Husband E. Kimmel


Name Husband E. Kimmel
Born February 26 1882
Died May 14 1968
Birth Location Henderson, Kentucky

Commander-in-chief of the U.S. fleet on December 7, 1941 and "scapegoat" for the Pearl Harbor attack.

Husband E. Kimmel (1882–1968) was born in Henderson, Kentucky, on February 26, 1882, and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1904. During his career, he served on several battleships and commanded two destroyer divisions including a destroyer squadron and the USS New York. In 1937, Kimmel was promoted to rear admiral after holding important positions in the navy. In February 1941 he became commander in chief, U.S. Fleet and Pacific Fleet, with the temporary rank of admiral and was in command of Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. Within ten days after the attack, Kimmel and Lt. General Walter C. Short, army commander in Hawai'i, were relieved of command and charged with being unprepared for the attack.

Kimmel, who immediately retired from the navy as a rear admiral, was often blamed for the Pearl Harbor attack. The charges generally pointed to errors in judgment, such as the misuse of radar, failure to coordinate and pass on intelligence, failure to use reconnaissance aircraft properly, and failure to read staff estimates of the situation. He was also criticized for underestimating the potential for a Japanese attack among other errors.[1] To his death, Kimmel maintained that he could not have been any more prepared without adequate warning of the impending attack and charged that information was available in Washington that was not made available to him. Kimmel said that neither he nor Short was informed of the status of negotiations with Japan in Washington in November 1941 or advised of the final U.S. message to Japan on November 26 that has been referred to as an "ultimatum."[2]

From 1942 through 1946, there were nine different investigations, eight of which concluded that Kimmel and Short were "guilty not of dereliction of duty but of efforts in judgment."[3] Yet, none of the reports recommended their ranks be restored. In 1995, Senator Strom Thurmond with the support of Kimmel's and Short's families, formally requested a Defense Department inquiry that resulted in an investigation under the direct supervision of Edwin Dorn, then the undersecretary of defense with responsibility for manpower and readiness matters. The result was the Dorn report which found that "while Kimmel and Short were guilty of errors of judgment, they were not solely responsible for the catastrophe at Pearl Harbor, and others in Washington and on their staffs in Hawaii should share some of the blame."[4] Efforts of the families of two men to restore the ranks of these two men have come close to being successful but Kimmel and Short have yet to be fully exonerated.

Kimmel passed away at Groton, Connecticut, on May 14, 1968, after a heart attack and was survived by his wife Dorothy Kinkaid Kimmel and two sons, Capt. Thomas K. Kimmel, USN, and Edward Kimmel.

Authored by Kelli Y. Nakamura, University of Hawai'i

For More Information

"Admiral Kimmel." Honolulu Star-Bulletin, May 15, 1968, A-20.

Borch, Fred and Daniel Martinez. Kimmel, Short, and Pearl Harbor: The Final Report Revealed. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2005.

Husband, Kimmel E. Admiral Kimmel's Story. Chicago: H. Regnery Co., 1955.

"Rear Admiral Husband Edward Kimmel, USN, (1882–1968)." Naval Historical Center website, http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/pers-us/uspers-k/h-kimml.htm.

Prange, Gordon W. "Tora, Tora, Tora, the Untold Story of Pearl Harbor." Reader's Digest 83:499 (Nov. 1963): 274-324.

"'Scapegoat' of P.H. Attack Dies." Honolulu Star-Bulletin, May 15, 1968, A-1, A-4.

Footnotes

  1. Fred Borch and Daniel Martinez, Kimmel, Short, and Pearl Harbor: The Final Report Revealed (Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2005), ix.
  2. "'Scapegoat' of P.H. Attack Dies," Honolulu Star-Bulletin, May 15, 1968, A-4.
  3. Borch and Martinez, vii.
  4. Borch and Martinez, ix.