GROWING UP IN FREDERICKSBURG
At the height of the Pacific War Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz commanded more than two million men and women, 5,000 ships and 20,000 planes, yet he came from humble and landlocked beginnings. He was born February 24, 1885 to a widowed mother and grew up in the small German community of Fredericksburg, Texas. Young Chester lived with his mother at Grandfather Nimitz's famous steamboat-shaped hotel, where he grew close to his grandfather. He regarded his grandfather as "the most important man" in his life.
The teen-aged Nimitz set his sites on an appointment to West Point, but was offered a chance for an education at Annapolis instead. He studied long hours between schoolwork and chores to prepare for the three-day Annapolis examination. His self-discipline paid off and he was accepted to Annapolis in 1901 at age 15. Nimitz’s class was graduated ahead of schedule on January 30, 1905, to help fill the need for junior officers in Theodore Roosevelt's expanding Navy. Chester graduated seventh in the class of 114.
Sent to the Philippines in 1906, 22-year-old Ensign Nimitz commanded the USS Decatur, an old destroyer, which he promptly ran aground. The future Fleet Admiral received a court-martial for "hazarding" a ship of the U.S. Navy. During his early career Chester Nimitz also received the Silver Life Saving Medal, for leaping overboard to rescue a seaman while commanding the USS SKIPJACK, one of the Navy's earliest submarines.
In 1913, Nimitz married Catherine Vance Freeman of Massachusetts and the Navy sent the newlyweds to Germany so Nimitz could study diesel engines. Back in the U.S. he used his new expertise to help supervise the building then engines for the Navy’s first diesel-powered ship, the Maumee.
During World War I, Nimitz served on the staff of the commander of submarines in the Atlantic, developing high regard for subs that stayed with him throughout his career.