Chester W. Nimitz was one of the most important naval figures in American military history and was a top commander during the Second World War. From the very beginning of formal American involvement in that war, Nimitz served as primary commander of United States naval forces in the Pacific theater. He remained in that vital post until the end of the conflict in August 1945.
Before the coming of WWII, Nimitz had risen quickly through the ranks, distinguishing himself as a promising young officer. His credentials and reputation were strong enough by 1941 to earn him the overall Pacific command after the devastating surprise assault on Pearl Harbor in December of that year.
After Pearl Harbor, Nimitz led American naval forces through the tumultuous next four years, rebuilding the fleet and taking the offensive against the Japanese. Impressive victories at Midway, the Solomon Islands, Leyte Gulf, among others places, eventually drove the war to the shores of Japan. According to Naval History and Heritage Command, Nimitz himself oversaw the signing of the surrender papers aboard the USS Missouri in 1945. After the war, Nimitz briefly served as Chief of Naval Operations before serving with the United Nations four years later. In the 1950s, Nimitz was active in helping to rebuild solid relations with the Japanese, even being involved with efforts to restore and honor Japan's wartime naval past.