A military historian’s look at the five-star admiral “who commanded the 2 million men and 1000 ships that won the war in the Pacific.”
When Chester W. Nimitz (1885–1966) entered the Naval Academy, the Spanish-American War had only recently concluded. By the end of his distinguished career, the U.S. Navy featured supercarriers and nuclear submarines, innovations he’d vigorously championed. Retired Navy captain Harris (War News: Blue & Gray in Black & White: Newspapers in the Civil War, 2010, etc.) revisits every stage of Nimitz’s era-straddling career, from his Texas boyhood and Annapolis years through his various postings and commands, to his crowning 1945 appointment as Chief of Naval Operations, where his postwar pushback against the move to unify the armed services probably preserved naval aviation and the Marine Corps. The bulk of this short narrative, however, focuses on Nimitz’s command of land, sea and air forces in the Pacific during World War II. FDR ordered Nimitz to Pearl Harbor only days after it was attacked. He took over a shattered force and eventually orchestrated a string of naval battles and island conquests that culminated in the Japanese surrender, with Nimitz signing for the United States. Although it was Nimitz who memorably said of the Marines on Iwo Jima, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue,” he was neither especially eloquent nor charismatic. Rather, he was a steady leader whose outward calm and ready supply of jokes masked the partial deafness and nervous tension that plagued him, and he was a superb handler of me. Intolerant of poor performance or discourtesy and horrified by any internecine squabbling, Nimitz rarely permitted his feelings to show. Still, he once explained the framed photo of Gen. MacArthur he kept on his desk as a reminder “not to be a horse’s ass and make Jovian pronouncements complete with thunderbolts.”
For military buffs, surely, but also for general readers looking for an introduction to the Navy’s senior hero of WWII.