At the time of the December 7th, 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, some of America’s best military minds were stationed there. Like all the other officers and enlisted men who were enjoying that peaceful Sunday morning, they were unaware of the magnitude of the tragedy that was heading towards them in the early hours of the morning.

The leaders of the US Navy were forced into action, knowing that the nation had been working hard to stay out of the the war. Without their bravery and quick thinking, much more could have been lost during Japan’s surprise attack, including far more than the 2,403 men who were killed that morning.

The Leaders of the US Navy at Pearl Harbor

Harold R. Stark

A World War I veteran, Stark was promoted to Chief of Naval Operations in August of 1939, with the rank of Admiral. He assisted in expanding the Navy from 1940 to 1941 but in December of 1941, Stark was accused of withholding information from Admiral Husband E. Kimmel regarding the growing tensions between the US and Japan. Stark continued to serve as CNO for several months after Pearl Harbor, being relieved in March of 1942 by Admiral Ernest King for his alleged withholding of information prior to the Pearl Harbor attack.

Husband E. Kimmel

Adm. Husband E. Kimmel

Considered by many to have been the scapegoat of Pearl Harbor, Kimmel served as Commander in Chief of the US Pacific Fleet until December 17th, 1941, when he was relieved of duty. Much of the blame regarding how Japan was able to surprise the United States fell on Kimmel, though the debate over whether he was truly at fault continues to this day. Kimmel retired in 1942.

 

 

 

 

 

William S. Pye

As Vice Admiral, Pye remarked on December 6th, 1941 that “the Japanese [would] not go to war with the United States. [The United States] was too big, too powerful, and too strong.” On December 31st, 1941, Pye gave up command of the fleet to Admiral Chester W. Nimitz after becoming acting commander when Kimmel was relieved.

Isaac Campbell Kidd

Isaac C. Kidd aboard the USS Arizona, 1931

Rear Admiral Kidd was based on the USS Arizona, his flagship as Commander of Battleship Division 1, and was aboard the battleship when she exploded and sank. Kidd was recognized for his bravery during the attack, having ensured he remained in command of the vessel despite the grave danger. When a bomb struck the bridge, Kidd was killed, and his body was never recovered from the wreckage.

 

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