Navy Celebrated During Armed Forces Week
The Texas Veterans Land Board (VLB) salutes our friends in the U.S. Navy during Armed Forces Week. We are so grateful for our Seamen who keep the oceans free and safe.
In Fredericksburg, Texas, you can find a wonderful museum, the National Museum of the Pacific War. How and why, you might ask, did a museum dedicated to the actions in the Pacific Ocean during World War II end up in a landlocked Texas town? The answer is Chester W. Nimitz, who would become one of the greatest Navy Veteran sons of Texas.
Chester Nimitz was born into a German American family who operated a hotel in Fredericksburg that served people traveling to and from the frontier in the late 1800s. The hotel was very successful, and today serves as the first building of the National Museum of the Pacific War, right on Main Street.
Nimitz worked at the hotel, rising each morning at 5:30 am to stoke fires in rooms and then headed to school at 9 am, returning after 4 pm to perform chores and then becoming the night clerk after 9 pm. One group of visitors was three soldiers, who excited Nimitz’ imagination, and he plied them with questions. They told him of a place called West Point, where young officers learned their military craft, and he was riveted.
He immediately sought out his Congressman, James Slayden from San Antonio, and requested an appointment to West Point. Unfortunately for Nimitz, San Antonio had a large number of military families who sought West Point appointments for their sons, so Slayden didn’t have any appointments left to the storied Army officer college. However, he had one appointment left at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Nimitz had never heard of the Naval Academy either, but Slayden informed him about it and Nimitz decided he would like to attend.
There was one catch. Since there was only one appointment available, and multiple young men in his district sought it, Slayden was hosting an aptitude test six months later to find the best candidate. The test would include academic subjects such as plane geometry and trigonometry. Since Nimitz was just a high school junior at the time, he had not taken classes in those subjects. Still Nimitz was very confident in his academic abilities and his headmaster took on the project of tutoring the boy in advanced math.
Nimitz began waking at 3 am, so he could study from 3–5 am, then complete his work at the hotel before school. He kept this grueling schedule through the test, which he aced, and all throughout his collegiate career at the Naval Academy. He graduated 7th in his class of 117, and then became the first man in his class to earn a command.
Nimitz served honorably in WWI and continued his service afterwards. Ten days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Rear Admiral Nimitz was named Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. He spent the rest of the war in the Pacific, masterminding the great American Naval victory at Midway and the “island-hopping” campaign, designed in conjunction with Army General Douglas MacArthur.
His actions contributed to the surrender of the Japanese in August 1945.
Despite his enmity, upon his death, the Japanese people sent donations to his foundation to build a Japanese garden at the museum named after him. They respected him greatly, as a naval warrior and as a man. If you visit the National Museum of the Pacific War today, you can visit the beautiful Japanese garden, as well as the original Nimitz museum, housed inside his grandfather’s hotel right on the Strip. The Museum recently became a Smithsonian affiliate, one of only forty sites so honored in the nation in 2020. The Museum honors Nimitz, all those who fought in the Pacific, and by inference, all Naval heroes.
The VLB thanks all of our naval warriors, regardless of when you served. We appreciate you and your sacrifices for our country.
The VLB is happy to provide any needed help for these American heroes. The mission for the VLB is “to ensure that we offer the very best package of Veterans benefits in the country and those of us who work for the VLB strive to meet those goals every day. For more than 70 years, we have had the honor to serve Veterans, Military Members and their families in Texas, and we look forward to keeping that promise in the years to come.” Call 1–800–252–8387, email VLBinfo@glo.texas.gov, or visit vlb.texas.gov to see the different benefits available.
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