Panel to re-evaluate admiral's disgrace

April 27, 1995|By Knight-Ridder News Service

ROCK HILL, S.C. -- On Dec. 7, 1941, Adm. Husband E. Kimmel commanded the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor.

Kimmel's family has fought for nearly a half-century to clear the admiral's name, claiming they have documents that prove Washington officials failed to forward information that could have aided him in his defense of the strategic naval base.

Today in Washington, the family will finally be heard.

Sen. Strom Thurmond, the Senate Armed Services Committee's chairman, will co-chair a hearing about the late admiral and his Army counterpart, Lt. Gen. Walter Short, with Rep. Floyd Spence, the House Armed Services Committee's chairman. The Kimmel family will also bring several historians and retired admirals.

"We've been advised not to get our hopes up. But for the first time, I feel we'll be able to fairly present our case to people who are powerful enough to rewrite this chapter of American history," said the admiral's grandson, Manning Kimmel of Rock Hill.

Both Senator Thurmond and Representative Short are from South Carolina.

Mr. Thurmond has been aware of the Kimmels' quest for nearly a decade, but it wasn't until this year, when the senator assumed control of the Armed Services Committee, that he had the power to do anything about it. "We're going to hear this family out. They deserve it. It's only fair after what they've been through," said Mr. Thurmond, a World War II veteran.

"I believe Frankie Roosevelt -- or someone in his administration -- knew the Japanese were up to something in the South Pacific -- [maybe] not the attack itself, but [they] failed to warn Kimmel's staff."

Also expected to attend are representatives of the Defense Department, including Navy Secretary John Dalton and John M. Deutch, the deputy defense secretary who was recently nominated by the Clinton administration to head the CIA.

The Kimmels are seeking posthumous restoration of his former rank of four-star admiral.

On Dec. 17, 1941, Kimmel was stripped of his command and accused of dereliction of duty; the charges were later dropped. In March 1942, Kimmel's 38-year career was cut short. He was forced into retirement as a rear admiral and spent the remaining 26 years of his life in disgrace.

Short vigorously fought the official charges, but apparently eventually accepted his fate. The general returned to his home in Dallas, disappearing from public life. He died in 1949.

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