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Congress Backs Son's Fight to Return Admiral's Honor

World War II: Clinton is sent a bill to restore the wartime ranks of Kimmel and the Army's commander at Pearl Harbor. They had been faulted in the attack.

October 13, 2000|RICHARD SIMON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — For Ned Kimmel, persistence paid off.

The 79-year-old son of Pearl Harbor commander Husband E. Kimmel succeeded Thursday in his decades-long struggle to win congressional legislation seeking to clear his father of blame for the Japanese attack on the naval base in Hawaii more than half a century ago.

A bill that cleared Congress on Thursday urges President Clinton to restore the late Adm. Kimmel and his Army counterpart, the late Gen. Walter C. Short, to their full wartime ranks--four stars for Kimmel and three stars for Short. Both officers retired with two stars. They were the only high-ranking officers from World War II eligible for wartime promotions who lost them--presumably because of the taint of the Pearl Harbor attack that catapulted the United States into World War II.

Kimmel and Short "were not provided necessary and critical intelligence that . . . would have alerted them to prepare for the attack," says a provision in a bill authorizing defense spending.

Ned Kimmel said the legislation "corrects what I perceive--and I think a lot of other people do too--as a great injustice" to the two men.

"It will restore their reputation and honor," said Kimmel, a retired lawyer who lives in Wilmington, Del.

Neither the White House nor the Defense Department has taken a position on the Pearl Harbor provision.

Short died in 1949, Kimmel in 1968.

In 1995, a Pentagon review concluded that responsibility for Pearl Harbor should not fall solely on the two commanders but "should be broadly shared." It did not, however, recommend the advancement in rank sought by the bill.

Historians were split over the legislation, with some arguing that Kimmel and Short bore partial responsibility for American forces' lack of preparedness at Pearl Harbor.

The legislation was one of several World War II-related measures moving through Congress in its final days before adjournment.

A provision in another spending bill approved by the Senate and awaiting House action would authorize full disability benefits for an estimated 1,200 Filipino American World War II veterans living in the United States. It also would extend medical coverage for disabled Filipino American veterans receiving limited care at Veterans Affairs facilities in the United States and in the Philippines.

An amendment to another bill sought by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) calls for opening up U.S. government records dealing with any wartime experimentation by the Japanese Imperial Army with poisonous gas and germ warfare.

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