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Husband E. Kimmel

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Husband E. Kimmel
Admiral Husband E. Kimmel in 1941
Birth nameHusband Edward Kimmel
Nickname(s)"Kim", "Hubbie", and "Mustafa"
BornFebruary 26, 1882
Henderson, Kentucky, U.S.
DiedMay 14, 1968(1968-05-14) (aged 86)
Groton, Connecticut, U.S.
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service1904–1942
Rank Admiral
Commands heldUSS New York
Cruiser Division 7
Cruisers, Battle Force
United States Pacific Fleet
Battles/warsMexican Revolution

World War I

World War II

AwardsMexican Service Medal
World War I Victory Medal
World War II Victory Medal

Husband Edward Kimmel (February 26, 1882 – May 14, 1968) was a United States Navy four-star admiral who was the commander in chief of the United States Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT) during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was removed from that command after the attack, in December 1941, and was reverted to his permanent two-star rank of rear admiral due to no longer holding a four-star assignment. He retired from the Navy in early 1942. The United States Senate voted to restore Kimmel's permanent rank to four stars in 1999, but President Clinton did not act on the resolution, and neither have any of his successors.

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Husband Kimmel was born in Henderson, Kentucky,[1] on February 26, 1882, to Sibella "Sibbie" Lambert Kimmel (1846–1919) and Major Manning Marius Kimmel (1832–1916), a graduate of West Point who fought with the Union side during the American Civil War before switching allegiance to the Confederate States Army to fight alongside his neighbors.[2]

Kimmel was known by various nicknames throughout his life: "Kim" and "Hubbie", contractions of his given and family names, and later, "Mustafa", the last being a reference to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, due to the similar sounding (homophony) "Kimmel" and "Kemal".[3][4]

He married Dorothy Kinkaid (1890–1975), sister of Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid, with whom he had three sons: Manning, Thomas K. Kimmel and Edward R. Kimmel.[5]

Naval career[edit]

Kimmel graduated in 1904 from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.[1] One of his classmates was future Fleet Admiral Willam Halsey. From 1906 to 1907 he served on several battleships in the Caribbean.[1] In 1907 he was assigned to the USS Georgia during its participation in the around-the-world cruise of the Great White Fleet.[1] Kimmel then served in the United States occupation of Veracruz, Mexico, during which he was wounded in April 1914.[1]

In 1915 he was briefly appointed as an aide to Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt.[1] During World War I, Kimmel served as a squadron gunnery officer in U.S. Battleship Division Nine which served as the Sixth Battle Squadron of the British Grand Fleet.[1] After the war he served as Executive Officer aboard the battleship USS Arkansas, then in Washington, D.C., and the Philippines, as well as commanding two destroyer divisions before attaining the rank of captain in 1926 upon completion of the senior course at the Naval War College.[1]

From 1926 to 1937 Kimmel held a number of positions in the Navy Department, as well as the command of a destroyer squadron and of the battleship USS New York.[1]

In 1937 he was promoted to the flag rank of rear admiral. In this capacity he commanded Cruiser Division Seven on a diplomatic cruise to South America and in 1939 became Commander of Battle Force Cruisers.[1][6][7]

Pearl Harbor[edit]

Kimmel (center) confers with his chief of staff, William "Poco" Smith; and operations officer and assistant chief of staff, Captain Walter S. DeLany (left), at Pearl Harbor, 1941.

After Admiral James O. Richardson was relieved of command in February 1941, in part for protesting that the Pacific Fleet if based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, would be the logical first target in the event of war with Japan, Kimmel was appointed in his place as Commander in Chief, United States Fleet (CINCUS). Kimmel was also appointed Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT), a position reestablished on February 1, 1941, when General Order 143 was issued, and Kimmel assumed command with the temporary rank of admiral starting on that date.[8] Kimmel earned a reputation as a hard worker who inspired subordinates, but some later criticized him for over-attention to detail, claiming it portrayed a lack of self-confidence. These critics asserted that Kimmel constantly revisited minute tasks he had done previously when he could have delegated the work to others.[6]

On the other hand, Kimmel's fleet gunnery officer Willard Kitts later testified that under Kimmel's leadership, "the efficiency and training of the Fleet was at its highest level."[9] William "Bull" Halsey, who in 1941 commanded one of the Pacific Fleet's carrier task forces and rose during the war to five-star fleet admiral, described Kimmel as "the ideal man for the job."[10]

The base for the fleet had been moved from its traditional home at San Diego, California, to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in May 1940. Richardson had been relieved of command for his vocal opposition to this move and concerns about the fleet's vulnerability.[11] On 18 February 1941, Kimmel wrote to the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Admiral Harold Rainsford Stark:

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.[12]

On April 18, 1941, Kimmel wrote to the CNO requesting additional resources for base construction at Wake Island and for a Marine Corps defense battalion to be stationed there.[6] On 19 August the first permanent Marine garrison was assigned. Naval Air Station Midway was commissioned in August after the completion of runways and support structures, and a Marine garrison assigned shortly afterwards.[13] In November Kimmel ordered USS Enterprise to ferry Marine fighters and pilots to Wake Island to reinforce the garrison, and for USS Lexington to depart Pearl Harbor on December 5 to ferry Marine dive bombers to Midway. Because of these missions, neither aircraft carrier was in Pearl Harbor during the later Japanese attack.

Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor occurred in an air raid on December 7, 1941, and caused the deaths of 2,403 U.S. military personnel and civilians. Edwin T. Layton related that during the attack:

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. "It would have been merciful had it killed me," Kimmel murmured to his communications officer, Commander Maurice "Germany" Curts.[14][15]

In The World at War, a naval serviceman—who had been alongside Admiral Kimmel during the attack—recalled that as Kimmel watched the destruction of the fleet, he tore off his four-star shoulder boards in apparent recognition of the impending end of his command.[16]

After Pearl Harbor[edit]

Kimmel was relieved of his command ten days after the attack. At the time he 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. Vice Admiral William S. Pye (Commander, Battle Force, Pacific Fleet) became acting CINCPACFLT on 17 December. He had reservations about Kimmel's plan and decided the Wake Island operation was too risky, recalling the relief force. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz took over as CINCPACFLT on 31 December and by that time Wake Island had been invaded and occupied by the Japanese. Kimmel's CINCUS command was reassigned to Admiral Ernest J. King (at that time Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet [CINCLANTFLT]) in a wartime expanded role of Commander in Chief, United States Fleet (with the new acronym of COMINCH), which would also be combined with King's subsequent appointment as the Chief of Naval Operations.

In 1942, the Roberts Commission, appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to investigate the attack, determined that Kimmel and his counterpart, Army Lieutenant General Walter Short, were guilty of errors of judgment and dereliction of duty in the events leading up to the attack. Kimmel defended his decisions at several hearings, testifying that important information had not been made available to him.

Following the death of Secretary Knox in April 1944, his successor James V. Forrestal ordered that a Naval Court of Inquiry be convened to investigate the facts surrounding the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and to assess any culpability borne by members of the Navy. The court consisted of Admiral Adolphus Andrews; Admiral Orin G. Murfin, who served as President of the Court, and Admiral Edward C. Kalbfus.[17][18] The court convened on July 24, 1944, and held daily sessions in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Pearl Harbor. After interviewing numerous witnesses, it completed its work on October 19, 1944. Its report to the Navy Department largely exonerated Kimmel. The court found that Kimmel's decisions had been correct given the limited information available to him, but criticized then-Chief of Naval Operations Harold R. Stark for failing to warn Kimmel that war was imminent. The court concluded that "based upon the facts established, the Court is of the opinion that no offenses have been committed nor serious blame incurred on the part of any person or persons in the naval service."[19] Because the court's findings implicitly revealed that American cryptographers had broken the Japanese codes, a critical wartime secret, the court's report was not made public until after the end of the war.

Upon reviewing the report, Forrestal felt that the court had been too lenient in assigning blame for the disaster. The court had found that the Army and Navy had adequately cooperated in the defense of Pearl Harbor; that there had been no information indicating that Japanese carriers were on their way to attack Pearl Harbor; and that the attack had succeeded principally because of the aerial torpedo, a secret weapon whose use could not have been predicted. Forrestal disapproved of all of these findings, judging that Kimmel could have done more with the information he had had to prevent or mitigate the attack. Forrestal concluded that both Kimmel and Stark had "failed to demonstrate the superior judgment necessary for exercising command commensurate with their rank and their assigned duties."[20]

Kimmel retired in early 1942, and worked for the military contractor Frederic R. Harris, Inc. after the war. In retirement, Kimmel lived in Groton, Connecticut, where he died on May 14, 1968.[6]

His son, Manning, died after the submarine he commanded, the USS Robalo, was sunk near Palawan on or around July 26, 1944. The Kimmel family at the time was informed that Manning had gone down with his ship. Though it was widely believed that Manning Kimmel died on board his boat, several sources (including Admiral Ralph Waldo Christie, commander of submarine operations at Fremantle at the time) stated after the war that Manning was one of a handful of survivors from his submarine, having been swept overboard as the boat sank after hitting a mine. According to these sources, Manning was captured by Japanese forces, and along with several other survivors from the USS Robalo was pushed into a ditch, doused with gasoline and burned alive by his captors, who were enraged over a recent American air attack.[21]

Posthumous reputation and debate[edit]

Historians agree that the United States was unprepared for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor at all levels. 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 been a matter of debate.

Some, such as submarine Captain Edward L. "Ned" Beach, concluded that Admiral Kimmel and General Short, who was also dismissed from command, were made scapegoats for the failures of superiors in Washington. Kimmel's supporters point to a series of bureaucratic foulups and circumstances beyond anyone's control that led to the fleet's lack of preparedness, including poor atmospheric conditions that blocked a radio warning from the War Department to Pearl Harbor of a possible attack, forcing it to be sent as a telegram,[22] which delayed it long enough for the attack to start before Kimmel received it (the telegram messenger was on his way to deliver the message when the attack commenced; he was forced to take cover in a ditch. Kimmel did not get the warning until after the attack ended).

Edwin T. Layton, chief intelligence officer for Kimmel and one of the officers who knew Kimmel best, provided support for Kimmel's position. 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.[23]

On the other hand, Kimmel's critics point out that he had been ordered 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.[24] He had a poor working arrangement with his Army counterpart, General Short, who was charged with defending the fleet while in port.[25][page needed]

Historians generally recognize that American forces would have fared poorly even if Kimmel had reacted differently. 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."[26] 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."[26] Instead, at Pearl Harbor, the crews were easily rescued, and six of eight front-line battleships ultimately raised.[27] This was also the assessment of Joseph Rochefort, head of the US Navy's Station HYPO, who remarked the attack was cheap at the price.[28]

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 reinstated. President Bill Clinton denied the request, as had Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. 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.[24] Senator Strom Thurmond, one of the sponsors of the resolution, called Kimmel and Short "the two final victims of Pearl Harbor." The Senate enquiry in 2000 issued a lengthy exoneration of Kimmel's conduct.[29] President Clinton did not act on the resolution, nor have any of his successors.


Kimmel has been portrayed a number of times in film and on television:

Military awards[edit]

Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Cuban Pacification Medal Mexican Service Medal World War I Victory Medal
with one campaign star
American Defense Service Medal
with "BASE" clasp
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
with one campaign star
World War II Victory Medal


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Axelrod, Alan (2007). Encyclopedia of World War Two. New York: Facts on File. p. 490. ISBN 9780816060221. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
  2. ^ Summers & Swan 2016, p. 29.
  3. ^ Twomey, Steve (November 1, 2016). Countdown to Pearl Harbor : the twelve days to the attack. Simon and Schuster. p. 54. ISBN 978-1476776507. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
  4. ^ Summers & Swan 2016, pp. 29, 43.
  5. ^ Summers & Swan 2016, pp. 37ff.
  6. ^ a b c d Chen, Peter. "Husband Kimmel". World War II Database. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
  7. ^ Summers & Swan 2016, pp. 38ff.
  8. ^ "A Brief History Of U.S. Fleet Forces Command". US Fleet Forces Command. Archived from the original on May 11, 2019. Retrieved June 8, 2017.
  9. ^ Summers & Swan 2016, pp. 66.
  10. ^ Halsey, William; Bryan, J (1947). Admiral Halsey's Story. New York: McGraw-Hill. p. 70.
  11. ^ Flynn, John. "The Final Secret of Pearl Harbor". Antiwar. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
  12. ^ "INTELLIGENCE AT PEARL HARBOR". Central Intelligence Agency. July 4, 1946. Archived from the original on December 3, 2016. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  13. ^ "Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial". U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Archived from the original on June 10, 2017. Retrieved June 8, 2017.
  14. ^ Leckie, Robert (1988). Delivered from Evil: The Saga of World War II. Perennial Library. pp. 340–41. ISBN 0-06-091535-8.
  15. ^ Edwin T. Layton, And I Was There: Pearl Harbor and Midway -- Breaking the Secrets (1985), p. 315 (the scene was recreated by Martin Balsam, who played Kimmel in the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora!)
  16. ^ Arnold-Forster, Mark (2001). The World at War (3rd ed.). London: Pimlico. p. 161.
  17. ^ "Vice admiral Adolphus Andrews – Naval History and Heritage Command". history.navy.mil. Naval History and Heritage Command Websites. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  18. ^ "Pearl Harbor Inquiry ordered by Forrestal – Santa Cruz Sentinel, Volume 89, Number 168, 15 July 1944; page ONE". cdnc.ucr.edu. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  19. ^ Congress of the United States, Seventy-Ninth Congress (1946), Report of Navy Court of Inquiry, Hearings Before the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack, Part 39: Reports, Findings, and Conclusions of Roberts Commission, Army Pearl Harbor Board, Navy Court of Inquiry, and Hewitt Inquiry, With Endorsements, Government Printing Office, pp. 297, 318–321
  20. ^ Congress of the United States, Seventy-Ninth Congress (1946), Fourth Endorsement to Record of Proceedings of Pearl Harbor Court of Inquiry, Hearings Before the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack, Part 39: Reports, Findings, and Conclusions of Roberts Commission, Army Pearl Harbor Board, Navy Court of Inquiry, and Hewitt Inquiry, With Endorsements, Government Printing Office, pp. 373, 375–377, 381–383
  21. ^ Clay Blair (2001). Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War Against Japan. Naval Institute Press. p. 688. ISBN 978-1-55750-217-9.
  22. ^ "Pearl Harbor Review". NSA.gov. National Security Agency. May 3, 2016. Retrieved December 8, 2017. Army communications to Hawaii were down due to technical problems, and the warning was sent -- via Western Union telegram!
  23. ^ Edwin T. Layton, And I Was There: Pearl Harbor and Midway, Breaking the Secrets (1985), pp. 222-226: "Jaluit Atoll, in the Marshall Islands lay 2,000 nautical miles (3,700 km) to the southwest and traffic analysis indicated a powerful submarine force there. It was also thought at least one carrier division was making for Japanese bases in the Marshalls, and photo reconnaissance was ordered to settle a difference in analysis..... Kimmel had to make his plans on the assumption that the main danger to Pearl Harbor in the event of war was an enemy task force steaming out to make a surprise attack from the southwest.... At no time did Kimmel receive any intelligence, or hint, that there was any threat to Pearl Harbor from any direction but from the southwest."
  24. ^ a b "Military, lawmakers want Pearl Harbor commanders pardoned". Syracuse Herald-Journal. Syracuse, New York. December 1, 1999. p. A-9.
  25. ^ Prange, Gordon W., Goldstein, Donald M., & Dillon, Katherine V. December 7, 1941: The Day the Japanese Attacked Pearl Harbor (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1988).
  26. ^ a b Mueller, John (1991). "Pearl Harbor: Military Inconvenience, Political Disaster". International Security. 16 (3 (Winter, 1991–1992)). The MIT Press: 176–177. doi:10.2307/2539091. JSTOR 2539091. S2CID 153949177.
  27. ^ Gordon Prange, Miracle at Midway, 1983, paperback, p. 9
  28. ^ Holmes, W. J. Double-Edged Secrets[page needed]
  29. ^ Congressional Record, V. 146, Pt. 7, May 24, 2000 to June 12, 2000


External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by Commander in Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet
Succeeded by
Preceded by Commander in Chief, United States Fleet
5 January 1941 – December 1941
Succeeded by