Saturday, October 23, 1999

100 Who Made A Difference

Star Chester W. Nimitz Star

Star-Bulletin file photo
Adm. Chester W. Nimitz and Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower
were honored at Harvard in 1946.

Admiral led fleet
in World War II

By Gregg K. Kakesako


CHESTER W. Nimitz was a Navy ensign in July 1908 and was maneuvering the USS Decatur into a Philippines harbor when he neglected to take the tide into account and ran his destroyer aground.

Nimitz was relieved of his command, court-martialed and found guilty of "neglect of duty." But he overcame that setback to become one of the nation's best known five-star officers, picked by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Dec. 31, 1941, as fleet admiral over 28 more senior admirals.

Nimitz was born Feb. 24, 1885, in Fredericksburg, Texas, where a museum stands in his honor today. He was encouraged to make the sea a career by a grandfather who raised him.

"Between chores and homework," Nimitz once wrote, "I listened wide-eyed to stories about his youth in the German merchant marines. The sea, like life itself, is a stern taskmaster, he would say.

"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."

Although West Point was Nimitz's first choice, he was offered a seat at Annapolis and in 1905 graduated seventh in his midshipman's class of 114.

Before assuming command of the Pacific Fleet in 1941, Nimitz built the submarine base at Pearl Harbor, founded one of the first Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps units, commanded the flagship of the Asiatic Fleet, and commanded Battleship Division One.

By the time he signed the Japanese surrender pact aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945, Nimitz commanded more than 2 million fighting men.

On Dec. 15, 1945, he became chief of naval operations. He died Feb. 20, 1966, and was buried on a gentle slope in Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, Calif.

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