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The most cataclysmic and consequential war in history produced more than its share of fascinating characters and great leaders. Some have hardened into legend, others fallen below the radar. Somewhere in-between sits Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of both the Pacific Fleet and the Pacific
Ocean Area from 1941 to 1945. Nimitz demanded and received less attention than his Army counterpart, Douglas MacArthur, whose self-promotion was prodigious. He seemed less colorful than some of his subordinates, such as Admiral Bill “Bull” Halsey and General Holland “Howlin' Mad” Smith. Yet Nimitz's
was the guiding hand of Allied forces in the Pacific War, and the central figure in the victory against Japan.
Craig L. Symonds's full-length portrait of Nimitz, from the precarious early months following Pearl Harbor, when Nimitz assumed command of the Pacific Fleet, to the surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay, is the first in more than fifty years. Using Nimitz's headquarters-the eye of the hurricane-as the
vantage point, Symonds covers the major campaigns, from Guadalcanal to Okinawa. He captures Nimitz's calm, discipline, homespun wisdom, and uncanny sense of when to project authority and when to pull back, illuminating how this helped him direct one of the largest and most complex campaigns in
military history, fought against an implacable foe. The pressures Nimitz faced were crushing, involving tactical and strategic decision-making, visualizing success while mindful of the welfare of those who served under him-soldiers, sailors, and Marines. He had to corral assertive subordinates and
keep them focused on the larger objectives, and maintain a strong working relationship with his own superiors, including the equally formidable Admiral Ernest J. King and President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In addition, Nimitz had to deal with the public spectacle of war, managing the expectations of a
nation both expecting victory and longing for the carnage to end.
In retrospect it seems impossible to imagine anyone else could have accomplished all this. As Symonds' absorbing, dynamic, and authoritative portrait reveals, it took leadership asked of-and exhibited by-few others. Behind Nimitz's unflappable professionalism and reservoirs of charm were a resolve
and audacity that became evident when most needed.
Craig L. Symonds was the Class of '57 Chair in Naval History at the U.S. Naval Academy, and from 2017 to 2020 was Ernest J. King Professor of Maritime History at the U.S. Naval War College. He is the author or editor of twenty-nine books, including Decision at Sea, Lincoln and his Admirals, The
Battle of Midway, Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings, and World War II at Sea. His works have been given a number of awards, including the Lincoln Prize, Best Book of the Year from the Military History Quarterly, and the Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature.
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