17. Admiral Husband Kimmel was unfairly blamed for the Pearl Harbor disaster
In May, 1940, the United States Pacific Fleet moved from its usual West Coast homeport to Pearl Harbor. Its commander, Admiral James Richardson, vocally opposed the move, claiming it unnecessarily placed the fleet in danger of attack. Richardson was relieved of his duties, and Husband E. Kimmel assumed them in February, 1941. He maintained the fleet at a high state of readiness for the remainder of the year. With the fleet in port, its aerial defense relied on the US Army Air Corps. In November Kimmel sent the aircraft carrier Enterprise to ferry aircraft to Wake Island. In the first week of December he sent USS Lexington, another carrier, on a similar mission to Midway Island. Thus, both carriers were absent Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941. The American battleship fleet was heavily damaged in the attack.
Kimmel was relieved of his command on December 17, after having ordered a relief force to Wake Island. His successor, Admiral William Pye recalled the operation. Wake Island was left to hold out on its own. In Washington, President Roosevelt appointed the Roberts Commission to examine the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Commission presented its report in January, 1942. It found Kimmel, and his army counterpart General Walter Short, were both guilty of “dereliction of duty”. It also found both officers had erred in judgment, and exonerated all of their subordinates. Both officers claimed they were deprived of critical information by Washington prior to the attack. Kimmel retired early in 1942. Subsequent investigations and research have been more favorable to Kimmel, though he has never been exonerated for his role in the disaster. Nor has General Short.