Chester Nimitz Jr.

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Chester William Nimitz Jr.
Born(1915-02-17)February 17, 1915[1]
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedJanuary 2, 2002(2002-01-02) (aged 86)[2]
Needham, Massachusetts, U.S.
Pleasant Hill Cemetery
Wellfleet, Massachusetts
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Navy
Years of service1936–1957
RankRear Admiral
Commands heldSubmarine Squadron 6
USS Sarda (SS-488)
USS Haddo (SS-255)
Battles/warsWorld War II
Korean War
AwardsNavy Cross[3]
Silver Star (3)[3]
Bronze Star Medal
RelationsFleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (father)
Other workBusinessman

Chester William "Chet" Nimitz Jr. (February 17, 1915 – January 2, 2002) was an American submarine commander in the United States Navy during World War II and the Korean War, and a businessman. He was awarded the Navy Cross and three Silver Stars for valor in battle. He was the son of U.S. Navy Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz.

Early life[edit]

Nimitz was born to Chester William Nimitz Sr. and Catherine Vance (née Freeman) Nimitz at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Hospital in Brooklyn, New York,[4] while the couple, with their daughter Catherine Vance "Kate" (born the year before), lived at 415 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, and Nimitz Sr. was working on the USS Maumee at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.[5]

Nimitz attended the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, graduating with the class of 1936.[4]

Nimitz married Joan Leona Labern at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard on 18 June 1938.[6] She was born in León, Nicaragua in 1912 to British parents,[7] William Oscar Stonewall and Frances Mary (née Wells) Labern.[8] With her parents she returned to England at the outbreak of World War I in 1914,[9] and was raised in England.[10] Joan came to the United States in 1938 to study dentistry at the University of California Dental School in San Francisco, and met Chester at a cocktail party at Mare Island.[6] She would make news in 1944 when she failed her test to become a United States citizen;[7] two days later she did become an American citizen.[11]

The couple would have three daughters, Frances Mary,[12] Elizabeth Joan,[12] and Sarah Catherine.[4][13]

Naval career[edit]


Later life[edit]

Chester Nimitz Jr. retired from the navy as rear admiral in 1957. He joined Texas Instruments, and spent four years there. He later joined Perkin-Elmer Corporation, a manufacturer of scientific instruments based in Norwalk, Connecticut. He became president, chief executive officer (CEO) and a director in 1965, and was elected Chairman of the Board in 1969, serving until retirement in 1980.[15][16]

Nimitz was an Honorary Trustee and Honorary Member of the Corporation of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.[16]


The health of Nimitz and his wife, Joan, deteriorated in their later years. Joan was blind, and Nimitz had lost 30 pounds due to a prolonged stomach disorder. He was also suffering from congestive heart failure. On January 2, 2002, Chester Nimitz Jr. committed voluntary suicide with his wife Joan by ingesting a quantity of sleeping pills in their home at a retirement residence in Needham, Massachusetts.[4] He left a note stating:[17]

Our decision was made over a considerable period of time and was not carried out in acute desperation. Nor is it the expression of a mental illness. We have consciously, rationally, deliberately and of our own free will taken measures to end our lives today because of the physical limitations on our quality of life placed upon us by age, failing vision, osteoporosis, back and painful orthopedic problems.

Nimitz and Joan are buried at Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Wellfleet, Massachusetts.[18][19]

Awards and decorations[edit]

Navy Cross ribbon.svg Navy Cross
Gold star
Gold star
Silver Star with two gold award stars
Bronze Star Medal ribbon.svg Bronze Star Medal
U.S. Navy Unit Commendation ribbon.svg Navy Unit CommendationUSS Haddo (7th war patrol)


  1. ^ Potter, Elmer Belmont (1976). Nimitz. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-87021-492-9.
  2. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths – Nimitz, Chester W.". The New York Times. January 6, 2002.
  3. ^ a b "Military Times Hall of Valor : Awards for Chester William Nimitz Jr". Retrieved 11 October 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d Weil, Martin (January 8, 2002). "Chester W. Nimitz Jr., 86; Submarine Officer". The Washington Post. Obituaries.
  5. ^ Potter. pp. 124–125.
  6. ^ a b Potter. p. 166.
  7. ^ a b "Nimitz Daughter-In-Law Fails In Citizenship Test". The Baltimore Sun. March 11, 1944.
  8. ^ United Kingdom birth and marriage records.
  9. ^ UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878–1960. – Arrival: London, England – 1914.
  10. ^ DeMarco, Peter (January 7, 2002). "A Family at Peace with a Decision to Die". The Boston Globe.
  11. ^ United Press International (May 13, 1944). "Nimitz' Daughter-In-Law Becomes U. S. Citizen". Pittsburgh Press.
  12. ^ a b Potter. p. 417n.
  13. ^ Potter. pp. 435, 437–438.
  14. ^ "Japanese Naval and Merchant Vessels Sunk During WWII By All U.S. Submarines: H – J". Valor At Sea.
  15. ^ "Chester Nimitz Jr., Navy Admiral, 86". The New York Times. January 8, 2002.
  16. ^ a b Lauzon, Shelley (January 7, 2002 [Last updated: June 8, 2010]). "In Memoriam: Chester W. Nimitz Jr". Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  17. ^ Buchanan, Patrick J. (January 18, 2002). "The Sad Suicide of Admiral Nimitz". The American Cause.
  18. ^ "Rear Adm. Chester W. Nimitz Jr". Find a Grave. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  19. ^ "Joan Labern Nimitz". Find a Grave. Retrieved May 27, 2019.