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World War II Remembered: The Generals and the Admirals: American Admirals

Husband Edward Kimmel 2/26/1882 - 5/15/1968

Courtesy of World War II Database

Kimmel, Husband Edward (Feb. 26, 1882 - May 14, 1968), naval officer, was born in Henderson, Ky., the son of Manning Marius Kimmel, a civil engineer and businessman, and Sibbella Lambert. His father, a graduate of West Point, served in the Union cavalry at the First Battle of Bull Run, after which he entered the Confederate service. Determined to follow his father into the military, Kimmel tried unsuccessfully to enter West Point. He then spent a year at Central University in Richmond, Ky. In 1900 he obtained an appointment to the United States Naval Academy; among his classmates was William F. Halsey, Jr. He won high standing in the class of 1904, which was graduated early (in February) to fulfill manpower requirements in the new battleship navy.

Kimmel was assigned to the Naval War College at Newport, R.I., for postgraduate instruction in ordnance. He immediately excelled in naval gunnery, thereby placing himself in line for key professional posts and promotions. Brief tours of duty on five ships along the eastern seaboard culminated in his being commissioned an ensign and given additional instruction in ordnance engineering in 1906. Late in 1907 Kimmel was assigned to the battleship Georgia of the "Great White Fleet" for its global cruise. He became the fleet's champion officer of the main battery twelve-inch guns and an important staff officer. Between 1909 and 1917 he served twice as assistant to the director of target practice at the Navy Department, on board two more battleships, and as gunnery officer of the Pacific Fleet. He was wounded slightly at the Veracruz intervention in 1914. He married Dorothy Kinkaid, daughter of a future admiral, on Jan. 31, 1912; they had three children. During 1915 he served briefly as aide to Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Upon the entry of the United States into World War I in 1917, Kimmel was sent to Great Britain; he materially assisted the Royal Navy in improving its gunfire techniques and participated in a British naval raid on Helgoland in the North Sea. When the American battleship squadron joined the Grand Fleet, he became staff gunnery officer to its commander, Admiral Hugh Rodman. He finished the war as gunnery officer on the Arkansas. Promoted to the rank of commander in February 1918, Kimmel served at the Naval Gun Factory from 1920 to 1923, successively commanded two destroyer divisions in the Asiatic Fleet, and spent 1925-1926 as a student at the Naval War College. Advanced to captain, he occupied several prestigious posts. In the office of the chief of naval operations (CNO), he was liaison officer between the navy and State Department during the Nicaragua intervention (1926-1928). He also served as destroyer squadron commander with the Battle Fleet (1928-1930); director of ship movements in the office of the CNO (1930-1933); captain of the battleship New York (1933-1934); chief of staff of the fleet's battleship command (1934-1935); and budget officer of the navy (1935-1938). In November 1937 he was advanced to rear admiral.

Assigned to command of a cruiser division, Kimmel made a goodwill tour of South American ports in 1939 and later that year assumed command of all cruisers in the Battle Force, then operating in the Pacific. His bold tactical leadership in this post attracted the notice of Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox. When the United States Fleet was divided into the Atlantic and Pacific fleets on Feb. 1, 1941, Kimmel was named commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet (while retaining the title of commander in chief of the United States Fleet) and given the temporary rank of four-star admiral; he was advanced over forty-six more-senior admirals because the navy was seeking young, dynamic commanders in its preparations for a probable war with Japan. Headquartered at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Kimmel labored to maintain the credibility of United States naval deterrence in the Pacific at a time when the navy's resources were being diverted to the Atlantic.

On Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese launched their devastating surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, sinking or disabling most of the battleships moored there and destroying most of the army and navy aircraft in Hawaii. Along with the senior army commander, Lieutenant General Walter C. Short, Kimmel was relieved of command on December 17, reverting to his permanent rank of rear admiral, but he remained in Hawaii during the initial investigation of the disaster by a commission headed by Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts. When the commission found Kimmel and Short guilty of "dereliction of duty," both men applied for retirement; Kimmel retired on Mar. 1, 1942. A proposed court-martial never materialized. Kimmel was immediately hired by a marine consulting engineering firm in New York under contract to the navy, for which he developed a drydock used in the Pacific war. In the long postwar debate over responsibility for the Pearl Harbor attack, he defended himself in a short book, Admiral Kimmel's Story (1955). He died in Groton, Conn.

The heated emotions over assigning blame for America's most ignominious defeat have clouded fair judgment of Kimmel's role. However "guilty" American political, diplomatic, and military leaders may have been in underestimating Japan's capability and intention to attack Pearl Harbor, Kimmel was the man on the spot and thus placed in the position of becoming the scapegoat, no matter what evidence might have surfaced to exonerate him. A keen strategist, he had appreciated full well the possibility of a Japanese attack, though he had shared the general belief that war would commence in the Philippines. Tactically, he had made the unfortunate analysis that any attack on Hawaii, if it came, would be from the southwest rather than the northwest. He had thus concentrated his limited patrol planes in the southwest, allowing the enemy to strike from the unprotected northwest. This was his fundamental military error--his "lack of superior judgment" in the words of Admiral Ernest J. King (quoted in Morison, p. 142)--and the one on which his ultimate performance must be weighed.

"Husband Edward Kimmel." Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1988. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 26 Mar. 2012.

On May 25, 1999, the United States Senate passed a resolution exonerating Kimmel for not being prepared for the Pearl Harbor attack. Courtesy of World War II Database

Aaron Stanton Merrill 3/26/1890 - 2/28/1961

Courtesy of NavSource Navy History at

Aaron Stanton Merrill (March 26, 1890-February 28, 1961) also known as Tip Merrill was an American rear admiral during World War II who led American naval forces during the Solomon Islands campaign as well as the first admiral to successfully use radar during wartime.

Admiral Merrill was born March 26, 1890 at Brandon Hall in Adams County, Mississippi to parents Dunbar Surget Merrill and Charlotte Brandon Stanton. His 2nd great-grandfather was Gerard Chittocque Brandon, one of Mississippi's earliest governors.

He inherited the nickname "Tip" from his great-grandfather, who garnered the moniker after fighting in the Battle of Tippecanoe. His father, Aaron Stanton, a Confederate soldier, also was known as "Tip".

Merrill married New York native, Louise Gautier Witherbee on January 28, 1922; they remained together until their deaths in 1961 and 1967, respectively.

After graduating from the United States Naval Academy in 1912, Merrill first served for several years in the Mediterranean Sea. He was assigned to the destroyer Aylwin (DD-47), based in Plymouth, England, during the last months of World War I. In 1919 he commanded the patrol craft Harvard (SP-209), based at Harwich, England.

Merrill returned to the Mediterranean in late 1919 with the rank of lieutenant commander, to serve on the staff of Rear Admiral Mark Lambert Bristol, the United States High Commissioner to Turkey and Commander of United States Naval Forces in the Eastern Mediterranean. In 1925 he commanded the gunboat Elcano (PG-38) on the Yangtze Patrol.

After two years at the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington, D.C., in June 1929 he given command of the destroyer Williamson (DD-244). After three years at sea he was promoted to commander, and spent another year in the Office of Naval Intelligence, and then served as Aide to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Henry L. Roosevelt.

In June 1935 Merrill was assigned to the heavy cruiser Pensacola (CA-24), and received the Order of the Crown from the Belgian Government, after conveying the remains Paul May, the Belgian Ambassador to the United States, back to Antwerp.

From June 1936 he commanded Destroyer Division Eight, with Barry (DD-248) as flagship. He served for a year as Naval Attaché at the American Embassy at Santiago, Chile from May 1937. During his period he cruised extensively with the Chilean Navy, becoming the first foreigner to round the Horn in a Chilean warship. For his services he was awarded the Chilean Order of Merit. In 1938-39 Merrill completed the senior course at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, and was promoted to Captain. In 1939-1940 he commanded a Destroyer Division in the Pacific with the Somers (DD-381) as flagship.

Merrill was Professor of Naval Science and Tactics at Tulane University, until being assigned command of the battleship Indiana (BB-58) in April 1942. After promotion to rear admiral in January 1943, Merrill would lead a cruiser-destroyer task force participating in the Battle of Guadalcanal and would later win distinction during the Bougainville campaign at the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay successfully defending ground forces against an assault by the Japanese fleet in a hard fought night battle. In March 1943, during the Solomon Island campaign, he would show the usefulness of radar against enemy naval forces at the Battle of Blackett Strait. Merrill, commanding Task Force 68, engaged (and thoroughly defeated) the Japanese destroyers Murasame and Minegumo, using only radar fire control. For his efforts he received both the Legion of Merit and the Navy Cross.

Serving as Director of Office of Public Relations for the Navy Department from June 15, 1944 until April 23, 1945, Merrill would join a diplomatic delegation to meet with members of the Chilean government to discuss mutual defense policies in Santiago, Chile. While in attendance, Merrill's efforts to establish an American naval mission to Chile in place of the former British presence would earn him the title of Grand Officer of the Order of Merit by Chile.

In June 1946, after briefly serving for several months as commandant of the Eighth Naval District in New Orleans, Louisiana, Merrill assumed command of Gulf Sea Frontier remaining in this post until being placed on the retired list in November 1947, eventually retiring a Vice Admiral. Moving first to Natchez, Mississippi and later to New Orleans following his retirement, Merrill would live with his wife until his death on February 28, 1961.

Courtesy of

Chester William Nimitz 2/24/1885 - 2/20/1966

Courtesy of California State Military Museum

Chester William Nimitz (1885-1966), American naval officer, commanded the Pacific Fleet during World War II and played a major role in formulating and executing the strategy which led to the defeat of Japan.

Chester Nimitz was born on Feb. 24, 1885, in Fredricksburg, Tex. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1905, seventh in a class of 114. Despite being court-martialed and reprimanded for running aground his second command, the destroyer Decatur, he rose relatively rapidly in the Navy. During World War I he was chief of staff to the commander of the Submarine Division, Atlantic Fleet. Later he was appointed the first professor of naval science at the University of California. During the 1930s he served aboard submarines, cruisers, and battleships. In 1939 Rear Adm. Nimitz was appointed chief of the Bureau of Navigation.

The Japanese attack upon Pearl Harbor precipitated a major shake-up in the Navy's command structure. In December 1941 Nimitz was promoted to admiral and made commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet. A few months later he was also named commander in chief of Allied forces in the Pacific Ocean area. This title proved somewhat inaccurate as Gen. Douglas MacArthur exercised an independent command over southwestern Pacific operations.

While realizing that the battered American fleet was in no condition to risk a major confrontation in early 1942, Nimitz knew that some offensive action was necessary to restore the Navy's confidence. He authorized a series of fast carrier strikes upon Japanese positions, culminating with Jimmy Doolittle's raid on Tokyo. While inflicting only limited damage, these helped maintain morale.

Nimitz's skill as a strategist and his ability to delegate authority produced more concrete results later in 1942 when he directed the Navy's actions in May at the Battle of the Coral Sea, which slowed Japan's advance southward, and in June at the Battle of Midway, where Japan's attack across the central Pacific was permanently halted. The United States next moved to occupy the island of Guadalcanal. When the first months of this operation produced heavy American naval losses, pressures began to build for evacuation. Nimitz, while admitting the gravity of the situation, continued to pour all available aid into the area and in October appointed the popular and aggressive Adm. William Halsey its overall commander. The following month Halsey decisively defeated the Japanese fleet, ensuring victory on Guadalcanal.

In 1943, with new units rapidly joining the fleet, the United States began major Pacific offensives. A dual approach was approved, with a force under Nimitz attacking across the central Pacific, while MacArthur's command moved up from New Guinea. Nimitz played a major role in developing the "leapfrogging" tactic of bypassing strongly held enemy positions and then neutralizing them by aerial attack and naval blockade.

Adm. Nimitz contributed major organizational methods to the Pacific war. He devoted considerable effort to creating forward repair stations and maintenance squadrons, without which the war effort might have been seriously hampered. He also devised the separate fleet staff organizations for his single fleet of fast carriers and their supporting vessels. While one staff commanded operations at sea, the other planned the next assaults. This arrangement provided continuous pressure upon the Japanese, leading them to overestimate American naval strength, and created as well improved command procedures.

In 1944 Nimitz was made a five-star fleet admiral. This gave him rank equal to Gen. MacArthur at a time when distinctions between their areas of command were becoming increasingly vague. Despite previous differences, they worked well together during the final stages of the war. In August 1945 Japan surrendered, and the following month, on behalf of the United States, Adm. Nimitz signed its instrument of surrender.

Following the war Nimitz was appointed chief of naval operations. In this position he dealt effectively with the massive problems of demobilization and successfully defended the Navy's continued control over carrier aviation under the proposed unification of the armed services. In December 1947 he retired and moved to San Francisco. From 1949 he devoted much time to serving as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations. He died in San Francisco on Feb. 20, 1966.

"Chester William Nimitz." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 29 Mar. 2012.

William F. Halsey Jr. 10/30/1882 - 8/16/1959

William F. Halsey was born in Elizabeth, N.J., on Oct. 30, 1882. The son of a Navy captain, he entered the Naval Academy in 1900. Most of Halsey's early sea duty was with destroyers. At the age of 51 he began flight training and after graduation took command of the aircraft carrier Saratoga. In 1938 he was given command of Carrier Division 2 and was promoted the following year to vice admiral and appointed commander of the Aircraft Battle Force.

Because the U.S. Navy's battleships had been crippled in the Japanese attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, Halsey's carrier force became the heart of the American fleet in World War II. Early in 1942 he led it on daring strikes against Japanese bases that culminated in a raid on Tokyo. While the damage inflicted by these raids was minor, they did much to bolster American morale and to make Halsey a popular hero.

On Oct. 18, 1942, Halsey was appointed commander of the South Pacific Area. He thus commanded America's initial Pacific offensive, the battle for Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. Operations there had reached a critical stage, and the appointment of Halsey, with his reputation for audacity and aggressiveness, was welcomed by the beleaguered Marine and Navy units. He lived up to his reputation, summarizing his strategy in a simple order to his carriers on October 26: "Attack--Repeat--Attack." In a series of fierce engagements Japanese naval forces in the area were defeated and American victory on Guadalcanal assured. President Franklin D. Roosevelt promptly promoted Halsey to admiral.

Throughout 1943 and early 1944 Halsey commanded naval operations around the Solomons, overrunning or isolating Japanese garrisons. On June 15, 1944, he was relieved as commander of the South Pacific Area and made commander of the 3d Fleet. This force was the most powerful aggregation of naval striking power in American history.

Halsey and his staff began planning for reoccupation of the Philippines. Unfortunately, Halsey's operational performance failed to match his good planning. During the crucial battle for Leyte Gulf, he sent his main force after a Japanese decoy fleet; this allowed powerful enemy surface units to penetrate the Philippine Sea. Only frantic resistance by a small escort carrier group and a sudden Japanese retreat saved the American landing forces from major damage.

Two months later the admiral's reputation suffered another blow when he maneuvered directly into the path of a typhoon, losing three destroyers. In early summer 1945 Halsey again maneuvered the fleet into the path of a typhoon. Despite this error he retained command until the end of the war, directing the final, successful air and sea attacks upon the Japanese home islands.

Following Japan's surrender in 1945 Halsey was promoted to fleet admiral and assigned what were essentially public relations duties until his retirement in April 1947. In subsequent years he held several business positions and led an unsuccessful drive to raise funds for the preservation of the carrier Enterprise. He died on Aug. 16, 1959.

"Halsey, William Frederick (1882-1959)." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 26 Mar. 2012.

Ernest Joseph King 9/23/1878 - 6/25/1956

King, Ernest Joseph (Nov. 23, 1878 - June 25, 1956), naval officer, was born in Lorain, Ohio. His father, James Clydesdale King, was born in Scotland and had been brought to Ohio as a child.  When King was in high school, his mother fell ill and moved to Cleveland to be cared for by a sister. He and his father stayed in Lorain. The solitary, emotionally cold years spent with his father, a man of upright and inflexible character, shaped his future. He became a single-minded hard worker with a consuming desire to get on in the world.

In 1897 King obtained an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, from which he graduated in 1901, standing fourth in a class of sixty-seven. After being commissioned ensign in 1903, he served in the Asiatic Fleet and saw the Russo-Japanese War from the sidelines. On Oct. 10, 1905, he married Martha Rankin Egerton; they had seven children.

After service at sea on the battleship Alabama, King was promoted in 1906 to lieutenant. He was promoted to lieutenant commander in 1913.

During the bombardment and occupation of Vera Cruz in 1914, King had his first command, the destroyer Terry. Later that year he became commanding officer of the destroyer Cassin and, in June 1915, commander of the Sixth Division of the Destroyer Flotilla. In December 1915 he joined the staff of Vice Admiral Henry T. Mayo, commander of the Battleship Force of the Atlantic Fleet, with whom he served until April 1919. By accompanying Mayo, whom he greatly admired, on inspection trips to Europe, King saw World War I at close range and came to know many of its naval and military leaders. He was promoted to commander in 1917 and to temporary captain in 1918.

In May 1919 King reopened the Naval Postgraduate School at Annapolis, which had been closed during the war; there he developed ideas about the improvement of naval education. He was constantly striving to broaden and perfect his professional competence. Having had only a casual acquaintance with submarines, in July 1922 he went to the submarine base at New London, Conn., where he spent four months as a student at the Submarine School.

Upon completion of this course, King assumed command of Submarine Division 11; and in September 1923 took command of the submarine base at New London, where he spent the next three years. When the submarine S-51 was sunk in a collision off Block Island on Sept. 25, 1925, King was put in charge of the salvage force. After nine months of labor, S-51 was successfully raised. King received the Distinguished Service Medal for his part in the work.

King next turned to the air, becoming commanding officer of the aircraft tender Wright in September 1926. The following January he entered the Naval Air School at Pensacola, Fla. At the age of forty-eight, he qualified as a naval aviator in five months rather than the usual ten. He returned to the Wright, but on Dec. 17, 1927, was called to take command of a salvage force to raise the submarine S-4, which had been rammed and sunk off Provincetown, Mass. On completing this duty in March 1928, for which he was awarded a second Distinguished Service Medal, King was appointed commander of aircraft squadrons in the Atlantic. He next served as assistant chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics and as commander of the air base at Hampton Roads, Va., before taking command of the aircraft carrier Lexington on June 20, 1930. After two years in this highly congenial duty, King enrolled in the senior course of the Naval War College at Newport, R.I.

Having been promoted to rear admiral, King became chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics on May 3, 1933, holding the post for three years.

When King hauled down his flag in the Aircraft Battle Force on June 15, 1939, reverting to his permanent rank of rear admiral, he felt that his sea duty was over. He was ordered to the General Board, a dignified body on which he would probably remain until retirement. But in the spring of 1940, Secretary of the Navy Charles Edison, about to pay his first visit to the fleet at Pearl Harbor, asked King to accompany him. Edison was impressed by King's character and the breadth of his experience. Later in the year King joined Edison's successor, Frank Knox, on a visit to Caribbean bases. Then, with pressure mounting in the Atlantic, there arose an opportunity for King to go back to sea, which he enthusiastically embraced.

When King became commander of the Patrol Force on Dec. 17, 1940, and broke his flag on the battleship Texas at Norfolk, he assumed a major role in an undeclared war. On Jan. 22, 1941, he was designated commander in chief, Atlantic Fleet, with the rank of admiral. In August 1941, King transported President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the cruiser Augusta to Newfoundland for the Atlantic Charter conference with Winston Churchill.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a "new deal" in naval command became imperative. President Roosevelt and Secretary of the Navy Knox determined that King should be made commander in chief of the United States Fleet  King was appointed on Dec. 20, 1941, and immediately began setting up his new command. In doing so he brought ashore the concept of a fleet staff, applying many of the principles he had evolved in the Atlantic and employing some of the personnel who had aided him in their application.

Although King was obliged to create COMINCH headquarters practically from nothing, he assumed command on Dec. 30, 1941, and sent a dispatch to Admiral Chester Nimitz at Pearl Harbor, summarizing his tasks as covering and holding the Hawaii-Midway line and maintaining communications between the West Coast and Australia. While planning the best disposition of available forces in the Pacific, King was simultaneously involved in discussions of allied strategy in Europe, for on Dec. 22, 1941, Churchill and the British chiefs of staff arrived in Washington to confer with Roosevelt on the conduct of the war. King; Admiral Harold R. Stark, chief of naval operations; General George C. Marshall, chief of staff of the army; and Lieutenant General H. H. Arnold, deputy chief of staff for the army air corps were among the officers who met with their British counterparts during the Arcadia Conference, which lasted until Jan. 14, 1942. From this meeting evolved the creation of the combined chiefs of staff, the heads of the United States and British military and naval forces, who met formally for the first time in Washington on Jan. 23, 1942. To prepare for future meetings, the United States representatives had to confer among themselves to be sure of agreement in dealing with the British. The joint chiefs of staff, as the American group was called, initially consisting of admirals Stark and King and generals Marshall and Arnold, first met on February 9. They had the duty of coordinating the military efforts of the army and the navy, in which capacity they reported directly to the president, and of advising him on the strategic conduct of the war.

President Roosevelt's Executive Order 8984 of Dec. 18, 1941, which gave the new COMINCH supreme command of the operating forces, did not specifically establish the relationship between the new command and the chief of naval operations (CNO), who had responsibility for the logistic and other needs of the operating forces. From time to time King asked that a clearer relationship be established, indicating that as COMINCH he was perfectly willing to be under CNO, and in fact thought that the logical arrangement. The president stated that he and Secretary Knox would take care of the situation. They did so in a way that King neither sought nor anticipated, by determining in March 1942 to send Stark to London as commander of American naval forces in Europe. By Executive Order 9096 of Mar. 12, 1942, the duties of Stark's office were added to those of King, who henceforth, as COMINCHCNO, became "the principal naval adviser and executive to the Secretary of the Navy on the conduct of the Naval Establishment." King relieved Stark on March 26 and assumed duty as chief of naval operations, while Vice Admiral F. J. Horne (Stark's principal assistant) became vice chief of naval operations. Throughout the war the organizations of COMINCH and CNO were maintained separately and distinctly, the two activities being united in the person of King.

With Stark's departure for London in March 1942, the joint chiefs of staff membership was reduced to King, Marshall, and Arnold. In July 1942, William D. Leahy was added and, because of his seniority, acted as chairman. There were no changes in membership during the rest of the war.

King participated in the conferences held at Washington in 1942; at Casablanca, Washington, Quebec, Cairo, and Teheran in 1943; and at Malta, Yalta, and Potsdam in 1945. At the Arcadia Conference it was affirmed that Germany was still the primary enemy and its defeat the key to victory, and that once Germany was defeated, the collapse of Italy and the defeat of Japan must follow. This was the genesis of one of King's greatest difficulties: to obtain enough resources for the Pacific war, in order to keep pressure on the Japanese. When areas of strategic responsibility were divided among the Allies in the spring of 1942, the Pacific was assigned to the United States. The Pacific Ocean Area was under the command of Nimitz at Pearl Harbor and the Southwest Pacific Area under General Douglas MacArthur.

During the war two-thirds of King's time was devoted to joint and combined chiefs business. He took part in the discussions of international strategy and of interservice cooperation that were to govern the actions of the naval forces he commanded. Although he agreed completely with the American-British grand strategy, King constantly and strenuously urged the more rapid prosecution of the war against Germany so that he might obtain more adequate forces in the Pacific. Indeed his vigorous advocacy led Churchill to call the Pacific "King's pet ocean."

King was able to command the greatest fleet in the history of the world in one-third of his time because he could delegate authority. COMINCH headquarters in Washington preserved a seagoing character. It remained small. There were no civilians. Senior officers who had been successful in combat were brought in for a year or two. Experienced chief petty officers, many of whom were later commissioned, junior Reserve officers, and later Waves remained for longer periods and formed a dependable crew. The fleet point of view was constantly maintained by the constant flow of officers with active combat experience. King lived on his flagship, the yacht Dauntless, at the Washington Navy Yard, so that he and senior members of his staff might work at any hour of the night in secure surroundings with full communications facilities.

In February 1942, King told Secretary Knox, "We are faced with the continuation and maintenance of what is technically called 'the defensive-offensive,' in order that we may get ready for 'the offensive-defensive' in 1943." He paraphrased the "defensive-offensive" as "hold what you've got and hit them when you can, the hitting to be done not only by seizing opportunities but by making them." The following month King summarized for the president the lines of military endeavor in the Pacific as "Hold Hawaii. Support Australasia. Drive northwestward from New Hebrides." The battle of Midway threw the Japanese off balance for the first time; King saw to it that they did not regain their equilibrium. The landings in the Solomon Islands on Aug. 7, 1942, a calculated risk that barely escaped disaster, were both an early beginning of the "offensive-defensive" and the turning point of the war. In the autumn of 1943, when divisions of new carriers had joined the Pacific Fleet, the great central Pacific offensive began. Japan was defeated in less than two years.

In late October 1942, when it was still touch-and-go in the Solomons, King wrote to Roosevelt, reminding him that he would attain the age of sixty-four-the statutory retirement age-on Nov. 23, 1942. King's letter was returned with the handwritten endorsement: "So what, old top? I may even send you a Birthday present! FDR." When five-star ranks were authorized by Congress in December 1944, King was promoted to fleet admiral.

After V-J Day, King persuaded President Harry S. Truman to sign an executive order abolishing the duties of COMINCH and assigning new duties to the chief of naval operations. On Oct. 10, 1945, King signed the order making this effective, and moved down one step to the traditional CNO office. On Dec. 15, 1945, he was relieved by Nimitz, wartime commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet. King's naval career was over, but since fleet admirals are not subject to retirement, he remained technically on active duty for the rest of his life.

Congress voted King a gold medal "on behalf of a grateful nation." It showed Neptune driving a team of three horses, one winged, with the inscription "Neque Glauci Regno nec Neptuni nec Ipsius Iovis Tonantis Intemerato," in graceful reference to his "triple threat" as submariner, destroyerman, and aviator.

King's memoirs, published in 1952 as Fleet Admiral King, A Naval Record, were written with Walter Muir Whitehill. In August 1947, King suffered a brain hemorrhage that for a time deprived him of speech and caused him to take up residence at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center. By sheer determination he taught himself to speak again and resumed a measured and limited life. But he continued to live at Bethesda, going in summers to the U.S. Naval Hospital, Portsmouth, N.H., where he died.

King's mind was of Olympian simplicity. He concentrated on broad principles, and was totally uninterested in the smaller details of problems or personalities. His deputy, Richard S. Edwards, once remarked that in conferences King would "encourage free and uninhibited debate until he had absorbed all points of view. He would then come forth with a clear-cut scheme, usually so obviously applicable as to cause all concerned to wonder why they had not thought of it themselves." This, joined to his intuitive power of divining the heart of the enemy, led Samuel Eliot Morison to assess King not only as "the Navy's principal architect of victory," but also as "undoubtedly the best naval strategist and organizer in our history."

"Ernest Joseph King." Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1980. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 28 Mar. 2012.