The Naval War College released a massive amount of Adm. Chester W. Nimitz’s operational diaries from World War II on Monday. The 4,000 page “Graybook” collection, funded by the Naval War College Foundation, details Nimitz’s experience as commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, capturing his thoughts on many of the most critical naval battles in American and world history.
A little over a week after the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Nimitz was made Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and was later made the Fleet Admiral of the United States Navy by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944. It was in large part due to Nimitz’s leadership that the U.S. Navy, after taking a beating at Pearl Harbor, was able to regroup and drive the Imperial Japanese Navy out of the Pacific.
Nimitz was born on February 24, 1885 in a hotel his grandfather, a retired sea captain, built in Fredericksburg, Texas. His father died shortly before he was born, so his grandfather helped raise him and taught the young Nimitz about life at sea.
Nimitz entered the United States Naval Academy at the stunningly young age of 15 and graduated seventh in his class. He then embarked on a lifelong and distinguished career in the Navy.
Though his leadership throughout the Pacific War is legendary, Nimitz is often best known for his role in planning the Battle of Midway, which was one of the greatest naval victories in the history of the United States and is considered a turning point in the Pacific War.
Relying on information uncovered by crack U.S. code breakers, Nimitz gambled on the idea that the bulk of the Japanese Navy, including at least four aircraft carriers, was targeting the U.S. base on tiny Midway Island.
Just before the opening of the battle, Nimitz sent a message to his commanders: “The situation is developing as expected. Carriers, our most important objective, should be soon located. Tomorrow may be the day we give them the works.”
Nimitz then concluded in his Command summary, “The whole course of the war in the pacific may hinge on the developments of the next two or three days.”
The battle was a resounding success, and four Japanese carriers were sent to the bottom of the ocean. The Imperial Japanese Navy would never recover.
The released diary accounts chronicle Nimitz’s experiences at Midway, as well as every other major and minor conflict of the Pacific War. The collection includes a running summary of the situation for every day of the war, including orders coming in from Washington and intelligence he was receiving from other commanders.
Though the papers have been available since 1972 when they were declassified, they were only available at the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington, D.C.
According to the Associated Press, traffic has been so heavy at the website that many have had difficulty accessing the papers, but a spokesman from the Naval War College said that they are working on the problem.