“In carrying out the task assigned in OPERATION PLAN 29-42 you will be governed by the principle of calculated risk which you shall interpret to mean the avoidance of exposure of your force to attack by superior enemy forces without good prospect of inflicting, as a result of such exposure, greater damage to the enemy. This applies to a landing phase as well as during preliminary air attacks.”
C. W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet
Pictured above is Admiral Chester W. Nimitz awarding the Navy Cross to Mess Attendant Third Class Doris “Dorie” Miller for his bravery and actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Miller was then assigned to the battleship USS West Virginia.
The date of the ceremony was 27 May 1942, the same day as the attached operations order was signed by Nimitz and distributed to his fleet commanders prior to the Battle of Midway. In just 15 pages, Nimitz provided his commander’s intent and left the rest to his subordinate leaders. During the battle Nimitz remained in Hawaii and monitored the historic battle via radio intercepts and the “map plot.”
Though the 1975 movie Midway is a Hollywood version of the events of the first week of June, 1942, you gain an appreciation and confidence of “CINCPAC” as you hear Henry Fonda (who played Nimitz) recite the final paragraph of OPLAN 29-42.
Col JW Decker, USAF
OPERATION PLAN 29-42 (Declassified, From Box #101 (1-40 Series) 6-10-52, Division of Naval Records and History.
Deconstructing Nimitz’s Principle of the Calculated Risk, Lessons for Today, Robert C. Rubel, p 31-46, Winter 2015, Naval War College Review.