Birth of Admiral Chester Nimitz

Birth of Admiral Chester Nimitz

U.S. #1869 was issued as part of the Great Americans Series.

Chester William Nimitz was born on February 24, 1885, in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Nimitz had early aspirations to join the Army, applying to West Point while still in high school. No spots were available, so he entered the Naval Academy instead. Excelling in mathematics and graduating with distinction (cumulative GPA of 3.750 or higher) in 1905, Nimitz joined the crew of the USS Ohio for service in the Far East. Two years later, he was given command of the USS Panay, the Dacatur, and then the Denver.

After returning to the U.S., Nimitz began commanding submarines in 1909. After serving aboard the E-1, he was awarded the Silver Lifesaving Medal for rescuing one of his crewmen from drowning. He eventually became one of the nation’s leading authorities on submarines. After helping build a submarine base in Pearl Harbor in 1920, Nimitz attended the Naval War College. There, he studied the logistics of a possible Pacific Ocean war – knowledge that would prove quite useful two decades later.

U.S. #2559i – Nimitz helped build a submarine base at Pearl Harbor in 1920.

After the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Nimitz was placed in charge of the Pacific Fleet. Nimitz was given operational control over all Allied units – air, land, and sea – in the strategic Pacific Ocean Areas. He deployed ships and men as soon as they became available, quickly putting the U.S. on the offensive. He quickly faced critical shortages of ships, planes, and supplies, though. Nimitz rebuilt the fleet’s strength and engaged in a patient strategy of “island hopping,” which bypassed small Japanese bases to focus on those more crucial. The plan saved time and lives, and ultimately assured the United States of victory.

In this role, Nimitz was widely regarded for both his tactical skills and strong leadership. He’s been applauded for his “sense of inner balance and calm that steadied those around him” as well as his ability to select strong officers and mold them into able leaders, like Raymond A. Spruance and William F. Halsey, Jr.

U.S. #2838i – Nimitz helped plan the successful Battle of Leyte Gulf.

In 1944, an act of Congress established the rank of Fleet Admiral, the highest grade in the United States Navy. The following day, President Roosevelt appointed Nimitz to the position. Under his leadership, the U.S. defeated the Japanese in key battles including Coral Sea, Midway, and the Solomon Islands. Decisive victories included the Battles of the Philippine Sea and Leyte Gulf, along with the capture of Saipan, Guam, and Tinian. Successful assaults on Iwo Jima and Okinawa helped bring the war to an end. Nimitz represented the U.S. and signed the official documents when Japan formally surrendered.

After the war was over, Nimitz oversaw the Navy’s downsizing, helping to find the organization’s place in peacetime. He also helped restore goodwill with Japan by fundraising to help rebuild the Japanese battleship, Mikasa.  He went on to serve as regent of the University of California before his death on February 20, 1966.

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12 responses to "Birth of Admiral Chester Nimitz"

12 thoughts on “Birth of Admiral Chester Nimitz”

  1. Good review and report. For those with interest, a visit to Fredericksburg, TX, West of Austin in the Hill Country, to visit to the Nimitz Museum is a must. Allow more time than you think to visit properly. In spring a bonus is to see the blue bonnets!

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  2. Equally responsible for our victory in the Pacific during WWII, he seems less well-remembered than General Douglas MacArthur. So, this remembrance is very much in order, and I wish that more people would see it.

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  3. I was a 20-year-old Ensign then serving in the Armed Guard on a merchant ship in Atlantic convoys, and after VE day on May 8, 1945, I was transferred to a a ship in the Eniwetok atoll in the Pacific as part of the armada Nimitz was putting together for the November 1945 invasion of Japan. Thanks to the atom bomb and VJ Day, I sailed home instead. Nimitz was key in the success of the Pacific campaign. Thanks for reminding us.

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  4. Hundreds of thousands of commuters drive on the Nimitz Freeway in the East Bay (San Francisco Bay area) every day, and many probably don’t know who Chester Nimitz was. That’s too bad because he was a great Naval officer and a great American. He is less well known that McArthur because Nimitz was not a self-promoting chest pounder and did not pose for heroic photographs.

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  5. One of the unsung heroes of WWII whose fame and importance have slipped away over time. One quibble that I have with the article is that I believe his successful island-hopping strategy involved by-passing the more stronger held Japanese islands to take lesser held ones further up the chain, thus cutting off the stronger ones from further reinforcement and re-supply.

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