Texas Originals

Navy Hero Admiral Chester Nimitz

The Navy hero guided Allied forces to victory in the Pacific Ocean in World War II. Nimitz coordinated the offensive that brought the Japanese to unconditional surrender.

Portrait of Nimitz
Portrait of US Chief of Naval Operations Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, Dec 1945-Dec 1947

CHESTER WILLIAM NIMITZ
February 24, 1885–February 20, 1966

 

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 left the U.S. Navy stunned.  With American ships still smoldering in the water, Navy Secretary Frank Knox turned to a Texan, Chester Nimitz, to restore confidence in the Pacific Fleet.

sign reads A menace we must beat We need your metal to help fight the U-boat!
A menace we must beat! “We need your metal to help fight the U-boat!”

Nimitz was born in Fredericksburg in 1885.  He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1905 and then served in several command and staff positions, including the new Atlantic submarine fleet.

In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, U.S. and Australian forces thwarted Japanese advances and Admiral Nimitz rolled across the Pacific, hopping from island to island including Guadalcanal, Saipan, Guam, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.  Once bombing attacks began on the Japanese homeland in 1945, a U. S. victory was inevitable.

Admiral Chester W. Nimitz stands with arms cross across chest
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. Photographed circa 1942.

Despite his success, Nimitz was a modest man.  Journalist Robert Sherrod said Nimitz “conceived of war as something to be accomplished as efficiently and smoothly as possible, without too much fanfare.”  When the war in the Pacific was finally won, charismatic Army General Douglas MacArthur got the glory.  Nimitz never wanted it.  He said, “Being a part of the Navy is honorable and soul-satisfying work,” and that was enough for him.

After Nimitz’s death in 1966, his grandfather’s hotel in Fredericksburg became the Admiral Nimitz Museum, now part of the larger National Museum of the Pacific War.  There, in a small, landlocked Texas town, visitors can learn more about one of the U.S. Navy’s greatest commanders.

Admiral Chester Nimitz points at map
General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz, 1942-1944

Sources:

American Experience: Admiral Chester W. Nimitz
Hastings, Max. Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45. New York: Knopf, 2008.
Levine, Alan J. The Pacific War: Japan Versus the Allies. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995.

First aired on June 23, 2012.

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