Admiral Chester William Nimitz contributed to the success of the United States Navy from his beginnings at Annapolis 1905 to this very day. His accomplishments, contributions, and 61 years of service led to advancements in command strategy, naval education, good will measures, and the engineering and building of gas, diesel, and nuclear engines for navy vessels – especially submarines.
His leadership during WWII won the war in the Pacific and on September 2, 1945, Nimitz signed for the United States when Japan formally surrendered on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
Chester William Nimitz was born in Fredericksburg, TX in 1885 – six months after his own father’s death.
His primary male role model was his hardy, sea loving grandfather, who had been a German Merchant Marine, one of the first Texas Rangers, and a Confederate captain. His grandfather’s experiences and advice were influential in the building of Nimitz’s character and achievements. His grandfather told him “the sea – like life itself – is a stern taskmaster. The best way to get along with either is to learn all you can, then do your best and don’t worry – especially about things over which you have no control.”
His childhood home was the Nimitz Hotel in Fredericksburg, TX which was built with the essence and elements of a ship so that Grandfather Nimitz would feel connected to the sea he missed so much. The young Chester had as his home and playground a ship’s bridge and a pilot house that looked out not over the sea, but out on the Texas hills.
Nimitz’s first choice of school was West Point, and he applied at the age of 15. Unfortunately, there were no appointments available. On the advice of his Congressman, he studied hard for the one appointment available at Annapolis. He graduated from the Naval Academy 7th in his class of 114 in 1905. He had left high school to attend and did not receive a high school diploma until decades later when he was an admiral.
His classmates said of him that he was “a man of cheerful yesterdays and confident tomorrows”.
Commanding the Sea
By 1908, he was an ensign that had served on four ships before running the fifth, the Decatur, aground on a sand bar in the Philippines. He was court martialed and received a letter of reprimand.
A fast learner, he started instruction in the First Submarine Flotilla in January of 1909 and had command of the flotilla by May. He also had the command of the USS Plunger, the USS Snapper, and the USS Narwhal by November of 1910. By the end of 1911, he was Commander 3rd Submarine Division Atlantic Torpedo Fleet.
Over the next several years, Nimitz proved himself through several endeavors. In 1918, during WWI, he was appointed Chief of Staff to Admiral Samuel S. Robinson – the Commander of the Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet – and was awarded a Letter of Commendation for meritorious service. That October, he was appointed a senior member of the Board of Submarine Design.
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, he served on various naval vessels and was appointed the chief of the Bureau of Navigation in 1939.
On December 17th, 1941 (ten days after Pearl Harbor), Roosevelt promoted him to Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet with the rank of Admiral.
When the Pacific theater was divided into three areas of command in 1942, Admiral Nimitz was given command over all sea, air, and ground units of the Pacific Ocean Areas as their Commander in Chief.
Admiral Nimitz was victorious in the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Battle of Midway, and the Solomon Islands Campaign.
An Act of Congress in 1944 recognized his contributions and created the grade of Fleet Admiral which would be the highest rank in the Navy and to which President Roosevelt promoted Nimitz the day following that act.
In 1945 he was named Commander in Chief of the United States Fleet.
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