home @ nationalgeographic.com
National Geographic Beyond the Movie PEARL HARBOR for those who love movies and the stories behind them
Real Stories Real People Real Events Moviemaking


Adm. Husband E. Kimmel
Adm. Husband E. Kimmel
Photograph courtesy U.S. Naval Historical Center

Played by Colm Feore in Pearl Harbor

Although Admiral Kimmel’s World War II service was effectively confined to one day--December 7, 1941--the consequences of that day haunted him for the rest of his life and continued for many years after his death. It is a testament to the persistence of the Kimmel saga that while the Kimmel scenes were being filmed in Hawaii for the movie Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Congress was voting to promote him to four-star grade on the retired list, congressionally absolving him of blame for the disaster at Pearl Harbor.

As commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Kimmel and his Army counterpart, Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short, were held responsible for the disaster inflicted by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The controversy over how much Kimmel and Short could and should have known or done began immediately after the attack and still has not ended.

Up to December 7, 1941, Kimmel’s naval career had been highly successful. He was aide to Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1915 and then served on U.S. battleships in European waters during World War I. He had command of several ships, including the battleship New York.

In mid-January 1941 Kimmel, at the time a rear admiral commanding the cruiser force at Pearl Harbor, was appointed to command the Pacific Fleet. He relieved Adm. James O. Richardson, whom President Roosevelt had fired for opposing the moving of the fleet from California to Pearl Harbor.

Kimmel, like Short, had been shaped by the military culture of the post-World War I world, a culture that made the Navy and the Army rival services. Short and Kimmel often played golf together, but they rarely got together to coordinate strategy.

Kimmel was not derelict in his preparations for war. But he did not expect the war to begin with an attack on Hawaii--even though his fleet order of October 14,1941, said that war might begin with a surprise attack on the fleet at Pearl Harbor. He did not vary his ships’ routines, prepare antitorpedo defenses around his battleships, or conduct long-range aerial patrols along the most likely attack routes.

With his fleet devastated, Kimmel took what limited actions he could, including the abortive attempt to relieve Wake Island.

Vice Adm. W.S. Pye temporarily relieved Kimmel as fleet commander on December 17 (pending the arrival of Adm. Chester W. Nimitz from Washington).

Although there were proposals to court-martial Kimmel (and others) in the aftermath of the Japanese attack, Kimmel’s request for retirement from the Navy became effective on February 28, 1942. He joined a shipbuilding firm specializing in dry dock construction and pressed for a public hearing, which he finally received in 1945 as part of the congressional inquiry into the Pearl Harbor attack. The inquiry did not prove to be the full exoneration he sought and which he continued to seek for the remainder of his life. His sons carried on the crusade in the halls of Congress.


<prev | 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. | next>
[an error occurred while processing this directive]