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Pacific Fleet Notice

Delivered on 15 September 1942 by Admiral Chester Nimitz - Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet - aboard Enterprise, the address transcribed below both honored the first heroes of the Pacific war, and spelled out Nimitz's expectations for the fleet in the critical months ahead. At the time Nimitz addressed the fleet, the situation around Guadalcanal was deteriorating rapidly. Indeed, 15 September also witnessed the loss of Wasp CV-7, leaving Hornet CV-8 as the lone US carrier operating off Guadalcanal. But rather than retreat, Nimitz insisted that his fleet "come to grips with the enemy."

Notably, exactly one month after the award ceremony aboard Enterprise, Nimitz relieved Vice Admiral Robert L. Ghormley, overall commander in the South Pacific. In his place stepped Vice Admiral William F. Halsey, who needed no reminder that "Successful war against a powerful enemy cannot be waged without losses."

Cincpac File No.
Serial 3557
 September 18, 1942.
From:Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet.
Subject:Awards - Presentation of.
  1. On September 15, 1942, the Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet, presented awards to officers and men of the Pacific Fleet.
  2. The following address, which was made at the presentation, is quoted for information and guidance.


    This is not the first time we have assembled on this now historic deck to render honors to brave officers and men who have distinguished themselves in the service of our country. We hope and believe it will not be the last time this gallant ship with her inspiring battle record will so serve. It has been the officers and men who have given this ship her great spirit. From admiral to seaman, each has shared in her achievements which have set such a high standard for the rest of us.

    Much has been accomplished since those critical opening days of the war, but much remains to be done. At this very moment our forces, in which all of the four armed services - the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Army - are represented, are stubbornly and successfully resisting the powerful efforts of the Japanese to eject us from our hard won positions in the southeastern Solomons. Slowly but surely we are tightening our grip - not without losses - but with losses disproportionately small compared with those of our enemy.

    Do not for one minute assume that we have the Japanese on the run. While we may not like many of their characteristics, we cannot deny that they are brave, skillful and resourceful fighters, who frequently prefer death to surrender. They are dangerous antagonists, but they have learned by now that we also are dangerous antagonists who are willing and know how to fight.

    We have had losses and we must expect more losses before this war is won, but must not be dismayed by such prospects. Successful war against a powerful enemy cannot be waged without losses. Nor can we expect to be fully trained and ready before fighting. We will never reach that stage in our training where we will be ready to the last gaiter button. We must fight to the best of our ability with what we have when we meet the enemy. Time and not state of training is the determining factor. He who gets there 'fustest with the mostest' is still a good guide to success.

    We will win this war only by fighting. All the nation's productive output will be of no avail unless we are willing to come to grips with the enemy. Suitable targets present themselves only rarely to our guns, bombs and torpedoes. On those rare occasions our tactics must be such that our objectives are gunned, bombed or torpedoed to destruction. This our enemy will understand and respect. Such resolution will be rewarded. When things look bad for our side remember that the prospect may be, and probably is, even tougher and blacker to the other fellow.

    You officers and men, tried in battle, know the tough job we face. The twenty-seven who are to receive awards today have earned them in a diversity of tasks symbolic to the Pacific Fleet's tremendous responsibilities. We all know that the whole Fleet would be no less ready to rise to extraordinary occasions.

    The Nation's highest award for valor - the Congressional Medal of Honor - thus was won by Aviation Chief Ordnanceman John W. Finn. Finn's magnificent courage, in the face of almost certain death, helped repel the Japanese attack on the Naval Air Station at Kaneohe on December 7. His complete disregard for his own life, in staying with his machine gun, although many times wounded, is the kind of American fighting spirit necessary to victory.

    This fighting spirit appears not only in the heat of battle. It arises also to meet tasks involving almost insuperable odds far from the scene of battle.

    I speak of Captain Homer N. Wallin. As Fleet Salvage Officer he has earned the Distinguished Service Medal. After the attack on Pearl Harbor he was 'confronted with a salvage problem of tremendous and discouraging proportions.' This he successfully executed, far ahead of schedule, 'with unerring judgment, dogged determination, unflagging zeal and optimism.'

    Two of our flag officers have been honored by the President for distinguished service in combat. One is Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, who led his task force against the enemy at Midway, helping bring sweeping victory by 'his seamanship, endurance and tenacity'.

    The other is Rear Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid. His aggressive leadership and determined action with his task group in the Battle of the Coral Sea inflicted heavy losses on the enemy.

    Destroyer sailors have always ranked high among our Navy's heroes. None has merited honor more than Lieutenant Commander Jacob E. Cooper. Off Balikpapan, Borneo, on the night of January 24, his destroyer delivered 'a successful attack on a greatly superior' enemy force of cruisers, destroyers, transports and cargo ships. A few weeks later, in another night action in Bandoeng Straits, on February 19, 'under heavy gunfire from enemy cruisers and destroyers he vigorously attacked, scoring gun and torpedo hits. On each occasion his fine seamanship and excellent judgement extricated his ship from a situation of grave peril.' For his gallantry the President has awarded him the Navy Cross with Gold Star.

    Since the first day of the war the Fleet has demonstrated its ability to function as a formidable team. Its air arm has played a brilliant part in making this possible. Twenty-one out of the twenty-seven who are being honored today won their recognition in aerial combat.

    Among these is Commander Stanhope C. Ring, who has been awarded the Navy Cross. In the Battle of Midway he led his carrier air group against enemy cruisers and destroyers. Coolly and methodically, in the face of heavy anti-aircraft fire, without regard for his own safety, he drove home a successful attack on enemy cruisers.

    I regret that time is too short to recount all the exploits for which honors are being bestowed today. It is also unfortunate, due to the pressing war problems we face, that we cannot more promptly recognize the heroic conduct of thousands of your comrades, who even now are engaging the enemy.

    I am mindful that all of you are anxious to see your families and friends at home. Many of you have been here without leave as long as two years. Three months ago I expressed the hope that periods of rest and leave would be forthcoming. But since then the demands of offensive operations on battle-trained personnel have been increasingly urgent. We must drive on. I know that no officer or man in this Fleet would want to leave now when the moment for which we have long prepared has arrived."

Assistant Chief of Staff
List I, Case 3.
P, MC, NTS, X, Z.
EN1-4, KS4, NA11-54,
NB18, 49, ND11-15,
NY8-10, CGHD.
Comtaskfor 1( 5)
Comtaskfor 8( 5)
Comtaskfor 17( 5)
Comcrutaskfor 8(25)
Comcrutaskfor 16( 3)

P. V. Mercer,
Flag Secretary.


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