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Memories of Thomas K. Kimmel (Sailor, rest your oars!)

June 1944 finds Lt. Cmdr Thomas K. Kimmel with his wife Nancy seated with Lt. Cmdr John Hyde and his wife at the commissioning party for the USS Bergall.

Memories from Thomas Kimmel, Jr.

"Prior to the Bergall, my father made five war patrols aboard the S-40 and two patrols on the USS BALAO.

On June 12, 1944, he was assigned as the Executive Officer for the newly commissioned USS Bergall.   On it’s way to the Panama Canal the Bergall was ordered to pick up downed Army aviators in the Caribbean Ocean.   One of the aviators was, then, 35 year old, Herbert Liebman.   Harold’s pants were destroyed in the ditching of their plane and (being a large man himself) found that Lieut.-Comdr. Thomas K. Kimmel was about the same size and my father loaned Herbert a pair.   On March 14, 1999, Bill Thomas ( an editor for the Memphis Tn. Newspaper ‘The Commercial Appeal’) printed an article entitled ‘It’s as if submarine, WWII crew vaporize after rescue’ with the help of Herbert.   Herbert, now 91 years young was trying to find my father to thank him for loaning the pants and rescuing him and his fellow aviators.   My father had passed away the year before, but mother, Nancy, remembered my father telling the story!   The article ended with Herbert’s quote, “All I want to know is what happened (to Bergall) after I got off in Panama.”

Here is what my review revealed.

My grandfather, Admiral Husband Kimmel, writing in a family history, reported that my father, Captain Thomas K. Kimmel, USN (ret. -deceased), served aboard Bergall. ...”from 4 June 1944 to 9 November 1944 .... Off the coast of Annam in the vicinity of Camranh Bay she sank one tanker and two cargo ships. . . , and retained command until 20 March 1948. " It is not clear to me if my father was aboard Bergall after November 9, 1944 until November 17, 1945.

Thomas K. Kimmel, Jr.


A special timeline has been found for his career... 

This article was in the 1961 Med Cruise Book of the USS Newport News of which Captain Kimmel was the Commanding Officer at the time.

(This timeline is made possible by the efforts of Jim Sollee, crew member 1960 - 64, 1st Division - Thank you, Jim)

Thomas Kincaid Kimmel was born in Annapolis, Maryland, on September 29, 1914, son of rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, USN, retired and Mrs. Dorothy Kincaid Kimmel.   He attended Western high school, Washington, D. C., prior to his appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, from the state of Texas, in 1932.   As a Midshipman, he played football for two years, and class water polo, and was a member of the plebe crew.   Graduated and commissioned Ensign on June 4, 1936, he subsequently advanced in rank, attaining that of Captain, to date from January 1, 1955.

Following graduation from the Naval Academy in 1936, he joined the U.S. S. Idaho, and in January 1939 was detached for submarine training at the Submarine Base, New London, Connecticut.   Completing his instruction in June 1939, he joined the USS S-40 the next month
operating out of the Philippines, and was serving in that submarine when the United States entered World War II, December 8th 1941.   


Service on the S-40

During the summer of 1940, however hostilities on the Asiatic mainland brought a change in her schedule and she conducted increasingly extended "familiarization" cruises among the Philippine Islands and in adjacent waters.   With 1941, joint Army-Navy exercises were conducted at Corregidor, and patrols off likely invasion beaches were stepped up.   On 8 December, 7 December east of the International Date Line, S-40 was anchored off Sangley Point alongside the tender Canopus.   With the receipt of the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, she was ordered out on patrol.   Underway on the 9th, she anchored off Boaya Point, Veradero Bay, on the 10th, and, with a lookout stationed on a nearby hill, watched the approaches to the Verde Island passage between Mindoro and Luzon.   On the 12th, she shifted to an area off Batangas, and, on the 14th, returned to Veradero Bay.   On the 18th, she was back at Manila, only to depart again on the 19th to patrol between Botolan Point and Subic Bay.   On the 21st, she headed north to intercept a Japanese force reportedly bound for the Lingayen area.

Early on the 23d, S-40 sighted the enemy; fired four torpedoes, unsuccessfully, at a transport, then, for much of the remainder of the day, remained submerged, avoiding depth charges dropped by the Japanese screening forces.   After dark, she anchored in Agno Bay; made temporary repairs to her hull, engines, pumping system, and port air compressor; then patrolled off Bolinao.   On the 29th, she was ordered to head south.   Manila and Cavite had become untenable. 

On the 30th, three days before Manila and Cavite fell, S-40 departed Luzon and pointed her bow toward the Netherlands East Indies.   By midnight on 8 January 1942, she was off Makassar, whence she was ordered to Balikpapan for repairs, fuel, and supplies.    There, enemy air attacks increased, but repairs were accomplished, fuel was taken on, and limited supplies were received.   On the 14th, she took up patrol duties on the North Wateher Mangkalihat line.   By the 19th her food supplies were again low, but she continued her efforts to impede the Japanese envelopment of the East Indies.   On the 20th, she took up patrol off Balikpapan.  On the 25th, she was ordered back to Makassar.   Thence, on the 28th, she headed for Surabaya to join the ABl)A forces operating from that still Allied base.

She arrived at Surabaya on the north coast of Java on 2 February, her crew frustrated by their attempts to intercept enemy shipping, but with information on tides, currents, navigational aids, and Japanese tactics.   Nine days later, she got underway to patrol the northern approaches to Makassar City and intercept Japanese reinforcements expected to move through Makassar Strait and the Flores Sea.   Arriving on the 15th she patrolled initially between De Bril bank and the reefs to the south, then shifted to other areas. Her hunting remained unsuccessful.

By the 26th, she was again in need of repairs and was ordered to Exmouth Gulf on the Western Australia coast.   There she took on needed supplies and continued on to Fremantle.   On 6 March, she sighted a Japanese submarine, but was able neither to attack nor to transmit a message concerning its presence.

On the 9th, S-40 reached Fremantle. During the next month and a half, she underwent overhaul and shifted her base to Brisbane.   On 4 May, she departed the Queensland coast for her fourth war patrol.   Ordered into the New Britain-New Ireland area, she reconnoitered Deboyne en route and arrived on station on the 16th.   On 3 June, she returned to Brisbane again with information, but still scoreless.

At the end of the month, she was underway again.   Initially assigned to intercept enemy traffic into the Salamaua-Lae area of New Guinea, she was ordered to the Solomons on 2 July to relieve S-S8, which had been forced to vacate her position off Tulagi.   S-40 patrolled between Tulagi and Lunga Roads and off Savo Island fired on a Maru, but did not score; then shifted to the New Georgia-Santa Isabel area to intercept Rabaul shipping.   Failing to directly impede Japanese traffic there, she returned to Australia on 29 July.

On 28 August, S-40 again cleared Moreton Bay and moved north. By 4 September, she was off the Gizo Island anchorage.   Thence, she crossed the Solomon Sea to the D'Entrecasteaux group off Papua to impede the movement of enemy reinforcements into Milne Bay.   Poor weather and mechanical problems inhibited her hunting; and, still scoreless, she returned to Brisbane on 25 September.

Repairs to S-40's deteriorating main motor cables and attempts to correct fuel leaks into the after battery occupied the next three weeks.   Thomas transferred off an on 19 October, she got underway for San Diego and an extensive overhaul.

(Compiled by SUBNET from "Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships," Navy Department; and "UNITED STATES NAVAL SUBMARINE INFORMATION BOOK" -- J. Christley )


Service on the USS Balao

Ordered to the Navy Yard, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, he reported in October 1942 before fitting out duty in the USS Balao.   He joined that submarine as Engineering and Electrical Officer upon her commissioning, February 4, 1943, and followed a six weeks training, proceeded to Brisbane, Australia, and on July 25, 1943, got underway for her first war patrol which ended in September of that year.   


Service on the USS Bergall

In November 1943 he was assigned duty in connection with the fitting out of the USS Bergall at the Electric Boat Company, Groton, Connecticut.   He became Executive Officer and Navigator upon the commissioning a the Bergall on June 12th 1944.

For details of the Bergall's 1st war patrol, please see the memories page and the official patrol log:

Patrol #1
Patrol Log

"For heroic achievement as Executive Officer, Navigator and Assistant Approach Officer of the U.S.S. Bergall during her first war patrol in the Southwest Pacific War Area from September 8 to November 8, 1944", he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V".   The citation continues in part: "Demonstrating outstanding seamanship, Commander Kimmel contributed materially to the sinking of two enemy cargo ships.   Expertly performing his duties as Conning -tower and Fire-control Coordinator, he aided immeasurably in the sinking of one large enemy tanker and, in addition, rendered invaluable assistance to his Commanding Officer in the evaluation of enemy anti-submarine tactics".

In July of 1944 Admiral Kimmel was informed that his eldest son, Commander Manning Kimmel, had been lost outside the coast of Borneo.    Shortly thereafter Lieut.-Comdr. Thomas K. Kimmel was informed that while we were at war he would not be allowed command of a boat and having arrived in Perth, Australia from the USS Bergall's 1st war patrol was detached from the Bergall on November 23, 1944.   He returned to the United States in November 1944 for duty as Officer-in Charge all the Submarine Training Activity, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.   He remained there until September 1945, when he rejoined the USS Bergall , this time as Commanding Officer. 

On 14 August, 1945, Japan surrendered and on 17 September 1945 he assumed command of the USS Bergall which had returned to the states for repairs.   As commander of the Bergall, Captain Kimmel took charge on 17 September, 1945 while in New London.   On December 1, 1945 the Bergall rejoined the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor (COMSUBPAC).    Here the Bergall was assigned the task of bottom mapping areas of the Pacific Ocean contour for future submarine use.   These maps provided the detailed data required for the nuclear boats which run silent and deep and have to rely on accurate maps for depths and the location and contours of underwater mountains and valleys.   Captain Kimmel relinquished his command of the Bergall on 20 March 1948.   Following this command he was assigned as an instructor at the Submarine School, Submarine Base, New London, Connecticut.

In March 1951 he reported as Executive Officer of the USS Fulton and in July 1952 became Commander Submarine Division Eighty-Two.   A year later today reported for duty in the Bureau of Naval Personal, Navy Department, Washington, D.C.   He was a student at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island in the 1956-1957 and in February of 1957 he was assigned as Commander of Submarine Squadron 10.   On 21 April 1961, Captain Kimmel assumed the duties of Commanding Officer of the USS Mississinewa (AO-144), the flagship of the Service Forces of the Sixth Fleet to take her on her fourth Mediterranean Cruise.

In July 1961, Captain Kimmel reported aboard the USS Newport News to assume the duties as Commanding Officer of the heavy cruiser.   Here's a letter from to the crew and family.  
(courtesy of Jim Sollee, crew member 1960 - 64, 1st Division. Thank you, Jim)


USS Newport News CA-148
C/O Fleet Post Office
New York, New York

Dear Folks,

Our ship left Norfolk Virginia, August 3rd 1961 for an extended tour of duty in the Mediterranean Sea.   Although we were a little sad to leave our families and friends, the realization that the USS Newport News was on her way to do a vital job was understood by all hands and it helped soften the hurt of leaving home.

After leaving Norfolk, the ships in the convoy joined up.   Carriers, destroyers, supply ships, submarines and others that could and did make up a force of considerable size. While en route to relieve the many ships, which were in the Sixth Fleet, we engaged in drills and exercises to put a still finer edge on a fighting ship.   You will understand the pride in our ship. We of the Newport New consider our ship the best in the United States Navy.

We arrived in the Mediterranean on 16 August to relieve the USS Little Rock to relieve her Sixth Fleet duties.

We had pride and we knew that we had to keep our high standard above all other ships.   That’s exactly what we did.   We set rigging records while refueling, donated more money to the United Fund Drive then any other ship in CRULANT and we received and honorable certificate from the Greek Red Cross for blood donations.  This means one thing, that the man of the
Newport New are capable of meeting any challenge assigned to them.

Now let’s take a look at a few ports and the scenery we saw: There was Naples, Italy, where many sailors visited Capri, and Pompeii.   Many went to Rome and those who had the ambition climbed 450 steps to the top of St. Peter’s dome.   In Livorno, Italy, the world-famous leaning Tower of Piza captured the eye of many sailors.   Many of the men took leave to visit relatives whom they had never seen.   Some toured the French Alps where many famous skiers have their headquarters.   The ruins in Athens, Greece also captured our fancy and many other sites such as the monuments and historical markings. Yes the memories will remain. They will always be remembered by everyone.   The Smoker held on the fantail, “So You Want To Lead A Band” contest, largest barbecue afloat, the monuments, the Mediterranean storm which caused a considerable amount of damage and the most important part of a sailor’s life, our church services at sea.

The Sixth Fleet is our Main line of Defense in the Mediterranean area.   It serves many functions, among them; promote goodwill, via the President’s people to people program, a first-line of defense and a ready striking force.

The mission of the
Newport New can be stated simply: to engage the enemies of the United States on land, sea and air. But she also has a vital peacetime mission: to act as a roving ambassador of goodwill to the people of the world.

Captain Thomas Kincaid Kimmel


In addition to the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V" for the USS Bergall's 1st war patrol, Captain Kimmel earned the China Service Medal, the American Defense Service Medal (the Fleet Clasp), the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the Philippine Defense Ribbon, and the Distinguished Unit Emblem for duty in the defense of the Philippines while serving in the USS S-40.

Captain Kimmel was married to the former Nancy Stanley Cookson of Kaban Djahe, Sumatra Netherlands East Indies, and they had four children: Thomas K. Kimmel, Jr., Virginia Louise Kimmel, Husband E. Kimmel the II, and William S. Kimmel.



A Family's Proud Navy Tradition, Manning M. Kimmel

Thomas Kimmel’s father, Admiral Husband Kimmel, was in charge of the fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.    As The immediate commanders he and Admiral Short were held responsible for not protecting the fleet from the Japanese destruction.   Although much documentation exists to show that vital information of the pending attack was known and willfully withheld from them, they were  used as scapegoats for the devastation caused by the Japanese sneak attack.

In addition to the brilliant military career of Admiral Kimmel, his son, Edward Ralph Kimmel, was aboard the USS Vixen and the USS Ranger (both in the Atlantic).

In addition, another of his sons, Manning M. Kimmel, was an officer aboard the submarine USS Drum from 11/41-11/42, comprising 3 war patrols of 56, 54, 46 days respectively.   During these patrols the USS Drum sank 6 merchantmen, one seaplane tender and damaged 2 merchantmen.    Manning, aboard the USS Drum, was at the Battle of Midway, 6/42.   

He was then assigned to the USS Raton from 7/43-3/44, serving for 2 war patrols of 17 and 45 days respective, sinking 4 merchantmen, 1 tanker and damaged 2 merchantmen.

From here Lcdr Manning M. Kimmel took command of the USS Robalo from 3/44-7/44.   While on it's third war patrol they sank 1 tanker.   The Robalo departed Fremantle on 22 June 1944 to conduct her third war patrol during WWII in the South China Sea in the vicinity of the Natuna Islands. After traversing Makassar and Balabac Straits, she was to arrive on station about 6 July, and stay there until dark on 2 August 1944.

On 2 July a contact report stated
Robalo had sighted a Fuso-class battleship with air cover and two destroyers for escort in 3°-29'N; 119°-26'E, just east of Borneo.   No other messages were received from Robalo and when she did not return from patrol, she was reported as presumed lost.

The following information was received via the Philippine guerrillas and a U.S. Navy enlisted man who was a prisoner of war at Puerto Princesa Prison Camp, Palawan, P.I.   On 2 August 1944, a note dropped from the window of the prison cell in which survivors from
Robalo were held was picked up by an American soldier in a work detail and given to H.D. Hough, YN2, USN, another prisoner.   On 4 August, Hough contacted Mrs. Trinidad Mendosa, wife of guerilla leader Dr. Mendosa, who furnished further information on the survivors.   From these sources, he put together the following facts: Robalo was sunk 26 July 1944, two miles off the western coast of Palawan Island as a result of an explosion of her After Battery.   Four men swam ashore, an officer and three enlisted men: Samuel L. Tucker, ENS; Floyd G. Laughlin, QM1; Wallace K. Martin, SM3; and Mason C. Poston, EM2. They made their way through the jungles to a small barrio northwest of the Puerto Princesa camp.   They were captured there by Japanese Military Police, and confined in the jail.   They were held for guerilla activities rather than as prisoners of war, it is said. On 15 August 1944, they were evacuated by a Japanese destroyer, and nothing further is known of their destination or whereabouts. They may have been executed by the Japanese or the destroyer may have been sunk.   At any rate, they were never recovered and their note stated that there were no other survivors.   It is doubted that a battery explosion could be sufficiently violent to cause the sinking of the boat; more likely Robalo struck an enemy mine.

Manning Kimmel was participant and witness to the sinking of 13 enemy ships.


Clearing his father's name

Although Thomas had made repeated efforts to clear the name of his father, it wasn’t until after Thomas Kimmel’s death that Congress properly reviewed official documents and found that President Roosevelt had directly forbidden anyone from passing on the knowledge of the morning attack of December 7th to the commanders on Pearl Harbor.   President Roosevelt had made smaller efforts to goad the Japanese to confront our ships and when this failed to make them militarily confront us he allowed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor to draw us into the war.   Admiral Kimmel and Admiral Short have now been cleared of all wrong-doing by Congress but are still awaiting official naval recognition.   The official Navy stance is that, as the Commander, Husband was the responsible individual and can not be relieved or forgiven of that responsibility.   Although sympathetic to the details of the case, the Navy stands by it's chain of command controls and assignment of authority.   This is an important technical point of military command and control and will probably preclude any change in their "official" position

Interesting facts on Pearl Harbor.
..Adm Richardson who Kimmel relieved held up the publication of his book until Adm Stark (CNO in early WWII) had passed away in 1973.   He held Stark up for ridicule for failing to pick up the phone and call Kimmel on the 27th with the War Warning. 

..Adm Hart (Retired in 1942) headed up the Hart Inquiry of the Pearl Harbor disaster. He wrote several articles critical of preparedness at Pearl Harbor.   He was recalled to head the Hart Inquiry (Feb-Jun'44) to take evidence pertaining to the Pearl Harbor attack so that information was not lost due to the exigencies of war.   Hart's review was given to the Naval Court of Inquiry, established at the direction of Congress, which exonerated Adm. Kimmel and criticized Adm. Stark (CNO in 1941) for failing to keep Kimmel informed.   After the war, a Joint Congressional Committee, Nov'45-May'46, blamed everybody from FDR on down. 

..Adm Richardson (Kimmel’s predecessor) was dumped by Roosevelt over an argument they had about where the Pacific Fleet should be based.   Roosevelt favored Hawaii and Richardson wanted San Diego. 

..In a letter never sent, Adm Kimmel wrote to Adm Stark;
“You betrayed the officers and men of the Fleet by not giving them a fighting chance for their lives and you betrayed the Navy in not taking responsibility for your actions; you betrayed me by not giving me the information you knew I was entitled to and by your acquiescence in the action taken on the request for my retirement; and you betrayed yourself by misleading the Roberts Commission as to what information had been sent to me and by your statements made under oath before the Court of Inquiry that you knew were false.   I hope that you never communicate with me again and that I never see you or your name again that my memory may not be refreshed of one so despicable as you.”    ..Kimmel's papers are archived at the U. of Wyoming

..Kimmel's book is: "Admiral Kimmels Story" and Admiral Richardson's book is: "On the Treadmill to Pearl Harbor". The latest book on Pearl Harbor is: "Day of Deceit" by Robert Stinnett. Written in 2000 with a 2001 update based on more Freedom of Information Act releases. 

..The Roberts Commission findings were released to the Media by President Roosevelt the day after they were completed in 1942. Adm Kimmel was prevented from seeing the entire report until 1944. 

..A U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry (July of 44) (mentioned above) which lasted 3 months found that:
1. Adm Kimmel and Army General Shorts relations were cordial and there was no failure to cooperate on the part of either.
2. Adm Kimmel’s action “in ordering that no routine, long-range reconnaissance be undertaken was sound based on the inadequate number of fleet planes available.
3. That Kimmel’s decision “to continue preparation of the Pacific Fleet for war was sound in the light of the information then available to him.”
4. That the War Warning of 27 November directed attention away from Pearl Harbor rather than toward it.
5. That, even with a last-minute telephoned warning, which didn’t come, “there was no action open to Adm Kimmel which could have stopped the attack or which could have had other than negligible bearing upon it’s outcome.”
BUT…before Kimmel learned of this Navy’s Inquiry findings, Admiral King (then CNO) wrote a 2nd endorsement (opinion) to the findings dated Nov 3 in which King overturned the findings where Kimmel was concerned. King even told Forrestal (the new SecNav) to concur which he did. IT HAS BEEN determined that King admitted later to not even having read the Inquiries findings! Also he did not even write the endorsement (it was written by Adm Richard Edward) as “deputy” Chief of Staff. King did not even read what Edward had written! King did soften his language in retrospect in 1948. 

Admiral Ray Spruance in 1961 wrote:
“I have always felt that Kimmel and Short were held responsible for Pearl Harbor in order that the American People might have no reason to lose confidence in their Government in Washington. This was probably justifiable under the circumstances at the time, but it does not justify forever damning these two fine officers. “ 

..There were 36 Americans cleared to read Japanese Diplomatic (Purple/Magic) and Military Intercepts in 1941:
They range from the President down to LT's who were assistants or aides to various Admirals/Generals. 
Adm Kimmel and Gen Short were on the list but the only two from the list with the notation; "ACCESS RESTRICTED."   

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