Chester W. Nimitz Quotes That Make History Feel Palpable

, Staff Writer
Updated February 16, 2022
Portrait of Chester W. Nimitz with quote
    Portrait of Chester W. Nimitz with quote
    Bettmann / Bettmann / Getty Images editorial
    Used under Getty Images editorial license

War hero, submarine expert, fleet admiral: These are just some of the titles that Chester W. Nimitz held throughout his illustrious career. Most notably, Nimitz was the commander of the U.S. Pacific fleet during World War II and led the U.S. to naval victories in the Pacific. While he was a man of action, Nimitz was also a man of historically significant words.

Chester W. Nimitz Historical Quotes

Throughout his career, Chester W. Nimitz (1885-1966) oversaw numerous naval battles and even had a supercarrier ship — the USS Nimitz — named after him. Furthermore, he was hand-picked by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to be the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet just ten days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Nimitz was instrumental in the U.S. victory against Japan. In between naval battles, Nimitz made some memorable remarks about his experiences.

  • “The sea – like life itself – is a stern taskmaster. The best way to get along with either is to learn all you can, then do your best and don't worry – especially about things over which you have no control.” - Remarks at U.S.S. Commissioning Ceremony

  • “The U.S.'s major strength factor and weapon is its economy. If you cripple it, you cripple the military.” - quoted in According to Plan in TIME magazine (March 13, 1950)

  • “God grant me the courage not to give up what I think is right even though I think it is hopeless.” - variant of the Serenity Prayer in The Armed Forces Prayer Book

  • “Hindsight is notably cleverer than foresight.”- quoted in The Magnificent Mitscher

  • “We shall never forget that it was our submarines that held the lines against the enemy while our fleets replaced losses and repaired wounds.” - quoted in Historic Ship Exhibits in the United States

  • “A ship is always referred to as ‘she’ because it costs so much to keep her in paint and powder.” - Comments to the Society of Sponsors, U.S. Navy (February 13, 1940)


Quotes About Pearl Harbor and War With Japan

Nimitz helped lead the U.S. to victory against Japan during World War II and recounted his experiences at sea in numerous speeches, interviews and other statements.

  • “Pearl Harbor has now been partially avenged. Vengeance will not be complete until Japanese sea power has been reduced to impotence. We have made substantial progress in that direction. Perhaps we will be forgiven if we claim we are about midway to our objective!” - After the Battle of Midway, CINCPAC Communiqué no. 3 (June 6, 1942)

  • “On board all vessels at sea and in port, and at our many island bases in the Pacific, there is rejoicing and thanksgiving. The long and bitter struggle, which Japan started so treacherously on the 7th of December 1941, is at an end.” - Statement broadcast to the United States and the Pacific Fleet (September 2, 1945)

  • “United we fought and united we prevail.” - Statement broadcast to the United States and the Pacific Fleet (September 2, 1945)

  • “Today all freedom-loving peoples of the world rejoice in the victory and feel pride in the accomplishments of our combined forces. We also pay tribute to those who defended our freedom at the cost of their lives.” - Statement broadcast to the United States and the Pacific Fleet (September 2, 1945)

  • “They fought together as brothers in arms; they died together and now they sleep side by side. To them we have a solemn obligation — the obligation to ensure that their sacrifice will help to make this a better and safer world in which to live.” - Statement broadcast to the United States and the Pacific Fleet (September 2, 1945)

  • “The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military standpoint, in the defeat of Japan.” - quoted in The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb

  • “Is the proposed operation likely to succeed? What might be the consequences of failure? Is it in the realm of practicability in terms of matériel and supplies?” - quoted in LIFE magazine (July 10, 1944)

  • “Among the Americans serving on Iwo island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.” - Statement after the Battle of Iwo Jima (c. March-May 1945)


Quotes From Employment of Naval Forces

In Employment of Naval Forces, Nimitz recorded his thoughts and experiences based on his naval career for all to see in order to preserve a pivotal moment in history and those who made it possible.

  • “Our present control of the sea is so absolute that it is sometimes taken for granted.”

  • “The basic objectives and principles of war do not change. The final objective in war is the destruction of the enemy's capacity and will to fight, and thereby force him to accept the imposition of the victor's will.”

  • “Naval forces are able, without resorting to diplomatic channels, to establish offshore anywhere in the world, air fields completely equipped with machine shops, ammunition dumps, tank farms, warehouses, together with quarters and all types of accommodations for personnel.”


Words That Made History

These politicians held prominent positions during some of the most pivotal and fascinating events in American history, and their words live on as a testament to their contributions to these historic events.