Excerpt from Admirals of the World: A Biographical Dictionary, 1500 to the Present

BROWN, WILLIAM (1777-1857) (ARGENTINA)

“Father of the Argentine Navy,” William Brown is considered a national hero in Argentina. Brown was born in Foxford, County Mayo, Ireland and the family immigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when William was about nine years of age. Soon after his father died of yellow fever, Brown became a cabin boy and he worked his way up to the captaincy of a merchant vessel. He was press-ganged (the act of conscripting people to serve in the military or navy, usually by force and without notice) into a British boat and forced to serve the British crown; captured by a French man-of-war, imprisoned, escaped disguised as French officer; recaptured and imprisoned in the fortress of Verdun; escaped (1809) in the company of a British colonel named Clutchwell; reached German territory and eventually Britain. With his bride, he left for South America, established himself up as a merchant in Montevideo, Uruguay and set up a regular sailing-packet service between Uruguay and Argentina, the first of its kind. Spanish ships destroyed Brown's schooner, the Industria and to combat Spanish raiders, the government appointed Brown as Commander-in-Chief (Admiral) of the Argentine fleet. March 8, 1814 saw the start of a vigorous campaign by Brown’s small fleet and six days later, with land forces, they took Martín García, a fortified island twenty miles above Buenos Aires. Brown blockaded the Spanish fleet in Montevideo and on May 14, in an engagement, in which Brown’s leg was shattered by a cannon ball, the Spanish were defeated, the River Plate was freed from Spanish control and Argentina claimed Montevideo. Brown was raised to the rank of colonel and made Commander of the navy and the government presented to him with his flagship, the Hercules. On December 14, 1825, when war broke out between Argentina and Brazil, Brown fought two decisive battles in 1827 – Battle of Juncal (February 24, 1825); and the Battle of Los Pozos (June 11, 1825). Peace of a sort followed, and at the Treaty of Montevideo (October 4, 1827) Brown acted as Argentine commissioner Commemorative stamps showing William Brown were issued in Ireland (1957) and by the Argentine government (1891, 1935, and 1956).

SOURCES

Brown, William, Edmundo Murray, Dictionary of Irish Latin American Biography, Society for Irish Latin American Studies http://www.irlandeses.org/dilab_brownw.htm
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Electronic Edition version 1.1 Oxford University Press 1997
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/3661?docPos=7
William Brown (admiral). (2008, June 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
Retrieved 15:11, July 25, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=William_Brown_%28admiral%29&oldid=219696743
William Brown, The Catholic Encyclopedia http://home.newadvent.org/cathen/02804a.htm

CANARIS, WILHELM (1887-1945) (GERMANY)

Born in Aplerbeck, near Dortmund, in Westphalia, Germany, Wilhelm Canaris joined the German Imperial Navy (1905) and on the outbreak of World War I he was Intelligence Officer on board the cruiser SMS (His Majesty’s Ship) Dresden. The Dresden was sunk in March 1915, in Cumberland Bay, the Falkland Island; Canaris and most the crew were prisoners in Chile but he escaped back to Germany and ended the war as a U-boat commander in the Mediterranean, having sunk eighteen ships. He was promoted rapidly, becoming a Captain (1931); was Executive Officer of the cruiser Berlin; Commanding Officer of the battleship Schlesien; head of Abwehr – the German intelligence organization (1933); Rear Admiral (1935); organized a German spy network in Spain (1935-1936); attempted to dissuade Hitler from attacking Czechoslovakia (1938); personally advised the Spanish dictator General Franco (1892-1975) not to permit German troops to pass through to capture. In 1939, Canaris protested at the massacre of 200 Polish Jews who were herded into a synagogue at Bedzin, which was then set alight. But General Wilhelm Keitel (1882-1946) – Chief of the Armed Forces High Command – urged Canaris to take the matter no further. Appalled by the atrocities, Canaris got reports smuggled out of Germany to the Pope and to the English bishop George Bell, in Sweden. Canaris, along with his second-in-command, Hans Oster, was playing a dangerous double game – giving false information to Hitler and revealing German plans to the Allies. After the failed attempt on his life in July 1944, Hitler had Canaris and many others arrested; Canaris was kept in solitary confinement, and in chains at Gestapo cellars at Prinz Albrechtstrasse, where he was half-starved and humiliated by the SS guards. On February 7, 1945 Canaris was taken to the Flossenbürg concentration camp, in the Oberpfalz region of Bavaria, near the Czech border; he denied all personal complicity in the conspiracy against Hitler and he never betrayed his fellow participants in the Resistance Movement. In the morning hours of April 9, 1945, Canaris, knelt naked and prayed then was hanged. His body was left to rot. The Nuremberg Trials (a series of trials most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military and economic leadership of Nazi Germany, held from 1945 to 1949, at the Nuremberg Palace of Justice in the city of Nuremberg, Germany) revealed Canaris' strenuous efforts in trying to put a stop to the crimes of war and genocide committed by the SS regime. The Court also revealed that Canaris prevented the killing of captured French officers in Tunisia just as he had saved hundreds of Jews during the war. Canaris advised Hitler not to incorporate Switzerland into his New Europe. At the time of his execution, Canaris had been decorated with Iron First and Second Class; Silver German Cross; Cross of Honor and the Wehrmacht's Twelve and Twenty-Five Year Long-Service Ribbons.

SOURCES

Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Jewish Virtual Library http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/canaris.html
Wilhelm Canaris. (2008, July 25). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
Retrieved 15:02, July 27, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wilhelm_Canaris&oldid=227912032

CRACE, SIR JOHN GREGORY (1887-1968), (AUSTRALIA)

Born in the area of New South Wales that later became Gungahlin in the Australian Capital Territory, John Gregory Crace graduated as a Midshipman from the Britannia Training-Ship, now Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, Devon, England (1904) and was Commander (1920); Captain (1928); and Rear-Admiral (1939). He joined the Royal Australian Navy (1913), specialized as a torpedo officer and between the wars, served on both shore and sea postings. In 1939 he took command of the Australian Squadron, and served a frustrating two years kicking his heels ashore. So frustrated was he that he asked to resign, but when war with Japan started in December 1941, Crace was made commander of the Allied Naval Squadron, ANZAC Force (February 1942), and served on operations in the waters around New Guinea. In April 1942, command arrangements in the Pacific were reorganized and Crace's squadron was renamed Task Force 44, but, despite his seniority, he was made subordinate to the U.S.N. tactical commander. The squadron was detached on May 7 to intercept Japanese troop-ships heading for Port Moresby, New Guinea. Lacking air cover, it came under heavy enemy attack and the flagship, H.M.A.S. Australia, narrowly escaped being bombed. He served during the Battle of the Coral Sea (May 4-8, 1942) but was in a position peripheral to the main action. The Battle of the Coral Sea marked the end of Japanese expansion in South Pacific waters. Crace returned to England as vice admiral, then admiral, on the Retired List, and was Superintendent, Chatham Naval Dockyard, Kent, England (1942-1946). He was made Companion, Order of Bath (1941) and Knight Commander, Order of the British Empire (1947).

SOURCES

Australian Naval Personalities: Lives from the Australian Dictionary of Biography
Crace, Sir John Gregory (1887-1968) Sea Power Centre Australia http://www.navy.gov.au/spc/maritimepapers/piama17/crace.html
John Gregory Crace. (2008, June 19). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
Retrieved 15:52, July 31, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=John_Gregory_Crace&oldid=220415250
Who’s who in Australian Military History, Vice Admiral John Gregory Crace, KBE, Biography and Timeline http://www.awm.gov.au/people/151.asp

de NAVARRETE, IGNACIO MARIA de ALAVA Y SAENZ (1750-1817) (SPAIN)

Ignacio Maria De Alava Y Saenz de Navarrete, joined the Spanish Navy in 1766, and was Captain (? 1782); Commodore (1792); Rear-Admiral (1794); Vice-Admiral (1803). de Navarrete spent much of his early naval career fighting North African coast pirates. From 1781, he commanded the corvette San Luis which took part in two major actions: as part of the Spanish fleet that blockaded Gibraltar (1779-1783) during the War of American Independence (1775-1783); and in the Battle of Cape Spartel (at the entrance of the Straits of Gibraltar) (October 20, 1782) (see Luis de Córdova). He was flag captain in the fleet of Don Juan de Lángara.(1736-1806) from 1787 to 1790 and took part in the early stages of the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802). Between 1795 and 1802, de Navarrete’s squadron sailed around the world visiting Spanish colonies; one of his accomplishments was the reorganizing of the Spanish naval forces in the Philippines. In 1805, when Second-in-Command of the Spanish fleet, he took charge of the ships in Cadiz when Don Federico Carlos (see entry) sailed to the Caribbean with the French Mediterranean fleet under Pierre-Charles Villeneuve (see entry). When Don Carlos and Villeneuve returned in August, they found Horatio Nelson (see entry) blockading Cadiz. Daring to break the blockade, the combined French and Spanish fleet left Cadiz and met the British fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805). de Navarrete was severely wounded; the British captured his flagship the Santa Ana but only held it for two days before it was recaptured by Commodore Cosmao-Kerjulien (see entry) who sailed her back to Cadiz. de Navarrete was Commander-in-Chief in the Caribbean, with his base in Havana (1810-1813; Governor of Cadiz (1813-1814); member of the Supreme Council of the Spanish Admiralty (1817); and Admiral of the Spanish Fleet for only three months before he died.

SOURCES
Ignacio Maria de Alava y Saenz de Navarrete. (2007, December 17). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 15:48, August 4, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ignacio_Maria_de_Alava_y_Saenz_de_Navarrete&oldid=178492740

de VILLENEUVE PIERRE-CHARLES-JEAN-BAPTISTE-SILVESTRE (1763-1806) (FRANCE)

Born in Valensole, France, Pierre-Charles-Jean-Baptiste-Silvestre de Villeneuve joined the French Navy (1778) and was Captain (1793) and Rear Admiral (1796). He commanded a section of the French fleet in Napoleon's expedition to Egypt from his flagship, the Guillaume Tell, the Guillaume Tell and the Généreux, were the only two warships to escape the British massacre at the Battle of the Nile (August 1-2, 1798). Soon after the Battle of the Nile, having taken refuge in Malta, he was taken prisoner by the British but was quickly released. Although criticized for his weakness at the Nile, Napoleon seemed not to hold that against him; in the autumn of 1804 Napoleon put Vice-Admiral de Villeneuve in command of the fleet at Toulon. Napoleon’s ruse of drawing the British fleet under Horatio Nelson (see entry) to the West Indies, leaving the English Channel open for invasion failed to work out just like that. Although Nelson did pursue de Villeneuve, and although de Villeneuve did recapture the island fort of Diamond Rock (see Julien Cosmao), his supporting ships failed to make contact, so he sailed for home, with Nelson hot in pursuit. In the Bay Biscay he met with another British fleet commanded by Robert Calder (see entry) at the Battle of Cape Finisterre (July 22, 1805). The British, though outnumbered, were able to cut off and capture two Spanish ships. He received orders from Napoleon to sail to Brest and Boulogne as planned; instead, perhaps believing a false report of a superior British fleet in the Bay of Biscay, he sailed back to Cádiz, making the planned invasion of Britain wholly impossible. Contrary to Napoleon’s orders, de Villeneuve tried to escape from Cadiz, and met Nelson’s fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805). de Villeneuve's flagship Bucentaure was captured along with many other French and Spanish ships, and was on parole at Sonning in Berkshire until 1806. He died from six stab wounds in the chest on 22 April in his room at the Hotel de Patrie in Rennes. Despite the strong likelihood that he was murdered by agents of Napoleon, a verdict of suicide was recorded. There was no state funeral.

SOURCES

Encyclopedia Britannica Online 1911, edition http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/VAN_VIR/VILLENEUVE_PIERRE_CHARLES_JEAN_.html
Pierre-Charles-Jean-Baptiste-Silvestre de Villeneuve. (2008). In Encyclopædia
Britannica. Retrieved August 21, 2008, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/629227/Pierre-Charles-Jean-Baptiste-Silvestre-de-Villeneuve
Pierre-Charles Villeneuve. (2008, July 19). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
Retrieved 10:24, August 5, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pierre-Charles_Villeneuve&oldid=226635516

NELSON, HORATIO, VISCOUNT NELSON (1758-1805) (BRITAIN)

Born in Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk, England, Horatio Nelson joined the Royal Navy (1771) as Ordinary Seaman and coxswain and was Lieutenant (1777); Captain (1779); Commodore (1796); Rear-Admiral (1797); Vice-Admiral (1801). Up until 1783 Nelson served in the West Indies; escaped from a polar bear while testing the possibility of an ice-free passage across the North Pole; was involved in an inconclusive action against the Spanish fortress of San Juan in Nicaragua during the War of American Independence (1775–1783); was seriously ill, probably with malaria, and took more than a year to recover back in England. It was the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802) and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815) which rescued Nelson and other Captains from a life of half-pay and boredom. In 1793, he was given command of the Agamemnon and joined the Mediterranean Fleet under Lord Alexander Hood (see entry) and was present at the Siege of Toulon (September 18-December 18, 1793). In 1794 he was wounded in the face by stones and debris thrown up by a close cannon shot during a joint operation at Calvi, Corsica, as a result of which he lost the sight in his right eye and half of his right eyebrow. His next major engagement was the Battle of St. Vincent (see John Jervis) (February 14, 1797). He boarded two enemy ships in succession, an unusual and bold move which was cheered by the whole fleet. Nelson himself led the boarding parties, which was not usually done by high ranking officers. Following the Nore and Spithead Mutinies (April 16-May 15, 1797), the Theseus joined the Mediterranean Fleet and Nelson took command. Within a fortnight he had restored harmony among the officers and men. In July 1797, during an unsuccessful expedition to conquer Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Nelson lost most of his right arm from a musket ball, and was unfit for duty until he joined Jervis in April 1798. Nelson was once again responsible for a great victory over the French at the Battle of the Nile (August 1, 1798). The battle effectively ended Napoleon's ambition to take the war to the British in India. On April 2, 1801 Nelson took part in the Battle of Copenhagen (April 2, 1801) (see Thomas Foley for an account of Nelson turning his blind eye). In September 1805 Nelson in the Victory chased the French fleet across the Atlantic and back and engaged at the Battle of Trafalgar (October 21, 1805). As the two fleets moved toward engagement, Nelson ran up a thirty-one flag signal to the rest of the fleet, spelling out the famous phrase "England expects that every man will do his duty". After crippling the French flagship Bucentaure, Victory moved on to the Redoutable. The two ships became entangled, at which point snipers in the fighting tops of Redoutable were able to pour fire down onto the deck of Victory. Nelson was hit from a range of about fifty feet: a bullet entered his left shoulder, pierced his lung, and came to rest at the base of his spine. Nelson retained consciousness for four hours, but died soon after the battle ended with a British victory. Nelson’s body lay in state for three days in the Painted Hall of Greenwich Hospital and on January 8, 1806 Nelson was given a state funeral (one of only few non-royal Britons to receive the honor). His entombment was in St. Paul's Cathedral in a wooden coffin made from the mast of L'Orient that had been salvaged after the Battle of the Nile. The DNB says this of the last moments: “Huge, silent crowds watched the cortège, and many felt that the most moving part was not the elaborate catafalque or the numerous soldiers, but the seamen of the Victory carrying her battle ensigns. At the final moment of the ceremony, as the coffin was lowered through the floor of the nave to its resting place directly beneath the dome, the seamen were supposed to fold the colours and lay them on the coffin—instead of which, they tore them up and each saved a piece as a memorial of their lost commander.” Among his awards and honors were Duke of Bronte in Kingdom of the Two Sicilies; Knight Commander, Order of the Bath; Knight Grand Cross of the Sicilian Order of St Ferdinand and of Merit. He was voted a Freeman of Bath, Salisbury, Exeter, Plymouth, Monmouth, Sandwich, Oxford, Hereford, and Worcester. The University of Oxford, bestowed the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law upon him in 1802. Nelson’s Band of Brothers were the Royal Navy captains who served under his command while he pursued the French expeditionary force led by Napoleon Bonaparte to Egypt, and in the decisive battle of the Nile on 1 August 1798. Nelson’s Column (built between 1840 and 1843) in Trafalgar Square, London is a granite column standing 151 feet high, on top of which is an eighteen feet high statue of Nelson.

SOURCES

Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson. (2008, August 26). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 07:11, August 30, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Horatio_Nelson,_1st_Viscount_Nelson&oldid=234458501
Horatio Nelson, Nevis Historical and Conservation Society, Museum of Nevis
History, Charlestown, Nevis, West Indies http://www.nevis-nhcs.org/nelsonmuseum.html
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Electronic Edition version 1.1 Oxford University Press 1997
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/19877?docPos=2

NIMITZ, CHESTER WILLLIAM (1885-1966) (USA)

Born in Fredericksburg, Texas, of German descent, Chester William Nimitz graduated from the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (1905) and was Ensign (1907); Lieutenant (1910); Lieutenant-Commander (1916); Commander (1918); Captain (1927); Rear-Admiral (1938); Admiral (1941); Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet (CinCPac) (December 1941); C-in-C Ocean Area (1942); Fleet Admiral (1944); Chief of Naval Operations (1945 until retirement in 1947). He was court-martialed in 1907 for hazarding a Navy when his destroyer Decatur (DD-5) ran aground on a mud bank in the Philippines; his punishment was a letter of reprimand. This did not finish his career, and thereafter he specialized in submarines (1908-1912) gaining extensive knowledge of diesel engines and in 1913 he was selected to head a small mission to further study diesel technology in Nuremberg, Germany, and Ghent, Belgium. At the navy yard in Brooklyn, New York, Nimitz supervised the building and installation of large diesels in the new fleet oiler Maumee, of which he was Chief Engineer and Executive Officer when the United States entered World War I (1917). Nimitz perfected his idea of refueling ships at sea, something that the U.S. Navy had never before tried. In August 1917 Nimitz was engineering aide and then chief of staff to Captain (later Rear-Admiral) Samuel Shelburne Robison (1867-1952), commander Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet. For two years after the war, Nimitz supervised the construction of the first submarine at Pearl Harbor. Then after a year at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, he became aide and Assistant Chief of Staff to C-in-C, Battle Fleet Admiral Robison. As Rear-Admiral with his flag in the Arizona he commanded Battleship Division One based at Long Beach, California (1938). Leading up to World War II he was Chief of the Bureau of Navigation at Washington. As (CinCPac) his major strategic responsibilities were to guard the supply lines to and from the United States including the various Pacific island and Australia, whose defense was considered an American priority. Nimitz defeated the Japanese navy at the Battle of the Coral Sea (May 4-8, 1942); the Battle of Midway (June 4-7, 1942); and in the Solomon Islands Campaign (January 1942-August 21, 1945). His fleet battered the Japanese forces in the Battle of the Philippine Sea and at the Battle for Leyte Gulf (October 24-26, 1944). Nimitz successfully launched amphibious assaults on Iwo Jima and Okinawa in mid-1945. On September 2, 1945 Nimitz signed for the United States when Japan formally surrendered on board the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay. After retirement he became involved in public service, chiefly as a roving goodwill ambassador for the United Nations and then as a regent at the University of California. Included in his awards are the Navy Distinguished Service Medal with three gold stars; Army Distinguished Service Medal; Silver Lifesaving Medal; Knight Grand Cross of the British Order of the Bath (honorary) (United Kingdom); Legion of Honor (France). In addition he received honors from The Philippines, The Netherlands, Greece, China, Guatemala, Cuba, Argentina, Ecuador, Belgium, Italy and Brazil. The Admiral Nimitz State Historic Site, which includes the National Museum of the Pacific War, formerly known as Admiral Nimitz Museum, is located in Fredericksburg, Texas (See http://www.wildtexas.com/texas-parks/admiral-nimitz-state-historic-site).

SOURCES

American National Biography Online http://www.anb.org/articles/06/06-00474.html?a=1&n=NIMITZ%2C%20CHESTER%20&d=10&ss=0&q=1
Californians and the Military, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, A Five Star Submariner by Mark J. Denger, California Center for Military History http://www.militarymuseum.org/Nimitz.html
Chester W. Nimitz. (2008, August 29). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
Retrieved 08:20, August 30, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Chester_W._Nimitz&oldid=235038680
Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz, Department of the Navy – Naval Historical Center http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq36-4.htm
Nimitz, Chester William, The Handbook of Texas Online http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/NN/fni5.html
Reynolds, Clark G. Famous American Admirals. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1978.

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