The Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was born today in 1882. Now WE know em

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Husband Edward Kimmel was born in Henderson, Kentucky on February 26, 1882.

His father was a veteran of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.

Kimmel graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1904.

Husband Kimmel became the husband of Dorothy Kinkaid, sister of Thomas C. Kinkaid.

They would raise two sons together.

Kimmel went on to serve on several battleships, commanded two destroyer divisions, a destroyer squadron, and the battleship USS New York.

Eventually he was promoted to the flag rank of rear admiral in 1937.

In January of 1941, Kimmel began duties as Commander-in-Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet.

Pearl Harbor

After Admiral James O. Richardson was removed as Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet and Pacific Fleet in February 1941, Kimmel assumed command.

The base for the fleet had been moved from its traditional home at San Diego, California to Pearl Harbor in May 1940.

On February 18, 1941, Admiral Kimmel wrote to the Chief of Naval Operations:

“I feel that a surprise attack (submarine, air, or combined) on Pearl Harbor is a possibility, and we are taking immediate practical steps to minimize the damage inflicted and to ensure that the attacking force will pay.”

Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet (center), reviews his war plans with two senior members of at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, sometime before December 7, 1941. (U.S. Naval Historical Center).

Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet (center), reviews his war plans with two senior members of at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, sometime before December 7, 1941. (U.S. Naval Historical Center).

As we all know, Japan’s Attack on Pearl Harbor occurred on December 7, 1941 and resulted in the deaths of 2,402 American servicemen.

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Walter Campbell Short was the major general in the United States Army and the U.S. military commander responsible for the defense of U.S. military installations in Hawaii at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Edwin T. Layton related that during the attack;

“Admiral Kimmel stood by the window of his office at the submarine base, his jaw set in stony anguish. As he watched the disaster across the harbor unfold with terrible fury, a spent .50 caliber machine gun bullet crashed through the glass. It brushed the admiral before it clanged to the floor. It cut his white jacket and raised a welt on his chest.”

Layton is noted for having murmered to his communications officer, Commander Maurice “Germany” Curts;

“It would have been merciful had it killed me.”

In the British television documentary series chronicling the events of the Second World War “The World at War,” a naval serviceman (who had been alongside Admiral Kimmel during the attack) recalled that as Admiral Kimmel watched the destruction of the fleet, he tore off his four-star shoulder boards and replaced them with those of a rear admiral, in apparent recognition of the impending end of his command.

After Pearl Harbor

After the attack, Admiral Kimmel was planning and executing retaliatory moves, including an effort to relieve and reinforce Wake Island that could have led to an early clash between American and Japanese carrier forces.

Admiral Kimmel, however, was relieved of his command December 17, 1941.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed The Roberts Commission to investigate the attack.

The Commission determined that Admiral Kimmel and his Army counterpart General Short were guilty of errors of judgment and dereliction of duty in the events leading up to the attack.

Kimmel, testifying before numerous hearings, defended his decisions by saying that important information had never been made available to him.

Kimmel retired early in 1942.

War from the sidelines

His brother-in-law, Thomas “fighting admiral” Kinkaid, went on to build a reputation in the aircraft carrier battles of 1942 and commanded the Allied forces in the Aleutian Islands Campaign.

His oldest son, Manning Kimmel, died when the submarine he commanded (USS Robalo) was sunk near Palawan in July of 1944.

Kimmel himself worked for Frederic R. Harris, Inc. after the war.

Husband Kimmel died at Groton, Connecticut, on May 14, 1968.

Now WE know em

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Posthumous Reputation and Debate

In 1994 Kimmel’s family, including his grandson, South Carolina broadcaster Manning Kimmel IV, attempted for the third time to have Kimmel’s four star rank re-instated.

President Bill Clinton turned down the request, as had Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan before him.

A 1995 Pentagon study concluded other high-ranking officers were also responsible for the failure at Pearl Harbor but did not exonerate Kimmel.

On May 25, 1999, the United States Senate, by a vote of 52–47, passed a non-binding resolution to exonerate Kimmel and Short and requested that the President of the United States posthumously restore both men to full rank.

Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC), one of the sponsors of the resolution, called Kimmel and Short

“the two final victims of Pearl Harbor.”

Neither President Clinton nor President Bush after him did so.

Then a Senate enquiry in 2000 issued a lengthy exoneration of Kimmel’s conduct.

Historians agree that the United States was colossally unprepared for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor at all levels and suffered a humiliating defeat in consequence. Japanese military forces enjoyed clear superiority in training, equipment, experience and planning over the Americans. The extent to which Kimmel himself bore responsibility for the unreadiness of his Pacific Fleet has thus been a matter of debate.

Some, such as submariner Captain Edward L. “Ned” Beach, concluded that Admiral Kimmel and Army Lieutenant General Walter Short, also dismissed from command, were made scapegoats for the failures of superiors in Washington.

Edwin T. Layton (later Rear Admiral Layton), chief intelligence officer for Kimmel, and one of the officers who knew Kimmel best, provided support for Kimmel’s position in his book, And I Was There: Pearl Harbor and Midway—Breaking the Secrets (1985). Layton argued Kimmel had not been provided complete information and that Kimmel deployed the few reconnaissance resources at his disposal in the most logical way, given the available information.

On the other hand, Kimmel’s critics point out that he had been ordered (on November 27, 1941, 10 days prior to the attack) to initiate a “defensive deployment” of the fleet. Kimmel, thinking the main threat to the fleet was sabotage, kept much of the fleet in port and did not place the fleet on alert. When his intelligence unit lost track of Japan’s aircraft carriers, he did not order long-range air or naval patrols to assess their positions,. Kimmel also had a poor working arrangement with his Army counterpart, General Short, who was charged with defending the fleet.

Historians generally recognize that American forces would have fared poorly even if Kimmel had reacted as expected.

In a 1964 interview Admiral Chester Nimitz, who took over as commander of the Pacific Fleet three weeks after the attack, concluded that “it was God’s mercy that our fleet was in Pearl Harbor on December 7.” If Kimmel had “had advance notice that the Japanese were coming, he most probably would have tried to intercept them. With the difference in speed between Kimmel’s battleships and the faster Japanese carriers, the former could not have come within rifle range of the enemy’s flattops. As a result, we would have lost many ships in deep water and also thousands more in lives.” Instead, at Pearl Harbor, the crews were easily rescued, and six battleships ultimately raised. This was also the assessment of Joseph Rochefort, head of HYPO, who remarked the attack was cheap at the price.

Robert Stinnett, in his paperback Day of Deceit (2001),[12] put forward a novel conspiracy theory in which American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt actually wanted the Pearl Harbor attack to happen so public opinion would be aroused to support America’s entry into war. Kimmel and Short, he argued, were deliberately kept ignorant. The president and others, he asserted, knew of Japan’s intent to attack Pearl Harbor and even the date and time. Kimmel, he argues, was given deceptive orders and denied resources such as access to MAGIC for the purpose of keeping him in the dark. Most historians reject Stinnett’s thesis.

 

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