Naval admirals represent one of the highest-ranking officials in a country's or military's navy. While many famous naval admirals throughout history have made a name for themselves in times of war, the command of a naval admiral remains an essential part of naval operations in times of peace as well. Nonetheless, some of the more famous naval admirals served in the world's largest theatres of war, namely World War One and Two, while others, such as the Royal Navy's Horatio Nelson, helped redefine naval tactics.
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World War I
World War I had its fair share of famous admirals, one of the most famous perhaps being Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, largely credited with establishing Germany's imperial navy. Under his command, in fact, the German navy introduced the use of torpedoes (through torpedo boats, eventually called submarines). Despite the success of submarine warfare, Tirpitz resigned in 1916 from his post. Opposing the German threat were a number of decorated British admirals, including Admiral of the Fleet David Beatty. He oversaw British victory at the Battle of Jutland, one of the major naval confrontations of the war, and was the admiral to whom the German fleet officially surrended.
World War II
Some of the more famous naval admirals of World War II include five-star admiral Chester William Nimitz, who commanded the Pacific Fleet during the war. He served as admiral during the march to victory for American forces. On the opposing side was Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who lead the initial Japanese naval push against the US, including the surprise bombing of Pearl Harbor. The naval commander suffered a huge defeat at the Battle of Midway, and died shortly thereafter when his plane was shot down.
Pioneers in their respective field, women did not reach the rank of admiral until late in the 20th century. Fran McKee became the first woman in the United States navy to reach the rank of rear admiral, doing so in 1976. Perhaps one of the more famous female admirals in the US Navy was Grace Hopper. A lifelong naval officer, she helped to pioneer the use of computer programming languages in the navy and was awarded the National Medal of Technology. According to the US Department of Defense, there are 11 female admirals currently serving.
It was once said that the "sun never sets" on the British Empire, so large was its reach. One of the main reasons was the excellence of the admirals of the Royal Navy. Certainly, Horatio Nelson stands ahead as one of the most famous naval admirals serving the British Crown. Nelson is famous for his contributions to naval warfare and tactics, for establishing British supremacy on the high seas over the French during the Napoleonic Wars, and for his many victories, such as the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, at the end of which Nelson was killed. Despite the past heroics of admirals within the Royal Navy, a 2007 report, "Royal Navy Utility Today Compared with 20 Years Ago," authored by Rear-Admiral Alan Massey revealed a stunning decline of the Royal Navy.
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