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  • The War's Top Admiral

    We hear a lot about "best general" (which I've often argued begs the question, "what sort of general?"). But we haven't said as much about their counterparts at sea lately. Is there a strategist or tactician we can safely deem the war's greatest admiral?

    Some possibilities include:

    Strategy-level admirals - Andrew B. Cunningham; Ernest J. King (champion of the Pacific War; architect of US anti-sub operations); Karl Doenitz (U-boat war)

    Operations-level admirals - Chester Nimitz (Midway), Yamamoto (Pearl Harbor)

    Tactical admirals - (don't know - are tactics "beneath" admirals)?

    Any thoughts?
    "There are only two professions in the world in which the amateur excels the professional. One, military strategy, and, two, prostitution."
    -- Maj. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

    (Avatar: Commodore Edwin Ward Moore, Republic of Texas Navy)

  • #2
    KING for me. He pointed the way and let his subordinates go.
    "Ask not what your country can do for you"

    Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

    you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

    Comment


    • #3
      Sorry John, but this would be the same King who led the USN through arguably the greatest defeat in its' history? (I am talking about the disaster started by the Kreigsmarine's Operation Drumbeat and follow on operations.) Despite plenty of evidence that showed his tactics were faulty, he stuck to a 'no convoy' policy at the cost of many lives, ships, and cargo.

      Also, as pointed out, the "what sort of admiral" question arises"

      I don't think ABC was a "strategic" admiral until he became First Sea Lord in 1943. Prior to that he was an "operational" admiral in command of the Med, and even at 'tactical' admiral leading his fleet at sea in battles like Cape Matapan.

      I'd agree that Doenitz was pretty much always at the strategic level, as the force he led through most of the war (U-boats) was the major striking arm of the Kreigsmarine.

      Tactics are not beneath admirals, witness "Tenacious" Tenaka and his battles around Guadalcanal.
      Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Half Pint John View Post
        KING for me. He pointed the way and let his subordinates go.
        King was an interesting guy, a sort of Porthos among FDR's musketeers. Before the war began, he drank a lot of booze and chased a lot of tail. Once the war started, he swore off drinking a lot of booze. He lived on board a flagship tied up at the Navy Yard, and every day he walked down the gangplank and took a car into D.C. to work. His wife lived at the Naval Observatory, and King visited her occasionally. He visited other wives occasionally, too, though that org chart was less clear-cut.

        King saw himself as the only real proponent of the Pacific. The Brits cared mostly for Europe, and what they didn't allocate to Europe was tied up west of Singapore. King pushed for the Navy's predominance in anti-sub warfare and he made sure the Marines expanded to six divisions, over Marshall's objections. Because he had extensive experience with submarines (as prewar commander in New London) and aviation (he earned his wings before the war - never a great pilot, but a competent one), he appreciated what subs and air could do to augment surface power.

        Regarding strategy, he took the traditional Navy approach - CentPac along the line Hawaii-Midway-Marshalls-Marianas-Japan. (This had been studied and wargamed before the war, he said.)

        Roosevelt generally trusted him - except as to organization, where he found King to be the type who tries to move everything under his own flag. Roosevelt reserved those schemes to himself.

        Jon

        PS - Perhaps I should have said the most important admiral of World War II was a dead man: Alfred Thayer Mahan.
        "There are only two professions in the world in which the amateur excels the professional. One, military strategy, and, two, prostitution."
        -- Maj. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

        (Avatar: Commodore Edwin Ward Moore, Republic of Texas Navy)

        Comment


        • #5
          Hi Jon

          I will leave others to comment on non British Admirals, but along with my personnel naval hero-'ABC Cunningham (I've wrote numerous letters plus the odd petition to the RN etc as to why he has never had the honour of a RN Warship named after him), I would like to add the names of Percy Noble & Max Horten to the pantheon of great British WW2 Admirals.
          On a strategic and tactical level, if it wasn't for their practices and modus operandi they initiated, invented and shaped, then the Battle of the Atlantic could well have turned out as a Allied loss.

          Regards
          "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life." Churchill

          "I'm no reactionary.Christ on the Mountain! I'm as idealistic as Hell" Eisenhower

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Jon Jordan View Post
            PS - Perhaps I should have said the most important admiral of World War II was a dead man: Alfred Thayer Mahan.
            Hi Jon

            Whilst one cannot forget the affect of Mahan, I think it important that a relative unknown (least famous certainly) be mentioned, and that person is Sir Julian Corbett. In the RN 'Jacky Fisher' is rightly remembered but without Corbett, I doubt Fisher would have achieved as much.

            Regards
            "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life." Churchill

            "I'm no reactionary.Christ on the Mountain! I'm as idealistic as Hell" Eisenhower

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Roadkiller View Post
              Sorry John, but this would be the same King who led the USN through arguably the greatest defeat in its' history? (I am talking about the disaster started by the Kreigsmarine's Operation Drumbeat and follow on operations.) Despite plenty of evidence that showed his tactics were faulty, he stuck to a 'no convoy' policy at the cost of many lives, ships, and cargo.
              Excellent points RK!

              Regarding Drumbeat, the problem boiled down to one problem: not enough a-sub craft to go around. So the US could keep all ships in port, or it could send them off and hope that 80 percent or so got through. Shortly after the war King said the problem was that in late 1941/early 1942, the idea was to invade France in 1942 or 43. Landing craft, BBs, transport ships and carriers were the priority. Then, in June-July, when ROUNDUP (OVERLORD) was tanked in favor of GYMNAST (TORCH), the US went back to producing escort vessels like CVEs and destroyers. Of course, the US could not produce these ships on short notice, so the escort problem remained insufferable for some time to come.

              King was certainly wrong in some areas - he wanted to invade Formosa rather than Luzon, and he thought Yamamoto would strike south, near Australia, rather than at Midway in June 1942. But he did seize a bloody but decisive initiative at Guadalcanal in August 1942, and kept the drive alive until there were enough resources to go around.

              Cheers,
              Jon
              "There are only two professions in the world in which the amateur excels the professional. One, military strategy, and, two, prostitution."
              -- Maj. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

              (Avatar: Commodore Edwin Ward Moore, Republic of Texas Navy)

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Andy H View Post
                Hi Jon

                Whilst one cannot forget the affect of Mahan, I think it important that a relative unknown (least famous certainly) be mentioned, and that person is Sir Julian Corbett. In the RN 'Jacky Fisher' is rightly remembered but without Corbett, I doubt Fisher would have achieved as much.

                Regards
                I'm going to have to look up Sir Julian. Thanks for shining a light on him - Fisher is a lion of the ocean, of course, but he must have had many less-known men making him famous.

                A good friend of mine jokes about the Massie book "Dreadnought" as subtitled, "The Churchill-Fisher Love Story."
                "There are only two professions in the world in which the amateur excels the professional. One, military strategy, and, two, prostitution."
                -- Maj. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

                (Avatar: Commodore Edwin Ward Moore, Republic of Texas Navy)

                Comment


                • #9
                  King also happened to be an Anglophobe of the first order. I'm going to have to think on this. Excellent question; Jon.

                  One admiral I'd nominate is Charle "Skip" Lockwood; ComSubPac. Just look what the US subs did to Japan in the war. Doenitz had to be jealous.
                  Last edited by RichardS; 21 Aug 12, 15:52. Reason: Meh; got the name wrong.
                  Eagles may fly; but weasels aren't sucked into jet engines!

                  "I'm not expendable; I'm not stupid and I'm not going." - Kerr Avon, Blake's 7

                  What didn't kill us; didn't make us smarter.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Roadkiller View Post
                    Sorry John, but this would be the same King who led the USN through arguably the greatest defeat in its' history? (I am talking about the disaster started by the Kreigsmarine's Operation Drumbeat and follow on operations.) Despite plenty of evidence that showed his tactics were faulty, he stuck to a 'no convoy' policy at the cost of many lives, ships, and cargo.

                    Also, as pointed out, the "what sort of admiral" question arises"

                    I don't think ABC was a "strategic" admiral until he became First Sea Lord in 1943. Prior to that he was an "operational" admiral in command of the Med, and even at 'tactical' admiral leading his fleet at sea in battles like Cape Matapan.

                    I'd agree that Doenitz was pretty much always at the strategic level, as the force he led through most of the war (U-boats) was the major striking arm of the Kreigsmarine.

                    Tactics are not beneath admirals, witness "Tenacious" Tenaka and his battles around Guadalcanal.
                    Point on the early war Art, but... he learnt and the results are in the rest of the story. He left command of the fleets to the local commanders and that is one thing many Staff have trouble doing.
                    "Ask not what your country can do for you"

                    Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

                    you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by RichardS View Post
                      King also happened to be an Anglophobe of the first order. I'm going to have to think on this. Excellent question; Jon.

                      One admiral I'd nominate is Charle "Skip" Lockwood; ComSubPac. Just look what the US subs did to Japan in the war. Doenitz had to be jealous.
                      If I remember correctly (couple of years since I read on this subject) King wasn't an 'Anglophobe' as such but rather didn't like anything that wasn't under his command and if there was no likely hood of it being placed ubder his command even more so. He didn't like Americans he didn't command and since it was highly unlikely he would be given the Royal Navy to command well theres was no hope for them.
                      Cymru am Byth

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by RichardS View Post
                        King also happened to be an Anglophobe of the first order. I'm going to have to think on this. Excellent question; Jon.

                        One admiral I'd nominate is Charle "Skip" Lockwood; ComSubPac. Just look what the US subs did to Japan in the war. Doenitz had to be jealous.
                        Under satement Richard. I won't bother with the details which I'm sure you know. Without the US Sub fleet...
                        "Ask not what your country can do for you"

                        Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

                        you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Without quibbling on what constitutes a "best admiral", I have to pick Nimitz hands down.
                          The only mistake he made that I can think of offhand would be insisting on the go-ahead for the invasion of Peleliu. And even that, to a large extent, was just a case of bad timing.

                          Oh yeah. Honourable mention goes to Lockwood.
                          Scientists have announced they've discovered a cure for apathy. However no one has shown the slightest bit of interest !!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I refuse to judge a WWII Admiral with what is public knowledge today.

                            That said, Admirals King, Nimitz, Halsey, Lockwood, and many others did a fine job.

                            Many Captains, Commanders, LT's, jg's and enlisted brought glory (if that's the right word) to the Admiral they worked for.

                            Try to put yourself in a 1942-1943 state of mind when ya ask or answer this question.
                            Skip

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The forgotten Admiral of WW2

                              Admiral Ramsay- Dunkirk/Torch/Husky/Neptune

                              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bertram_Ramsay

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