February 25

Admiral Nimitz’s diary provides trove of WWII details

It’s the only day-by-day operational account known to have survived.

By Michelle R. Smith
The Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The U.S. Naval War College released a trove of World War II information Monday by posting online the operational diary kept by the Pacific commander, Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, during the war against Japan.

click image to enlarge

U.S. Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz poses while reading the communique from his advance headquarters in Guam on April 1, 1945, during World War II, when he revealed to the world the news of the U.S. invasion of Okinawa, 325 miles from Tokyo.

1945 Associated Press File Photo/U.S. Navy

click image to enlarge

Adm. Chester W. Nimitz commanded U.S. Naval forces in the Pacific during World War II.

Associated Press File Photo

The 4,000-page multivolume collection includes a running summary of the situation for every day of the war in the Pacific compiled by Nimitz’s planning staff. It is the only known similar document to survive from the war, said Prof. John Hattendorf, who teaches maritime history at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.

The Nimitz “Graybook,” named for the gray material in which it is bound, is posted at www.usnwc.edu/graybook. Traffic was so heavy Monday that downloads of the document were inaccessible for several hours.

The diary begins on Dec. 7, 1941, the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor, with the line: “The war opened with the attack of Japanese aircraft on Oahu.” It goes on to list the locations of the Navy’s forces throughout the Pacific, the damage sustained that day and what is known about the enemy’s position.

Nimitz’s planning staff prepared a similar summary for him every day of the war. Unlike other commanders during World War II, Nimitz kept them, and the diary was found in his personal papers, Hattendorf said. It also includes supporting documentation for the summaries, including the orders Nimitz received from Washington and elsewhere, intelligence information from other commanders and exactly what his fleet units were doing.

The entries run through Aug. 31, 1945, as the war in the Pacific came to an end.

The diary was declassified in 1972 and is kept at the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington, making it accessible only to those who can travel there. Hattendorf said the project to digitize it, make the text searchable and put it online will make it easier for scholars worldwide to study the diary and what Nimitz knew as he made command decisions.

“We’ll really be able to understand in a much better way how Adm. Nimitz thought and the challenges he saw every day of the war,” he said. “It can be searched for particular information, when particular information was known by the commander, how we reacted to a particular change ... what the president was telling him.”

 

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