By Pat Ciarrocchi
WILMINGTON, Del. (CBS) — Pearl Harbor has become the centerpiece of a personal mission for the Kimmel family of Wilmington.
Ten days after the bombing, their grandfather, Admiral Husband Kimmel, was blamed for not preventing the attack by the Japanese and forced into retirement.
For decades, the Kimmel family has worked to correct history, and now, that request is on the desk of the Defense Secretary.
On December 7, 1941, Admiral Husband Kimmel was the Commander of the Pacific Fleet.
“He felt that Pearl Harbor was a sitting duck, right there in the middle, surrounded by water,” says his grandson, Manning Kimmel. “The commanders at Pearl Harbor did not have the intelligence that was due them from their commanders in Washington. It was bureaucratic bungling at the highest levels — the left hand wasn’t talking to the right hand. It was same thing that happened with the tragedy of 9-11.”
And that’s not just an opinion of a grandson, who carries personally the accusations of his grandfather’s dereliction of duty.
Investigating commissions exonerated Admiral Kimmel and his Army counterpart, General Walter Short, as early at 1944. But it’s taken years for history to be corrected and that’s still not complete.
Manning Kimmel says politics played a role early on.
In 1944, once a commission cleared the Admiral, his superior took the report and put it under his desk blotter, so it would never see the light of day.
“Now, is this America?” asks Kimmel.
It’s the assault to Admiral Kimmel’s honor that disturbs his family the most.
Shortly after the attack, when Admiral Kimmel and General Short were blamed, Kimmel’s four stars became two, because he was replaced as Commander. And when other officers were celebrated for their contribution in the Pacific and retired at their highest rank, Kimmel and Short were by-passed.
Manning remembers what his father, Ned, told him.
“To a military man, honor is above life itself. And what they have done to your grandfather was to strip him of his honor and relegate him to the scrap heap.”
It was the message that became a clarion call.
“We say, why won’t you promote them posthumously… to their highest war time ranks?”
That’s the appeal in an August, 2013 letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
In 2000, when the Kimmel family mounted its effort to restore the rank, Hagel was in the U.S. Senate and voted for the action, sponsored by then Delaware Senator Joe Biden.
Now, Kimmel says he needs a Presidential “okay.”
“He has to write one sentence,” Kimmel says. “’I recommend for posthumous restoration of rank…Admiral Kimmel..and General Short.’ Bingo…and send it over to the Senate, and hopefully, they’ll confirm it.”
For this grandson, it’s an obligation.
“Seventy-two years is too long. This is a stain on American history. ”
And a matter of honor.