While still at the Naval Academy, he met Martha Rankin ("Mattie") Egerton, a Baltimore socialite, whom he married in a ceremony at the Naval Academy Chapel on 10 October 1905. They had six daughters, Claire, Elizabeth, Florence, Martha, Eleanor, and Mildred; and then a son, Ernest Joseph King, Jr. (Commander, USN Ret.)
King returned to shore duty at Annapolis in 1912. He received his first command, the destroyer USS Terry in 1914, participating in the United States occupation of Veracruz. He then moved on to a more modern ship, USS Cassin.
During World War I he served on the staff of Vice Admiral Henry T. Mayo, the Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet. As such, he was a frequent visitor to the Royal Navy and occasionally saw action as an observer on board British ships. It appears that his anglophobia developed during this period, although the reasons are unclear. He was awarded the Navy Cross "for distinguished service in the line of his profession as assistant chief of staff of the Atlantic Fleet".
After the war, King, now a captain, became head of the Naval Postgraduate School. Along with Captains Dudley Wright Knox and William S. Pye, King prepared a report on naval training that recommended changes to naval training and career paths. Most of the report's recommendations were accepted and became policy.
King attended a short training course at the Naval Submarine Base New London before taking command of a submarine division, flying his commodore's pennant from USS S-20. He never earned his Submarine Warfare insignia, although he did propose and design the now-familiar dolphin insignia. In 1923, he took over command of Submarine Base itself. During this period, he directed the salvage of the submarine S-51, earning the first of his three Distinguished Service Medals.
That year, the United States Congress passed a law (10 USC Sec. 5942) requiring that the commanders of all aircraft carriers, seaplane tenders, and aviation shore establishments be qualified naval aviators. King therefore reported to Naval Air Station Pensacola for aviator training in January 1927. He was the only captain in his class of twenty, which also included Commander Richmond K. Turner. King received his wings as Naval Aviator No. 3368 on 26 May 1927 and resumed command of Wright. For a time, he frequently flew solo, flying down to Annapolis for weekend visits to his family, but his solo flying was cut short by a naval regulation that prohibited solo flights for aviators aged 50 or over. Between 1926 and 1936 he flew an average of 150 hours per annum.
King commanded Wright until 1929, except for the brief interlude commanding the salvage operations of USS S-4. He then became Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics under Moffett. The two fell out over certain elements of Bureau policy, and he was replaced by Commander John Henry Towers and transferred to command of Naval Station Norfolk.
In 1932 he attended the Naval War College. In a war college thesis entitled "The Influence of National Policy on Strategy", King expounded on the theory that America's weakness was Representative democracy:
Following the death of Admiral Moffet in the crash of the airship Akron on 4 April 1933, King became Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, and was promoted to Rear Admiral on 26 April 1933. As Bureau chief, King worked closely with the chief of the Bureau of Navigation, Rear Admiral William D. Leahy to increase the number of naval aviators.
At the conclusion of his term as Bureau Chief in 1936, King became Commander, Aircraft, Base Force at Naval Air Station North Island. He was promoted to Vice Admiral on 29 January 1938 on becoming Commander, Aircraft, Battle Force - at the time one of only three vice admiral billets in the US Navy.
King hoped to be appointed as either CNO or Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Fleet, but on 15 June 1939, he was posted to the General Board, an elephant's graveyard where senior officers sat out the time remaining before retirement. A series of extraordinary events would alter this outcome.
After retiring, King lived in Washington DC. He was active in his early post-retirement, but suffered a debilitating stroke in 1947, and subsequent ill-health ultimately forced him to stay in Naval Hospitals at Bethesda, Maryland, and at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine. He died of a heart-attack in Kittery on June 26, 1956 and was buried in the United States Naval Academy Cemetery at Annapolis, Maryland.
He was... perhaps the most disliked Allied leader of World War II. Only British Field Marshal Montgomery may have had more enemies... King also loved parties and often drank to excess. Apparently, he reserved his charm for the wives of fellow naval officers. On the job, he "seemed always to be angry or annoyed."
There was a tongue-in-cheek remark about King, made by one of his daughters, carried about by Naval personnel at the time that "he is the most even-tempered person in the United States Navy. He is always in a rage." Roosevelt once described King as "... a man who shaves with a blow torch".
King is famous for stating to a reporter, when the United States entered World War II: “When the shooting starts, they call for the sons-of-bitches”.
Instead of convoys, King had the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard perform regular anti-submarine patrols, but these patrols followed a regular schedule. U-boat commanders learned the schedule, and coordinated their attacks to these schedules. Leaving the lights on in coastal towns back-lit merchant ships to the U-Boats. As a result, there were disastrous shipping losses — two million tons lost in January and February 1942 alone, and urgent pressure applied from both sides of the Atlantic. However, King resisted the use of convoys because he was convinced that the Navy lacked sufficient escort vessels to make them effective. The formation of convoys with inadequate escort would also result in increased port-to-port time, giving the enemy concentrated groups of targets rather than single ships proceeding independently. Furthermore, blackouts were a politically-sensitive issue - coastal cities resisted, citing the loss of tourism revenue.
It was not until May 1942 that King marshalled resources — small cutters and private vessels that he had previously scorned — to establish a day-and-night interlocking convoy system running from Newport, Rhode Island, to Key West, Florida.
By August, 1942, the submarine threat to shipping in U.S. coastal waters had been contained. The U-boats' "second happy time" ended, with the loss of seven U-boats and a dramatic reduction in shipping losses. The same effect occurred when convoys were extended to the Caribbean. Despite the ultimate defeat of the U-boat, some of King's initial decisions in this theater could be viewed as flawed.
In King's defense, noted naval historian Professor Robert W. Love has stated that "Operation Drumbeat (or Paukenschlag) off the Atlantic Coast in early 1942 succeeded largely because the U.S. Navy was already committed to other tasks: transatlantic escort-of-convoy operations, defending troop transports, and maintaining powerful, forward-deployed Atlantic Fleet striking forces to prevent a breakout of heavy German surface forces. Navy leaders, especially Admiral King, were unwilling to risk troop shipping to provide escorts for coastal merchant shipping. Unscheduled, emergency deployments of Army units also created disruptions to navy plans, as did other occasional unexpected tasks. Contrary to the traditional historiography, neither Admiral King’s unproven yet widely alleged Anglophobia, an equally undocumented navy reluctance to accept British advice, nor a preference for another strategy caused the delay in the inauguration of costal escort-of-convoy operations … The delay was due to a shortage of escorts, and that resulted from understandably conflicting priorities, a state of affairs that dictated all Allied strategy until 1944.
It should be noted, however, that the employment of long-range maritime patrol aircraft in the Atlantic was complicated by inter-service squabbling over command and control (the aircraft belonged to the Army Air Forces; the mission was the Navy's; Stimson and Arnold initially refused to release the aircraft.) Although King had certainly used the allocation of ships to the European Theater as leverage to get the necessary resources for his Pacific objectives, he provided (at General Marshall's request) an additional month's production of landing craft to support Operation Overlord. The level of sea lift for Overlord turned out to be more than adequate.
The employment of British and Empire forces in the Pacific was a political matter. The measure was forced on Churchill by the British Chiefs of Staff, not only to re-establish British presence in the region, but to mitigate any perception in the U.S. that the British were doing nothing to help defeat Japan. King was adamant that naval operations against Japan remain 100% American, and angrily resisted the idea of a British naval presence in the Pacific at the Quadrant Conference in late 1944, citing (among other things) the difficulty of supplying additional naval forces in the theater (for much the same reason, Hap Arnold resisted the offer of RAF units in the Pacific). In addition, King (along with Marshall) had continually resisted operations that would assist the British agenda in reclaiming or maintaining any part of her pre-war colonial holdings in the Pacific or the eastern Mediterranean.[1, 19] Roosevelt, however, overruled him and, despite King's reservations, the British Pacific Fleet accounted itself well against Japan in the last months of the war.
As a consequence of these, and other decisions, the United States Navy under King's command grew to be the dominant naval force in the world, with a superb fleet train, capable of operating for long periods away from its permanent bases.
tough as nails and carried himself as stiffly as a poker. He was blunt and stand-offish, almost to the point of rudeness. At the start, he was intolerant and suspicious of all things British, especially the Royal Navy; but he was almost equally intolerant and suspicious of the American Army. War against Japan was the problem to which he had devoted the study of a lifetime, and he resented the idea of American resources being used for any other purpose than to destroy Japanese. He mistrusted Churchill's powers of advocacy, and was apprehensive that he would wheedle President Roosevelt into neglecting the war in the Pacific.
Despite British perceptions, King was a strong believer in the Germany first strategy. However, his natural aggression did not permit him to leave resources idle in the Atlantic that could be utilized in the Pacific, especially when "it was doubtful when — if ever — the British would consent to a cross-Channel operation". King once complained that the Pacific deserved 30% of Allied resources but was getting only 15%. When, at the Casablanca Conference, he was accused by Field Marshall Sir Alan Brooke of favoring the Pacific war, the argument became heated. The combative General Joseph Stilwell wrote: "Brooke got nasty, and King got good and sore. King almost climbed over the table at Brooke. God, he was mad. I wished he had socked him."
Following Japan's defeat at the Battle of Midway, King advocated (with Roosevelt's tacit consent) the invasion of Guadalcanal. When General Marshall resisted this line of action (as well as who would command the operation), King stated that the Navy (and the Marines) would then carry out the operation by themselves, and instructed Admiral Nimitz to proceed with the preliminary planning. King eventually won the argument, and the invasion went ahead with the backing of the Joint Chiefs. It was ultimately successful, and was the first time the Japanese lost ground during the War. For his attention to the Pacific Theatre he is highly regarded by some Australian war historians.
In spite of (or perhaps partly because of) the fact that the two men did not get along, the combined influence of King and General Douglas MacArthur increased the allocation of resources to the Pacific War.
Other controversies involving Admiral Ernest King include:
|Ensign||Lieutenant Junior Grade||Lieutenant||Lieutenant Commander||Commander||Captain|
|07 June 1903||not held||07 June 1906||01 July 1913||01 July 1917||21 September 1918|
|Rear Admiral (lower half)||Rear Admiral (upper half)||Vice Admiral||Admiral||Fleet Admiral|
|never held||26 April 1933||29 January 1938||01 February 1941||17 December 1944|
King never held the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade although, for administrative reasons, his service record annotates his promotion to Lieutenant, and Lieutenant J.G., on the same day.
|Navy Distinguished Service Medal (w/two gold stars)|
|Spanish Campaign Medal|
|Mexican Service Medal|
|World War I Victory Medal (w/Atlantic Fleet campaign clasp)|
|American Defense Service Medal (w/Atlantic Device)|
|American Campaign Medal|
|World War II Victory Medal|
|National Defense Service Medal|
King was also the recipient of several foreign awards and decorations (shown in order of acceptance and if more than one award for a country, placed in order of precedence):
The guided missile destroyer USS King was named in his honor. A major high school in his hometown of Lorain, Ohio also bears his name — Admiral King High School. Also named after him is the Department of Defense high school on Sasebo Naval Base, in Japan. In 1956, schools located on the U.S. Naval Bases and Air Stations were given names of U.S. heroes of the past. The Sasebo Dependents School was named after the famed World War II Hero, Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King. Thus, the official name of Ernest J. King School, Navy 3912, FPO San Francisco, California became effective School Year 1956/57. Recognizing King's great personal and professional interest in maritime history, the Secretary of the Navy named in his honor an academic chair at the Naval War College to be held with the title of the Ernest J. King Professor of Maritime History.
Books: Service without a Smile; the Country House Servant. by Pamela A Sambrook (Sutton, Pounds 18.99). Reviewed by Richard Edmonds
Jul 17, 1999; Once upon a time visitors to country houses were mostly attracted by the opulence of the various state rooms which were shown to...