Manning Kimmel believes his grandfather was one of the last two casualties of Pearl Harbor.
Husband Kimmel was commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet when the Japanese launched a surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941. Manning, who lives in Rock Hill, believes both his grandfather and the Army's Hawaiian commander have been unfairly blamed for the disaster.
The Kimmel family has battled for almost 70 years to clear Husband's name. Today, Manning and a Florida cousin, Thomas Kimmel, continue the fight.
The Japanese air attack killed more than 2,400 U.S. servicemen, decimated the fleet and put most of the U.S. battleships, at least temporarily, out of action. It also sent shock waves through a nation.
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In a speech to Congress the next day, President Franklin Roosevelt predicted Dec. 7 would be "a date which will live in infamy."
Manning Kimmel, managing partner of the company that owns Rock Hill radio station WRHI, and his cousin say Pearl Harbor happened because Army and Navy commanders in Washington did not forward critical intelligence to their grandfather and to Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short, the Army's Hawaiian commander.
As ceremonies today mark the 70th anniversary of the attack, the Kimmels continue a fight their grandfather started within six weeks after the attack. That's when the first of many investigations were launched into why Pearl Harbor happened.
They want Husband Kimmel's rank restored. As commander of the Pacific and U.S fleets, he was a four-star admiral. But he was relieved of command 10 days after the attack and retired in March 1942 as a two-star admiral, his name under a national cloud of suspicion.
His grandsons say Kimmel, who died in 1968, and Short, who died in 1949, are the last two casualties of Pearl Harbor. Many others agree with them, from those who served with Kimmel to historians who have studied the battle in great detail.
But others, while agreeing that several investigations determined many people bear responsibility for the attack, say Kimmel and Short were the commanders in charge. The two failed because they were unprepared, and they are accountable for their actions, or inactions.
Manning and Thomas Kimmel see it simply as a manner of honor - an injustice to one person in uniform is an injustice to all in uniform. For several years, they have pushed the Defense Department, Congress and several presidents to clear Husband's name.
"I asked my father once why this was so important," said Manning Kimmel, 63. "My dad looked at me, daggers coming out his eyes, and said, 'To a military man, honor is above life itself. What they did to your grandfather was worse than if he had been killed.'"
A family of soldiers
To his brothers and sisters he was "Hubby."
To his closest friends, he was "Kim."
But to Manning and Thomas, he was just grandfather, the loveable man in the cardigan sweaters and Tam o'Shanter hats. The man who filled trash can after trash can with errant golf balls from a golf course adjacent to his house.
Husband is a family name, traced to Herman Husband, a man of great conviction. Herman felt his fellow North Carolina farmers were being taken advantage of by the ruling British. He helped them form the "Regulators" who fought at the 1771 battle of Alamance County.
His father, Marius Manning, fought on both sides during the Civil War, briefly for the Yankees at Bull Run and then for the Confederacy.
Husband had hoped to follow in his father's footsteps and attend West Point. No appointments were open that year, so Husband went to the Naval Academy instead.
His demeanor was described as very direct, even brusque and undiplomatic in his approach to problems, according to a letter written by Gen. George Marshall, the Army's chief of staff from 1939 to 1945.
But his superiors and colleagues saw promise.
His intelligence officer, Lt. Commander Edward T. Layton, said Kimmel had "little tolerance for laziness or indecision. He had an infectious warm smile when pleased by somebody and a frosty demeanor if displeased."
Adm. William V. Pratt, chief of naval operations, noted in April 1933 that Kimmel was a "humdinger ... I like him because he says what he thinks, never fools you and his judgment is excellent." He predicted Kimmel would go far.
He was also a harsh taskmaster, requiring off-duty officers at Pearl Harbor to wear neckties and fedora-style hats, which became known as Kimmels. Sailors were required to wear white uniforms while doing the dingiest of work.
Manning and Thomas describe a caring grandfather.
When Manning and his family visited Husband's Groton, Conn., home, Manning had to sleep on the downstairs sofa bed. He remembers his grandfather shuffling through the house at 5 a.m. It was as if he was still on watch, checking to make sure everything was OK, Manning said.
What Manning and Thomas remember most is how their grandfather taught them about resolve, about integrity, and to never give up in the search for the truth.
"The concept of honor ranked high, the greatest lesson in life," said Thomas, whose website, pearlharbor911attacks.com, is dedicated to his grandfather.
As children, they were too young to join the discussions in the admiral's war room. Each visit, Manning said, had a pattern. It wasn't long after arrival that Husband and his son, Ned, went to the "war room" to talk about Pearl Harbor.
The war room was filled with 39 volumes of congressional hearings on the attacks. Husband eventually gave the volumes to Ned, Manning's father, in a laundry sack.
When Ned died in 2005, the 39 volumes - plus lots more - fell to Manning. Manning said he fights to honor not only his grandfather, but his father as well.
Years of reviews
The fight to clear Husband's name has included 10 different formal reviews and countless critiques in books and articles.
It began 39 days after the attack, when a presidential commission under Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts ruled that Kimmel and Short were derelict in their duties.
In 1944, a Naval Court of Inquiry, a review by Kimmel's peers during which he could question witnesses, found no errors in judgment by Kimmel. But Adm. Earnest J. King, chief of naval operations, overturned the board's findings.
The most recent review came in 1995, after the Kimmel and Short families asked for what they hoped would be a final review. At the urging of U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., the Defense Department reviewed the actions of Kimmel and Short.
The review, referred to as the Dorn report, said "responsibility for the Pearl Harbor disaster should not fall solely on the shoulders of Admiral Kimmel and General Short; it should be broadly shared."
The report also said there was miscommunication, limited coordination and a lack of clarification from higher up.
At issue was whether officials in Washington, the Navy and the Army shared with Kimmel and Short key intelligence that was gleaned from coded Japanese messages. Kimmel and Short said they did not receive critical intelligence. Their superiors said they got the information they needed.
Kimmel, testifying before a 1946 joint House-Senate inquiry committee, said had he got such information "the intercepted messages would have altered the events of December 7 . . . I would have gone to sea with the fleet and endeavored to keep it in an intercepting position at sea."
But the Dorn report didn't give the Kimmel and Short families what they wanted. It said both men were culpable.
Frederick Bourke, one of the report's authors, said, "I think almost everyone would agree that responsibility can be broadly shared."
But that doesn't mean Kimmel and Short were blameless, he said when the report was released. "Their jobs as commanders were to anticipate the unexpected. And they failed to do that."
In 1999, the Kimmels came the closest to getting what they wanted. With help from Thurmond, a defense authorization bill included a provision that the ranks of Kimmel and Short be restored. Fifty-two senators voted in favor. President Clinton signed the bill, but took no action regarding the ranks of Kimmel and Short.
Confident of the verdict
Manning Kimmel leaned forward in the chair at his Rock Hill office. On one wall was a portrait of Husband Kimmel along with framed magazine covers featuring his grandfather. One is from the Look magazine issue before the attack. The other is the Time magazine cover after the attack.
Reaching down, Manning put his hand about an inch off the floor.
"On the list of world priorities this is a zero," he said of the fight to restore Husband Kimmel's honor. "But there comes a time when you need to correct this stuff."
He has asked Vice President Joe Biden, who had supported the family's effort as a Delaware senator, for help. He has not heard back from Biden. Manning had hoped the 70th anniversary would call attention to Husband's plight and cause the correction of what the family considers a wrong.
At Pearl Harbor this week, the 70th anniversary program includes a discussion on Kimmel and Short. The National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas, includes a photo of Admiral Chester Nimitz, who succeeded Kimmel as commander-in-chief of the Pacific fleet.
Underneath photos of Nimitz and Kimmel is Nimitz's assessment of the attack - "It could have happened to anybody."
Robert Love, a history professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, said in an email to The Herald that the posthumous efforts to restore Husband Kimmel's rank are misguided.
He said Husband Kimmel was never reduced in rank. Between the world wars, any two- or three-star rear admiral who assumed a four-star position received a temporary promotion. When Kimmel was relieved of his duties as commander-in-chief in the Pacific, the law required he revert back to two-star rank.
Manning and Thomas Kimmel, however, are undeterred. Manning said he hopes for one more step - a meeting with the president.
So far, he has received letters from two presidents praising Husband's service
In 1991, an aide to President George H.W. Bush wrote: "...There is no question that the Admiral was a loyal, dedicated, patriotic American who was professionally competent and who served his country to the best of his ability..."
In 1994, President Clinton wrote: "Your grandfather was without question a patriotic American who served our country with bravery and with dedication..."
But neither president took action. They also didn't explain why.
This time Manning Kimmel does not want another letter. He wants a face-to-face meeting. But he understands that's not likely to happen.
As for Husband Kimmel's legacy, the admiral likely predicted his fate in 1946. He wrote, "history with the perspective of the long tomorrow, will enter the final directive in my case."
He then added, "I'm confident of the verdict."