Chester Nimitz

Chester Nimitz
Chester Nimitz

Chester William Nimitz (February 24, 1885February 20, 1966) was the Commander in Chief of Pacific Forces for the United States and Allied forces during World War II. He was the nation's leading authority on submarines, as well as Chief of the Navy Bureau of Navigation in 1939.


Early life

Chester William Nimitz, son of Chester Bernhard and Anna (Henke) Nimitz, was born in Fredericksburg, Texas. He was appointed to the United States Naval Academy from the 12th Congressional District of Texas in 1901, and graduated with distinction in January 1905.

Military Career

Dates of Rank

At the time of Chester Nimitz's promotion to Rear Admiral, the United States Navy did not maintain a one star rank. Chester Nimitz was thus promoted directly from Captain to 2 Star Admiral. By Congressional Appointment, he skipped the rank of Vice Admiral and became a 4 Star Admiral in December 1941.

Chester Nimitz also never held the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade, as he was appointed a full Lieutenant after three years of service as an Ensign. For administrative reasons, Chester Nimitz's naval record annotates that he was promoted to both Lieutenant Junior Grade, and Lieutenant, on the same day.

Decorations and Awards

United States Awards

Foreign Decorations

Early Career

He joined battleship Ohio (BB-12) at San Francisco, and cruised in her to the Far East. In September 1906, he was transferred to Baltimore (C-3); and, on 31 January 1907, after the two years at sea then required by law, he was commissioned Ensign. Remaining on Asiatic Station in 1907, he successively served in Panay, Decatur, and Denver.

Nimitz returned to the United States in the fourth Ranger when that vessel was converted to a school ship, and in January 1909 began instruction in the First Submarine Flotilla. In May of that year he was given command of the Flotilla, with additional duty in command of Plunger, later renamed A-1. He commanded Snapper (later renamed C-5) when that submarine was commissioned on 2 February 1910, and on 18 November 1910 assumed command of Narwhal (later renamed D-1). In the latter command he had additional duty from 10 October 1911, as Commander 3rd Submarine Division Atlantic Torpedo Fleet. In November 1911 he was ordered to the Boston Navy Yard, to assist in fitting out Skipjack and assumed command of that submarine, which had been renamed E-1, at her commissioning on 14 February 1912. On 20 March 1912 he rescued W. J. Walsh, Fireman, second class, from drowning.

After commanding the Atlantic Submarine Flotilla, from, May 1912 to March 1913, he supervised the building of diesel engines for tanker Maumee (AO-2), under construction at the New London Ship and Engine Building Company, Groton, Connecticut.

In April 1913, he married Catherine Vance Freeman.

World War I

In the summer of 1913 he studied engines at the diesel engine plants in Nuremberg, Germany, and Ghent, Belgium. Returning to the New York Navy Yard, he became Maumee's Executive Officer and Engineer on her commissioning 23 October 1916. On 10 August 1917 Nimitz became aide to Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. On 6 February 1918 he was appointed Chief of Staff and was awarded a Letter of Commendation for meritorious service as Chief of Staff to the Commander, U.S. Atlantic Submarine Fleet. On 16 September 1918, he reported to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, and on 25 October was given additional duty as Senior Member, Board of Submarine Design.

Between the Wars

From May 1919 to June 1920 he served as executive officer of South Carolina (BB-26). He then commanded Chicago (CA-14) with additional duty in command of Submarine Division 14, based at Pearl Harbor. Returning to the United States in the summer of 1922, he studied at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, and in June 1923, became Aide and Assistant Chief of Staff to Commander Battle Fleet, and later to the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet. In August 1926 he went to the University of California, Berkeley to establish one of the Navy's first Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps Units.

In June 1929 he took command of Submarine Division 20. In June 1931 he assumed command of Rigel (AR-11) and the destroyers out of commission at San Diego, California. In October 1933 he took command of Augusta (CA-31) and cruised in her to the Far East, where in December she became flagship of the Asiatic Fleet. In April 1935, he returned home for three years as Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, before becoming Commander, Cruiser Division 2, Battle Force. In September 1938 he took command of Battleship Division 1, Battle Force. On 15 June 1939 he was appointed Chief of the Bureau of Navigation.

World War II

Missing image
Nimitz signing the Japanese surrender document.

Ten days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, on 7 December 1941 he was selected Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, with the rank of Admiral, effective from 31 December. Assuming command at the most critical period of the war in the Pacific, Admiral Nimitz, despite the losses from the attack on Pearl Harbor and the tragic shortage of ships, planes and supplies, successfully organized his forces to halt the Japanese advance. As rapidly as ships, men, and materiél became available, he shifted to the offensive and, by his brilliant leadership and outstanding skill as a strategist, defeated the enemy in the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Battle of Midway, and in the Battle of the Solomon Islands.

On 7 October 1943 he was designated Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas. By Act of Congress, approved 14 December 1944, the grade of Fleet Admiral of the United States Navy — the highest grade in the Navy — was established and the next day President of the United States Franklin Roosevelt nominated and, with the advice and consent of the Senate, appointed Admiral Nimitz to that rank. He took the oath of office 19 December 1944.

Missing image
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz pins Navy Cross on Doris Miller, at ceremony on board warship in Pearl Harbor, May 27, 1942

In the final phases in the war in the Pacific, he attacked the Mariana Islands invading Saipan, inflicting a decisive defeat on the Japanese Fleet in the Battle of the Philippine Sea and capturing Guam and Tinian (from which Col. Paul Tibbets flew the Enola Gay to drop the Little Boy atomic bomb on August 6, 1945). His Fleet Forces isolated enemy-held bastions of the Central and Eastern Caroline Islands and secured in quick succession Peleliu, Angaur, and Ulithi. In the Philippines his ships turned back powerful task forces of the Japanese Fleet, a historic victory in the multi-phased Battle for Leyte Gulf 24 to 26 October 1944. Fleet Admiral Nimitz culminated his long-range strategy by successful amphibious assaults on Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In addition, Nimitz also persuaded the Army Air Force to mine the Japanese ports and waterways by air in an successful mission called Operation Starvation which severely disrupted enemy logistics.

On 2 September 1945 Fleet Admiral Nimitz signed for the United States when Japan formally surrendered on board battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay. On 5 October 1945, which had been officially designated as "Nimitz Day" in Washington, DC, Admiral Nimitz was personally presented a Gold Star in lieu of the third Distinguished Service Medal by the President of the United States "for exceptionally meritorious service as Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas, from June 1944 to August 1945...."

Post War

On 26 November 1945 his nomination as Chief of Naval Operations was confirmed by the Senate, and on 15 December 1945 he relieved Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King. With characteristic efficiency he tackled the difficult task of reducing the most powerful Navy in history to a fraction of its war-time peak while establishing and overseeing programs for maintenance of Active and Reserve fleets with the potential strength and readiness required to support national policy.

For the post-war trial of German Admiral Karl Dönitz at the Nuremberg Trials, Admiral Nimitz furnished an affidavit in support of Dönitz.

Civilian Life

On 15 December 1947, he retired from the Navy as Chief of Naval Operations. He and his wife Catherine moved to Berkeley, California. After he suffered a serious fall in 1964, they moved from their Berkeley home to naval quarters on Yerba Buena Island in San Francisco Bay.

In San Francisco, he served as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy in the Western Sea Frontier. After the war, he worked to restore good will with Japan -- the nation he did so much to defeat in the War -- by helping raise funds for the restoration of the battleship Mikasa, Admiral Heihachiro Togo's flagship at the Battle of Tsushima in 1905. Nimitz took an active interest in community affairs, and served as a regent of the University of California from 1948-1956.

Catherine and Chester Nimitz had four children: Catherine Vance (b. 1914), Chester (1915-2002), Anna (1919-2003) and Mary (b. 1931). Chester W. Nimitz, Jr. graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1936, served as a submariner in the Navy until his retirement in 1957, reaching the (post-retirement) rank of Rear Admiral; he served as chairman of PerkinElmer from 1969-1980. Anna Elizabeth ("Nancy") Nimitz was an expert on the Soviet economy at the RAND Corporation from 1952 until her retirement in the 1980s. Sister Mary Aquinas (Nimitz) became a nun, working at Dominican University of California.

Fleet Admiral Nimitz died at home on the evening of 20 February 1966. The place of death is variously reported as Treasure Island or Yerba Buena Island in San Francisco Bay.


The following institutions and locations have been named in honor of Nimitz:

plus various K-12 schools in Hawaii, California and Texas.

Preceded by:
Ernest J. King
United States Chief of Naval Operations
Succeeded by:
Louis E. Denfeld

Template:End box


This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

External links

fr:Chester Nimitz pl:Chester Nimitz sk:Chester Nimitz sv:Chester Nimitz


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