Naval Historical Center
805 Kidder Breese Street SE
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5060
Hugh S. Knerr was born in Port Townsend, Washington on 30 April 1913. His father, Hugh J. Knerr, was a 1908 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, who joined the Coastal Artillery in 1911, and in 1917, the Air Service. The elder Knerr would eventually become a Major General and the first Inspector General of the Air Force. Young Hugh Knerr's many homes included California, Tennessee, Ohio, Florida, Washington D.C., Texas, Virginia, Kansas and Hawaii.
In 1929, Knerr attended the College of William and Mary for pre-engineering studies. In 1930, he entered the U.S. Naval Academy in the Class of 1934, graduating 355th in a class of 464. He then voluntarily resigned his commission to attend one year of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's naval architecture course, and in 1935, he was hired by Newport News as a Loftsman. In October of that year, he married Sallie E. Frost.
In February 1938, he applied for the U.S. Naval Reserve, but due to professional concerns, he was not accepted until October of 1940. The Navy commissioned Knerr as a Lieutenant (junior grade) in November. He was stationed at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, where he worked as the Assistant Hull Superintendent, responsible for observing sea trials aboard newly constructed submarines.
In June 1942, Knerr was promoted to Lieutenant, USNR, and then to Lieutenant Commander, USNR, in July 1943. He helped supervise the construction of seventy submarines serving as a Hull Superintendent and the Progress and Scheduling Officer. At the end of the war, he was appointed Officer-in-Charge of dismantling four surrendered German U-boats. He was promoted to Commander, USNR in July 1945.
Due to the glut of workers in the post-war civilian shipbuilding industry, Knerr elected to join the Regular Navy in December 1945, as he began a three and a half year tour in Shore Division, Bureau of Ships. From February to May 1946, Knerr was sent to the Graduate School of Business Administration at Harvard University, where he studied "Advanced Management." In June 1946, Knerr's request to join the Regular Navy was accepted, and he was appointed a Lieutenant (junior grade) as an Engineering Duty Only officer. Half a month later, he started duty as the Head, Management Planning and Review Branch, for the Bureau of Ships. Knerr frequently was given Temporary Assigned Duty in varied locations as part of his job and his connection with the Chief of Naval Operations' On-Site survey in Oahu. Knerr was restored to the rank of Lieutenant Commander in May 1948. In September 1949, he was reassigned to Charleston, South Carolina as the Industrial Engineering Officer. His permanent promotion to full Commander came in May 1950, to rank from 1 January 1950.
After numerous TADs and assignments, in August 1952 Knerr was reassigned to the U.S. Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory in San Francisco, California as the Industrial Engineering Officer, and in June 1953, he became the Administrative Director (the equivalent of an executive officer). In June 1954, Knerr was made the Assistant to the Inspector General in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. He frequently surveyed logistic establishments, until he was assigned to Panama Canal Company in April 1956, as the Industrial Division Chief. Commander Knerr was promoted to Captain in July 1956. He served as the Industrial Division Chief for two-and-a-half years, repairing about a thousand ships a year. In September 1958, he was reassigned to be the Comptroller of the New York Naval Shipyard, but he suffered a major stress-related fever and depression, and the four-month stay in the hospital caused him to be assigned as the Commanding Officer for the Office of Naval Research in New York. He continued in this capacity until July 1961, when he was assigned as the Assistant Director, Production Division to the Office of Naval Material in Washington D.C.
Captain Knerr retired in July 1963. He went back to work in 1964 as a Manager and Assistant to the President of the Paulson Engineering Service, Inc., in Charleston, South Carolina. He left Paulson Engineering in 1967, and became a self-employed naval architecture consultant. In 1974-1975, he collaborated with the Persian Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation to design the shipyard in Bandar Abbas, Iran.
Captain Knerr died in Charleston on 24 August 1978, after suffering a heart attack. He was buried near his father in Arlington National Cemetery.
Scope and Content Note
The Papers of Captain Hugh Knerr primarily consist of correspondence collected by the Captain during his twenty-three year career, as well as certificates he collected for his accomplishments, and personal data. Two scrapbooks and oversize material are also included.
The collection is arranged in five series. Series I is Captain Knerr's biographical data, including numerous résumés, medical records, clippings, and report cards. The series is arranged alphabetically by subject, while the contents of the folders are arranged by date.
Series II is composed of Captain Knerr's correspondence. The correspondence is broken down into three sub-groups: Official, Orders, and Personal. The correspondence in these three sub-groups is arranged by date.
Series III is miscellaneous items including copies of the E.D. Newsletter, published by the Bureau of Ships, and papers detailing submarine work that Knerr carried out at Portsmouth Navy Yard. The series is arranged alphabetically by subject.
Series IV is composed of two scrapbooks and loose photographs and clippings from those books. The scrapbooks are apparently unorganized, despite dates in the corners of the pages. The dates do not appear to be relevant to the subject material. The scrapbooks contain news clippings and photographs about both Captain Knerr and his father, Major General Knerr, USAF. The loose items folders are arranged in the order that items were found in the scrapbooks.
Series V, the oversize material, includes numerous certificates and promotions he received during his life, as well as organizational charts, maps, and ballasting plans. Miscellaneous personal possessions are also included.
This collection should be cited as Papers of Captain Hugh S. Knerr, Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Center, Washington, DC.
Subject Headings (LCSH)
Submarines (Ships)--United States.
World War, 1939-1945--United States.
United States Naval Academy--Photographs.
1.5 cubic feet
21 January 2003