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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 was assigned to battle ship OHIO (BB-12) upon his graduation. Subsequently he was transferred to cruiser Baltimore (C-3). By 1908, he was an ensign that had served on four ships before running the fifth, the Decatur, stranded on a sandbar in the Philippines. He was court-martialed and received a letter of reprimand. As a fast learner, he started training in the First Submarine Flotilla in January of 1909 and had command of the flotilla by May. He also had the command of the USS Plunger, the USS Snapper, and the USS Narwhal by November of 1910. 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. He wore this medal throughout the remainder of his career, along with the five Distinguished Service Medal awards for wartime exploits. In June 1912, young Lieutenant Chester W. Nimitz addressed the Naval War College on the subject of submarines – “Defensive and Offensive Tactics of Submarines.” Even then, Nimitz anticipated the submarine as the supreme destroyer that it turned out to be during World War II.
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 drawings of diesels 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. The between-wars period included service on battleships and as a cruiser commander as well as study at various advanced naval schools. 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. Adm. Kimmel was assigned with 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 was on his way to Pearl Harbour. On 17th December 1941, ten days after Pearl Harbour attack, President Roosevelt promoted him 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.
Admiral Nimitz was successful in the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Battle of Midway, and the Solomon Islands Fight. An Act of Congress in 1944 renowned his contributions and generated the grade of Fleet Admiral which would be the highest rank in the Navy and to which President Roosevelt promoted Nimitz the day following that act. In 1945, he was named Commander in Chief of the United States Fleet.
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