Ernest King was born in Lorain, Ohio, on 23rd November 1878. He attended the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis and graduated in 1901 (4/67). He joined the US Navy and during the First World War was on the staff of Vice Admiral Henry T. Mayo, commander of the Atlantic Fleet.
After the war King was head of the navy's postgraduate school (1919-21) before becoming captain of a refrigerator ship. In 1922 King qualified as a submariner and later took over a sub-division.
In 1930 King learnt to fly and was given command of the aircraft carrier Lexington (1930-32) until attending Naval War College. In 1933 he took over the Bureau of Aeronautics. King's next post was commander of Air Base Force where he was responsible for over 1,000 seaplanes. Promoted to vice admiral he insisted that his pilots trained for night operations.
In January 1941 King was made commander of the Atlantic Fleet and after the Pearl Harbor disaster King was given the post of Commander in Chief of the US Fleet.
King developed a reputation for being abrasive and argumentative. As a member of the Joint Chief of Staffs he often clashed with General George Marshall. King opposed plans to land the US Army in North Africa. He thought the most important area of concern was the Pacific War. What is more, he thought that the US Navy should play the decisive role in this as long as it was given adequate resources.
King, General Douglas MacArthur the Supreme Commander of the Southwest Pacific Area, and Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the US Pacific Fleet, decided that their first objective should be to establish and protect a line of communications across the South Pacific to Australia. This resulted in the battles of Coral Sea and Midway, where the Japanese Navy lost all four of her carriers.
King insisted on launching the Guadalcana campaign although General Douglas MacArthur claimed that the US Army was not ready yet for a major offensive. MacArthur also disagreed with invasion of the Soloman Islands. There was also conflict over King's view that American forces should bypass the Philippines.
King also opposed Russian involvement in the Pacific War. He also objected to the idea that the Royal Navy should be moved to Pacific after gaining control of the Atlantic. In December 1944, King, along with William Leahy and Chester Nimitz, was given the five-star rank of Fleet Admiral.
After retiring in December, 1945, King lived in Washington until ill-health forced him to stay in Portsmouth Naval Hospital in New Hampshire. Ernest King died of a heart-attack on 26th June, 1956.