Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tomorrow, 24 February, would be Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz’ 125th birthday. A hometown hero of Fredericksburg and the namesake of our site, Admiral Nimitz spent the first six years of his life living in his grandfather’s steamboat-shaped Nimitz Hotel, now the Admiral Nimitz Museum. While trying to think of the best way to honor this outstanding naval leader, it seemed to me that rather than give his biography, which is so readily available, I should use the words of those who have studied the man to tell of his leadership style and humble attitude.

Edwin Palmer Hoyt wrote, “The qualities of the Nimitz character were apparent in his face, in his career, and in his heritage; combined these factors made him precisely the man he was and placed him in this particular situation at this moment in history. ... He was not a cold man, or a bad tempered man — quite the contrary — to the world he presented a figure of almost total complacency; he seldom lost his temper or raised his voice,” in his book How they Won the War: Nimitz and his Admirals.

E. B. Potter, Naval historian at the U.S. Naval Academy wrote, “He surrounded himself with the ablest men he could find and sought their advice, but he made his own decisions. He was a keen strategist who never forgot that he was dealing with human beings, on both sides of the conflict. He was aggressive in war without hate, audacious while never failing to weigh the risks,” on the cover jacket of his well-known book Nimitz.

TIME journalist, Robert Sherrod wrote, “The Admiral was frequently the despair of his public relations men; it simply was not in him to make sweeping statements or to give out colorful interviews,” in his 1945 book On to Westward: War in the Central Pacific.

Fleet Admiral Nimitz insisted that the Admiral Nimitz Museum honor not himself, but all of the men and women who fought and defended this country in the Pacific in World War II. I will end with this quote from Admiral Nimitz regarding those who died in the Pacific War. It can be found many places, including the Memorial Wall in the courtyard here at the museum: “They fought together as brothers in arms; they died together and now they sleep side by side. To them we have a solemn obligation — the obligation to ensure that their sacrifice will help make this a better and safer world in which to live.”

Visit the historic Nimtitz Ballroom tomorrow at 1:00 for a free birthday celebration with cake, coffee and patriotic songs from the Fredericksburg Middle School Choir. Also, films about Admiral Nimitz will be shown throughout the day. Museum admission is free if you share a birthday with Admiral Nimitz!