Birthday: February 24, 1885
Died At Age: 80
Sun Sign: Pisces
Also Known As: Chester William Nimitz Sr.
Born Country: United States
Born in: Fredericksburg, Texas, United States
Famous as: Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in World War II
Spouse/Ex-: Catherine Vance Freeman
father: Chester Bernhard Nimitz
mother: Anna Josephine
children: Anna Elizabeth Nimitz, Catherine Vance Nimitz, Chester Nimitz, Jr., Mary Aquinas
Died on: February 20, 1966
place of death: Yerba Buena Island, San Francisco, California, United States
Cause of Death: Stroke
U.S. State: Texas
education: United States Naval Academy, US Naval War College
awards: Officer of the Legion of Honour
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown
Who was Chester W. Nimitz?
Chester W. Nimitz was a well-known fleet admiral of the United States Navy. He served as Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in World War II and commanded all air, sea, and land forces in the central Pacific area. One of the navy’s foremost supervisors and strategists, he was qualified in submarines and oversaw the propulsion of the vessels transitioning from gasoline to diesel. Nimitz initially served as head of the Navy's Bureau of Navigation in 1939 and later as Chief of Naval Operations in 1945. Born in Fredericksburg, Texas, he grew up under the protection of his grandfather, a former official in the German Merchant Marine who taught him "the sea – like life itself – is a stern taskmaster”. Nimitz initially applied to West Point with the aim of becoming an army officer but ended up joining the Naval Academy in 1901, eventually graduating with distinction. He served as chief of staff in World War I and later participated in World War II. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he was elevated to Pacific Fleet’s commander in chief. The Battle of the Coral Sea, the battles of the Gilbert Islands and the Solomon Islands, and the assaults on Iwo Jima and Okinawa were conducted under his direction. He died in 1966, at the age of 80.
Childhood & Early Life
Chester W. Nimitz was born on February 24, 1885, in Fredericksburg, Texas, USA, to Chester Bernhard Nimitz and Anna Josephine. His father had died six months before Chester was born.
He was raised by his mother and grandfather Charles Henry Nimitz, who served as a seaman in the German Merchant Marine.
After a failed attempt of applying for the post of an army officer, Nimitz was accepted into the United States Naval Academy in 1901. He eventually graduated in 1905, securing the seventh rank in a class of 114.
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Early Military Career
Chester Nimitz initially joined the battleship Ohio and cruised on her from San Francisco to the Far East. Then after working on the cruiser Baltimore for a year, he served at sea as a warrant officer. He later served on destroyer Decatur, cruiser Denver, and the gunboat Panay.
In January 1909, Nimitz started his training in the First Submarine Flotilla. A year later, he commanded USS Snapper (later C-5) and USS Narwhal (later D-1).
He was ordered to the Boston Navy Yard to aid in fitting out USS Skipjack in 1911. He then commanded USS Skipjack which was later renamed E-1 at her commissioning in February 1912.
After commanding the Atlantic Submarine Flotilla between 1912 and 1913, he supervised the construction of diesel engines for the fleet oil tanker Maumee at the New London Ship and Engine Company.
Role in World War I
In 1913, Nimitz studied engines in Germany. Three years later, he became an engineer officer and executive of Maumee at the New York Navy Yard. During World War I, he served as the chief engineer of the tanker and helped it conduct its first-ever underway refuelings.
On February 6, 1918, he was made chief of staff of Comsublant and granted a Letter of Commendation for his meritorious service in this position.
Period Between the Wars
From 1919 to 1920, Nimitz served in the battleship South Carolina as an executive officer. He then commanded the cruiser Chicago and Submarine Division 14 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
After studying at the Naval War College, he served in the Battle Fleet as assistant chief of staff to the commander. He later assisted the Commander in Chief of the United States Fleet.
In June 1929, Nimitz commanded Submarine Division 20. Two years later, he took command of Rigel and subsequently Augusta.
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By the end of 1935, he had served as assistant chief at the Bureau of Navigation as well. This was followed by his role as commander of Battleship Division 1, Battle Force, in September 1938.
On June 15, 1939, Nimitz was appointed Bureau of Navigation’s chief. From 1940 to 1941, Nimitz worked in Virginia as President of the Army Navy Country Club.
Role in World War II
In December 1941, Chester Nimitz was appointed commander in chief, United States Pacific Fleet. He was, however, promoted to the rank of admiral later that month.
In March 1942, he was made commander in chief, Pacific Ocean Areas of the Pacific theater and took control over allied land, air, and sea in that area.
During the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway, Nimitz faced superior Japanese forces. Despite enduring losses in terms of total damage suffered, he was successful in turning back a Japanese invasion of Port Moresby. The battle also resulted in the severe losses of two Japanese carriers.
His fleet later strived to neutralize the remaining Japanese offensive threats with the New Guinea Campaign and the Solomon Islands campaign.
From November 1943 to February 1944, Nimitz launched major fleet offensives and destroyed Japanese forces in the central Pacific region and later freed Saipan, Guam, and Tinian from them in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
In October 1944, he once again faced the Japanese army in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Later in December that year, he was appointed fleet admiral of the navy.
In 1945, Nimitz's forces launched Operation Starvation to mine the Japanese waterways and ports by air.
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Post War Career & Retirement
Following World War II, Nimitz was appointed Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). In 1947, he supported then-Captain Hyman G. Rickover's proposal to construct the world's first nuclear-powered vessel, USS Nautilus.
On December 15, 1947, he retired from office as CNO with a third Gold Star. After retirement, Nimitz remained on active duty till the rest of his life. A year later, he was appointed Plebiscite Administrator for Kashmir by the United Nations. He later joined San Francisco’s Bohemian Club.
From 1948 to 1956, Nimitz was associated with the University of California as a regent.
Awards & Honours
Chester Nimitz received many decorations and awards, both nationally and internationally. The United States awarded him the Army Distinguished Service Medal, World War I Victory Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal among many others.
He was also honoured with various titles by different nations. He was made Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath by United Kingdom, and given the Grand Cross of the Order of George I by Greece and Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown with Palm by Belgium.
Family & Personal Life
Chester W. Nimitz married Catherine Vance Freeman on April 9, 1913. The couple had three daughters: Catherine Vance, a music librarian; Anna Elizabeth, who worked at the RAND Corporation; and Mary Manson, who worked as a teacher and later became the president at the Dominican University of California. They also had a son named Chester William "Chet" Jr., who served in the navy.
In early 1965, Nimitz suffered a stroke and died a year later at his home on February 20, 1966. He was 80.
Besides the “Great Americans” series 50¢ postage stamp, many camps, highways, towns, libraries, trails and gates have been named in his honour.
The USS Nimitz, the first of her class of ten nuclear-powered supercarriers, was commissioned in 1975. Nimitz Glacier in Antarctica is a tribute to Nimitz’s service as the CNO during Operation Highjump.