Pearl Harbor thrust Nimitz into spotlight

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Native son who commanded in Pacific was example of leadership to the nation

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The big news in Fredericksburg the week of Dec. 4, 1941 was that new traffic lights were being added to the city’s electric grid. The sheep and goat raisers were prepping for their convention in Del Rio, and the reading and sewing clubs were holding their monthly meetings.

But the morning of Dec. 7 changed everything for this sleepy hamlet. With Japan’s act of war, President Roosevelt responded with his own declaration of war the following day. Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. as they sought to take advantage of what they thought was a weakened country.

Information was not instantaneous in those days, so four days after the attacks, the Fredericksburg Standard had a list of all who were believed to have been stationed in the Pacific at that time.

Once hometown hero Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was named to command the Pacific fleet, writers flocked here from Time Magazine and newspapers throughout the Southwest to learn about the native son’s family history.

An editorial in the Standard’s Dec. 11 edition stated: the turn of events in the Pacific “had made a former Fredericksburg lad, now very, very much a man, one of the most important figures in the world and one upon whose very able shoulders rests a great portion of the task of keeping the flag of the United States riding high over the waves of a boiling ocean.

“This man, who many around here still know as ‘Ches,’ has been placed in command of the U.S. Fleet in the Pacific Ocean — a position bereft with danger and calling for the utmost in acumen and action.

“Admiral Nimitz’s appointment to this high position is a credit to Fredericksburg, the Hill Country, Texas and the entire nation. It goes without saying that the people of his native city are proud of him and that if their prayers, and their sons who will fight beside him in the Pacific, can in any measure assist him in his task, he shall become one of this nation’s sea immortals.”

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