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Who was Chester W Nimitz?
Chester W. Nimitz (1885-1966) was a U.S. naval officer, who was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas during World War II. In this dual capacity, he headed all U. S. and Allied forces in the North, Central, and South Pacific except the Army Air Force bombers that raided Japan from the Marianas. In 1944 he was promoted to fleet admiral, a new rank established by Congress.
Chester William Nimitz was born in Fredericksburg, Texas, on Feb. 24, 1885. At the age of 15 he received a congressional appointment to the U. S. Naval Academy, from which he graduated with distinction in 1905.
After two years of duty in the U. S. Asiatic Fleet, Mimitz was sent to the Philippines, where he commanded a gunboat and, later, a destroyer. When the destroyer ran aground, Nimitz was court-martialed and found guilty but was let off with a reprimand. Returning to the United States in 1908, he commanded a succession of submarines, became an expert on diesel engines and undersea warfare, and rose to the rank of lieutenant.
In World War I, Nimitz was chief of staff to the Commander Submarine Force, U. S. Atlantic Fleet. In the postwar years he organized the Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps at the University of California and was assistant chief of the Bureau of Navigation. At sea he commanded cruisers, then a cruiser division, and finally a battleship division. In 1938 he was promoted to rear admiral.
World War II
When the Japanese raided,Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Nimitz was chief of the Bureau of Navigation. Called frequently into consultation during the next few days, he so favorably impressed Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox that Knox secured his appointment to command the U. S. Pacific Fleet, with the rank of admiral. In April 1942, Nimitz also was appointed commander in chief Pacific Ocean Areas.
After assuming his fleet command, Nimitz sent his carrier forces on a series of raids against enemy island bases. At the Battle of Midway in June 1942, his astute positioning of carriers enabled dive bombers to sink four Japanese carriers. The resulting American victory brought the opposing naval forces to near parity, enabling the Allies to shift to the offensive, with fleet-supported advances in the Solomons and New Guinea areas.
In late 1943, Nimitz, exploiting his growing amphibious and carrier strength, opened in the Central Pacific a new, shorter line of westward advance. After capturing positions in the Gilberts, the Marshalls, the Marianas, and the Palaus, Nimitz' forces supported Gen. Douglas Mac-Arthur's Southwest Pacific Area forces in their re-conquest of the Philippines. Meanwhile, the U. S. Pacific Fleet, in the Battle of the Philippine Sea (June 1944) and the Battle for Leyte Gulf (October 1944), had drastically reduced the Japanese Navy.
In 1945, Nimitz' forces captured Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and his carriers began to raid Japan. On September 2, aboard the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Nimitz signed the instrument of Japanese surrender as representative of the United States.
An expert judge of men, Nimitz chose his subordinates carefully and sent them to carry out their tasks with as little interference as possible. Exercising his command at first from Pearl Harbor and later from Guam, he never personally observed combat operations for fear that his presence might inhibit the initiative of his fleet and force commanders.
Before each operation Nimitz consulted the officers of his command, but he made his own decisions. For example, during the planning for the Marshalls invasion, all his senior commanders recommended caution, strongly urging that the outer islands be captured first. But Nimitz ordered his commanders to bypass these and directly assault Kwajalein, Japanese headquarters at the center of the archipelago. His decision proved sound, for the enemy, expecting an initial attack on the outer islands, had left the center underdefended.
Except when severity was required, Nimitz was friendly, courteous, and calm. His tact and his serenity were proverbial. Confident himself, he inspired confidence in his subordinates.
Following World War II, Admiral Nimitz became chief of naval operations and was instrumental in unifying the armed services under the 'National Military Establishment, forerunner of the Department of Defense. Subsequently he served the United Nations, first as an administrator and later as a goodwill ambassador.
Nimitz never formally retired from active service. He took up residence in California, first at Berkeley, where he served as a regent of the University of California (1947-1955) and later at official quarters on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. He died there on February 20, 1966.