On the day before Thanksgiving, Capt. Thomas K. Kimmel, U.S.N. Ret., of Annapolis, received a letter from Richard G. Trefry, the military assistant to President Bush. It said the president would not posthumously promote Mr. Kimmel's father from rear admiral to admiral. Admiral was the rank the late Husband E. Kimmel held on a temporary commission on Dec. 7, 1941. He was then commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, stationed at Pearl Harbor. He and Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short, the Army commander there, were blamed for the infamous tragedy of that day. In a rush to judgment, a special commission headed by the chief justice of the United States said in January 1942 that the two officers had been guilty of "dereliction of duty" for not thwarting the Japanese attack. Next to treason and cowardice, no charge could be worse. They were relieved of command and retired.
Several subsequent official investigations of the attack on Pearl Harbor in the next few years were almost as damning. But in the years since then, cooler, soberer students of World War II have looked into what happened at Pearl Harbor, aided by archival material not available to investigators during the war. A consensus has emerged to the effect that Admiral Kimmel and General Short were made scapegoats for a nation shocked and humiliated by the Japanese success. Despite this emerging consensus, Admiral Kimmel and General Short remain the only World War II officers who were never subsequently promoted to the grades they served in during the war.