Our book, A Matter of Honor, was published on the 75th anniversary of the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In the aftermath of that attack two men, Admiral Husband Kimmel and Lt. General Walter Short, bore the weight of the nation’s opprobrium for the failure of U.S. defenses.
After the attack, the admiral—along with General Short—was relieved of command and, following a brief investigation, accused of dereliction of duty. In 1944, a Navy Court of Inquiry cleared Kimmel of the charge, as did a later investigation by Congress. Washington had failed to meet his repeated requests for vital equipment—especially for reconnaissance planes. And senior officers in Washington had failed to share vital intelligence with Hawaii.
Our research for A Matter of Honor produced numerous never-before-seen pieces of evidence that Kimmel and Short were made scapegoats for the failures of many. As a consequence of which, Kimmel and Short were the only two World War II officers not retired at their highest wartime rank. Kimmel was retired as a two-star Rear Admiral. The Admiral struggled for full exoneration until his death, but the stain of disgrace remained.
Admiral Kimmel’s family took up the struggle and have labored for years to clear his name and correct the historical record. “Restoration of our grandfather’s four-star rank”, said his grandson Thomas K. Kimmel, Jr., “became the only way the government could belatedly restore his honor.”
In 1991, 36 admirals petitioned President George H.W. Bush to recommend Kimmel’s posthumous promotion. In 2000, Congress passed a resolution recommending the measure to President Clinton. No further action, however, has ever been taken on an issue that then Senator Joseph Biden called the ‘the most tragic injustice in American military history.’
With the new evidence in A Matter of Honor to hand, Tom Kimmel thought the time was right to petition the Board for Correction of Naval Records about his grandfather’s case. After months of waiting, he this week received the results of the three-person Board’s deliberations. The Board recommended denial of Kimmel’s petition – the Admiral’s naval record would not be corrected to reflect the injustice done.
The link below will take interested readers to Tom Kimmel, Jr.’s video presentation about Pearl Harbor and Admiral Kimmel: