1991 Correspondence between Admiral Husband Kimmel's sons
and the office of President George H. W. Bush
 
Text from the following documents:

8/21/1991 letter from the Under Secretary of the Navy to Edward Kimmel

10/16/1991 letter from Edward and Thomas Kimmel to then President George H. W. Bush

11/19/1991 letter from the Military Assistant to the President to Edward Kimmel

11/30/1991 letter from Edward Kimmel to the Military Assistant tot he President

Edward Kimmel memorandum to current (2001) President George W. Bush


DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY
OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY
WASHINGTON, D.C. 2O35O-1OOO
 
21 August 1991
 
Mr. Edward R. Kimmel
25 Wood Road
Wilmington, Delaware 19806
 
Dear Mr. Kimmel:
 
This is in response to your letter of May 29 to the Secretary of Defense concerning your father. I am answering on behalf of the Secretary.
 
As you are aware, the possibility of promoting your father, Rear Admiral Husband Kimmel, to the rank of admiral has been reviewed a number of times in the decades since his retirement in 1942, and each time the determination has been made not to proceed with such action.  Both Secretary Cheney and Secretary Garrett have personally reviewed the additional information you provided in your letter and have again concluded that the promotion process is not the way to address the issue of your father's place in history. Accordingly, the Secretary of Defense will not recommend to the President that he initiate action to promote Rear Admiral Kimmel posthumously at this time.
 
The desire of your family is understood and respected and I regret that this response could not be favorable. A similar letter has been sent to your brother, Captain Thomas K. Kimmel.
 
Sincerely,
==signature==
Dan Howard
Under Secretary of the Navy
 

15 Wood Road
Wilmington, DE 19806
October 16, 1991
 
President George H.W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C.
 
Dear Mr. President:
 
By the time you receive this letter you will have received a multiple signature letter from Senators Alan K. Simpson, Strom Thurmond, William V. Roth and Joseph Biden. Their letter urges you to nominate our father, Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel USR (Retired) (Deceased), who was the Commander-in-Chief of the United States and Pacific Fleets at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, for promotion posthumously to the rank of Admiral on the retired list of naval officers.
 
The promotion process was chosen as an appropriate vehicle to restore our father's professional reputation and to negate the baseless and irresponsible charge of the Roberts Commission, made in January 1942, after a hurried investigation, that he had been "derelict in his duty". This charge was found to be without basis by two subsequent full Investigations of the Pearl Harbor attack, the Naval Court of Inquiry in 1944 (released to the public in 1945) and the Joint Congressional investigation in 1946. Nevertheless the initial Roberts Commission charge stuck and still sticks. When the public thinks about the Pearl Harbor attack they think at the same time about the "dereliction of duty" of Admiral Kimmel.
 
Our father is eligible for such promotion under the Officer Personnel Act of 1947. When that statute was implemented, the Navy Department failed to submit his name to the President for consideration to promotion to Admiral despite the findings of the two aforementioned investigations. He was the only flag officer eligible for promotion whose name was not submitted to the President for the exercise of his discretion.
 
For more than four years my brother, Captain Thomas K. Kimmel USN (Retired), and I have sought to have our father's name placed before the President for him to exercise his discretion as to whether to advance him to the rank of Admiral on the retired list of naval officers. In 1988 Secretary of the Navy, William L. Ball III, after an extensive investigation of the matter, recommended this course to Secretary of Defense, Frank Carlucci, who rejected it. Subsequently the matter of such a promotion, with detailed back-up documentation, was placed before Secretary of Defense Richard B. Cheney and as you can see from the attached letter of August 21, 1991, he has concluded that he "will not recommend to the President that he initiate action to promote Rear Admiral Kimmel posthumously at this time". This, despite the fact that we supplied Secretary Cheney with everything he suggested in a letter to a Wyoming constituent in October 1989.
 
We demonstrated widespread public and professional support for the action we request. Resolutions urging his promotion were submitted from the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, the Naval Academy Alumni Association, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Lexington, KY Pearl Harbor Commemorative Committee and the Admiral Nimitz Foundation together with letters recommending it from two former Chiefs of Naval Operations, Arleigh Burke and Thomas Moorer.
 
Mr. President, as is apparent, my brother and I have exhausted our administrative remedies.  We have been "stonewalled" at every turn by the Departments of Defense and Navy. Each time no reason is given for the rejection. Nor is any alternative course to achieve our goal suggested. In desperation we are appealing to you for assistance in our quest for justice.
 
Surely, there must be a way to remedy the injustice and wrongs done our father. As former President Harry Truman said "the buck stops here" (with you!). Please let us hear from you. You are our last hope!
 
Thank you in advance for your consideration of this important matter. Documentation for our position should be readily available in the Department of Defense, but if you need any we stand ready to furnish it on a moment's notice.
 
What better time could there be to correct this injustice than the year of the 50th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack?
 
Sincerely yours,
 
==signatures==
 
Edward R. Kimmel
15 Wood Road
Wilmington, DE 19806
302-655-5330
 
==signature==
 
Thomas K. Kimmel
1304 River Crescent Drive
Annapolis, MD 214101
301-573-0312
 

THE WHITE HOUSE
WASHINGTON
November 19, 1991
 
Dear Mr. Kimmel:
 
I have been requested to respond for the President to your courteous and thoughtful letter concerning the possibility of promoting Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel posthumously to the grade of Admiral. Admiral Kimmel was serving in that grade at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
 
There is no doubt about the availability of legal authority for such a promotion if the President were to initiate one. Under authority of Clause 2, Section 2, Article II of the Constitution, the President is empowered, with the advice and sent of the Senate, to appoint all officers of the United States. This broad constitutional authority allows the posthumous promotion of deceased military officers on the retired list.
 
A possible posthumous promotion of Admiral Kimmel has been considered within the Department of Defense numerous times in the past and the suggestion has been rejected in each instance. The uniformed Navy has, with the concurrence of the Secretaries of Navy and the Department of Defense, repeatedly rejected any suggestion of promotion. Basically, the Navy believes that in terms of accountability, there is a great difference between a degree of fault which does not warrant punitive action and a level of performance that would warrant a bestowal of approbation. Admiral Kimmel was the serving commander at the terrible tragedy that was Pearl Harbor.
 
It is understandable why the family and friends of Admiral Kimmel would want to have this esteemed Naval officer recognized by posthumous promotion. This is a particularly poignant time in history where the memories of December 7, 1941 are so vividly in mind.  Regretfully, for the President to initiate a promotion would be to reverse the course of history, as adjudged by the contemporary superiors of Admiral Kimmel, as well as their successors, to include eight serving Presidents who elected to take no action.
 
Over the passage of time, however stark the tragedy, history has been sympathetic to Admiral Kimmel.  There is no question that the Admiral was a loyal, dedicated, patriotic American who was professionally competent and who served his country to the best of his ability.  To initiate an action for promotion in the light of history would do no honor to the Admiral and might very well tear the tapestry that time and history have so thoughtfully woven.
 
Sincerely,
 
==signature==
 
RICHARD G. TREFRY
Military Assistant to the President
 
Edward R. Kimmel
15 Wood Road
Wilmington, Delaware 19806
 

15 Wood Road
Wilmington. DE 19806
November 30, 1991
 
Lieutenant General Richard C. Trefry USA (Ret)
Military As assistant to the President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N. W.
Washington, D.C.
 
Dear General Trefry:
 
Thank you for your letter of November 19, responding for the President, concerning the possible posthumous promotion of Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel to the grade of Admiral, the grade in which he was serving at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
 
Needless to say my brother, Captain Thomas K. Kimmel USN (Ret), and I are greatly disappointed that the President has not seen fit to make this promotion.  However, at the same time we are gratified to learn that Admiral Kimmel is viewed by the President as an esteemed Naval officer" and further that the President believes "there is no question that the Admiral was a loyal, dedicated, patriotic American who was professionally competent and who served his country to the best of his ability". This opinion erases forever the irresponsible "dereliction of duty" charge of the Robert's commission made in January 1942.
 
However, in view of this opinion of Admiral Kimmel, held by the President, we must say that it is extremely difficult to understand why he is reluctant to nominate Admiral Kimmel for posthumous promotion to the grade of Admiral.
 
Your letter points out that the "uniformed Navy. . . has repeatedly rejected any suggestion of promotion" and that "Basically, the Navy believes that in terms of accountability, there is a great difference between a degree of fault which does not warrant punitive action and a level of performance that would warrant a bestowal of approbation.". Certainly the 37 navy flag officers who petitioned the President in support of Admiral Kimmel's posthumous promotion are part of the "uniformed Navy" and it would seem that at least in the case of Admiral Kimmel they do not subscribe to that view. These are no run of the mill flag officers. Among them are five former Chiefs of Naval Operations two of whom were former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 28 other full admirals, 3 vice admirals and 1 rear admiral. In addition the Naval Academy Alumni Association, also part of the uniformed Navy, strongly supports posthumous promotion as evidenced by their resolution submitted to the President and the Departments of Defense and Navy.
 
Nor is there any basis for saying that such a posthumous promotion would "reverse the course of history". No facts would be changed. There never was any "demotion" of Admiral Kimmel. He simply reverted to his permanent rank of Rear Admiral when he left the position of Commander—in-Chief of the Pacific and United States Fleets, in accord with the procedures then to place for the Navy. This would simply be a reexamination of established facts in light of insights gained since December 7, 1941.
 
Moreover, the judgment of Admiral Kimmel's contemporaries, in particular that of the Naval Court of Inquiry, was that he performed appropriately in light of the information at his disposal. Other superiors of Admiral Kimmel were Admiral Harold R. Stark and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Admiral Stark, who was severely criticized by the Naval Court of Inquiry, had performed so poorly himself in the hours immediately prior to the attack that he was in no position to judge anyone else's performance. President Roosevelt handled the removal of Admiral Kimmel and General Short personally and  his performance left a great deal to be desired, particularly when he received the decoded Japanese diplomatic message the night of December 6 and exclaimed "This means war," and yet took no steps to warn the Hawaiian military commanders.
 
In so far as the eight serving Presidents "who elected to take no action" Secretary of the Navy William Ball III. in 1988, in a memorandum to Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci recommending that the matter of Admiral Kimmel's posthumous promotion be presented to the President for decision and the exercise or his discretion, specifically pointed out that in his investigation he had been unable to find any evidence that the question had ever been submitted to any President for decision. So how could these eight Presidents have "elected to take no action" if the matter was never presented to them for decision ?
 
Irrespective of your expressed concern that "To initiate an action for promotion in the light of history would do no honor to the Admiral and might very well tear the tapestry that time and history have so thoughtfully woven" my brother and I are of a contrary opinion and still urge the President to make the posthumous nomination we have sought.
 
Sincerely,
==signature==
Edward R. Kimmel

 
Edward R. Kimmel
Memorandum re 1991 Correspondence Between Himself
And Spokesmen for
President George H. W. Bush and Secretary Richard B. Cheney
 
I direct attention to the November 19, 1991, letter of Richard G. Trefry. your father's Military Assistant, to me of November 19, 1991, where he wrote:
 
...The uniformed Navy has, with the concurrence of the Secretaries of the Navy and the Department of Defense, repeatedly rejected any suggestion of promotion. Basically' the Navy believes that in terms of accountability, there is a great difference between a degree of fault which does not warrant punitive action and a level of performance that would warrant bestowal of approbation."
 
This was the first insight my bother, Captain Thomas K. Kimmel, USN (Ret.) (Deceased-1997), and I had as to the thinking of the uniformed Navy and the Secretaries of the Navy and the Department of Defense and thus what was blocking the requested promotion.
 
Previously, then Secretary of Defense Cheney had merely turned down our request with no explanation as to why. His only observation at that time (see letter of August 21, 1991, from Under Secretary of the Navy Dan Howard to me) was that the two secretaries had "again concluded that the promotion process is not the way to address the issue of your father's place in history." However, they offered no suggestions as to how to address that issue.
 
With respect to Mr. Trefry's explanatory statement of the position of the uniformed Navy, I direct your attention to my reply to Mr. Trefry of November 20, 1991. where I wrote:
 
"...Certainly the 37 navy flag officers who petitioned the President [your father] in support of Admiral Kimmel's posthumous promotion are part of the "uniformed navy" and it would seem that at least in the case of Admiral Kimmel they do not subscribe to that view. These are no run of the mill flag officers. Among them are five former Chiefs of Naval Operations, two of whom were former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 26 other full admirals, 3 vice admirals and 1 rear admiral. In addition, the Naval Academy Alumni Association, also part of the "uniformed navy," strongly supports posthumous promotion as evidenced by their resolutions submitted to the President and the Departments of Defense and Navy..."
 
Noteworthy is the paradoxical inconsistency between the recalcitrant attitude of the uniformed Navy and the findings of the Naval Court of Inquiry, constituents of which were three admirals of great experience who found no fault with Admiral Kimmel's military decisions, including his disposition of forces. The Court did not in any way criticize his performance, rather it praised his performance while criticizing that of Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Harold R. Stark.
 
Mr. President, the facts simply do not support the purported position of the "uniformed navy," as stated by Mr. Trefry, writing on behalf of your father.
 
Mr. Trefry also wrote:
 
"There is no question that the Admiral was a loyal, dedicated, patriotic American, who was professionally competent and who served his country to the best of his ability..."
 
With that observation I can certainly agree!
 
With respect to Mr. Trefry's expressed concern that "To initiate an action for promotion in the light of history would do no honor to the Admiral and might very well tear the tapestry that time and history have so thoughtfully woven," I wrote Mr. Trefry that my brother and I were of a contrary opinion. Certainly the Congressional action requesting the President to nominate Admiral Kimmel and General Short to their highest-held World War II ranks indicates that Mr. Trefry's concern was unfounded.

Details on the pages of the Kimmel Family Record web site come from the collection of
Timothy W. Kimmel of Fort Wayne, Indiana.  You can contact Tim at timkimmel@comcast.net
Admiral Husband Kimmel page ----- Main Menu