Fleet Admiral Ernest Joseph King (23rd November 1878 – 11 October 1959) was Commander in Chief, United States Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations during the First Scinfaxi War. His role in coordinating the worldwide evacuations during the late 1930s and his legendary defense of Los Angeles in 1944 made King one of the most respected military leaders of the twentieth century. Following the war, King played an active part in reconstruction efforts both in the Pacific States and United States of America. His strong leadership, colorful personality and success as a commander, combined with his role in the removal of President MacArthur in 1952 made King one of the most widely venerated Americans in history. A popular biographical film released in 2019 helped transform him into an American folk hero, a view that has persisted into the modern era.
King was born in Lorain, Ohio on the 23rd of November 1878. He attended the United States Naval Academy in 1897, graduating fourth in his class in 1901. While still in the Academy, he served aboard the USS San Francisco during the Spanish-American War and after graduating served on numerous battleships and cruisers.
His first command was of the destroyer USS Terry in 1914 and he participated in the United States occupation of Veracruz. During the Great War he served Vice Admiral Henry T. Mayo’s staff and frequently visited Royal Navy ships as part of his duties. King’s short temper and abrasive attitude led to accusations of Anglophobia, although there is little evidence he treated British officers and sailors any differently from those under his own command.
After the Great War, King served in a number of different positions, contributing to American doctrine on naval training, career paths, submarine warfare, and naval aviation. While attending the Naval War College in 1932, he wrote a college thesis entitled “The Influence of National Policy on Strategy.”
The Virus Crisis and the First Scinfaxi War
At the outset of the Virus Crisis, Ernest King was stationed at Naval Air Station North Island, California. As the situation worsened, he was promoted to Vice Admiral and began to coordinate worldwide relief efforts and evacuation strategies. Among his accomplishments during this time was the successful rescue of over 400,000 people trapped in the Panama Pocket.
In 1941 King was appointed as Commander in Chief, United States Fleet (COMINCH) and later Chief of Naval Operations, the only person to ever hold this combined command. Upon reaching the mandatory retirement age on 23rd November 1942, King wrote a message to inform President Roosevelt, who replied with a note reading “So what, old top?”
During the Scinfaxi landings of 1943, King had been observing American evacuation efforts in the South China Sea. As the Scinfaxi advanced across North America and communication with Washington became impaired, King took command of the Pacific Fleet after the death of Admiral Husband E. Kimmel. Coordinating with General Douglas MacArthur, King helped consolidate scattered American naval forces at Pearl Harbor before proceeding at all speed back to the West Coast.
In May of 1944, with the Scinfaxi advancing on Los Angeles, Admiral King, General MacArthur, and Admiral Halsey led the remnants of the United States Pacific Fleet and the British Pacific Fleet in the defense of the city. Commanding from his flagship, the USS Enterprise, Admiral King coordinated intense naval artillery barrages on the advancing Scinfaxi, as well as hundreds of sorties from carrier based aircraft. Despite terrific casualties, King’s task force remained off the Port of Los Angeles, assisting in the evacuation of the city. During the fighting, King on more than one occasion made landfall, and toured the defensive lines in the city center. During one of these excursions, King reportedly personally directed naval artillery on a Scinfaxi tripod, although no clear record of this event remains today.
After three months of intense fighting, the Scinfaxi halted their attack on the city; the only instance during the war in which they did so. By the time the Scinfaxi had rerouted some of their war machines and resumed the advance, the evacuation of Los Angeles had been largely completed. The last few thousand civilians were transported aboard King’s carriers which, along with the rest of the task force, escaped the harbor and withdrew up the Pacific Coast. King would spend the remainder of the war organizing convoys to distribute supplies across the Pacific Coast.
Service in the Pacific States and Retirement
In 1947, King was appointed Senior Advisor to the President of the Pacific States of America, Douglas MacArthur. King was firmly opposed to the existence of the Pacific States and argued for reunification as soon as possible. When MacArthur rejected the Marshall Plan in 1948, King nearly resigned but was convinced to remain by several prominent government and business leaders who saw King as the last major counterweight to MacArthur’s influence.
In August of 1952, with the increasingly authoritarian policies of MacArthur leading to tensions with the United States, Admiral King and a cadre of officers entered the Presidential Office in Seattle and arrested MacArthur at gunpoint. MacArthur was interned aboard the USS Enterprise which, along with the Pacific Fleet, had blockaded Elliott Bay and deployed marines across the city. King would briefly head the provisional Pacific Military Government before the election of Earl Warren in November of that year.
After the election of President Warren, King retired from naval service and finally returned to the United States. He was recalled as an adviser to the United States Secretary of the Navy in 1954 but, after suffering a stroke only a few months after his appointment, left the position. In poor heath for the last few years of his life, King died in Kittery, Maine on the 25th October, 1959. After lying in state at the National Cathedral in Washington, he was buried in the United States Naval Academy Cemetery. A national day of mourning was observed in both the United States and the Pacific States of America.
Admiral King was highly intelligent and extremely capable but despite his legendary reputation in modern popular culture he was often viewed as abrasive and widely hated among his contemporaries. Demanding and abusive to his subordinates, King was widely respected for his ability, but not widely liked by those under his command. A remark by one his daughters, often repeated by Naval personnel at the time, was that “he is the most even-tempered person in the United States Navy. He is always in a rage.” Roosevelt once described King as a man who “shaves every morning with a blow torch.” Many who met King described him as “always angry or annoyed.”
King was famously tight-lipped around members of the press and rarely gave interviews. A journalist who once met King remarked “were it up to Admiral King, the great history of the Scinfaxi War would have been told in two words: ‘we won.’”
King was and remains enormously popular with the American public. He is remembered for his service with hundreds of places named in his honor, including the capital planet of the Roosevelt System and a class of Fleet Carrier in service within the United States Navy.