Chester Nimitz, along with Douglas MacArthur, dominated American strategy in the Pacific during World War Two. Nimitz commanded the US Pacific fleet when it was involved in the battles at Coral Sea and Midway and is considered by many to have been an astute tactician and strategist.
Chester Nimitz was born on February 24th, 1885 in Fredericksburg, Texas. Nimitz failed to get into West Point to pursue a career in the army but he was selected for the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. He graduated with distinction from Annapolis in 1905 passing out as 7th out of a class of 114 students.
After graduation, Nimitz spent two years on sea duty in the Far East. In 1907, he was commissioned as an ensign, taking up command of the USS Panay, a gunboat. His next command – USS Decatur – involved his court-martial for grounding the boat.
However, after 1907, Nimitz spent a great deal of time working in the American Navy’s submarine service and he was to gain a reputation as being an expert in this field. He commanded USS Plunger, USS Snapper, USS Narwal and the USS Skipjack – all submarines – between 1907 and 1913.
In 1913, Nimitz became involved in the research of diesel engines for the tanker USS Maumee. He was sent to Germany and Belgium to study diesel engines produced in these two countries. After returning to America, Nimitz became the Maumee’s executive and engineering officer.
When America declared war on Germany in World War One, Nimitz held the rank of lieutenant-commander and was chief of staff in the America’s Atlantic Submarine Service.
In September 1918, Nimitz became Chief of Navy Operations and in the following year he got his first duty on board a 'big ship', the battleship USS South Carolina where he served as Executive Officer.
In 1922, Nimitz went to the Naval War College. After graduating from this, he served as Chief of Staff to the Commander Battle Forces, Admiral Robinson, who later went on to become Commander-in-Chief, US Fleet. In 1926, Nimitz was appointed Professor of Naval Science and Tactics at the University of California, Berkley. He held this position for three years and in 1929 went back to the submarine service for a further two years.
In 1931, Nimitz took charge of a destroyer base in San Diego and two years later he was given his first command of a 'big ship' - the heavy cruiser USS Augusta. He held this post until 1935 when he was appointed the Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Navigation. Nimitz had this position for three years.
In 1938, Nimitz was promoted to Rear Admiral and he was given a number of posts within the navy's hierarchy until he became Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas in December 1941. Nimitz served in the Pacific throughout the war. Probably his greatest success was the the Battle of Midway when the carrier force of the Imperial Japanese Navy was all but destroyed. In December 1944, Nimitz was promoted to Fleet Admiral and he was one of the signatories on the USS Missouri when the Japanese signed the document confirming her surrender.
From the end of the war to 1947, Nimitz served as Chief of Naval Operations until his retirement from the navy in 1947. In 1949, he started work for the United Nations when he became a roving goodwill ambassador.
Nimitz lived in the San Francisco Bay area where he took an active interest in the city's affairs after his retirement from the navy. He maintained his links with Berkley and became honorary president of the Naval Historical Foundation.
Chester Nimitz died on February 20th, 1966.