Rear Admiral William Wirt Kimball

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William Wirt Kimball

Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Son of Brevet Brig. General William King Kimball (USA) and Frances Freeland Rawson

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About Rear Admiral William Wirt Kimball

William Wirt Kimball (January 9, 1848 - January 26, 1930) was a U.S. naval officer and an early pioneer in the development of submarines.


Kimball was born in Paris, Maine. In 1869 he graduated from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis.

After serving on early navy torpedo boats, Kimball designed machine guns and armored cars, and switched to the development of submarines in the 1890s.

He commanded the Atlantic torpedo-boat fleet in the Spanish-American War.

In May 1906, he served as the first commander of the battleship New Jersey. In 1908, Kimball became rear admiral, and commanded expeditionary forces to Nicaragua in 1909. In 1910, he retired from active duty.

He died in Washington, D.C. on January 26, 1930.


Rear Admiral William W. Kimball was born in Paris, Maine on January 9, 1848. An 1869 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he specialized in torpedoes and became one of the first officers assigned to the Naval Torpedo Station in Newport Rhode Island in 1870. He encountered John Holland, the submarine inventor, at a dinner held on board the flagship of the Naval Artillery Station, Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1883. The two men had an extensive discussion about basic submarine principles of design and performance. The exchange immediately convinced Kimball of the importance of Holland's submarine concepts. Thereafter Kimball played an important role in submarine and self-propelled torpedo development.

As an ordnance officer, Kimball worked tirelessly to bring Holland’s work and its significance to the attention of the Navy Department and the Congress. He earnestly desired that the Navy acquire the Holland patents and conduct submarine research and development to achieve the desired level of operational performance. Navy officials rejected his advice and Kimball watched as the Electric Boat Company formed and took over the Holland effort.

In his retirement years he lobbied extensively for both the torpedo boat and the submarine. He argued that both would prove significant to American ambitions as the United States became a world power at the end of the nineteenth century. Admiral Kimball died in Washington D.C. on January 26, 1930.

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Rear Admiral William Wirt Kimball's Timeline

Age 82