Nimitz at War Audio Book Review

Nimitz at War: Command Leadership from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay

Authored by Craig L. Symonds, Narrated by L. J. Ganser

Audiobook, 14 hours and 26 minutes

Published by Tantor Audio, June 2022

Language: English


In the military failure requires accountability, regardless if there is fault.  In the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack the leadership in the Pacific was shaken up.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed over several more senior Admirals and selected Rear Admiral Chester W. Nimitz to assume command of U.S. forces in the Central Pacific.  This was mainly a Navy and Marine force, Army General Douglas MacArthur would command the predominantly Army ground and Air Corps forces in the South Pacific.

Nimitz faced a daunting task – the U.S. Navy was demoralized by the defeat at Pearl Harbor and lacked the ships to take the Japanese head-on.  Even while the Allies prioritized the European Theater FDR and Admiral King demanded offensive operations against the Japanese.  Nimitz worked to rebuild the Fleet and morale while concentrating the forces available in a series of strikes to keep the Japanese off balance.  These culminated in the Doolittle Raid, the Battle of the Coral Sea, and the stunning victory at Midway.

Much of the book deals with Nimitz’ leadership style and the constant pressure to find the right men to command the carrier Task Forces.  Nimitz preferred to build up his subordinate commanders, giving them all the support he could to accomplish a mission and then turning them loose to do the job without interference.  He did not attempt to micro-manage operations from afar but trusted his Admirals to make the right decisions.  For security reasons the Task Group commanders generally would not contact Nimitz’ headquarters once an operation had begun – often the first reports of a strike would come from intercepted Japanese communications.

I was surprised how much of the job of command boiled down to politics and managing personalities.  In addition to inter- and intra-service rivalries, there were constant pressures from MacArthur over allocation of resources and operational command, and pressures from within the Navy over who should be given command of Task Groups and amphibious operations.  There was also a constant stream of dignitaries visiting Nimitz’ headquarters, all of whom expected to meet with and be entertained by Nimitz and his staff.

This book in well researched and written, and gives valuable insights into both Nimitz the man and the day-to-day pressures of command at the highest levels.  I can recommend this book without hesitation.


10 thoughts on “Nimitz at War Audio Book Review

  1. This sounds great! A former boss at the living history site where I worked was a blue-water/black-shoe sailor. He recalled one morning they were told to put on their dress uniforms, square themselves away, and get on the bus. No word about where they were going. Turns out, they were to be a part of Nimitz’s funeral.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeah I think I mentioned this before but when it comes to anything related to WW2 Naval Warfare check out James D. Hornfischer and Ian Toll. Their writing style and expertise on the subject is hard to beat.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. A crying shame we lost Hornfischer so young, he quickly became my favorite USN author.
        (Gotta give a shout out to my old history prof, Dr. Malcom Muir, who was a well recognized US naval historian in his own right.)

        Liked by 1 person

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