Kimmel, a highly regarded gunnery expert, rose to the rank of rear admiral in 1937 and served at the Naval Gun Factory; he also commanded a destroyer squadron, attended the Naval War College, commanded the battleship New York, and served as chief of staff of the battleships in the Battle Force. From 1937 to 1939, he was budget officer of the navy, and following command of a cruiser division and of cruisers in the Battle Force, Pacific Fleet, he was named commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in February 1941 as a full admiral. During the next months, Kimmel put the Pacific Fleet through a vigorous training program in preparation for a possible war with Japan and refined plans for offensive operations in the western Pacific if war came. Following the Japanese attack against Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, which put all of the Pacific Fleet's battleships out of commission, he was relieved of his command.
Kimmel has been the subject of considerable controversy for his actions preceding the Japanese attack. Several investigations and historians determined that he was too lax in his command and not sufficiently prepared for the possibility of war. Defenders—and Kimmel himself—believed he was made a scapegoat for the failures of Washington authorities, arguing that he was denied both crucial intelligence about deteriorating Japanese-American relations and adequate numbers of long-range reconnaissance aircraft.
On 1 March 1942, Kimmel retired in disgrace from the navy. Thereafter, he was employed by an engineering consulting firm until 1947. He died in Groton, Connecticut, on 14 May 1968.
John Kennedy Ohl
Gannon, Michael. Pearl Harbor Betrayed: The True Story of a Man and a Nation under Attack. New York: Henry Holt, 2001.; Kimmel, Husband E. Admiral Kimmel's Story. Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1955.; Prange, Gordon W. At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981.