Western Trips

Western Trips

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Nimitz National Museum of the Pacific War / Fredericksburg Texas

Fredericksburg Texas, in the middle of the beautiful Texas Hill Country, is one of the most popular stops for those on Texas vacations. Fredericksburg TX is a very unique and historic location with excellent restaurants (German fare is a big draw), very beautiful and serene bed and breakfast lodgings and in addition to this it is the home of the Admiral Chester Nimitz Pacific War Museum.

nimitz museum The Nimitz Museum is truly one of a kind and it draws thousands of people annually.

Chester W. Nimitz, who guided the U.S. Naval Pacific Theater World War Two effort, was born and grew up in Fredericksburg Texas. Chester's father died prior to his birth and his grandfather, Charles Nimitz, became his mentor while growing up. It so happened that Nimitz's grandfather had also been a seaman in the German Merchant Marine.

Chester tried unsuccessfully to enter West Point but was fortunate enough to win an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. As it turned out, Chester did extremely well at the naval Academy, graduating in 1905 number seven in a class of one hundred and forty-four. He was then required to serve two years at sea and during this time served aboard the USS Ohio and the USS Baltimore, mostly in the Orient. After being promoted to lieutenant in 1910, Nimitz commanded several early submarines before being named Commander, 3rd Submarine Division, Atlantic Torpedo Fleet in October 1911.

Early Navy Years and World War One

national museum of the pacific warChester Nimitz was involved in a rare accident when he lost part of his right ring finger in a demonstration of a diesel engine on the USS Maumee. He actually escaped further injury when his Naval Academy class ring jammed the engine's gears.

When he returned to duty after the accident, he was made the USS Maumee's executive officer and engineer when it was placed in service in October 1916. When the United States entered World War One, Chester Nimitz, at the new rank of Lt. Commander, returned to the submarine fleet as an aide to Rear Admiral Samuel S. Robinson, commander of the US Atlantic Fleet's submarine force. Eventually, Nimitz became Admiral Robinson's chief of staff.

The Interwar Years

During the interwar years Nimitz moved up steadily in the ranks. He served in Washington as assistant chief of the Navy Bureau of Navigation. After he moved up to the rank of rear admiral, Nimitz commanded a cruiser division. He then took command of a battleship division. In 1939 he relocated back to Washington as chief of the Navy Bureau of Navigation and was in that position when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. As a result, Chester Nimitz ended up replacing Admiral Husband Kimmel as commander-in-chief of the entire Pacific fleet and relocated to Pearl Harbor. He worked closely with General Douglas MacArthur who was directing the assaults on the Philippines.

The War Years

anti aircraft gun
When the U.S. went to war against Japan and with the backdrop of Pearl Harbor, America needed a moral boost. Adm Nimitz was fortunate that during the Pearl Harbor attack the aircraft carriers were at sea. Also the Pearl Harbor submarine base was spared during the attack.

Chester Nimitz has been credited with supervising some of the early successes the U.S. enjoyed such as James Doolittle's raids on Japan via a flight carrier as well as the victories in the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway. At Midway, Japan lost all four of her aircraft carriers engaged in that battle. The Battle of Midway of course is another entire story in itself.

Strategically, there were some differences between Nimitz and General DouglasMacArthur. The differences essentially were whether the Navy would bypass Manila on the way to attack the Japanese area north of Luzon. Admiral Nimitz wanted to go past Manila and MacArthur was determined to retake the Philippines first before any advancement to the north be made. It's interesting to note that President Roosevelt himself entered the discussion with the hopes of having the two agree on a joint effort. Roosevelt was successful and it was agreed that at least the capital of Manila would be retaken from the Japanese.

This is when planning for the Battle of Leyte Gulf was formulated and represented MacArthur's thrust back into the Philippines. Moving from island to island, the Allied troops used each as a base for capturing the next. They did this with the intent of forcing Japan back to the home islands and if necessary to use the islands as a base to attack the home islands themselves. Although two very detailed plans were drawn up for a land invasion of Japan, the invasion was averted only by the dropping of the two atomic bombs, and even after that destruction there was great division within the Japanese military on whether to surrender or not. In the end, Emperor Hirohito's decision to surrender prevailed.

nimitz museum
Chester W. Nimitz was present to sign for the United States during the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945 aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. When the war finally ended, Adm Chester W. Nimitz served as Chief of Naval Operations, and in several civic positions. On 15 December 1947, Admiral Chester Nimitz retired from office of Chief of Naval Operations. It was reported that Nimitz made it known at the time of his promotion in 1945 that he would serve in the CNO position for only two years. Below is a list of commendations received by Adm Chester W. Nimitz during his service with the U.S. Navy.

Silver Star - Letter of Commendation
23 Nov 1920
Citation Distinguished Service Medal
Distinguished Service Medal - citation signed by Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt
circa 1942
Distinguished Service Medal - citation by Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt
circa 1942
Distinguished Service Medal - citation
Gold Star - citation signed by Pres. Harry Truman
circa 1945
Distinguished Service Medal - certificate
14 Oct 1946
Distinguished Service Medal - citation signed by Pres. Harry Truman
circa 1947
Distinguished Service Medal - certificate

The National Museum of the Pacific War

5 Feb 1948

The mission of the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg Texas as stated on their website is "dedicated to perpetuating the memory of the Pacific Theater of WWII in order that the sacrifices of those who contributed to our victory may never be forgotten".

The museum chronicles the story of Japan's rise in military power, the beginning of World War Two in the Pacific and the advance of the Allied military to final victory in 1945. There are also very interesting exhibits regarding the home front and the war's effect on both Texas and the nation. Many artifacts are on display including newspaper articles, and mementos.

seabees plaqueMuch information concerning individuals and their part in the war effort is also on display. The exhibition chronicles the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri in September 1945 and includes the story of the American POW's, the later Japanese war crime trials and of course the heroes who were recipients of the Medal of Honor in the Pacific Theater.

Chester W. Nimitz is truly one of the largest names in United States Navy history. Adm Nimitz was further honored with the naming of CVN 68, the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier which went into service in 1975.

As of 2010, the USS Nimitz home port was Everett Washington. I think that anyone visiting this very unique museum will find it extremely interesting. It's really a must visit when on a Texas Hill Country vacation or weekend get away. Fredericksburg Texas is located about 90 miles west of Austin Texas and about 70 miles north of San Antonio. You may also be interested in learning about the large Texas German migration to the Fredericksburg area during the mid 1800's.

Another good story and a great stop when you're visiting the San Francisco area is the USS Hornet which is a floating museum in Alameda California. Lots of interesting archives and aircraft on display. Also the Liberty Ship USS Jeremiah O'Brien docked at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf.

Chester W. Nimitz and his wife eventually moved to Yerba Buena Island in San Francisco Bay, between San Francisco and Oakland and home of the Treasure Island Naval Base. Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz passed away at his home on Treasure Island on February 20, 1966 at the age of eighty. He was buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery at San Bruno, just south of San Francisco. He was the last surviving five-star admiral.

(Article and photos copyright Western Trips)

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