Shortly after the Japanese attack against Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Rear Admiral Theobald took charge of the destroyers in the Pacific Fleet. In May 1942, he was appointed commander of the North Pacific Force. Since the force initially had a main body of only five cruisers and four destroyers, Theobald was inclined to be cautious in moving against the Japanese in the Aleutian Islands, an approach that placed him at odds with the more aggressive-minded army commanders in the theater.
The conflict between Theobald and the army, along with the admiral's irritation at being assigned to a backwater in the war, angered Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet. On 4 January 1943, Nimitz relieved Theobald, who then took charge of the First Naval District and the Boston Navy Yard. Theobald retired from the navy in February 1945.
After the war, he involved himself in the Pearl Harbor controversy, arguing that Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, commander of the Pacific Fleet in 1941 and a friend of long standing, and Lieutenant General Walter Short, commander of the Hawaiian Department, were unfairly made the scapegoats for the Japanese success on 7 December 1941. In his book The Final Secret of Pearl Harbor: The Washington Contribution to the Japanese Attack (1954), Theobald charged that President Franklin D. Roosevelt and members of his administration did not adequately warn Hawaiian commanders of a possible attack and had shifted the blame to Kimmel and Short to cover up their own errors in judgment. Theobald died in Boston on 13 May 1957.
John Kennedy Ohl
Garfield, Brian. The Thousand-Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians. New York: Doubleday, 1969.; Morison, Samuel Eliot. History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Vol. 5, The Struggle for Guadalcanal, August 1942–February 1943. Boston: Little, Brown, 1949.; Morton, Louis. United States Army in World War II: The War in the Pacific—Strategy and Command. Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1962.