The life and times of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz

Joe Guilbeau, Humorist
Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz

It is amazing to me that only 8 years after his graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was supervising the construction of the Navy’s first diesel ship engine.

Nimitz was the leading U.S. Navy authority on submarines. Qualified in submarines during the early years. He later oversaw the conversion of these vessels’ propulsion from gasoline to diesel, and later was key to acquiring approval to build the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, whose propulsion system later superseded diesel powered submarines in the U.S.

He also, beginning in 1917, was the Navy’s leading developer of underway replenishment (refueling) techniques. This tool during the Pacific War would allow the U.S. fleet to operate away from port almost indefinitely. He conducted the first ever underwater refueling.

In the summer of 1913, Nimitz (who spoke German) studied engines at the diesel engine plants in Nuremberg, Germany and Ghent, Belgium before returning to the New York Navy yard. He became executive engineer officer of the USS Maumee at her commissioning on October 23, 1916.

Ten days after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 Nimitz was selected by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to be commander in chief of the United States Pacific fleet. He was promoted to the rank of admiral effective December 31, 1941.

Nimitz immediately departed Washington for Hawaii and took command in a ceremony on the top deck of the submarine Grayling. The change of command ceremony would normally have taken place aboard a battleship. But every battleship in Pearl Harbor had been either sunk or damaged during the attack.

Nimitz commanded many naval battles in the Pacific. The Battle of Midway was one of the most important naval battles of World War II. United States land and carrier-based planes attacked a Japanese fleet approaching the islands. They sank four aircraft and destroyed hundred of planes. The Battle of Midway was the first decisive U.S. naval victory over the Japanese in World War II and crippled Japan’s naval air power.

Chester W. Nimitz was the last fleet admiral in naval history. Nimitz signed the Instrument of Surrender for the United States at the Japanese surrender ceremonies.