Tag Archives: USS Grayling (SS-209)

Chester’s announcement, 78 years ago today

At the battered harbor just three weeks after the bloody attack that crippled the U.S. battleship force in the Pacific, Adm. Chester William Nimitz, Sr. (USNA 1905), who cut his teeth on cranky early submarines before the Great War and by 1939 was the chief of the Bureau of Navigation, assumed command of the U.S Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT) on the orders of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, replacing the outgoing Adm. (reduced to RADM) Husband Edward Kimmel.

As a nod to his early days (and because no battleships were available), Nimitz hoisted his flag first on the Tambor-class submarine USS Grayling (SS-209).

Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN presenting awards on board USS Grayling (SS-209), at the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base, following ceremonies in which he took command of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, 31 December 1941. The former fleet commander, Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel is standing to the right, in a white uniform with two-star insignia. Admiral Nimitz has just presented the Navy Cross to Ensign F.M. Fisler, USNR. Others receiving awards, standing left-to-right in line behind Nimitz and Fisler, are Ensign C.F. Gimber, USNR; AMM1c L.H. Wagoner (also awarded the Navy Cross); AMM1c W.B. Watson; R3c H.C. Cupps; R2c W.W. Warlick and AMM2c C.C. Forbes. They were the crew of a Navy bomber. USS Pelias (AS-14) is in the background. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 50799

USS Grayling (SS-209). The signed inscription reads, “At Pearl Harbor on 31 Dec. 1941 hoisted 4-star Admiral’s flag on U.S.S Grayling and took command of U.S. Pacific Fleet. C.W. Nimitz, Fleet Admiral, USN” NH 58089

Nimitz, of course, would be slightly better remembered than Kimmel and would hold his job until replaced at Thanksgiving 1945 by ADM Raymond A. Spruance. Interestingly enough, Nimitz would hand over command to Spruance in 1945 from the deck of another submarine, the newly-commissioned USS Menhaden (SS-377), a Warship Wednesday alum.

Sadly, Grayling would be lost off Manila around 9 September 1943 while on her eight and final war patrol. She racked up 20,575 tons of enemy shipping and six battle stars but is on eternal patrol and has never been located. Her legacy was carried forth by USS Grayling (SSN-646), a Sturgeon-class attack submarine which held the line in the Cold War and was decommissioned in 1997, her sail saved from the breakers and installed a memorial at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.