The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King--The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea
Walter R. Borneman
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How history's only five-star admirals triumphed in World War II and made the United States the world's dominant sea power.
Only four men in American history have been promoted to the five-star rank of Admiral of the Fleet: William Leahy, Ernest King, Chester Nimitz, and William Halsey. These four men were the best and the brightest the navy produced, and together they led the U.S. navy to victory in World War II, establishing the United States as the world's greatest fleet.
In THE ADMIRALS, award-winning historian Walter R. Borneman tells their story in full detail for the first time. Drawing upon journals, ship logs, and other primary sources, he brings an incredible historical moment to life, showing us how the four admirals revolutionized naval warfare forever with submarines and aircraft carriers, and how these men-who were both friends and rivals-worked together to ensure that the Axis fleets lay destroyed on the ocean floor at the end of World War II.
on May 26, Halsey made the trip to the CINCPAC office at the sub base. Nimitz couldn’t believe his eyes. His star carrier commander had lost twenty pounds, looked like he hadn’t slept in two weeks—which was almost true—and had the most hideous rash Nimitz had ever seen. No matter what the cause of his skin eruption, fifty-nine-year-old Bill Halsey had just spent an almost uninterrupted six months on the bridge of the Enterprise since sailing for Wake Island at the end of November 1941. He was
the White House for a noontime conference. Upon Leahy’s arrival, Roosevelt told him that he would be recalled to active duty and appointed the president’s senior military adviser. FDR did not take the decision lightly, nor had he arrived at it quickly. For six months, America’s war machinery had haltingly labored to transition from small numbers and an almost country club pace—witness the Marshall-to-King memo regarding Pacific strategy—to the constant urgency of increasingly massive and complex
and supply ships that the Japanese targeted off the beachhead. Just as the Japanese navy had determined the defense of the Philippines to be a do-or-die effort, the Japanese army made a similar effort. In fact, it had managed to land two thousand reinforcements on Leyte even as the sea battles raged around it. Because many of Kinkaid’s CVEs were exhausted and short of aircraft after the Leyte Gulf fight, MacArthur requested Halsey to stay on station around the Philippines with the big carriers
next year preparing for the entrance exams, particularly a newly added algebra requirement.2 Geographically, there is nothing particularly remarkable about Maryland’s Severn River to set it apart from dozens of similar rivers, creeks, and runs that pour their waters via broad estuaries into Chesapeake Bay. Exiles from Virginia founded a settlement on the northern banks of the Severn in 1649 but soon moved to a better-protected harbor on the south shore. For a time, this was called Anne
admiral J. J. “Jocko” Clark, then the commander of one of Lexington’s air squadrons, “it was easy enough to get along with Ernie King. But God help him if he were wrong; King would crucify him.”14 Along the way King’s penchant for experimentation brought much-needed innovation to the operations and tactics of America’s new carrier fleet. King’s first chance to show off the Lexington’s snappiness, as well as his own command abilities aboard it, took place during fleet maneuvers off Panama early