Husband E. Kimmel

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Husband E. Kimmel
Husband Kimmel.jpg
Admiral Husband E. Kimmel
Birth name Husband Benjamin Ronald Kimmel
Nickname(s) "Kim"
Born February 26, 1882
Henderson, Kentucky, U.S.
Died May 14, 1968(1968-05-14) (aged 86)
Groton, Connecticut, U.S.
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Navy
Years of service 1904–1942
Rank US-O8 insignia.svg Rear Admiral
Commands held United States Pacific Fleet

World War I
World War II

Awards Mexican Service Medal
World War I Victory Medal
World War II Victory Medal

Husband Edward Kimmel (February 26, 1882 – May 14, 1968), nicknamed "Kim", was, at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a four-star admiral in the United States Navy and Commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. He was removed from command after the December 1941 attack and reduced to the two-star rank of rear admiral. He retired from the Navy in early 1942.

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Kimmel was born in Henderson, Kentucky, on February 26, 1882, to Sibella "Sibbie" Lambert Kimmel (1846-1919) and Major Manning Marius Kimmel (1832–1916), a veteran of Confederate States Army duty during the American Civil War. 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.[citation needed]

Kimmel graduated in 1904 from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Before reaching flag rank, he served on several battleships, commanded two destroyer divisions, a destroyer squadron, and the battleship USS New York. He also held a number of important positions on flag staffs and in the Navy Department, and completed the senior course at the Naval War College. 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 Cruisers, Battle Force.[1]

In January 1941 Kimmel began duties as Commander-in-Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet with a brevet rank of admiral. In this role he earned a reputation for attention to detail, if sometimes at the expense of larger structural planning.[1]

Pearl Harbor[edit]

After Admiral James O. Richardson was removed as Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet and Pacific Fleet, in February 1941, Kimmel assumed command with the temporary rank of admiral. The base for the fleet had been moved from its traditional home at San Diego, California, to Pearl Harbor in May 1940. (Richardson had been relieved of command for his vocal opposition to this move.[2]) On February 18, 1941, 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.[3]

Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor occurred on December 7, 1941, and resulted in the deaths of 2,403 American military and 68 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.[4][5]

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.[6]

After Pearl Harbor[edit]

Kimmel was relieved of his command ten days after the attack. At the moment 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. 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.

Kimmel retired early in 1942, and worked for the military contractor Frederic R. Harris, Inc. after the war. Kimmel died at Groton, Connecticut, on May 14, 1968.[1]

His son, Manning, died after the submarine he commanded (USS Robalo) was sunk near Palawan on or around July 26, 1944. Though it was widely believed that Manning Kimmel died on board his boat, several sources (including Admiral Christie) 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. Manning was captured by the Japanese and with several other survivors was pushed into a ditch, doused with gasoline and burned alive by his Japanese captors, who were enraged over a recent American air attack.[7]

Posthumous reputation and debate[edit]

Historians agree that the United States was completely 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 foul-ups 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, which delayed it long enough for the attack to start before Kimmel could get it.[citation needed]

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. 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.[8]

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.[9] He had a poor working arrangement with his Army counterpart, General Short, who was charged with defending the fleet while in port.[10][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".[11] 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."[11] Instead, at Pearl Harbor, the crews were easily rescued, and six battleships ultimately raised.[12] This was also the assessment of Joseph Rochefort, head of Station HYPO, who remarked the attack was cheap at the price.[13]

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 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.[9] Senator Strom Thurmond, one of the sponsors of the resolution, called Kimmel and Short "the two final victims of Pearl Harbor." President Clinton did not act on the resolution, nor did his successors, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The Senate enquiry in 2000 issued a lengthy exoneration of Kimmel's conduct.[14]

Robert Stinnett, a World War II U.S. Navy veteran makes the case that President Roosevelt wanted the Pearl Harbor attack to happen so public opinion would be aroused to support America's entry into the 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.[15] Most historians reject Stinnett's thesis.[16]


In the 1965 film In Harm's Way, Kimmel was portrayed as a victim of unfortunate circumstance by actor Franchot Tone. The 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora! portrays Kimmel, played by actor Martin Balsam, in a sympathetic light: a capable commander operating in an environment plagued by poor communication, inadequate training and systemic unreadiness. Canadian actor Colm Feore portrayed Kimmel in the 2001 movie Pearl Harbor. Andrew Duggan played Kimmel in the 1983 miniseries The Winds of War.


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


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^
  3. ^ "INTELLIGENCE AT PEARL HARBOR". Central Intelligence Agency. 4 July 1946. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  4. ^ Leckie, Robert (1988). Delivered from Evil: The Saga of World War II. Perennial Library. pp. 340–41. ISBN 0-06-091535-8. 
  5. ^ Edwin T. Layton, And I Was There: Pearl Harbor and Midway -- Breaking the Secrets (1985), p. 315 (the scene was recreated by Martin Balsam, as Kimmel, in the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora!)
  6. ^ Arnold-Forster, Mark (2001). The World at War (3rd ed.). London: Pimlico. p. 161. 
  7. ^ Clay Blair (2001). Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War Against Japan. Naval Institute Press. p. 688. ISBN 978-1-55750-217-9. 
  8. ^ 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."
  9. ^ a b "Military, lawmakers want Pearl Harbor commanders pardoned". Syracuse Herald-Journal. Syracuse, New York. December 1, 1999. p. A-9. 
  10. ^ Prange, Gordon W., Goldstein, Donald M., & Dillon, Katherine V. December 7, 1941: The Day the Japanese Attacked Pearl Harbor (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1988).
  11. ^ a b Mueller, John. "Pearl Harbor: Military Inconvenience, Political Disaster". International Security. The MIT Press. 16 (3 (Winter, 1991-1992)): 176–177. doi:10.2307/2539091. JSTOR 2539091. 
  12. ^ Gordon Prange, Miracle at Midway, 1983, paperback, p.9
  13. ^ Holmes, W. J. Double-Edged Secrets[page needed]
  14. ^ Congressional Record, V. 146, Pt. 7, May 24, 2000 to June 12 2000
  15. ^ Robert B. Stinnett - "Day of Deceit: The Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor", Touchstone, paperback ed. 2001
  16. ^ Crane, Conrad (Spring 2001). "Book Reviews". Parameters. US Army War College. XXXI (1). Retrieved November 14, 2011. 

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
James O. Richardson
Commander in Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet
Succeeded by
William S. Pye