Henderson Officials Hope to Exonerate, Honor WWII Hero

Published 05/26 2014 06:15PM

Updated 05/26 2014 06:33PM

Admiral Husband Kimmel, a Henderson native, was in charge of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Following the bombings by the Japanese, his career would be tarnished. However, a group in in Henderson is working to clear his name and immortalize it at the same time.

On the courthouse lawn Monday morning, there were 4,681 simple, white crosses. Each one of them has a name and a flag. One doesn't stand out from the other. Perhaps it should though, especially the cross bearing the story of Henderson's true, native son.

"He never bowed his head," said City Commissioner Tom Davis. "Admiral Husband Kimmel was a four star admiral no matter what."

Memorial Day brings pause to celebrate a legacy but on this Memorial Day, they're trying to repair one.

"In one of histories greatest blunders, two men were quickly singled out as being derelict in their duties. Lt. General Walter Short and Henderson's native son, Admiral Husband Kimmel," said Ken Christopher of the Henderson War Memorial Foundation.

It was a day that will live in infamy.

Four-Star Admiral Husband Kimmel watched as the Japanese 'woke up a sleeping giant' by relentlessly bombing Pearl Harbor. More than 2400 Americans died that day. As a result of the review following the tragedy, Admiral Kimmel became the much-maligned scapegoat. He was demoted to the rank Two-Star Rear Admiral. Several decades later, another review of the tragedy determined Admiral Kimmel was wrongly accused. The failures should have been shared by many top military leaders in Washington, Christopher said.

"From the son of Admiral Kimmel and now to his grandsons, they have been working their entire lives to get this stain removed from Admiral Kimmel's reputation," Christopher said.

"There is a plaque for him on one of the streets here but that is so small compared to the service that a four-star admiral gave to this country," Davis said.

He's Henderson's native son so perhaps it's fitting Admiral Kimmel's home town and his home county both contributed $20,000 to help fund a statue that will be built in Kimmel's honor. The statue, which is expected to cost $150,000, will also be funded through donations. Christopher said he's confident it will be fully funded and hopes to have it dedicated in 2016, marking 75 years since the bombings at Pearl Harbor.

If only Kimmel were alive to see it.

"He's probably the person from Henderson with the most international renown of any native son," Christopher said. "It's only right that we would work to restore his reputation." 

The group is still working on having Admiral Kimmel's rank of Four-Star Admiral restored as well, especially because Congress exonerated him in 1999. Such exoneration would have to come from the President, Christopher said.

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