Guide to the Chester W. Nimitz Papers, 1941-1966
A collection in the
Special Collections & Archives Department,
United States Naval Academy
589 McNair Road
Annapolis, MD 21402-5029
Prepared by: Mary R. Catalfamo
(Edited by David D'Onofrio)
Special Collections & Archives Department
United States Naval Academy
Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz was born in Fredericksburg, Texas, on February 24, 1885, the son of Chester Bernhard and Anna (Henke) Nimitz. Appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy from Texas, he graduated in 1905 with distinction, seventh in a class of 114.
In 1912 Nimitz risked his life to rescue an enlisted man from drowning. Despite an early court-martial and reprimand for running his second command, the destroyer Decatur, aground, Nimitz's advancement through the naval ranks was swift. His career would encompass a broad range of duties ashore and at sea, including the commands of destroyers, submarines, cruisers and battleships. He was considered an expert on the topics of diesel engines and undersea warfare.
During the First World War, Nimitz served as Chief of Staff to the Commander of the Submarine Division, Atlantic Fleet. He was assigned to the University of California in 1926 and there established one of the first Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps Units. Among his duties during the 1930s, Chester William Nimitz would serve as Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, commander of a cruiser division and commander of a battleship division. Nimitz attained the rank of Rear Admiral in 1938.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Nimitz was promoted from Chief of the Bureau of Navigation to Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet. The following year, he was awarded the additional title of Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Areas. Nimitz commanded "all U.S. and Allied forces in the North, Central and South Pacific, except the Army Air Force bombers that raided Japan from the Marianas." A brilliant leader and strategist Nimitz led his forces to victory against the Japanese. His triumph would be crowned in 1944 with the Navy's highest rank, that of Fleet Admiral. Chester William Nimitz would have the honor of signing for the United States at Japan's surrender aboard his flagship, the U.S.S. Missouri, in 1945.
From 1945 through 1947, Nimitz served as Chief of Naval Operations, and in 1948 became Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy in the Western Sea Frontier. Nimitz sincerely enjoyed his naval career, never formally retiring from the Navy.
Chester William Nimitz died 20 February 1966 at his home in California and was buried in the Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California. He was survived by his wife, Catherine Vance Freeman Nimitz (whom he married in 1913) and his children: Rear Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Jr., USN retired, Catherine Vance Lay, Anna Elizabeth (Nancy) Nimitz and Mary Manson Nimitz.
Scope and Content Note
The Chester William Nimitz Papers are primarily a collection of letters from Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz (1885-1966) to his wife Catherine and to his friends: Capt. Leonard Miscall, Dr. Lloyd Reynolds and Frank G. Nagle. The correspondence covers the years 1941-1966. Nimitz's letters to his wife, written during his World War II service, are the most historically significant of the materials.
An interview of Nimitz by U.S.N.A. Professor William M. Belote and two inscribed yen notes are also included among the papers. Although acquired from various sources at different times, the Papers are grouped together in one collection because of their relevance to the same subject, Chester William Nimitz.
The Chester William Nimitz Papers are contained in one box (1.5 inches of materials).
The Nimitz (Chester W.) Collection, housed at the Holt-Atherton Department of Special Collections, University Library, University of the Pacific, consists of transcript copies of correspondence, orders, reports, speeches and press clippings, as well as seventy-nine photographs, some autographed. A finding aid is available through the Online Archive of California.
The Papers of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, housed within the Operational Archives of the Naval Historical Center, consist of official, semiofficial, and personal correspondence, dispatches, publications, speeches, subject files and newspaper clippings.
CHESTER WILLIAM NIMITZ LETTERS TO CATHERINE NIMITZ, 194l-1945. (3 folders)
Materials: Seventy-Five photocopies of autograph letters (no originals). Personal salutations and closings, endearments, etc. edited out (blacked out) by Nimitz family prior to donation.
Description: Letters from Chester William Nimitz to his wife, Catherine. Presents an intimate picture of Nimitz's professional and personal daily routine and activities as Commander In Chief United States Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean areas. Frequent brief mentions of: naval and military associates and aides, many of them high-ranking; civilian, political, naval and military visitors; personal friends and acquaintances. Associations with publicists and journalists. Public functions and duties. Nimitz's health and exercise regimen, his love of music and other interests. His boat, the Catherine. Gifts received and given. Catherine's work with Red Cross and her other volunteer activities.
Donor: Photocopies received from Sr. Marguerite Stanka, Director, Archbishop Alemany Library, Dominican College, San Rafael, California, with the permission of Sr. Aquinas (daughter of Chester William and Catherine Nimitz).
NIMITZ LETTERS TO CAPTAIN LEONARD MISCALL, 1947-1966. (2 folders)
Materials: Twenty letters from Chester William Nimitz to Capt. Leonard Miscall of Ithaca, New York (1947 Sep 14. - 1964 Nov 1. 19), and one letter from Catherine Nimitz (wife) to Miscall (1966 Jan 24. Regarding Admiral's health).
Description: Nimitz's comments and opinions regarding Miscall's diplomatic activities in Ecuador and related South American diplomatic matters, Turkish diplomatic-political matters, United Nations, the Chinese ambassador. Positive statements on World War II Seabees and on new President Lyndon B. Johnson. Rear Admiral C.W. Nimitz Jr. (1961 Oct 17). Nimitz's personal views, activities and interests, including very brief mentions of nuclear submarine U.S.S. Sam Houston christening, dedication of high school named in Nimitz's honor, Nimitz's support of proposed Navy Enlisted Program at Syracuse University. Nimitz's health, including serious leg injury and operation.
Donor: Purchased for the Nimitz Library by the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association.
CHESTER WILLIAM NIMITZ LETTER TO DR. LLOYD REYNOLDS, 1945. (1 folder)
Materials: Letter from Chester William Nimitz to Dr. and Mrs. Lloyd Reynolds, 1945 Jan 8. (Typed letter signed. Envelope stamped "Passed by Naval Censor."), and two inscribed ten yen notes (Japanese currency). Both notes bear numbers 450941 (1124).
Description: Letter consists of thanks for gift of candy and for Dr. Reynolds' medical help. First yen note inscribed on recto, "To L.R. Reynolds/ with great esteem/ C.W. Nimitz/ Fleet Admiral." Second yen note inscribed on verso with four signatures: "Jno. A. Shaw Lt. Cmdr(MC)/ Dudley.[Surname blotted]/ C.W. Nimitz Fleet Admiral/ [fourth name illegible].
Donor: Captain Leonard F. Bassett, USN (Ret.)
CHESTER WILLIAM NIMITZ LETTERS TO FRANK G. NAGLE, 1950-1951. (1 folder)
Materials: From Chester William Nimitz to Frank G. Nagle. 1950 Dec 30. 1951 Jan 15. 1951 May 13. Three autograph letters signed.
Description: Friendly letters, containing nothing of naval, historical or biographical significance.
CHESTER WILLIAM NIMITZ INTERVIEW, 1964 (1 folder)
Materials: Interview of Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz, USN, 1964 June 25, 1600 to 1900, by Professor William M. Belote, History Dept., United States Naval Academy. Two page typescript photocopy.
Description: Topics very briefly covered: Orange Plan, Reinforcement and supply - WW II, Trout gold mission, Corregidor memorial commission, Nimitz in pre-WW I Philippines, Douglas MacArthur, Pearl Harbor and Admiral Kimmel.
Donor: Professor William M. Belote.