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Bern Anderson papers

Identifier: MSC-088

Scope and Contents

The Bern Anderson papers were presented as a gift to the Naval War College Foundation for deposit in the Naval Historical Collection by Mrs. Elizabeth Anderson, the admiral's widow, in December 1986. They consist of seven boxes, about 3 linear feet, containing materials documenting the admiral's naval career and his post-retirement career as a professional historian.

The collection is divided into five series, with career papers and correspondence bulking the largest. Series I, official career papers, 1920-1960, consists of naval orders, leave requests, change of duty papers, and registered publications slips for the period of Anderson's active duty career, 1920-1950, and his return to active duty after retirement, 1952-1960.

Series II contains Anderson's official and personal correspondence, including both letters sent and received between the years 1928 and 1960. Prominent correspondents include Samuel Eliot Morison, author of The History of U.S. Naval Operations in World War II. Anderson, based at the Naval War College, was a research associate of Morison and wrote a draft of the New Guinea Operation for Volume VIII of the series. In addition, he aided in the preparation of Volumes IX through XIV. Their correspondence reveals the problems involved in researching and writing a multi-volume work of this scope. Other major correspondents include Robert Albion, Roger Pineau, William Emerson, Philip K. Lundeberg, John Heffernan, John D. Hayes, Captain Joseph K. Taussig, Admiral Ernest M. Eller and Captain Stephen W. Roskill, RN. Discrete correspondence files cover U.S. Naval Academy activities, Anderson's patent kn. an electro-magnetic cipher, his articles in the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, his medals and decorations, a case of plagiarism regarding an article published in the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings by a Navy enlisted man, and World War II matters.

Subject Files, series III, contain maps, charts, naval messages and correspondence pertaining to Operation Hollandia, 1943-1944, along with correspondence, calculations and papers on measurements of visibility.

Series IV, writings, consists of Anderson's published and unpublished writings, including his Naval War College thesis, term papers at Harvard, articles published in the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, manuscripts of his publications, and note cards and research source materials for his two books.

Miscellany, the last series, contains diaries Anderson kept while on active duty, diplomas, citations, certificates, newspaper clippings on China, Navy Department pamphlets and career photographs, including shots of Alaska.

An appendix to other research sources indicates Naval War College archival record groups which contain materials written by Anderson, as well as a list of his published writings.


  • Creation: 1920-1960


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Access is open to all researchers, unless otherwise specified.

Conditions Governing Use

Material in this collection is in the public domain, unless otherwise noted.

Biographical Note

Rear Admiral Bern Anderson was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on June 12, 1900, to Andrew and Hattie Anderson. After a year at Kansas City Junior College, he entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1917 and graduated in 1920 with the class of 1921-A.

From 1920 to 1927, he served in USS CHARLESTON in the Pacific Fleet and in USS JACOB JONES, USS YARBOROUGH and USS TEXAS in the Atlantic Fleet. In September 1927, he married Elizabeth Stanton of Staten Island, New York, daughter of mural painter and maritime historian Samuel Ward Stanton, editor of The Nautical Gazette. Assigned to the Asiatic Station, they lived in Shanghai where their daughter, Joan Elizabeth, was born in 1930. Anderson's years in the Far East were both preceded and followed by tours with the Navy Department's Communications and Engineering Departments.

In 1934, he assumed command of USS SWALLOW, which was assigned to Alaskan waters. During his tour there, he received a Department of Commerce License as Master of Ocean Vessels and won endorsement as a pilot in southwestern and southeastern Alaskan waters. Prior to the outbreak of World War II in Europe, he served as Recruit Training Officer at the Naval Training Station in Great Lakes, Illinois.

During the nineteen thirties, he began his career as an author, writing articles for the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings on topics dealing with the political situation in China, the site of a recent assignment. His interest in history studies and historical writing continued throughout his naval career and well into retirement.

When the United States declared war on Japan in December 1941, Anderson was serving as navigator of the USS MISSISSIPPI with the Atlantic Fleet in Iceland. In May and June of 1942 he served as commanding officer of USS VIXEN, flagship of the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, and then attended the senior course at the Naval War College, Newport RI.

During 1943 and 1944, he served as planning and control officer on the staff of Commander, Seventh Amphibious Force, where he participated in Operation Hollandia, the invasion of New Guinea, and subsequent invasions in the Admiralties and New Britain. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for heroism there. A two year assignment on the staff of the Naval War College's Strategy Department followed service in the Pacific.

After two years with the Atlantic Fleet Amphibious Force, he returned again to the Naval War College as Head of the Strategy and Tactics Department. He retired in 1950 and was promoted to Rear Admiral on the retired list.

In retirement, Anderson pursued history studies at Harvard University, earning an M.A. in 1951 and a Ph.D. in 1952. His dissertation on the explorer George Vancouver was expanded into a book, Surveyor of the Sea: The Life and Voyages of Captain George Vancouver, published by the University of Washington Press.

Recalled to active duty, he was assigned to the Naval War College from 1952-1960 where he served as a research associate of Samuel Eliot Morison in preparing The History of U.S. Naval Operations in World War II. Anderson's second book, By Sea and by River: the Naval History of the Civil War, was published in 1962 by Alfred Knopf.

RADM Anderson died in 1963 at the Naval Hospital in Newport. His widow, Mrs. Elizabeth Anderson, lives in Jamestown, RI and his daughter, Joan Stickley, in Washington, D.C.

Anderson's medals and decorations include the Victory Medal, Atlantic Fleet clasp (World War I), the Yangtze Campaign Medal, the American Service Defense Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three battle stars, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Legion of Merit with Combat V.


3 Linear Feet


The Anderson papers consist of career papers, correspondence, subject files, writings, and other miscellaneous items related to the military career of Bern Anderson. The majority of the materials in this collection are from the career series and the correspondence series. These materials reflect many angles of his active United States Naval duty including: his personal letters during active duty, his materials regarding Operation Hollandia, his published and unpublished writings, diaries, citations, photographs, and newspaper clippings.


The collection is arranged into five series:

  • Series I. Official Career Papers, 1920-1960
  • Series II. Correspondence, 1928-1960
  • Series III. Subject Files, 1931-1960
  • Series IV. Writings, 1932-1962
  • Series V. Miscellany, 1920-1948

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Bern Anderson papers were presented as a gift to the Naval War College Foundation for deposit in the Naval Historical Collection by Mrs Elizabeth Anderson, the admiral's widow, in December 1986.

Guide to the Bern Anderson papers1920-1960
Finding aid prepared by Evelyn M. Cherpak, Ph.D..
2011 July 20
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Naval War College Archives Repository

US Naval War College
686 Cushing Rd
Newport RI 02841 US