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Chester William Nimitz: Five Star Admiral

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Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz was one of the limited five star Admiral in the history of US Navy and most respected Officers by the US Presidents. Considering his leadership, strategic ability, skills, managerial ability, capacity to carry out multiple tasks, intelligence, evaluating and controlling his subordinates with the willingness to do necessary changes in his command, positive attitude towards what he assigned for and military requirement forethought. Nimitz is considered as the prototype of a World War II military leader and as an effective decision maker.

Fleet Admiral Nimitz had the qualities to inspire his subordinates to see a silver lining in a situation and circumstances where everyone else sees only despair and defeatism. The distinguishing characteristics of Nimitz were clearly visible when comparing to other five star Fleet Admirals served in US Navy along with him during the same era. Nimitz was clearly a people-oriented leader who put his hand on the shoulder of the subordinate and explained what they can do together. He was an instrumental commander during World War II. Apart from commanding naval submarines and battleships, he was an expert of diesel engines in submarines and tankers.

Admiral Chester William Nimitz actively involved to the success of the United States Navy from Annapolis Naval Academy until his death. His endeavours, involvement, and 61 years of service led to advancements in command strategy, naval education, goodwill measures, and the engineering and building of gas, diesel, and nuclear engines for navy vessels and submarines. He won more awards and received more decorations including several Gold Stars. His leadership during WW II won the war in the Pacific and on 02 September 1945, Nimitz signed for the United States when Japan officially admitted defeat on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. He was found as the strategic decision maker during the important battles of the Coral Sea, the conflict of Midway, Eastern Solomons, the battle of Santa Cruz and the battle of Philippine Sea which led to the defeat of Japan.


Chester William Nimitz was born in Fredericksburg, Texas on 24th February 1885 just after six months of the death of his father. The primary role model of young Nimitz was his grandfather who had been a German Merchant Marine, one of the first Texas Rangers, and an allied captain. His grandfather’s experiences and guidance were influential in the building of Nimitz’s charisma and accomplishments. 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.”

Nimitz had a desire to enrich his education. However due to financial constraints he had no other choice than to join military; his first choice of school was Military Academy at West Point, and he applied at the age of 15. Unfortunately, there were no vacancies available. Subsequently he studied hard for the one appointment available at Naval Academy 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. He was nick named as “Matty” in the academy due to his excellences in mathematics and physical exercise of sit-ups. His classmates said of him that he was “a man of cheerful yesterdays and confident tomorrows”.

Midshipman Nimitz in 1905.

Midshipman Nimitz was assigned to battle ship OHIO (BB-12) upon his graduation. Subsequently, he was transferred to cruiser Baltimore (C-3). As a fast learner, he started training in the First Submarine fleet in January of 1909 and had command of the fleet by May. By the end of 1911, he was the Commander of 3rd Submarine Division Atlantic Torpedo Fleet. In 1912, Lieutenant Nimitz was awarded the Navy’s Silver Life Saving Medal for saving a shipmate from drowning. In June 1912, young Lieutenant Chester W. Nimitz addressed the Naval War College on the subject of submarines – “Defensive and Offensive Tactics of Submarines.”

In Early 1913, the Navy, mesmerized by the performance of the diesel engine, Lieutenant Nimitz was detached from that duty to study diesel engines, particularly the working diagrams of diesel prepared at the diesel engine plants in Nuremburg, Germany, and Ghent, Belgium. Returning to the New York Navy Yard, Nimitz’s task was to supervise the construction and installation of two 2,600-horsepower diesel engines of a Tanker named MAUMEE.

Nimitz was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander in 1917. Over the next several years, Nimitz proved himself through several endeavours. 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. He was appointed as a senior member of the Board of Submarine Design in the same year.

From 1926 to 1929, he was assigned to the University of California to establish the first Naval Reserve Officers’ training unit. He had served in battleships and as a cruiser commander as well as study at various advanced naval schools between wars. By 1938 he was promoted to a Rear Admiral. In 1940, Admiral Nimitz’s name was one of two acquiesced for the post of Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet. The other was that of Adm. Husband E. Kimmel. Later, Adm. Kimmel was selected for the appointment.

Admiral Nimitz was in his home in Washington when he heard the news that Pearl Harbour had been attacked. A few days later, Admiral Kimmel was relieved and Admiral Nimitz went to Pearl Harbour. On 17th December 1941, ten days after Pearl Harbour attack, President Roosevelt promoted Nimitz to Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet with the rank of Admiral. When the Pacific area was separated into three zones 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.

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