Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2014 Issue

Adm. Nimitz’s WWII Diary Released in Searchable Digital Format

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A copy of the Adm. Nimitz "Gray Book" wartime diary just released in digital format.

A digitized version of the wartime diary of Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz went online Feb. 24. The event coincided with Nimitz’s 129th birthday and included a live stream of the occasion. The U.S. Naval War College in Newport, RI hosted the celebration which featured a variety of speakers and made available all 4,000 pages of his detailed operational diary covering activities and correspondence of the Pacific Command from Dec. 7, 1941 to Aug. 31, 1945.

Referred to as the Nimitz “Gray Book,” the eight-volume, large bound book is a running command summary originally bound in a gray covered material that gave the collection its nickname. It is now available for the first time as a high-quality, searchable document within the NWC library’s online Naval Historical Collection, which was also rolled out. (See link at end of text).

The document, which remained classified until 1972, includes the daily record of the combat situation that the commander in chief, Pacific, and Pacific Ocean Areas, faced every day during World War II. It shows what Nimitz knew and the reasons behind his daily command decisions. Staff-member Capt. James Steele began it on the day Pearl Harbor was attacked and ended it on Aug. 31, 1945, just two days before the formal end of the war.

"I've seen the collection and it's really a national treasure," said Capt. Henry Hendrix, Ph.D., director of the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC). "They clearly reveal what Nimitz thought was important, which gives the reader a great deal of insight into how his experiences both operationally and at the Naval War College informed and influenced his prosecution of the war. I'm extremely pleased we can now share it with researchers, the American public, and sailors past and present. I'm eager to see the collection discussed and to demonstrate the continued relevance of leveraging history in the decision making.”

Nimitz was assigned to relieve Adm. Husband Kimmel, and arrived in Pearl Harbor on Christmas Day, 1941. Nearly three years later, he was advanced to the newly created rank of Fleet Admiral - five stars. Less than a year later, Sept. 2, 1945, he signed the instrument of the Japanese surrender aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

"You're getting the whole picture, from the South Pacific to the Aleutians, and picking up on the progress of the war," said Robert Cressman, a NHHC historian. "I think it's immensely valuable for people to see how it was done," said Cressman. "You're getting a fly-on-the-wall approach to how decisions were made and how the war was fought.


Including records from individual ships, readers can see how each piece fit into the larger whole - while the war was raging around them. The physical collection consists of 4,030 single-sided pages filling 28 bankers boxes held at the Operational Archives at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.

 

The size and complexity of the document reflects the magnitude of the job Nimitz undertook commanding the Pacific fleet controlling the expanse of the Pacific Theater, which now comprises more than 100 million square miles and more than half the earth's surface.

It is "the most authoritative source on the Pacific War available anywhere," said Naval War College historian Douglas Smith. "Making the document public allows for a better understanding and context of the unique value and consequence of the U.S. Navy, and Nimitz's approach in directing the Pacific campaign."

Its pages fragile after decades of storage, the collection (as a book) would largely be inaccessible. The digitization, conducted gingerly, makes the holding available worldwide to researchers, naval history enthusiasts, and others interested in their naval heritage.

The NHHC in Washington, D.C., which maintains custodianship of the volumes, agreed in 2012 to participate in the digitization project. The project was made possible through the support of the Naval War College Foundation and the Naval Order of the United States.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> <i>Westvaco–Inspirations for Printers,</i> 3 volumes, 1938-61. $200 to $300.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> Proef van Letteren, <i>Welk gegooten worden in de Nieuwe Haerlemsche Lettergietery,</i> 1768. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> Paul Klee, <i>Bauhaus Ausstellung Juli – Sept.,</i> Weimar, 1923. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> Michel Seuphor & Jozef Peeters, <i>Het Overzicht Nos.</i> 22-23-24, Antwerp, 1922. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> Wolfrum & Co., <i>Modern Graphik, Serie I…,</i> complete portfolio, 1909. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, May 12:</b> <i>Gravure et Fonderie deC. Derriey: Specimen-Album,</i> Paris, 1862. $5,000 to $7,500.
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    <b>Sotheby’s, 15-25 May:</b> Mary Anning. Autograph letter signed, to William Buckland, 24 November 1834. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 15-25 May:</b> Bolyai. <i>Scientiam spatii absolute veram exhibens,</i> Maros Vásárhelyi, 1832-1833, 2 volumes, half calf. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 15-25 May:</b> Vesalius.<br><i>De humani corporis fabrica,</i> Basel, 1555, modern crushed burgundy morocco. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b><center>Sotheby’s<br>Science: Books and Manuscripts<br>15-25 May 2021</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, 15-25 May:</b> Copernicus.<br><i>De revolutionibus orbium coelestium,</i> Nuremberg, 1543, later boards, Rostock duplicate. £70,000 to £100,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 15-25 May:</b> Payan-Dumoulin. Profusely illustrated manuscript of fossils, France, c.1875-1979. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, 15-25 May:</b> Albert Einstein. Autograph letter signed, to his son Albert, 4 November [1915]. £10,000 to £15,000.
  • <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Images of Angling:<br>The David Beazley Collection<br>of Angling Prints<br>Online Sale<br>20th May 2021</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Alken (Henry), after. Salmon Fishing; Fishing in a Punt; Pike Fishing, three works, 1820. £600 to £800.
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Early Images of Angling.- Hollar (Wenceslaus) Angling; River Fishing; and Salmon Fishing, after Francis Barlow, 3 engravings, [c. 1671]. £500 to £700.
    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Rolfe (Henry Leonidas). <i>Studies of Fresh Water Fish,</i> 1851. £500 to £700.
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    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Fishing Satire.- London.- Roberts (Piercy). Patience at Paddington or angling in the Junction Canal, etching after Woodward, 1807; together with Woodward's 'Angling at Sadler's Wells', and another, 1794. £300 to £400.
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    <b>Forum Auctions, May 20:</b> Wilkinson (Norman). Come to Britain for Fishing, lithographic poster, [c. 1947]. £300 to £400.
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