As I said in a June 9, 2015, blog, The National Museum of the Pacific War (NMPW) in Fredericksburg, Texas, is an all day, 5 Compass experience. NMPW began as the Nimitz Museum 3 years after Chester W. Nimitz died at the age of 80 in 1966.
The Nimitz Museum is in Fredericksburg because Chester was born there in 1885. His grandfather, Charles Henry Nimitz, a former Texas Ranger and merchant seaman, ran a hotel in this town and Chester was highly influenced by him. One of the reasons why his grandfather was so important to Chester Nimitz was because his own father, who had feeble lungs and a bad heart, died a few months before Chester was born.
Chester’s life was a fascinating success story, so the museum devoted to him, which has been totally incorporated into NMPW, was my favorite part of the visit and a chance to learn about a man who died generations ago.
Chester worked as a delivery boy and as a clerk in hotels. This taught him the values that only tough jobs in one’s youth can impart. He later said, “Leadership consists of picking good men and helping them do their best.” He learned this lesson by doing his best in some humble Texas hotels.
When Chester was 5, his mother Anna married his father’s brother William and the 3 of them moved to Kerrville, Texas, where they managed a small hotel. As he matured, Chester learned that the hotel business was not for him. He wanted to become a soldier. Being both not rich and practical, he learned that the service academies offered free education. Chester wanted to take the entrance exams to West Point but all appointments were filled so, even though he had not heard of it, he tried for the Naval Academy in Annapolis and, of course, got in making it necessary for him to skip his senior year of high school and get tutored in subjects he had never heard of.
By the age of 27 he was in command of a submarine, the USS Skipjack, when he saved a panicking crewman from drowning in Cheaspeake Bay. Chester Nimitz received a Silver Lifesaving Medal that he treasured for the rest of his life.
When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, he was Chief of the Bureau of Navigation in Washington, DC and at home listening to music on the radio. This bureau, by the way, was dissolved in 1946. President Roosevelt quickly named Nimitz the commander of the shattered Pacific Fleet. On the final day of that infamous year, 1941, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was on the USS Grayling, a submarine, assuming his duties. Told in Texas where Chester Nimitz spent his youth, his story becomes especially personal in the Admiral Nimitz Museum.
A museum within a museum, ANM pays tribute to a fine man who became an American hero pretty much through his own efforts.