Walter R. Borneman
The Admirals

Establishing the US as a Superpower

William D. Leahy, William F. Halsey Jr., Chester W. Nimitz, and Ernest J. King, were instrumental in the Allied victory and the establishment of the United States as a superpower in the post-war era. Borneman traces the lives of these men from their boyhoods, through long and eventful naval careers. It gives a good overview of the different personalities and how they dealt with the war.

Borneman spends the first part of his book in setting up the main characters before the start of World War II. He also addresses the “battleships versus carriers” discussion and shows that of all of the future five star admirals, it was Leahy who clung to the power of the battleships the longest. The others already acknowledged the important role carriers would play in the coming war.

When the shooting starts, they have to send for the “sons of bitches.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was able to use his skills as a commander in chief to assign each leader to a position where they could be most effective in leading the U.S. naval forces to victory. William Leahy was appointed as FDR’s military adviser, chief of staff and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Chester Nimitz was assigned the role of commander in chief Pacific, while William Halsey was given command of the Pacific 3rd and 5th Fleets. Ernest King was appointed as the commander in chief of the U.S. fleet and chief of naval operations.

Qualities and Personalities

Borneman’s portrayal of these four naval leaders highlights their unique personalities and differences, but also emphasizes their shared values and ethics that they had learned at the Naval Academy. Despite their contrasting personalities, they all possessed strong leadership skills and the ability to inspire and motivate those around them.

Modern-day Relevance

While reading, I wondered now and then how these men would have fared in today’s world: King was often seen drinking, Halsey had many infractions. From all four five-stars perhaps only Nimitz would not have been cancelled or would fall victim to a #metoo.

  • Walter R. Bornemann

    The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King–The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea

    ISBN: 9780316097833 | Pages: 608 pages | Publication date: May 7, 2013

    Buy on Amazon

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