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The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King—the Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  2,999 ratings  ·  252 reviews
How history's only five-star admirals triumphed in World War II and made the United States the world's dominant sea power.

Only four men in American history have been promoted to the five-star rank of Admiral of the Fleet: William Leahy, Ernest King, Chester Nimitz, and William Halsey. These four men were the best and the brightest the navy produced, and together they led
Hardcover, 559 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Little, Brown and Company (first published May 1st 2011)
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 ·  2,999 ratings  ·  252 reviews

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May 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Reading about Major Personalities generally comes in one of two types. Either their are very detailed individual views which focus on someones entire live or they are groups of people that are similar and are fairly broken up and the kind of synopsis you would expect to get out of a resume. Any book written about someone has a general trap that the author respects and admires the individual they are writing about. No surprise really, since why would you want to write about someone you did care ...more
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
I felt this was a good look at the four men who held the rank of Admiral of the Fleet (5 stars) Borneman makes the four men come alive. In the first part of the book, he traces the careers of the 4 men independently, but when World War II starts their stories become intertwined.
He traces both their professional lives and to some extent their personal lives as well. He seems to admire Nimitz and Leahy more than King and Halsey, but gives credit to all four men for their accomplishments during the
Most people are aware of the five star Army Generals but few are aware of the five star Admirals. I have read the biographies of each of these men but this is the first book I have read that deals with the four together. All knew each other well; their military lives had intertwined for years; all were from middle-class backgrounds.

Borneman narrates their lives in sometimes intersecting parallels until World War II. King was from a Scots’ family from Ohio. He graduated near the top of his
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
While this book sets out to be a history of the four 5-Star Admirals of the US Navy, it ends up also chronicling the rise of the US Navy in the first half of the 20th century; how it started the century, what changes it went through, and how it became the highly efficient machine of war it was in WWII. More than a biography this book was an organizational history that proved just as compelling (to me) and the story of these four men.

For those who are not terribly familiar with the history of the
So why five stars? Because that is what was on the collar of the four men discussed within. Leahy, Nimitz, King, and Halsey. The great naval leaders of WWII. In my opinion, the greatest naval leaders were forged from that war. Leahy, the stalwart, behind the scenes political genius that stood in the shadows behind Roosevelt and later, Truman. King, the cantankerous master strategician that ran the navy on in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. Nimitz the cerebral mind executing the Pacific drive, ...more
Mar 10, 2018 rated it liked it
It needed more dash and detail - a better style could have held more, with less drag - but this book is an excellent introduction.
John Bohnert
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I learned a lot about these five-star admirals, especially King and Leahy.
Over the years, I've read many accounts of generals, but this is my first look at any admirals.
As a Navy veteran, I should read about more Navy men.
Feb 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-2, naval
The Admirals is an enjoyable read from a talented author. Borneman delivers another solid performance and demonstrates some versatility in tackling subject matter outside of his past wheelhouse, as well as the challenge of getting four big-time World War II actors to share limited space. The flow of the book starts out a little choppy as he jumps from one character to the next, but Mr. Borneman doesn't take long to hit his stride, delivering a narrative that flows smoothly as each admiral takes ...more
Bruce Hesselbach
Oct 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Everyone has heard about Admiral Halsey and Admiral Nimitz, but Admirals Leahy and King are less well known. These four were the men that spearheaded America's successful campaigns against Japan. In part, they did this by their willingness to change and adapt to new ideas, to throw over everything they knew about the importance of battleships in war, and embrace new strategies with aircraft carriers and submarines.
Borneman does an excellent job in telling the intertwining stories of these
Ron Wroblewski
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow, what a fantastic book. I probably would never have picked it up if it weren't for my goodreads friend Sarah who had it on her list. The combined biographies for 4 US Navy 5 star Admirals of WWII, there achievements, blunders (very few), and interactions with each other not only in the war but throughout their careers. One thing I praise Halsey for was his elimination of the wearing of ties for the officers. I HATE TIES - the worse, most useless piece of men's clothing.
It was remarkable how
Steeljaw Scribe
book follows the paths of four Naval officers who rose to hold the highest rank in the US Navy at the end of the Second World War – the five-star rank of Fleet Admiral. Borneman uses an interesting approach for this comparative biography, but in a manner different than what Larrabee took in his work (Commander in Chief: FDR His Lieutenants and Their War). While Larrabee’s work bound several biographies together, Borneman instead follows all four of his subjects through the epochs that preceded ...more
Urey Patrick
May 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Leahy, USNA class of 1897 - King, class of 1901 - Halsey, class of 1904 - Nimitz, class of 1905... these remarkable men are the only five-star Admirals in US history. Borneman relates their biographies (mostly professional), their career histories and their momentous achievements in World War II, interweaving their individual narratives to create a compelling story. Their interactions over the years, the events and people that influenced them in their careers, their strengths and weaknesses - ...more
Porter Broyles
Walter Borneman is one of the best Naval Historians I've encountered and this book did not disappoint!

This book tells the stories of the four men who have been five star admirals in the U.S. Navy:

William Leahy --- Leahy was arguably the most powerful and influencial military leader during WWII. He had the presidents ear moreso than Marshall or Eisenhower and didn't have to share his realm of authority with the leadership of other countries like they did. Leahy was one of the oldest people to
Oct 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-read
I have often wondered why and how the great have become such. Be they political leaders, industrialists, military and/or naval; how did they achieve the level? This read was an attempt to answer that question.
The book follows the career paths of the four famous World War II Admirals to reach “5 Star” status. In short, I will tell you now it did not answer my question of How or Why they reached it other than to say each was capable and driven, yet all in possession of what I would call a
Rick Cheeseman
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In awe of the men who we now name our ships after...
James F.
Dec 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a fantastic rendition of the four Five Star Admirals in charge of the US Navy during World War II. Anyone who is interested in history of the United States Navy's role in the Pacific Theatre needs to add this remarkable book to their library and read it. I just finished this book today and it was well worth my time in reading it. Five Stars for The Admirals.

Anyone interested in the History of our nation and the way the United States defeated the Japanese in World War II needs to
Mark Roth
Jul 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was a really interesting book. It covers the lives of America's only four 5-star admirals, all of whom served during World War II. Before reading this book, I was already somewhat familiar with Nimitz and Halsey, the two better known of the four, but I'm not sure I'd ever even heard of Leahy or King. However, the book did an excellent job of covering the lives and careers of all four men. Importantly, it does not attempt to paint these men as heroes who are not to be criticized; it ...more
Mac McCormick III
Aug 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Many readers would consider it a long book, but if you are interested in military history (especially World War II history) or naval history The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King – The Five Star Admirals Who Won The War At Sea by Walter R. Borneman is a book to put on your reading list. It tells the stories of the United States Navy’s four Fleet Admirals and how they won the World War II war at sea. I appreciate the research Borneman put into the is book, he makes use of a lot of primary ...more
Feb 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book presents a collective biography of the four men who rose to the rank of fleet admiral (five stars) in the US Navy during WWII. It is a well done book that fills in the story regarding the conduct and evolution of US armed forces during the war. While the Army and its generals have received continuing attention with recent histories of WWII and two recent biographies of Eisenhower, it is arguable that the leadership of the Navy has not received comparable attention recently and I found ...more
Jan 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Mark this down as one of those books that is unlikely to come up on the normal book club reading list. A book about four admirals from WWII. Even though I am an avid reader of WWII books, I did not expect this one to match the wonderful espionage books I had read like agent zigzag and operation mincemeat, the book about the monuments men, or the thrilling rescue stories such as lost in shangri la, unbroken, or the forgotten 500. My expectations were far too low!

Wonderfully weaving together the
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: military-history
The Admirals covers the lives and careers of the 4 men who became Admirals of the Fleet during and after World War 2. While it doesn't contain any new or earth shattering revelations, it does provide a great overview of these 4 extraordinary men and how they helped shape the strategy that defeated Germany and Japan in the war. The most informative portions of the book for me were the sections covering Admiral Leahy, the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and presidential confidant. I am ...more
Centered on the the four men who achieved 5 star rank in the wartime U.S. Navy, The Admirals.. is an excellent short biography of the personalities, capabilities and leadership styles of the four very different men who led the way to victory in the naval war in WWII. Beginning with their attendance at the Naval Academy in Annapolis and following their individual journeys from Leahy's first war experience in the Atlantic in 1898, through the days of WWI, the story culminates in a review of the ...more
Erin Cataldi
May 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
I honestly didn't know anything about naval history before reading this book even though my father was enlisted in the navy for nearly 25 years. I am however, a huge history buff (thanks undergrad!) and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know more about the five-star admirals that this book portrayed. It was like getting a whole new perspective on many of the battles that I had previously only skimmed over in my history classes. While I don't recommend this as light reading (it's definitely more ...more
Jim Razinha
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My first 5-star of 2015. Borneman clearly could have written four separate books about these men, but of course, those were already written. Instead, he deftly composed a compelling parallel chronology of their respective rises and roles in World War II.

I eat this stuff up. I knew a bit of Nimitz's calm leadership and Halsey's brash, possibly reckless drive, but admit to little of Leahy's diplomacy and King's vision. Cutting edge of the naval technologies of the time. As I have not been a
Apr 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Great read. The narrative flows, first with these individual mini-biographies that begin the book, and where many of these men had parallel lives for decades, then to the battles of World War II, where they worked together against defeating Japan.
Much is written of Halsey and Nimitz, but it was a pleasure to get a feel for King and Leahy and realize how much they both contributed during their phenomenal careers.
For those who have a beginners knowledge, as well as, a working knowledge of the war
Robert Melnyk
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent book on 4 leaders of the navy during WWII. I had read quite a bit about Nimitz in other books, but did not know nearly as much about the other 3 men. The book does a good job of telling the story of all 4 men, from their early years in the navy through WWII and beyond. At times it seemed to get bogged down in details, but then again, the details help to give you a really good perspective on the men and their lives. Worth the read if you are into WWII history.
Apr 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very interesting comparison of the careers, personalities, and decisions of the leading Admirals of WWII. I especially enjoyed the discussion of Leahy and King, who are overshadowed by Nimitz and Halsey.
Jul 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Admirals is WWII history told through the careers of the four admirals who received five star rank for their contribution to victory. Four very different men, all white, all Naval Academy graduates with long careers in the US Navy. Each was in his late 50’s or sixties when the war started and held important naval posts at the beginning of the war. I was struck with the contrast to a similar book by Douglas Southhall Freeman called Lee’s Lieutenants which detailed the contributions of Robert ...more
This is a fantastically told tale regarding the fleet admirals of WW2. They come alive and you see the journey of WW2 and the growth of the navy through their eyes. The battle in the Pacific is an interesting story to me because it involved heavy use of all branches of the military. While there were naval skirmishes in the Atlantic during the European theater, there were none on the scale of Midway or Leyte Gulf. The Mediterranean battles were much less. These events are told through the eyes of ...more
Jerry Gernander
Jan 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I've always wanted to read a biography of Chester Nimitz. After seeing the movie Midway (2019), I was determined to read this book. The portrayals of the four five-star admirals (Leahy, King, Nimitz and Halsey) as well as others (Raymond Spruance, Frank Jack Fletcher etc.) were a great joy to read. It also gave great lessons in leadership, embodied by these men. I didn't know Leahy and King at all, and was surprised to find out how close he was to FDR and all the decision making of World War II. ...more
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Walter R. Borneman, b.1952, an American historian and lawyer, is the author of well-known popular books on 18th and 19th century United States history. He received his B.A. in 1974 from Western State College of Colorado, and received an M.A. in history there in 1975 for a thesis on "Irwin : silver camp of the Ruby Mountains"; in 1981 he received a law degree from the University of Denver, and ...more
“I’ve tried to analyze the four five-star Admirals that we’ve had in this Navy,” Smoot reminisced. “You have a man like King—a terrifically ‘hew to the line’ hard martinet, stony steely gentleman; the grandfather and really lovable old man Nimitz—the most beloved man I’ve ever known; the complete and utter clown Halsey—a clown but if he said, ‘Let’s go to hell together,’ you’d go to hell with him; and then the diplomat Leahy—the open-handed, effluent diplomat Leahy. Four more different men never lived and they all got to be five-star admirals, and why?”15 Smoot answered his own question with one word: “leadership.” Each of the fleet admirals, he said, had “the ability to make men admire them one way or another.” But” 0 likes
“Nimitz kept avoiding the hands that attempted to steer him off the wing and into a crash boat. Finally, an eighteen-year-old seaman second class lost patience with the white-haired gentleman, and knowing neither his identity nor his rank, he shouted out, “Commander, if you would only get the hell out of the way, maybe we could get something done around here.” Nimitz merely nodded and finally clambered into the waiting boat.” 0 likes
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