FLEET ADMIRAL CHESTER W. NIMITZ
IN CHARGE OF PACIFIC OCEAN AREA
DURING WWII

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At the outbreak of WWII Chester Nimitz was Chief of the Bureau of Navigation. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, President Roosevelt and the Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox selected Chester Nimitz to be the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet CinCPac. At the same time Admiral Ernest J. King was appointed Commander in Chief, U.S. Navy COMINCH, Nimitz's new boss.

Nimitz was to replace Admiral Kimmel who was relieved of his duties after Pearl Harbor. Nimitz's Headquarters was at Pearl Harbor. He left Washington D.C. by train on 19 December 1941 on the first leg of his journey to Pearl Harbor.

The last leg of his journey was by Catalina flying boat from San Diego to Pearl Harbor. Their first attempt to leave on 23 December 1941 was almost disastrous. A gust of wind lifted a wing of the Catalina and plunged its engines underwater. The flight was abandoned and they left successfully the next day.

Not long after General Douglas MacArthur escaped from the Philippines, a new order was released on 30 March 1942 establishing a new assignment of commands.

Chester Nimitz's new title was Commander in Chief Pacific Ocean Area CINCPOA. He was also still Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet CinCPac.

The Pacific Ocean Area was divided into three sub divisions:-

Admiral Nimitz was also directly in charge of the Central Pacific Area, see diagram below.

 

Shows the 3 main theatres of war in this area. The Southwest Pacific Area,
the Pacific Ocean Area, and the Southeast Pacific Area.

 

Admiral Draemal was Nimitz's Chief of Staff and Captain Elphege Alfred M. Gendreau his Fleet Surgeon.

The Historical Chronology for Air Transport Squadron Two, at U.S. Naval Air Station, Alameda, California shows on 30 June 1943, that a Sikorsky XPBS-1 amphibious patrol bomber with Admiral Chester Nimitz on board, crashed on landing. All except one of the 13 passengers were saved and the plane sank soon after the crash. It apparently hit a submerged log. The Admiral suffered only minor injuries.

Admiral Chester Nimitz visited Brisbane to confer with General Douglas MacArthur arriving by flying boat on 25 March 1944. Nimitz's flying boat arrived at 4:30pm at the NATS Flying Boat Base at Colmslie on the Brisbane River and to his surprise he was met by MacArthur. Nimitz had previously invited MacArthur to Pearl Harbor but MacArthur had turned him down. Nimitz then asked permission from MacArthur to visit units of the Seventh Fleet. Permission was required because MacArthur had seniority over Nimitz.

Admiral Nimitz stayed in a suite at Lennons Hotel in George Street, Brisbane. Prior to attending a banquet at 7:15 pm organised for Nimitz in Lennons Hotel, Nimitz and his personal aide, H. Arthur Lamar, visited General MacArthur's room on the 4th floor of Lennons Hotel and presented their gifts they had brought with them from Hawaii. Nimitz presented a box of rare orchids to Mrs. Jean MacArthur. They were each in special glass tubes. Arthur MacArthur had already gone to bed but Jean MacArthur convinced the General to let Arthur come out to receive his silk Aloha play suits and a large box of lollies. There were 48 guests at the banquet which included all Allied officers of general officer rank or equivalent in the Brisbane area.

The following morning Lamar observed the street in front of Lennons Hotel being cleared by Military Police at 11am so that Arthur MacArthur and his Chinese Amah could cross George Street and enter the grounds of the Supreme Court building. The gates were then locked behind them. Lamar was advised that this was a daily ritual and that Arthur and his Amah walked around the grounds for about an hour.

At 11am on Sunday 26 March 1944, MacArthur met with Admirals Nimitz, Sherman, Kinkaid and Carney, Generals Sutherland, Kenney and Marshall, Captain Glover and Colonel Lehrbas. At 3pm General MacArthur, Admirals Nimitz, Sherman, Kinkaid and Carney, Generals Sutherland, Kenney and Marshall, Captain Glover and Colonel Lehrbas, and other staff members held a conference in the War Room at MacArthur's GHQ SWPA. At 7:30pm that night General MacArthur and his wife Jean had dinner with Admiral Nimitz and Admiral Kinkaid.

At 11:45am on Monday 27 March 1944, Admirals Nimitz, Sherman, Carney and Kinkaid, Generals Sutherland and Kenney, Marshall and Chamberlin, and Captain Glover met with General MacArthur.

At their meetings, MacArthur accepted Nimitz's plan to support his invasion of Hollandia. Nimitz had already agreed to lend MacArthur's 7th Fleet eight escort carriers for following 8 days after the date of the invasion.

At 12:30pm on Monday 27 March 1944, MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz posed for official photographs. Ovid Di Fiore, a photographer with Photo Unit 1, a photographic Detachment of the 832nd Signal Service Company was given an assignment to photograph General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz on 27 March 1944. Ovid told me about this assignment as follows:-

“Only 2 photographers were present - myself, representing the US Army and another Navy photographer, representing the US Navy. We had to wait 3 days before we were permitted to go upstairs to MacArthur's headquarters. We were ushered into a waiting room before we were allowed to enter the meeting room. As we walked in, MacArthur put up his hand and said "I'll give you four minutes", Not five, mind you, but four !”

 


US Army Signal Corps Photo # SC 190409

General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz in GHQ, SWPA
on the 8th Floor of the AMP building
 in Brisbane on 27 March 1944.
I believe this is a photograph taken by my friend Ovid Di Fiore. 

 

Macarthur and Nimitz posing for photos in
MacArthur's Headquarters on 27 March 1944

 

Macarthur and Nimitz posing for photos in
MacArthur's Headquarters on 27 March 1944

 

Admiral Nimitz and his party left Brisbane and arrived back in Pearl Harbor on 29 March 1944.

On 6 April 1945, a reorganisation brought the Southwest Pacific Area within the new command of Army Forces Pacific (AFPAC), with General Douglas MacArthur in charge. Admiral Chester Nimitz was given command over all Naval forces in the Pacific and General MacArthur was given command of all Army forces in the Pacific, to prepare for the invasion of Japan.

An entry for the 7 April 1945 in Admiral Chester Nimitz's Command Summary stated:-

"Cominch & CNO 062116 (pink) states that units of the 7th Fleet will pass to the command of Cincpoa on a schedule to be agreed by General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz, or as may be directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff."

On 13 April 1945, General Richard Sutherland, MacArthur's Chief of Staff, took a group with him to meet with Admiral Nimitz and his staff at Guam to implement the directive of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Sutherland got off on the wrong foot when he told Nimitz that MacArthur wanted to break up Nimitz's unity of command which Sutherland described as "an unworkable shibboleth"!! And to make matters worse he indicated that no Army troops would be allowed to serve under any Admiral!!

Nimitz told Sutherland that he would only relinquish operational control of Army units as they were released from any current operations and that any garrisons in areas he was responsible for would remain under his control. He went on to indicate "I shall not therefore accede now to his assuming operational control of army forces - ground, air or service - which are essential to the defence and functioning of the Pacific Ocean Areas." 

Nimitz indicated he would not take operational control of Naval Operations in the Southwest Pacific Area at that time but would provide naval cover for any of MacArthur's amphibious operations. Sutherland and his party left Guam on 16 April 1945. More conferences were held to endeavour to sort out the complex arrangements to comply with the directives of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Because MacArthur refused to go to Guam, Nimitz flew to Manila on 15 May 1945 to negotiate directly with MacArthur. After two days of talks they resolved most of the disagreements and agreed on the plan of attack for the invasions of Kyushu and Honshu.

The transfer Macarthur's Seventh Fleet to Admiral Nimitz was delayed until July 1945 because of the operations in Borneo.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"Nimitz" by E.B. Potter, (Naval Institute Press)

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Karen Nunan and Ovid Di Fiore for their assistance with this web page.

 

Can anyone help me with more information?

 

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This page first produced 2 February 2016

This page last updated 03 February 2017