Robert Edward Adamson, Jr., was born in Chicago, Illinois, on 28 December 1920, son of Robert E. and Helen Myra (Flinn) Adamson. He attended Newtown High School, Elmhurst, New York; Bayside (New York) High School; and Columbia University in New York City, prior to entering the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, on appointment at large in 1940. Graduated with distinction in the Class of 1944 on 9 June 1943 (accelerated course due to World War II), he was commissioned Ensign and subsequently advanced in rank to that of Vice Admiral, to date from 22 June 1972.
Following graduation from the Naval Academy in 1943, he was a student at the Naval Air Station, Jacksonvile, Florida, before reporting in September 1943 as F. Division Officer on board USS San Diego (CLAA-43). While on board that cruiser, he participated in operations at Treasury-Bougainville; Gilbert and Marshall Islands; 1944 Asiatic-Pacific raids; Marianas and Western Caroline Islands, Leyte Luzon, Iwo Jima, Okinawa Gunto and the THIRD Fleet operations against Japan. From August to November 1945, he attended the Gunnery Officers School, Washington, DC, after which he had duty as F. Division Officer and Assistant Gunnery Officer of USS Massachusetts (BB-59). In September 1946 he joined the Staff of Commander Battleship-Cruiser Force, Atlantic Fleet, as Aide and Flag Lieutenant.
Returning to Annapolis, in June 1947, he attended a course in ordnance engineering and from June 1948 to June 1950 had further instruction at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, from which he received the degree of Master of Science in Physics. He next had duty as Operations Officer and Physicist with Joint Task Force THREE at Los Alamos, New Mexico; and the Eniwetok and the Nevada Proving Grounds and for outstanding services while serving with Task Force THREE, Task Group THIRTY-ONE POINT 0NE during the period July 1950 to July 1951, was awarded Air Force Commendation Medal. In July 1951 he reported as Physicist at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. He remained there until December 1951 and the next month joined USS Brown (DD-546) to serve as Operations Officer and Executive Officer. While on board that destroyer, he participated in operations in Korean waters during the hostilities there.
From February 1954 to May 1956 he was a Staff Officer with the Military Liaison Committee to the Atomic Energy Commission, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Washington DC, after which he had duty afloat as Commanding Officer of USS Naifeh (DE-352), with collateral duty during the period January to June 1958 in command of Reserve Escort Squadron TWELVE. In July 1958, he reported for instruction at the Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Assigned in July 1959 to the Livermore Branch, Field Command, Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, Livermore, California, he remained there until July 1961 and the next month assumed command of USS Wiltsie (DD-716). In January 1962 he joined USS Mullany (DD-528) as Commanding Officer and in October 1963 became Commander Destroyer Division ONE HUNDRED FIFTY-TWO.
He served as Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans to Commander Cruiser-Destroyer Force, Pacific Fleet and in December 1965 assumed command of USS Galveston (CLG-3). In February 1967 he reported as Head of the General Purpose Objective Forces Section, Strategic Plans Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department and in September 1967 became Deputy Commander Naval Ship Systems Command for Maintenance and Logistic Support, Washington, DC. "For exceptionally meritorious service from September 1967 to October 1969..." he was awarded the Legion of Merit. The citation further states in part:
"...He developed reporting and planning procedures to insure the completion of overhauls within the constraints of time and money assigned, and has established an organization to insure the continual application of efficient management to the entire maintenance and logistic-support function for the active Fleet..."
In December 1969 he assumed command of the US Naval Support Activity, Danang, Republic of Vietnam and in July 1970 became Commander Naval Support Activity, Saigon, Republic of Vietnam. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal "for exceptionally meritorious service...from December 1969 to December 1970, in connection with military operations against enemy forces in the Republic of Vietnam..."
In January 1971 he was assigned brief duty in the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Navy Department and in March of that year assumed command of the South Atlantic Force, US Atlantic Fleet. He was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of the Second Legion of Merit "for exceptionally meritorious conduct...(in that capacity) and as Commander Task Force 86 from March 1971 to June 1972..." The citation continues in part: "...Rear Admiral Adamson displayed outstanding leadership, planning and managerial acumen in exercising operational control over ships and units assigned to his command, in providing superior logistic support to forces operating within his area of responsibility and in coordinating with other unified commanders in the area of intelligence matters of vital interest to the US Atlantic Fleet..."
In June 1972 he became Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Surface Warfare), Navy Department and in June 1974 was ordered detached for duty as Special Assistant to the Commander in Chief, US Atlantic Fleet.
In addition to the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with Gold Star, the Air Force Commendation Medal, Vice Admiral Adamson had the American Defense Service Medal; American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, with two silver stars (ten operations); World War II Victory Medal; China Service Medal with two stars; National Defense Service Medal with bronze star; Korean Service Medal with two stars; United Nations Service Medal; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (Quemoy and Matsu Islands); Vietnam Service Medal; and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon, with two stars. He also had the Republic of the Philippines Presidential Unit Citation and the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation Badges.