Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN

Margaret Dudley

Admiral Chester W. Nimitz began life in the small German town of Fredericksburg, Texas. Few could have guessed that the young boy would grow up to be Commander-in-Chief of the US Pacific Fleet and one of the great American heroes of World War Two.

Chester William Nimitz was born on 24 February 1885 to Anna Henke Nimitz in Fredericksburg, Texas. His father, Chester Bernard Nimitz, had died five months prior, and never got to meet his son. Young Chester's paternal grandfather, Charles Henry Nimitz, helped to raise him and became his father figure. In 1890, Anna remarried her husband's brother, William Nimitz, and the family moved to Kerrville. Chester grew into a hard-working, bright young boy who helped his family with their inn and often hiked out to help his grandfather with the Nimitz Hotel in Fredericksburg.

Chester Nimitz with his mother and grandparents

When Chester was 16, he attended the Naval Academy in Annapolis, graduating 7th in his class of 114 in 1905, beginning a Navy career that lasted nearly half a century. His career had its hard lessons, one resulting in a court-martial for dereliction of duty, but Nimitz learned from his mistakes and used them to improve himself and his leadership skills. When Pearl Harbor was attacked on 7 December 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt selected Nimitz to replace the former Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet and told him to "get the hell out to Pearl Harbor and don't come back til the war is won!"

Through his diligent leadership and shrewd tactics, Nimitz led the Pacific naval fleet in the war against Japan, instituting the island-hopping strategy to use military resources and manpower most efficiently. He used his decades of Naval experience and drew from his Academy training to lead his men to victory in the Pacific Theater. When Japan surrendered in September 1941, Nimitz signed the surrender documents on behalf of the United States.

After the war, Nimitz continued to display the qualities and characteristics which made his a charismatic and effective leader. He settled in California, but continued to support the country he had fought so hard to protect until his death in 1966.

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Margaret Dudley, Content Creation Coordinator, National Museum of the Pacific War