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Naval fleet commander relieved on eve of World War II

January
05
1941

On this day in 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt relieved James Otto Richardson as commander of the United States naval fleet. Born in Paris, Texas, Richardson graduated fifth in his class from the United States Naval Academy and gradually rose in the ranks until promotion to the temporary rank of admiral in 1939. The following year he was made commander-in-chief of the U.S. fleet and assumed the duties of supervising the transfer of the Pacific Fleet from the mainland to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Richardson strongly opposed the transfer, believing that the fleet was not prepared for war with Japan and that personnel could best achieve a state of readiness in mainland ports. He also dismissed concerns over Japanese expansion in the Pacific, and throughout the move he urged Roosevelt and the Navy to reconsider the relocation. After relieving Richardson of command, Roosevelt offered the job to Chester W. Nimitz, who declined at that time.

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