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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Revisiting Henderson's Past: Admiral Kimmel

It's time for another peek into the archives ...

“A Date Which Will Live in Infamy”

“Kimmel stood by the window of his office at the submarine base, his jaw set in stony anguish. As he watched the disaster across the harbor unfold with terrible fury, a spent .50 caliber machine gun bullet crashed through the glass. It brushed the admiral before it clanged to the floor. It cut his white jacket and raised a welt on his chest. ‘It would have been merciful had it killed me,’ Kimmel murmured. . .” Edwin T. Layton gives us this emotional description of Henderson native Admiral Husband E. Kimmel as Pearl Harbor was attacked December 7th, 1941. Recreated in the classic movie Tora! Tora! Tora!, the scene of the incredulous commander-in-chief would prove to be one of the most dramatic in cinematographic history.

As a boy growing up at 512 North Green Street, Hubby Kimmel was serious and studious. Never one to play a prank, he graduated as valedictorian of his high school class at the age of sixteen. The love of the water did not come as easily to Husband as one might expect. As a young teenager, he and a group of his friends, floating down the Ohio River, capsized their boat, forcing the boys to swim for their lives. After their rescue, the would-be admiral, now disgusted with the thought of returning to the river, hung on the boat a large sign, which said “This boat for Sale Very Cheap – H. E. Kimmel.”

Nevertheless, Husband graduated from the U. S. Naval Academy in 1904 at the top of his class. In February 1941, he became Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet and Pacific Fleet, with the temporary rank of Admiral. On December 6th, 1941, Admiral Kimmel, now stationed at Pearl Harbor, debated sending his ships to sea in anticipation of a Japanese offensive. However, without adequate evidence to support his premonition, he felt obligated to hold his fleet. The following day, the harbor was attacked, and Kimmel became a scapegoat. He then reverted to the rank of Rear Admiral, and in March 1942, prematurely retired. Though Husband Kimmel spent the remainder of his life attempting to prove his innocence, it was not until after his death that it was determined that the attack on Pearl Harbor was the result of poor communication by U. S. intelligence in Washington, D. C.

To read more about Husband Kimmel’s life and astounding military career, come visit us at the library! You may also want to check out one of the following books:

“And I Was There”: Pearl Harbor and Midway – Breaking the Secrets by Edwin T. Layton
Scapegoats: A Defense of Kimmel and Short at Pearl Harbor by Edward L. Beach
Admiral Kimmel’s Story by Husband Kimmel
Pearl Harbor Betrayed: The True Story of a Man and a Nation by Michael Gannon

To find out more about the archives, you can visit our genealogy page or read more “Revisiting Henderson’s Past” entries.

Image is a caricature of Admiral Kimmel as posted in the June 5th, 1944 Louisville Courier Journal.

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