Husband Edward Kimmel

Husband E. Kimmel

Husband Edward Kimmel (February 26, 1882May 14, 1968) was a four-star admiral in the United States Navy. He served as Commander-in-chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Because of the attack, he was removed from office and was reverted back to his permanent two-star rank of rear admiral. He would subsequently retire from the Navy with that rank.

Early life

Husband E. Kimmel was born in Henderson, Kentucky, on 26 February 1882 and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1904. Before reaching flag rank, he served on several battleships, commanded two destroyer divisions, a destroyer squadron, and the USS New York (BB-34). 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.

After promotion to Rear Admiral in 1937, he commanded Cruiser Division Seven on a diplomatic cruise to South America and then became Commander of Cruisers, Battle Force, in 1939.

Pearl Harbor

In February 1941 Kimmel became Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet and Pacific Fleet, 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.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor occurred on December 7, 1941. 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.” In The World at War a naval serviceman, who had been situated alongside Admiral Kimmel during the attack, recalled that as Kimmel watched the destruction of the fleet, he tore off his four star epaulets and replaced them with those of a Rear Admiral, in apparent recognition of the impending end of his command of the Pacific Fleet.

Kimmel was relieved of his command in mid-December 1941, while he was in the midst of planning and executing retaliatory moves. He took an early retirement in 1942. He spent much of his time defending himself in front of various hearings, pointing out that all the key information which would have enabled him to anticipate the attack was never made available to him.

Some historians, such as submariner Captain Edward L. "Ned" Beach, now believe Admiral Kimmel and Army Lieutenant General Walter Short became scapegoats for the failures of their superiors prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor and that their careers were effectively and unfairly ruined. 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). Admiral 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, ten days prior to the attack) to initiate a "defensive deployment" of the fleet. Kimmel understood this to mean defence against sabotage and so made the necessary arrangements. Because of this misinterpretation ships were kept in port and the fleet was not placed on alert. Moreover, after his intelligence unit lost track of Japan's aircraft carriers, Kimmel did not order any long-range air or naval patrols to assess their positions, in part for lack of serviceable PBYs, in part because he also had a training schedule to maintain, and in part because the Army Air Corps had the responsibility for long-range patrol (but even less capability in Hawaii than he did, since the Philippines had higher priority); all these factors are ignored by the conspiracy theorists.

Chester Nimitz said later, "It was God's mercy that our fleet was in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.". Nimitz believed if Kimmel had discovered the Japanese approach, he would have sortied to meet them. With the American carriers absent and Kimmel's battleships at a severe disadvantage to the Japanese carriers, the likely result would have been the sinking of the American battleships at sea in deep water, where they would have been lost forever with tremendous casualties (as many as twenty thousand dead), instead of in Pearl Harbor, where the crews could easily be rescued, and six battleships ultimately raised. This was also the reaction of Joseph Rochefort, head of HYPO, when he remarked the attack was cheap at the price.

Robert Stinnett, in his book "Day of Deceit" (2000), claims Kimmel and Short were deliberately withheld information, at least indirectly on the orders of FDR, and that Edwin Layton was one the individuals who suppressed information that should have reached Kimmel. Kimmel was attempting to find the Japanese carriers, known to be at sea heading East (according to Stinnett), and launched a task force on Friday, November 21, in an attempt to intercept the Japanese Fleet. Kimmel happened to direct the task force to the location the Japanese used on December 7th. However, Kimmel was ordered by Admiral Ingersoll to terminate the exercise prematurely. Stinnett's book asserts FDR intended for Japan to strike first and in such a way to arouse American public opinion. Kimmel was disinformed and prevented from taking actions that could have interfered with the desired outcome. Stinnett claims Kimmel was appointed CINCPAC (Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet) to replace Vice Admiral James O. Richardson, specifically because Richardson, in a meeting with FDR and Lt. Commander Arthur McCollum, refused to go along with FDR's plans and began taking measures protective of the Pacific fleet. McCollum had given FDR a list of eight actions to take, allegedly designed to push Japan into a confrontation with the US, with item F being the move of the fleet from the West Coast to Hawaii, as bait. Kimmel was not informed of McCollum's eight action items or, as Stinnett puports, FDR's agreement with and implementation of them. Stinnett's book asserts the "Japanese radio silence" and the presumed inability to crack the Japanese codes until after the attack are false, and that FDR and others were aware not only that Japan intended to attack Pearl Harbor, but also on what day at what time. The carriers and most of the newer battleships and cruisers had been dispatched on missions supporting what the U.S. was, in fact, doing, delivering B-17s to the Philippines. Kimmel and Short were given orders on November 27th stressing concern for sabotage (because it was widely expected war would start with waves of sabotage by "fifth columnists") and further orders "the civilian population must not be alarmed." Any mobilization to meet an imminent threat would have been noted in the local media immediately.

After Pearl Harbor

Rear Admiral Kimmel's son, Manning, died when the submarine he commanded (USS Robalo (SS-273)) was mined near Palawan in July 1944. Kimmel himself worked for Frederick R. Harris, Inc after the war. He died at Groton, Connecticut, on May 14, 1968.

In 1994, Kimmel's family, including his grandson, South Carolina broadcaster Manning Kimmel IV, attempted to have Kimmel's four star rank re-instated. President Bill Clinton turned down the request, as had Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. A 1995 Pentagon study concluded there were other high-ranking officers responsible for the failure at Pearl Harbor, but did not exonerate him. On May 25, 1999, the United States Senate, by a vote of 52-47, passed a nonbinding resolution exonerating Kimmel and Short, and asking the President to posthumously promote Kimmel, and others, to full admiral. Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC), one of the sponsors of the resolution, called Kimmel and Short "the two final victims of Pearl Harbor." However, neither President Clinton nor his successor, President George W. Bush, have undertaken to do so.


Kimmel was depicted positively in the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora! by actor Martin Balsam as a commander who operated competently considering the inadequate communication of intelligence and the errors of subordinates. He is portrayed by Canadian actor Colm Feore in the 2001 movie, Pearl Harbor.

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