In the years following his departure from the office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz actively corresponded with his successors on matters of Navy interest. The personal observations which he occasionally included in these letters now serve as interesting, significant footnotes to naval history. An extract of such a letter, written by Admiral Nimitz in his eightieth year to Admiral David L. McDonald, the present Chief of Naval Operations, are presented here.
3 April 1965
Several times in recent weeks I have been quoted—correctly—that "as bad as our losses were at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941—they could have been devastatingly worse"—had the Japanese returned for more strikes against our naval installations, surface oil storage and our submarine base installations. Such attacks could have been made with impunity as we had little left to oppose them. Furthermore—I have been correctly quoted in saying that it was God's divine will that Kimmel did not have his fleet at sea to intercept the Japanese Carrier Task Force that attacked P. H. on 7 December 1941. That taskforce had a fleet speed at least 2 knots superior to our speed—and Kimmel could not have brought the Japanese to a gun action unless they wanted it. We might have had one carrier but I doubt if the LEXINGTON could have joined in time—Picture if you can—6 Japanese carriers working on our old ships which would be without air cover—or—had the Japanese wanted to avoid American air attacks from shore—they could have delayed the action until out of range of shore based air. Instead of having our ships sunk in the shallow protected waters of P. H. they could have been sunk in deep water—and we could have lost all of our trained men instead of the 3800 approx. lost at P. H. There would have been few trained men to form the nucleus of the crews for the new ships nearing completion. Not only were the ships of the enemy task force faster—they were more modern—and the Japanese main fleet under Yamamoto was in the rear—in support—if needed. Nagumo—the Commander of the P. H. Attack Force—missed a great chance by not following up his attack…
Warmest regards and best wishes—