, the Greek admiral Themistocles was said to have been taken by his father to a deserted beach, where his father showed him the carcasses of old war galleys lying sun-baked, prostrate, and neglected. That, his father told him, is how a democracy treats its leaders when they no longer have use for them. King had once objected to a wartime pay raise for soldiers, sailors, and officers. When the shooting stopped, he said, a grateful nation would distribute just rewards to the men who had brought them safely through the fire. When asked if he would write a book about the war, King replied that while he would do it, the book would have only two words: "We won."
- Johnathan W. Jordan, in his book American Warlords: How Roosevelt's High Command Led America To Victory In World War II (2016), p. 471-472.
- The admiral who shaved with a blowtorch had given no thought to life after the war. Like Patton, Grant, Sherman and other men who stare transfixed into the bonfires of Mars, King settled into the realization on the day Japan's emissaries signed the surrender documents, he had accomplished his life's work. "King was a lost soul when the war was over," said one friend. "He had served his purpose. He had done what he had set out to do. He had won his part of the war." There would be a massive demobilization as the Navy returned its men to civilian life. The Pearl Harbor inquiry would become public, Congress would slash the Navy's budget, and old salts like himself would be put out to pasture, to make way for younger admirals.
- Johnathan W. Jordan, American Warlords: How Roosevelt's High Command Led America To Victory In World War II (2016), p. 472.
- With Forrestal as Navy secretary, King knew retirement would follow quickly. He had gotten along with Knox only because the Chicago newsman knew nothing about the Navy, admitted it, and stayed out of King's way. Forrestal would not. During the war, King had cursed Forrestal out in the halls of the Navy Department, and had browbeaten him into staying out of naval operations. "I didn't like him, and he didn't like me," King said.
- Johnathan W. Jordan, in his book American Warlords: How Roosevelt's High Command Led America To Victory In World War II (2016), p. 472.
- King's oaken hull began to split in 1947, when he suffered a stroke. His mind remained alert, but his iron-plated timbers began to creak and sag. He moved into a suite at Bethesda Naval Hospital for full-time care, and at one point he shared a floor with the acutely depressed James Forrestal, who ended his life by jumping from the sixteenth-floor window in 1949. King spent the next seven summers at the naval hospital in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He slipped his moorings and sailed over the bar on June 25, 1956, at the age of seventy-eight. He was buried at Annapolis, home of the United States Naval Academy. The only hymn sung at his funeral was a Navy anthem, an old favorite of Roosevelt's: "Eternal Father, Strong to Save."
- Johnathan W. Jordan, American Warlords: How Roosevelt's High Command Led America To Victory In World War II (2016), p. 473.
- King, sixty-three years old in 1942, was as gruff a man as Nimitz was a serene one. Hard-drinking and legendarily ill-tempered, he once confessed that he had not actually uttered the self-descriptive epithet "when they get in trouble they send for the sonsabitches" but that he would have if he had thought of it. Yet King's choleric manner masked an incisive strategic intelligence, possessed of qualities that perfectly fitted him for senior command: the ability to anticipate, the capacity for penetrating analysis of his adversary's predicaments, an unerring grasp of the reach and limits of his own forces, and a pit bull's determination to seize the initiative and attack, attack, attack.
- David M. Kennedy, Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (1999), p. 544
- King had grown up alone with his father in an Ohio household from which his chronically ailing mother had been removed. He was ever after a loner, a brusque man who fathered seven children but seemed to love only the Navy.
- David M. Kennedy, Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (1999), p. 544
- "When they get in trouble they send for the sonsabitches." Asked whether he had said said this, Admiral King replied no, he had not, but he would have if he had thought of it. They were indeed in trouble when they sent for King, bringing him from the brink of retirement to be Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, and King would have been ready to admit that he enjoyed a reputation for toughness and ill temper that had few equals in the upper ranks of the U.S. Navy. He took charge of that navy at the depths of its despair and lifted it to the heights of triumph. He was a hard man in a hard time, well suited to lead a fighting fleet, but he was also a thoughtful man of a breadth and incisiveness that gave him an early and enduring grip on Allied strategy. Much of the war went the way he wished it to. The strongest mind within the American Joint Chiefs of Staff was the mind of Ernest J. King.
- Eric Larrabee, Commander in Chief: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, His Lieutenants and Their War (1987), p. 153
- Throughout the war, the four of us- Marshall, King, Arnold, and myself- worked in the closest possible harmony. In the postwar period, General Marshall and I disagreed sharply on some aspects of our foreign political policy. However, as a soldier, he was in my opinion one of the best, and his drive, courage, and imagination transformed America's citizen army into the most magnificent fighting force ever assembled. In number of men and logistical requirements, his army operations were by far the largest. This meant that more time of the Joint Chiefs were spent on his problems than on any others- and he invariably presented them with skill and clarity. King had an equally difficult task. His fleets had to hold Japan at bay while convoying millions of tons of supplies for the second front. He was an exceptionally able sea commander. He was also explosive and there were times when it was just as well that the deliberations of the Joint Chiefs were a well-kept secret. The President had a high opinion of King's ability but he was a very undiplomatic person, especially when the Admiral's low boiling point would be reached in some altercation with the British. King would have preferred to put more power into the Asiatic war earlier. He supported loyally the general strategy of beating Germany first, but this often required concessions of ships which he did not like to make. He could not spare much, since, until the last months of the war, he was working with a deficit of ships. America was fighting a two-ocean war for the first time in its history.
- William D. Leahy, I Was There (1950), p. 104
- Partial to Baltimore. Won fame in Massachusetts in Spanish war. The Saturday Night Club during youngster year. Then Stein and he reformed. Noon-walks. Spoons occasionally. Hops,- Well, yes! Temper? Don't fool with nitroglycerin. Court beauty No. 2. Rooms with the "Full Dinner Pail". Laugh as rosy as his cheeks.
- Description of King in Lucky Bag (1901), yearbook of the United States Naval Academy, p. 35
- Admiral King claimed the Pacific as the rightful domain of the Navy; he seemed to regard the operations there as almost his own private war; he apparently felt that the only way to remove the blot on the Navy disaster at Pearl Harbor was to have the Navy command a great victory over Japan; he was adamant in his refusal to allow any major fleet to be under other command than that of naval officers although maintaining that naval officers were competent to command ground or air forces; he resented the prominent part I had in the Pacific War; he was vehement in his personal criticism of me and encouraged Navy propaganda to that end; he had the complete support of President Roosevelt and his Chief of Staff, Admiral Leahy, and in many cases of General Arnold, the head of the Air Force.
- George Marshall, in conversation with Douglas MacArthur during a visit to him following the Tehran conference in late 1943. As quoted in Reminiscences (1964) by Douglas MacArthur, p. 183
- King never forgot a grudge. Now, he's used you to get back at me.
- Charles B. McVay, Jr., as quoted by Richard F. Newcomb in Abandon Ship. King had been a junior officer under the old man's command when King and other officers sneaked some women aboard a ship. Admiral McVay had a letter of reprimand placed in King's record.
- King brought great operational experience, a powerful mind, and an eccentric and unbending personality.
- Montgomery C. Meigs, Slide Rules and Submarines (1990), p. 44
- King was a brilliant naval officer and exceptionally capable seaman. But he had a willful, mean, and brittle side to his nature that limited his effectiveness as a leader charged with bringing new people and new ideas to bear on problems of developing untraditional and unanticipated ways of waging warfare.
- Montgomery C. Meigs, Slide Rules and Submarines (1990), p. 44-46
- Roosevelt, who had been assistant secretary of the navy during World War I and maintained a proprietary interest in the service, had a hand in the choice of the sixty-three-year-old King as CINCLANT. Tough, brilliant, and short-tempered- Roosevelt said "he shaved with a blow torch"- King was an aviator, a submariner, and a staff officer, and the president's idea of a fighting sailor. Only a short time before, the admiral had been passed over for a top command and was headed for retirement, because, it was said, he drank too much, chased other men's wives, and had too many enemies. "When they get into trouble they send for the sons-of-bitches," was his explanation for this reversal of fortune.
- Nathaniel Miller, War at Sea: A Naval History of World War II (1995), p. 190
- King was a sailor's sailor. He believed what was good for the Navy was good for the United States, and indeed the world. In that sense and that alone he was narrow. But he had a firm grasp of naval strategy and tactics, an encyclopedic knowledge of naval detail, an immense capacity for work, and complete integrity. Endowed with a superior intellect himself, he had no tolerance for fools or weaklings. He hated publicity, did not lend himself to popular buildup, and was the despair of interviewers. Unlike Admiral Stark's decisions, King's were made quickly and without much consultation; when anyone tried to argue with him beyond a certain point, a characteristic bleak look came over his countenance as a signal that his mind was made up and further discussion was useless. Although he had nothing of the courtier in his makeup, King acquired and retained the confidence and esteem of President Roosevelt. The two men were in a sense complimentary. Each had what the other lacked, and in concert with General Marshall, who shared the qualities of both, they formed a perfect winning team. The Republic has never had more efficient, intelligent and upright servants than these three men.
- Samuel Eliot Morison, The Two-Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War (1963), p. 103
- Admiral Ernest J. King was the Navy's principal architect of victory. A stern sailor of commanding presence, vast sea-knowledge, and keen strategic sense, he was so insistent on maintaining the independence of the Navy, not only from our great Ally but from the Army, that he seemed at times to be anti-British and anti-Army. Neither was true; but King's one mistaken idea was his steady opposition to "mixed groups" from different Navies in the same task force; an idea strengthened by the unfortunate experience of the ABDA command... We may, however, concede to Admiral King a few prejudices, for he was undoubtedly the best naval strategist and organizer in our history. His insistence on limited offensives to keep the Japanese off balance, his successful efforts to provide more and more escorts for convoys, his promotion of the escort carrier antisubmarine groups, his constant backing of General Marshall to produce a firm date for Operation OVERLORD from the reluctant British; his insistence on the dual approach to Japan, are but a few of the many decisions that prove his genius. King's strategy for the defeat of Japan- the Formosa and China Coast approach, rather than the Luzon-Okinawa route- was overruled; but may well, in the long run, have been better than MacArthur's, which was adopted. King was also defeated in his many attempts to interest the Royal Navy in a Southeast Asia comeback; and in this he was right. The liberation of Malaya before the war's end would have spared the British Empire a long battle with local Communists and would have provided at least a more orderly transfer of sovereignty in the Netherlands East Indies.
- Samuel Eliot Morison, The Two-Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War (1963), p. 579-580
- He was a seadog who, despite his age (he was sixty-three, two years older than Marshall) had teeth and knew how to use them. Ashamed of the Navy's errors in Hawaii, he stormed into his new office under full sail, having been appointed by the President not only as Navy Chief of Staff but also as Commander in Chief of U.S. Navy Operations. The acronym for that had previously been CINCUS, but it is indicative of King's frame of mind that he thought it sounded too much like "Sink Us" with its Pearl Harbor connotations, and therefore had it changed to COMINCH. By presidential decree, he became the most powerful sailor in the history of the U.S. Navy, able to make operational and policy decisions over the head of the Secretary of the Navy himself, Colonel Frank Knox.
- Leonard Mosely, Marshall: Hero for Our Times (1982), p. 196
- In character, Ernie King was the direct antithesis of General George Marshall. It is true that they had in common a liking for attractive women, but while Marshall's mood lightened at the sight of a pretty face, King reached out at the approach of a seductive female rump. He was an inveterate bottom pincher, and the benchmarks of many a bright young officer's promotion in the Navy were the bruises on his wife's shapely posterior. King was very much married, with a family of six daughters and a son. His wife, Mattie, was one of those spouses who used to be referred to as "long-suffering." She had known the time when her husband had been not only a dogged chaser of naval wives but a hard drinker, too, passed over for promotion on one crucial occasion for suspected alcoholism; but, typical of his strength of mind, he had taken the pledge to eschew hard liquor for the duration of the war and now sipped only an occasional sherry. He had taken no similar pledge to eschew the opposite sex, and Mattie King had learned to live with that, though she did occasionally retaliate by finding out which naval wife King happened to be visiting. She would then telephone and, refusing to speak to her husband, would simply leave the message: "Tell him his wife called."
- Leonard Mosely, Marshall: Hero for Our Times (1982), p. 196-197
- For all his human weaknesses, however, King was a magnificent sailor who excelled in all branches of seamanship. He had commanded a flotilla of destroyers in World War I with great skill and distinction. He was the hero of a between-wars catastrophe when a U.S. submarine- the S51- went down with all hands, and he and a team of divers had successfully raised it to the surface against all expert prognostications, though too late to save the crew. He was the pioneer of that new branch of the post-World War I Navy, the Air Division Command, had learned to fly a plane and land it on the deck of one of the first American aircraft carriers, which he had successfully commanded. He shared one other quality with Marshall: patience. Like the Army Chief of Staff, he had waited years for promotion, and though his elbow-bending propensities hadn't helped him, he had held in there, enduring and waiting. As he said later, when the top job finally arrived, "If one can only hold on for a little time longer, things will be eased up and in due time the trouble will iron out. That has been my own belief, not to say creed, but it works out for me."
- Leonard Mosely, Marshall: Hero for Our Times (1982), p. 197
- From the beginning of his service as chief of naval operations and fleet commander- a fusion of responsibilities unknown in the navy's history- King proved he would fight the war his way, which meant an institutional focus on the Pacific war, a focus so intense that King himself botched the war on the German U-boats in 1942. He simply ignored this failure and pushed for more offensive action in the Pacific. He disagreed with cautious colleagues or superiors more often than not. He said no with routine abruptness to FDR, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, George C. Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, and the British representatives on the Combined Chiefs of Staff. He had an overriding strategic goal: to destroy the Japanese military might and to detach the U.S. Navy from the thrall of the British and MacArthur. Unlike MacArthur, King had no roots in Congress, the media, or any political party. Instead, he depended entirely o his absolute sense of purpose and strategic correctness to insist that the Allies could not defeat the Japanese along the Malay barrier at an acceptable cost in time and lives.
- Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett, A War To Be Won: Fighting the Second World War (2000), p. 337
- King's greatest political-strategic victory of the war came over the British and U.S. armies in 1943 when he won formal recognition from Roosevelt and Churchill that the war with Japan could be won only by an American naval campaign across the Central Pacific, a campaign directed by him and his principal field subordinate, Chester W. Nimitz. The first phase of the debate occurred before, during, and after two Roosevelt-Churchill conferences in early 1943: "Trident" in Washington, D.C., and "Quadrant" in Quebec. Aided by his best strategist, Admiral Cooke, King fought for his version of JCS 287, an American-drafted "Strategic Plan for the Defeat of Japan." In its earliest drafts, this plan simply reflected the current reality that there were campaigns under way in Burma, China, and the South Pacific. Although army planners, dedicated to a second front in Europe, showed little interest in the war with Japan, the army still endorsed MacArthur's "I Shall Return" campaign. King insisted that any campaign should focus on the destruction of Japan's overseas resources, which meant an offensive direct only toward the Western Pacific sea lanes. He played on FDR's declining confidence that the British and Chinese would ever contribute much to a war of economic strangulation against Japan. When the British chiefs finally admitted that they would not release force from the Mediterranean for Asia, King pressed for the endorsement of CCS 242/6, "Agreed Essentials in the Conduct of the War, which basically made the war with Japan an American responsibility. Roosevelt and Churchill approved this document on 25 May 1943.
- Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett, A War To Be Won: Fighting the Second World War (2000), p. 338
- By the end of 1943, King had largely succeeded in not only making the United States the principal arbiter of Pacific strategy but in making American strategy synonymous with navy strategy.
- Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett, A War To Be Won: Fighting the Second World War (2000), p. 339
- Ever since General Billy Mitchell had demonstrated twenty years before that warships could be bombed successfully from the air, the US Navy had been alive to the significance of naval aviation. In the 1920s the Navy commissioned the carriers Lexington and Saratoga, the largest ships afloat until the war. Under Admiral King's leadership in the 1930s naval aviation made great strides in tactics and training. King's own career was linked with naval aviation. He had taught himself to fly when he was well over forty, and was commander of the carrier forces in the late 1930s. He was not a big battleship sailor; certainly not the man to pick up Yamamoto's challenge to a fleet duel.
- Richard Overy, Why the Allies Won (1995), p. 38
- Whether or not the British would in the end have baulked at Overlord remains an open question. By late 1943 a great deal of planning and force preparation had already been carried out, and they risked a serious breach with a watchful ally, growing more confident of its power month by month. But in the end the decision was taken out of their hands. At the end of November the three Allied leaders agreed to meet at Teheran. Rather than argue any more with the British, American leaders planned to outmaneuver them. The two western Allies met first at Cairo to discuss issues from the Far East and, so the British expected, the Mediterranean. Relations between the two military staffs were poorer than ever. Brooke became uncharacteristically intemperate; Admiral King, commander of the American navy, came close on one occasion to striking him. But on issues to do with Overlord and the Mediterranean the Americans remained silent, leaving the floor to their ally. When pressed they replied that the issues would be discussed when they met Stalin.
- Richard Overy, Why the Allies Won (1995), p. 142
- King had earned a reputation for brilliance and toughness, not to say harshness. He was generally reputed to be cold, aloof, and humorless. Ladislas Farago, who served under King, in his book The Tenth Fleet describes the new commander in chief: "Tall, gaunt and taut, with a high dome, piercing eyes, aquiline nose, and a firm jaw, he looked somewhat like Hogarth's etching of Don Quixote but he had none of the old knight's fancy dreams. He was a supreme realist with the arrogance of genius... He was a grim taskmaster, as hard on himself as others. He rarely cracked a smile and had neither time nor disposition for ephemeral pleasantries. He inspired respect but not love, and King wanted it that way." The description is, of course, as stereotype, as Farago readily admitted. King could turn a reasonably benevolent eye upon a subordinate who produced to suit him, and in return elicit a degree of wry affection. On the other hand, he was utterly intolerant of stupidity, inefficiency, and laziness. He hated dishonesty and pretension, despised yes-men, and had no patience with indecisive Hamlet types. He could be completely ruthless. On one occasion he sent a commander to relieve a rear admiral who, in King's opinion, had failed to measure up- with orders that the admiral be out of the Navy Department building by five o'clock that afternoon.
- E.B. Potter, Nimitz (1976), p. 31
- 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, Nimitz (1976), p. 32
- While directing the movements of his ships in the western Pacific, Yamamoto, who fully realized the potential strength of the United States, was watching for the reaction of Nimitz and the possible approach of reinforcements. Neither King nor Nimitz could be lured into false moves by any of his strategems or taunted into premature action by newspaper critics at home.
- W.D. Puleston, The Influence of Sea Power in World War II (1947), p. 122
- So what, old top?
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a note written in reply to a message from King after the admiral had turned 64 on November 23, 1942, thus reaching mandatory retirement age. As quoted in FDR's World: War, Peace, and Legacies (2008) by David B. Woolner, Warren F. Kimball, and David Reynolds, p. 70.
- [King was] perhaps the most disliked Allied leader of World War II. Only British Field Marshal Montgomery may have had more enemies... King also loved parties and often drank to excess. Apparently, he reserved his charm for the wives of fellow naval officers. On the job, he "seemed always to be angry or annoyed".
- John Ray Stakes, in his book The Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb (2000).
- The news was a stunning blow, and it quickly rippled all the way back to Pearl Harbor and to Admiral Ernest King, Chief of Naval Operations, in Washington, D.C. Both King and Admiral Nimitz, in particular, were concerned about the impact of the tragedy on the impending plans to bomb Japan. They feared a controversy in the midst of what could be the war's- and the Navy's- finest hour.
- Doug Stanton, In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of its Survivors (2001), p. 239
- The trial would begin in five days, on December 3, 1945. Admiral Nimitz and Admiral Spruance had disagreed with the inquiry's initial recommendation and suggested a letter of reprimand. However, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral King a stern and "by-the-book" Navy man, pressed for the trial, and Secretary Forrestal agreed... McVay had less than a week to prepare his defense. King, eager to hurry the proceedings, had refused McVay his first choice of counsel when his preferred lawyer proved not immediately available. McVay wound up with an inexperienced lawyer.
- Doug Stanton, In Harm's Way (2001), p. 262-263.
- Brooke got nasty, and King got good and sore. King almost climbed over the table at Brooke. God, he was mad. I wished he had socked him.
- Joseph Warren Stilwell, referring to an argument King had with British Field Marshal Alan Brooke at the Casablanca Conference in 1943, in which Brooke accused King of favoring the Pacific war. Sourced from George C. Marshall: Organizer of Victory 1943-1945 (1973) by Forrest C. Pogue, p. 305.
- Summoned to Washington to assume the post of commander in chief of the U.S. Fleet after Admiral Kimmel's relief, King was a vigorous, aggressive leader whose masterful performance as head of the Atlantic Fleet during 1941 had won him the respect and admiration of Knox and Roosevelt. An old friend and associate of Admiral Stark, he had- even before the latter's departure- assumed the leading role in shaping the Navy's approach to grand strategy. Arrogant, aloof, and suspicious, a "sundowner," or strict disciplinarian, King inspired respect in many but affection in few. His admirers professed to see in him a brilliant strategist. To be sure, in sheer intellect he far overmatched his JCS colleagues, but his outlook was so strongly shaped by his intense and narrow devotion to Navy interests that he was seldom able to take a detached view of any strategic problem.
- Ronald H. Spector, Eagle Against the Sun: The American War with Japan (1985), p. 126-127
- Whatever his failings in interpersonal relations, King was a superb administrator and a determined foe of bureaucratization. His Fleet Staff was kept purposefully small and officers were constantly rotated in from sea duty, then rotated out again in a year or so- before they could acquire what King balefully referred to as "the Washington mentality."
- Ronald H. Spector, Eagle Against the Sun: The American War with Japan (1985), p. 127
- [King was] opinionated, short-tempered, highly irascible, and rude.
- Mark A. Stoler, George C. Marshall: Soldier-Statesman of the American Century (1989), p. 116-117
- Admiral Ernest J. King was the exacting, hard-driving Chief of Naval Operations.
- C.L. Sulzberger, in his book The American Heritage Picture History of World War II (1966), p. 313
- Ernest J. King, Chief of Naval Operations, was a spare, no-nonsense officer with a strong distaste for publicity, some enemies among the Army and British brass, and one of the sharpest strategic minds in Washington.
- C.L. Sulzberger, in The American Heritage Picture History of World War II (1966), p. 335
- The admirals' academy careers are a study in contrasts. King made the best record. He was one of the lucky plebes who reached the Caribbean during the Spanish-American War, although he missed the Battle of Santiago. A star man in academic standing and a member of the junior varsity football team, the Hustlers, throughout his four years at the academy, in his first-class year he was chosen to command the battalion and graduated number four in a class of sixty-seven. His last year was dangerous, however. Put on report three times for smoking, he narrowly escaped a spell in the Santee and invited much more serious trouble by Frenching out to visit a girl in Annapolis. On one occasion a friend, learning of an unscheduled inspection at 10:00pm, loyally frenched out himself to bring King back on time. A few years later King was assigned to the Executive Department at the academy. At dinner with the midshipmen in Bancroft Hall one evening he was asked if he had ever frenched out. He admitted that he had. The next question was, "Did you ever get caught?" "No," King replied, "but I almost did." "How did you manage not to?" the midshipman persisted. "I am afraid I cannot tell you now," King parried, "but when you graduate, come out to my house and I will give you a drink and tell you how to French out and not be caught."
- Jack Sweetman, The United States Naval Academy: An Illustrated History (1995), 2nd Edition, edited by Thomas J. Cutler, p. 151-152
- We knew that America needed a shot in the national arm. Since December 7, 1941, our national heritage had yielded to a prideless humiliation. Half of our fleet still sat on the bottom of Pearl Harbor. The Philippines were gone, Guam and Wake had fallen, the Japanese were approaching Australia. What Admiral King saw, and what he jammed down the throats of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was that just possibly the mighty Japanese had overextended. He saw that just possibly a strike by us could halt their eastward parade. The only weapon he held, the only weapon America held, was a woefully understrength fleet and one woefully ill-equipped and partially trained Marine division.
- Alexander Vandegrift, reflecting on the commencement of the Battle of Guadalcanal, Once a Marine: The Memoirs of General A.A. Vandegrift (1964), p. 18
- Ernest King was something else again. Although I had met him in prewar years, neither I nor many people ever knew him. His prewar reputation- juniors liked to say he shaved with a blowtorch- raised him to almost demigod status in the eyes of some of his subordinates. Probably because the Marine Corps boasted its unique brand of toughness I wasn't much concerned about his reputation. Upon paying my first call to him as Commandant I did think we should understand each other, so before taking my leave I said, "Admiral, I want to tell you what I have always told seniors when reporting for duty. If one of your decisions is in my opinion going to affect the Marine Corps adversely, I shall feel it my duty to explain our position on the subject, no matter how disagreeable this may be. If you disagree, I expect to keep right on explaining until such time as you make a final decision. If I do not agree with that, I will try to work with it anyway. I say this, sir, because if you want a rubber stamp you can go to the nearest Kresge store and buy one for twenty-five cents." King stared at me a moment, then abruptly nodded his head- a characteristic gesture. In the event, I worked more closely with his deputy chief, Admiral Horne, his chief of staff, Admiral Edwards, and his planner, Admiral Savvy Cooke. [On a few matters] I was forced to go to him and I generally won my point.
- Alexander Vandegrift, Once a Marine: The Memoirs of General A.A. Vandegrift (1964), p. 238
- Sir John Dill was a gentle genius at covering the waterfront in Washington for King and Country and for the ever present (in person or in spirit) Winston Churchill. During the critical war days he insinuated himself into the confidence of almost every important American. He enjoyed perhaps the most preferred position of any foreigner in our nation's capital. His diplomatic skill, tact, and calm philosophical manner were all disarming. I was always mindful of the fact that his first loyalty was to England. Although I admired and respected him, I tried never to forget for a moment that day and night his efforts were concentrated on furthering British interests. When British interests contravened American, I simply resisted Dill's maneuvers. Unfortunately there was no one in a high American position who seemed as alert to American interests as Dill was to British, except possibly Admiral King.
- Albert C. Wedemeyer, Wedemeyer Reports! (1958), p. 165
- In my judgment King was the strongest man on the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. He had a keen, analytical mind. He was incisive and direct in his approach to the solution of a problem. He did not understand and could not engage in small talk. Perhaps he took himself too seriously, for he seemed outwardly to be devoid of a sense of humor. Years of military training had left their stamp- a rigidly self-disciplined man who did not ask anyone to conform to a strict code unless he himself within his own conscience knew that he was capable of performing in a similar manner. He never engaged in a sarcasm and was completely selfless. If he had been a smoothie or a person given to double talk, he might have easily assuaged the hurt feelings of the British when he took a definite position against their efforts to commit practically everything to the Mediterranean.
- Albert C. Wedemeyer, Wedemeyer Reports! (1958), p. 184
- To Admiral of the Fleet Ernest J. King, an Undistinguished Service Stripe and Promotion to Grand Old Salt of the Alexandria Reserves: For conspicuous bravery and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in performance of which he brilliantly rejected his best professional advice and daringly ignored his own natural instincts, and alone and single-handedly, at a moment when adverse winds of publicity were threatening to sink the whole fleet, exposed himself to a frontal assault by the picked shock troops of the journalistic enemy led by some of the most reprehensible and blood-thirsty Washington correspondents, and from that moment on, never retiring to cover from their incessant salvos of cross-fire, stormed the enemy in its own defenses and in the decisive and little-known Battle of Virginia conquered and captivated them completely.
- Tongue-in-cheek award presented by a group of 26 members of the press in Washington, D.C. during World War II, the "Surviving Veterans of the Battle of Virginia", at a dinner held by these correspondents in King's honor in October 1945. Sourced from Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record (1952) by Ernest J. King & Walter Muir Whitehill, p. 652.
- Although reputed to be a real "hard-nose", King could never feel that a ship was merely an inanimate assembly of pieces of wood and metal; to him it was a living thing with a soul that one could love.
- Walter Muir Whitehill, in Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record (1952) by Ernest J. King & Walter Muir Whitehill, p. 233.
- Then, as the troops again presented arms, the firing squad fired three volleys, and as the bugler sounded "Taps", the last of the seventeen-gun salute boomed out from across the river. The bodybearers folded the flag, gave it to King's son, and after a few minutes of quiet conversation, the mourners scattered. Nothing could have been at once more simpler and more magnificent, or more appropriate to the man. But to most of the midshipmen at the grave, King- and indeed Nimitz, Halsey, and Hewitt, who were among his pallbearers- must have seemed as distant figures as Dewey, Farragut, or even the sailors of the earliest wars of the Republic. The Class of 1958 is two full generations removed from the Class of 1901, and to a very young man this degree of remoteness borders on that of eternity. So rapidly do great men cease to be people and become instead names, portraits, or statues, curiously familiar, yet personally unknown. The speed of this process has led me to offer this perhaps discursive tribute of affection and respect to a figure of naval history that I had the good fortune, in his last years, to know as a man, rather than as a name.
- Walter Muir Whitehill, describing King's funeral, as quoted by Thomas B. Buell in his book Master of Sea Power: A Biography of Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King (1980), p. 512.
- In all my conversations with Admiral King I have been forcibly struck by the essential simplicity of his mind and his manner, by his concentration on broad general principles, and by his complete lack of interest in the smaller details of problems or personalities.
- Walter Muir Whitehill, in Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record (1952) by Ernest J. King & Walter Muir Whitehill, page 654.
- At meetings of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, King consistently and frankly maintained the attitude that his war was against the Japanese. Nor is this surprising. The Pacific War was a maritime struggle in which the Navy was unquestionably the senior service apply the power of the other services in execution of its own strategy. King was a proud and ambitious man. In the Pacific his navy could win honour and glory on its own account, but in the Atlantic there was no enemy worthy of its steel. There it would be reduced to the menial role of escorting convoys and supporting the amphibious operations of the Army, which every American sailor had been brought up to regard with antagonism and contempt.
- Chester Wilmot, The Struggle for Europe (1952), p. 107-108
- Furthermore, in European waters American warships would almost certainly have to fight under the overall command of the Royal Navy, which King regarded as obsolete and incompetent. He is credited with having said, "I fought under the goddam British in the First World War and if I can help it, no ship of mine will fight under 'em again." Whether or not this remark reflected his considered views, it is beyond dispute that he consistently sought to restrict the employment of U.S. naval forces in the war against Germany. Because he took this stand, and because Roosevelt had justifiable confidence in his professional judgment and efficiency, King was to exert a powerful influence on the development of Anglo-American strategy during the next three years.
- Chester Wilmot, The Struggle for Europe (1952), p. 108
- Neque Glauci regno nec Neptuni nec ipsis Iovis Tonantis intemerato.
- You have invaded alike the realms of Glaucus, of Neptune, and of Jove the Thunderer.
- Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax, then Chancellor of Oxford University, as he presented King with an honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law in June 1946. Sourced from Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record (1952) by Ernest J. King & Walter Muir Whitehill, page 5.
- Franklin Roosevelt's wartime Chief of Naval Operations, the boss of the most powerful Navy in history; a classic s.o.b. and an undeniably great American, who played a major role in winning the war. Ernest King in legend was so tough that he shaved with a blowtorch, and he pretty much comes off that way in Buell's vigorous portrait.
- Herman Wouk, in a review of Master of Sea Power: A Biography of Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King (1980) by Thomas B. Buell, featured on the back of the book's dust jacket.
- The Navy Cross is presented to Ernest Joseph King, Captain, U.S. Navy, for distinguished service in the line of his profession as Assistant Chief of Staff of the Atlantic Fleet.
- Citation for King's Navy Cross medal, awarded when the medal was established in 1919 and first awarded retroactively to servicemen for actions during World War I. At the time King received the Navy Cross, it was not exclusively a high decoration for valor in combat (second only to the Medal of Honor), but also an award for distinguished service, and it was for the latter that King received it.
- The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Distinguished Service Medal to Captain Ernest Joseph King, United States Navy, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service in a position of great responsibility to the Government of the United States, as Officer in charge of the salvaging of the U.S.S. S-51, from 16 October 1925 to 8 July 1926.
- Citation for King's first Navy Distinguished Service Medal.
- The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Navy Distinguished Service Medal to Captain Ernest Joseph King, United States Navy, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service in a position of great responsibility to the Government of the United States as Commanding Officer of the Salvage Force entrusted with the raising of the U.S.S. S-4, sunk as a result of a collision off Provincetown, Massachusetts, 17 December 1927. Largely through his untiring energy, efficient administration and judicious decisions this most difficult task, under extremely adverse conditions, was brought to a prompt and successful conclusion.
- Citation for King's second Navy Distinguished Service Medal.
- The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting a Second Gold Star in lieu of a Third Award of the Navy Distinguished Service Medal to Fleet Admiral Ernest Joseph King, United States Navy, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service in a position of great responsibility to the Government of the United States as Commander in Chief of the United States Fleet from 20 December 1941, and concurrently as Chief of Naval Operations from 18 March 1942 to 10 October 1945. During the above periods, Fleet Admiral King, in his dual capacity, exercised complete military control of the naval forces of the United States Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard and directed all activities of these forces in conjunction with the U.S. Army and our Allies to bring victory to the United States. As the United States Naval Member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Combined Chiefs of Staff, he coordinated the naval strength of this country with all agencies of the United States and of the Allied Nations, and with exceptional vision, driving energy, and uncompromising devotion to duty, he fulfilled his tremendous responsibility of command and direction of the greatest naval force the world has ever seen and the simultaneous expansion of all naval facilities in the prosecution of the war. With extraordinary foresight, sound judgment, and brilliant strategic genius, he exercised a guiding influence in the Allied strategy of victory. Analyzing with astute military acumen the multiple complexity of large-scale combined operations and the paramount importance of amphibious warfare, Fleet Admiral King exercised a guiding influence in the formation of all operational and logistic plans and achieved complete coordination between the U.S. Navy and all Allied military and naval forces. His outstanding qualities of leadership throughout the greatest period of crisis in the history of our country were an inspiration to the forces under his command and to all associated with him.
- Citation for King's third Navy Distinguished Service Medal.