Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseAdmiral Ernest Joseph King hated the media. He hated incompetent officers. He also hated paperwork, Englishmen, and the media. As a matter of fact, one of his six daughters said that King was "the most even-tempered man in the Navy. He is always in a rage."
ww2dbaseKing was born in Lorain, Ohio, in 1878 to a railroad repair shop foreman. He graduated from Annapolis Naval Academy in 1901, fourth in his class, with combat experience from the Spanish-American War in 1898. In 1917, he was a staff officer of the US Atlantic Fleet working closely with the Royal Navy, where he would pick up his distaste for the English, particularly the aristocratic type, which the Royal Navy was in abundance of. At the end of WW1, King would hold the rank of captain, and earned a Navy Cross.
ww2dbaseKing was a famed officer with expertise in gunnery and submarine warfare, but he knew aviation was the future of naval warfare. In the late 1920s, King took the opportunity to earn his wings (at the ripe age of 50), and took command of the carrier Lexington; US Navy doctrine at the time required carrier captains to also qualify as a member of the air crew, hence King's need to qualify as a pilot. As the skipper of an aircraft carrier, King was able to study aviation closely. He launched a mock attack against Pearl Harbor by sending his planes, dropping sacks of flour, demonstrating the port's weakness against a undetected attack from the air. Despite the mock attack being "successful", the warning fell on deaf ears. King earned flag rank in 1932, and became chief of the naval bureau in 1933. He was promoted vice admiral in 1936, given command of all carriers and aircraft in the fleet in 1938. He became a full admiral early 1941, as the commander of the recently reorganized Atlantic Fleet. Ironically, he once again had to work closely with the British. However, King was able to seprate his personal distaste of the British and the overall goal of the alliance, and was effective in partnering in operations with the Royal Navy. In Aug 1941, President Roosevelt met with Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Newfoundland, and the president chose King's flagship USS Augusta as his transport, given King the chance to become one of the president's naval advisors during the discussions. King's careful analysis of current situations made an impression on Roosevelt.
ww2dbaseWhen the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor, King would be lucky enough to be in the Atlantic. He returned to Washington very quickly, and adviced Roosevelt and Knox (Secretary of the Navy). He was soon named the Commander-in-Chief of the US Fleet. Although a hard-working and effective admiral, King was blamed for early Allied merchant shipping losses in the Atlantic. King's personal philosophy toward convoy escort was that the US Navy had too few ships that could be spared to escort civilian shipping. The direct result was that German U-Boats were able to attack cargo ships of their choosing without being contested.
ww2dbaseSource: The Pacific Campaign
Last Major Revision: Jun 2005
Ernest King Interactive Map
Ernest King Timeline
|20 Dec 1941
|US Navy Admiral Ernest King was relieved of command from the Atlantic Fleet and was promoted to the Commander-in-Chief of US Fleets.
|30 Dec 1941
|Ernest King was officially sworn in as the Commander-in-Chief of US Fleet.
|2 Jan 1942
|Ernest King ordered Chester Nimitz to plan a raid against Japanese positions in the Gilbert Islands and the Marshall Islands in order to establish an offensive momentum in the Pacific War.
|21 Feb 1942
|US Navy Admiral Ernest King presented plans to US President Franklin Roosevelt for conducting the war in the South Pacific for the following 18 months.
|5 Mar 1942
|US Navy Admiral Ernest King said to US President Franklin Roosevelt "we cannot in honor let Australia and New Zealand down".
|9 Mar 1942
|US Navy Admiral Ernest King was appointed Chief of Naval Operations; he was to maintain his responsibility as the Commander-in-Chief (CominCh) of the US Navy.
|25 Mar 1942
|US Navy Admiral King ordered a base to be established at Efate, New Hebrides.
|14 May 1942
|Admiral Ernest King finally agreed to allow Vice Admiral Adolphus Andrews to organize cutters and other small armed vessels to protect shipping on the US Atlantic coast.
|17 May 1942
|From Washington DC, United States, Ernest King sent Chester Nimitz a message noting that King was now in agreement with the theory that Midway Atoll was likely one of the primary targets in the upcoming Japanese offensive. Later in the day, King messaged Harold Stark in London, England, United Kingdom, ordering him to relay the explanation for the US Navy removing two carriers from the South Pacific to British liaison officers. Also on this day, the US Office of Naval Intelligence also voiced its agreement in a report to King that the Japanese Navy code name AF was likely Midway Atoll.
|21 Oct 1942
|US Navy Admiral Ernest King notified commanders in the Pacific area commanders that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had agreed to strengthen the air forces in the South Pacific by 1 Jan 1943.
|18 Dec 1943
|US Chief of Naval Operations Ernest King decreed that helicopter training would be carried out at Floyd Bennett Field, New York, United States by the US Coast Guard.
|17 Dec 1944
|Ernest King was promoted to the rank of fleet admiral.
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Thomas Dodd, late 1945