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Anderson, Vice Admiral Walter Stratton Papers 

Dates: 1895-1975

Collection Number: AR/104 (Formerly COLL/544)

Finding aid (Word)

Biographical Note

Walter Stratton Anderson, son of William E. P. Anderson and Nellie Douglas Hamilton, was born on October 4, 1881 in Carlinville, Illinois. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy "with distinction" in 1903. As part of his required sea service as a midshipman, he served on board USS Brooklyn, flagship of the European Squadron. On February 3, 1905 he was commissioned ensign.

In June of 1905, Anderson was ordered to USS Galveston. On board Galveston Anderson sailed to France as part of the squadron under the command of Rear Admiral Charles D. Sigsbee, USN, to retrieve the body of John Paul Jones for interment in the crypt under the Naval Academy Chapel. On that occasion, Anderson commanded Galveston's company in the battalion sent to Paris from the United States ships.

From December 1905 until May 1907, Anderson enrolled in postgraduate instruction in ordnance at the Washington Navy Yard, and at the plants of various private industries. Following his completion of the program, he was ordered to Asiatic Station as an aide and flag secretary to Rear Admiral Joseph N. Hemphill, USN, Commander, Third Squadron, Pacific Fleet. From August to November 1908 he served as aide on the staff of Rear Admiral B. Harbor, USN He joined USS Nebraska at Manila, Philippine Islands in November 1908, and made the remainder of the cruise around the world with the Great White Fleet. In November 1909, he was ordered to the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, Rhode Island to work with torpedoes, mines, explosives, and organize the planning and stock records departments for a period of two years.

In December 1911, Anderson (then in the grade of lieutenant) assumed command of USS Yankton, the Commander in Chief's dispatch boat and small relief flagship. From April 1912 to January 1913, he served as aide and flag lieutenant on the staff of Rear Admiral Hugh Osterhaus, USN, Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet. He then served on board USS Utah from December 1912 to June 1913. Following that assignment, Anderson served in USS Des Moines from June 1913 to December 1914, seeing action in San Domingo and also at Vera Cruz. Anderson then returned to New York to serve as Ordnance Superintendent in the Navy Yard. His responsibilities included supervision of ordnance work on all classes of ships, including the installation on battleships of the earliest director fire systems.

In May 1916, Anderson's orders were in connection with fitting out USS Arizona. He served on board Arizona from her commissioning in October 1916 until November 1919, first as gunnery officer, later as executive officer. While serving in Arizona, he cruised out to sea from Portland, England in November 1918 to meet USS George Washington, then carrying President Woodrow Wilson, and escorted that transport to Brest, France. Arizona toured European waters in the spring of 1919, visiting Smyrna, Asia Minor, and Constantinople (the first visit of the United States battleship to that city). On that cruise, Anderson was present when the Greeks took Smyrna.

Anderson served as Officer in Charge of the Navy Recruiting Bureau, New York, New York, from November 1919 until November 1920. The function of this large printing establishment, moving picture, and photographic exchange was to publicize the Navy and inspire large numbers of needed enlistments following World War I's demobilization. Following that term of duty, Anderson enrolled in the senior course at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

From 1922 until 1924, Anderson held command of USS Sinclair and later USS Kidder, with duty also as Commander, Divisions THIRTY and THIRTY-FOUR, Destroyer Squadrons, Pacific Fleet. From July 1924 until July 1927, Anderson acted as head of the Department of Ordnance and Gunnery at the Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland. Additionally, he organized the first of all Naval Reserve Officer's Training Corps Units at St. John's College, Annapolis, Maryland.

Anderson served as assistant chief of staff and operations officer to Admiral H. A. Wiley, USN, Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, from August 1927 until May 1929 after a short assignment on board USS Texas. On May 31, 1929 Anderson assumed the position of Supervisor of New York Harbor until May 23, 1930. He then served as Officer in Charge of the Naval Ammunition Depot, Hingham, Massachusetts, from May 1930 until January 1932.

Anderson commanded USS West Virginia from January 1932 until April 1933. West Virginia won the battle efficiency pennant for the entirety of his command, a record that stands unique for a battleship and for a captain.

Anderson served as Naval Attaché at the American Embassy, London, England, from March 1934 until February 1937. During the term of that duty he was promoted to rear admiral in July 1936. His assignment in London saw the 25th Anniversary Jubilee of George V, the death of George V, the abdication of Edward VIII, and the London Naval Conference of 1935-1936. Anderson attended the conference as a member of the American Delegation. Upon his return to the United States, he assumed command of (heavy) Cruiser Division 4, Scouting Force, USS Northampton flagship. In that command, Anderson became the first flag officer of the U.S. Navy to visit Bogota, Columbia. He received the thanks of the Colombian government for services rendered upon that occasion.

From June 1939 until December 1940, Anderson acted as Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence, Navy Department, Washington, D.C. While in that detail he greatly enlarged the Naval Intelligence Service in preparation for war. He also reported personally and daily to President Franklin D. Roosevelt for a considerable period and served, by the President's order, as a member of a special intelligence committee along with the Director of Military Intelligence and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In January 1941, Anderson assumed command of Battleships, Battle Force, and also perfomed additional duty as Commander, Battleship Division 4. In April 1941 the designation of that command was changed to Battleships, Pacific Fleet, and additional duty as Commander, Battleship Division 4. Flying his flag on board USS Maryland, he was present at Pearl Harbor, T.H., when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941.

On September 28, 1942, Anderson reported for duty as President of the Board of Inspection and Survey, Navy Department, Washington, D.C., a position that was responsible for the preliminary trial, inspection, and acceptance of all vessels and aircraft for use by the Navy.

On July 17, 1944, Anderson assumed duty as Commander, Gulf Sea Frontier, and Commandant, Seventh Naval District, with Headquarters in Miami, Florida. In that capacity, Anderson collaborated with the Cuban and Mexican Navies, and with the Royal Air Force in the Bahamas for cooperative operations in the waters of the Gulf Sea Frontier. The responsibilities of that command included the supervision and general direction, in its operational capacity, of the United States Naval Mission to Cuba, and of such vessels of the Cuban Navy as were placed under his general operational direction. On April 3, 1945, Anderson was appointed to the rank of vice admiral. On October 24, 1945, Anderson was relieved as Commander Gulf Sea Frontier and Commandant, Seventh Naval District. He retired on March 1, 1946.

Anderson's wife of fifty-six years died on June 15, 1966. His son, Walter Stratton Anderson Jr., died in 1977. Vice Admiral Anderson died on October 24, 1981 at one hundred years old. At that time he was the oldest living graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. Survivors included his two grandchildren Virginia Randolph Anderson and Thomas Stratton Anderson.

Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of the papers of Vice Admiral Walter Stratton Anderson. It includes materials covering the full span of his Navy career, from his early experiences as a midshipman through his appointments as Naval Attaché to London, Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence, and Commander of the Gulf Sea Frontier during World War II. Papers from his career with the International Automatic Electric Corporation after his retirement from the Navy and his personal records after his retirement from this company in 1955 are included as well. 

The collection is organized in 17 series. Series I, Correspondence, contains Anderson's personal and official letters from 1908 (when in the grade of ensign and later that year lieutenant) until 1969 after his retirement from the Navy and the International Automatic Electric Corporation. Both groups of personal and official letters include incoming and outgoing correspondence. The incoming personal letters consist mainly of friendly news from foreign diplomats Anderson encountered in his travels, regards from directors of naval social organizations, and messages from correspondents at The New York Times. The majority of Anderson's outgoing personal letters were written to his family from 1913 until 1914 on board USS Des Moines during its tour in the West Indies. Anderson's incoming official correspondence includes letters of commendation for his naval accomplishments and notification of medals earned. Two pieces to note include a signed letter from J. Edgar Hoover (January 11, 1941) and a signed letter from President Herbert Hoover (September 22, 1932). Another signed letter from J. Edgar Hoover to the Secretary of the Navy concerning Vice Admiral Anderson's work as Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence is also included in this series.

Series II includes twenty-five personal diaries. The first diary commenced on June 22, 1903 and the last diary concluded on July 15, 1975. The diaries seventy-two year time span is interrupted only once from January 1, 1956 until December 31, 1957. The diaries document Anderson's personal experiences and official duties from his rank as midshipman to vice admiral and continue after his retirement from the Navy for another twenty-nine years. This part of the collection provides an extensive record of Anderson's location, orders, acquaintances and colleagues, hobbies, family life, and personal opinions.

Series III contains Anderson's official orders from January 30, 1903 to March 26, 1946. This portion of the collection tracks Anderson's assignments and duties from his rank as midshipman to vice admiral. This series also includes notification of Anderson's promotions throughout his career.

Series IV holds theses. Anderson produced the five theses in this series while attending the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island from November 1920 until his graduation in 1921. His scholarly consideration of naval policy, strategy and logistics, principles of command, and tactics are included in this section. 

Series V consists of nine essays, seven of which are known to have been produced by Anderson. The majority of Anderson's essays were written in the 1920's and some were even published in the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings. These essays consider the United States Navy's resources, strategy, and policy. This series also includes two undated essays that consider the harmful effects of naval disarmament on national defense, specifically focusing on the Washington Five-Power Naval Treaty.

Series VI includes three reports. Anderson authored each report, two of which concern the organization and coordination of the Stock Record Department at the Naval Torpedo Station in Newport, Rhode Island. The third report concerns officers' writing styles when composing telegrams. In all three reports, Anderson's suggestions provide a comprehensive and detailed procedure for naval officers to follow.

Series VII is short stories. This series contains five short stories (undated) Anderson composed by drawing on his own experiences as a naval officer. "The Last Exile of St. Helena," "Memoirs of a Midshipman: A Cruise to Lisbon," and "Memoirs of a Midshipman: A Cruise from Lisbon to Riviera" all take place on a fictionalized version of USS Brooklyn "Lost and Found" and "A Chinese Puzzler" take place in China. Anderson's characters and plots parallel many of his real experiences and discoveries as noted in Series II Diaries.

Series VIII holds Anderson's awards, certificates, and diplomas. This series dates from 1895 to 1957 and includes a variety of academic honors, naval accomplishments, and certificates of club memberships. Anderson's Legion of Merit certificate is a particularly notable part of this series. Also included are certificates that mark Anderson's promotions to the ranks of lieutenant-commander and rear admiral. Anderson's appointment as a Naval cadet in the U.S. Navy, an honorary degree from Blackburn University, and an acknowledgement of Anderson's credentials as a Naval ordnance engineer are also included.

Newspaper and magazine clippings are located in Series IX. These selections reference Anderson in a number of different capacities. Several articles include photographs of Anderson only, or reference him only generally in attempts to characterize naval officers on a broader scale. Articles of note include the Washington Post's account of Anderson's heroic rescue of an elderly woman in 1921, aThe New York Times piece quoting Anderson concerning disarmament in 1927, and a Washington Post obituary commemorating Anderson's life in 1981.

Series X contains two book reviews Anderson produced (undated). Included are Anderson's reviews of Chester William Nimitz, 1885-1966 and Foreign Policies of the United States. Their Bases and Development.

Invitations Anderson received are filed in Series XI. Two invitations to Anderson from the Royal Marine Officers' Messes at Chatham, Plymouth, and Portsmouth, England are located in this series. Also included is an invitation to the funeral procession of George V and a reception at Buckingham Palace in 1936.

Series XII includes one memorandum written by Anderson on July 23, 1918. The memorandum concerns officers' duties assigned to USS Arizona while the ship was undergoing extensive repair.

Series XIII holds one lecture prepared and delivered by Anderson on January 26, 1925 to the First Class midshipman at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. At this time, Anderson served as head of the Department of Ordnance and Gunnery at the Naval Academy. The lecture was titled Gunnery and Resourcefulness. 

Series XIV contains one radio address delivered by Anderson on November 19, 1929 while he served as Supervisor of New York Harbor. The address insisted that New Yorkers stop polluting the harbor in order to preserve its original condition. 

Anderson's school and fitness reports are located in Series XV. Anderson's academic results from Blackburn University and the United States Naval Academy are found in this series. Two fitness reports that gauged Anderson's capability as an officer as a precursory step to being promoted within the Navy are also located in this series.

Series XVI is photographs. This series predominantly contains photographs of headstones belonging to Anderson and his family. In some cases, these photographs have been separated from letters they originally accompanied. 

Series XVII is the subject series. It primarily contains communication in the form of cable or telegram to Anderson from various sources. Anderson's family genealogy chart is also located in this portion of the collection.

Preferred Citation

The collection should be cited as the Papers of Vice Admiral Walter S. Anderson, Archives Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington D.C.


Published: Tue Aug 10 14:43:08 EDT 2021