Archives On The Air 28: Admiral Husband Kimmel—Bungler Or Fall Guy?

Jul 25, 2018

Political cartoon about Admiral Husband Kimmel that was published in the Chicago Tribune, Knoxville Journal, and Washington Times Herald, February 1954. Box 39, Husband Edward Kimmel papers.
Credit American Heritage Center

Pearl Harbor was attacked December 7, 1941 and the U.S. was catapulted into World War II. To understand events and place blame there were nine investigations between 1944 and 1946. A central figure was Admiral Husband Kimmel.

Kimmel had been a rising star in the U.S. Navy since 1915. By 1941 he was commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

But on that fateful December day, his career collapsed. He was relieved of his Pacific Fleet command ten days after the attack.

Advertisement for Admiral Kimmel’s Story that appeared in the New York Times Book Review, January 16, 1955. Box 40, Husband Edward Kimmel papers.
Credit American Heritage Center

Kimmel argued that intercepted Japanese cables suggesting an imminent attack were not shared with him. Critics pointed to tactical failures that had little to do with whether he knew the attack was coming.

Historians still debate Kimmel’s role in the Pearl Harbor attack. Was he responsible for one of the worst disasters in American military history of did he simply get the unluckiest promotion of all time?

Husband Kimmel’s papers available at UW’s American Heritage Center contain his defense and materials for his book: Admiral Kimmel’s Story