Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


John R. Alison Papers

Dates:1945-1957. Bulk Dates: 1947-1949.

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aeronautics, 1947-1949.

The papers of John R. Alison relate largely to his work as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aeronautics and his membership on the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and the Civil Aviation Administration, although there is also some material relating to his unofficial role as a departmental advisor during his tenure as president of the Transit Van Corporation. The collection consists predominantly of correspondence between Alison and his colleagues regarding various subjects examined during Alison’s tenure, as well as personal correspondence between Alison and his friends or former Air Force comrades. The file also includes memoranda, telegrams, newspaper clippings, envelopes, and memorabilia, as well as a small number of photographs, speech drafts, press releases, charts, and printed documents.

[Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List]


ADMINISTRATIVE INFORMATION

Size: Less than one linear foot (approx. 1100 pages).
Access: Open, except where restricted by the donor's deed of gift.
Copyright: John R. Alison donated his copyright interest in writings in this collection to the United States of America. Documents created by U.S. government employees in the course of their official duties are in the public domain. Copyright interest in any other writings in this collection is assumed to remain with the authors of the documents, or their heirs.
Processed by: C.W. Ohrvall (1971)
Updated by: Brad Houston (2003) as part of the Truman Library Internship Program
Supervising Archivists: Amy Williams and Randy Sowell

[ Top of the page | Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List ]


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

1912 (11 November) Born, Gainesville, Florida
1936 Joined U.S. Army Air Corps, later renamed Army Air Force
1941 RAF adviser on operation and maintenance of American airplanes
1941-42 (June-December) Air Attaché to Soviet Union
1942 (January-June) Lend-Lease Coordinator for Persian Gulf Region
1942-43 Commander, 23rd Fighter Group in Chinese Theater
1944 Deputy Commander, Aerial Invasion of Burma
1945 Operations Officer, 5th Air Force
1946 Resigned from AAF as a Colonel
1946-47 Consultant on aviation concerns
1947 (11 August) Sworn in with recess commission as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aeronautics
1948 (1 February) Confirmed for permanent position by Senate
1948 (13 May-30 June) U.S. Delegate, International Civil Aviation Organization Conference
1949 (19 January) Resigned as Assistant Secretary (effective March 31, 1949)
1949 (1 April) President, Transit Van Corporation
c. 1950 Re-enlisted in United States Air Force to fight in Korean War
1955 Retired as Major General, Air Force Reserve
c.1965-1984 Senior Vice President, Northrop Corporation
1992 Secretary/Treasurer, Air Force Memorial Foundation
1994 Inducted into Air Commando Hall of Fame

[ Top of the page | Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description | Series Descriptions | Folder Title List ]


COLLECTION DESCRIPTION

The John R. Alison Papers are comprised largely of correspondence sent or received by Alison during his tenure as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aeronautics from August 1947 to March 1949. Included are letters, telegrams, memoranda, newspaper clippings, photographs, memorabilia, and other items spanning the period from 1945 to 1957.

The collection consists of approximately 1100 pages, at least partially arranged by Alison himself and his staff. Many of the letters received at Alison's Department of Commerce office have file tags, prepared by Alison's secretarial staff, which indicate the sender of the letter, the date sent and date received by Alison's office, and provide a brief description of the letter's contents. The collection is in one series, a Subject File, arranged alphabetically by folder title with the exception of the first three folders (which hold letters sent and received regarding Alison's appointment and/or resignation as Assistant Secretary) and the last folder (containing a reprint of a document published by the National Coast and Geodetic Survey, which Alison oversaw as part of his duties).

Alison was a member of the U.S. Army from the time of his graduation from the University of Florida in 1936, joined the Army Air Force when it was established in 1941, and would remain in that branch of the army through the end of World War II, during which time he served in both theaters of war in both diplomatic and military roles. As such, a majority of the collection consists of personal correspondence between Alison and friends and acquaintances from his days as a Colonel in the AAF. In many cases, this correspondence is merely invitations to Alison to meet or spend Thanksgiving dinner together. Other friends of Alison's took up positions in the airline industry after the war and wrote to Alison in order to curry his favor in his new position. Still other letters directly ask Alison to use his influence in government to help them secure government jobs or special diplomatic passports. Most of this correspondence is in the form of letters or telegrams, although in some cases Alison's friends also include Christmas cards, photographs, and other bits of memorabilia.

Surprisingly, there is very little material relating to official aspects of Alison's job as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aeronautics; there are, for instance, no copies of minutes of meetings Alison might have attended or official memoranda regarding policies he might have enacted. In fact, most of the official records of Alison's tenure can be found at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Nonetheless, Alison was often requested to explain aspects of American Civil Aviation policy, and so explanations of Alison's work first as Assistant Secretary, then as member of the Civil Aviation Administration and as Vice Chairman of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, appear frequently in his letters to friends and colleagues. Alison also attended the International Civil Aviation Organization Conference in Geneva, Switzerland from May 13 to June 30, 1948 as the U.S. delegate, and so his role in that conference also receives repeated mention throughout the collection.

Although Alison had relatively little to do with U.S. foreign policy, his opinions and interpretations of that policy also appear quite often in his papers. As Alison spent the second half of 1941 as Air Attaché to the Soviet Union, his correspondence is particularly rich in letters and clippings relating to U.S. policy towards the U.S.S.R, most notably in the "Personal, Alison" and "Personal, U-Z" folders. The collection also contains a large amount of correspondence reflecting Alison's opinions and recommendations for the Marshall Plan, a program that he favored. Alison's long letters to Averell Harriman in the "Personal, H" folder and to the Earl of Selkirk in the "Personal, S" folder are particularly useful in his discussion of the European Recovery Program. The collection also contains limited amounts of material relating to foreign policy towards China and Israel.

Alison also stumped for President Truman in the South, especially in Florida, during the 1948 Presidential Election campaign, and while none of his speeches on the President's behalf are found in the collection, many of his impressions of the campaign can be found in his correspondence. Of particular note is correspondence between Alison and Senator Carl Hatch of New Mexico regarding the President's stance on Civil Rights, found in the "Personal, Alison" folder. The correspondence between Alison and the Earl of Selkirk also contains much of Alison's impression on the outcome of the campaign.

Materials in the Harry S. Truman Papers relating to the John R. Alison Papers include series in the Official File (OF 3, 3h, 3I, 220, 249, 249a, 249 misc., 371, 426, 578a), President's Secretary's Files (General File, Subject File), Confidential File (General File), and President's Personal File (PPF 39). The Oral History interviews of George P. Baker, Thomas K. Finletter, Milton Kayle, Matthew J. Connelly, and Vernice Anderson may also be useful. Other holdings of the Truman Library that may be of relevance include the papers of Gordon Gray, Thomas K. Finletter, Charles Sawyer, and Stuart Symington.

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SERIES DESCRIPTIONS
Container Nos. Series
1-2 SUBJECT FILE, 1945-1957 (Bulk Dates: 1947-1949) Correspondence, telegrams, memoranda, memorabilia, newspaper clippings and other printed materials, speech drafts, legal documents, photographs, and other items related to John R. Alison's term as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aeronautics. Includes some material relating to aeronautics and to foreign policy, especially to policy related to U.S.S.R and China. Arranged by alphabetical order according to sender/recipient or subject, and thereunder chronologically.

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FOLDER TITLE LIST

Box 1

     SUBJECT FILE, 1945-1957 (Bulk dates: 1947-1949)

  • Letters received and copies of letters sent, congratulations on appointment as Assistant Secretary of Commerce, A-L
  • Letters received and copies of letters sent, congratulations on appointment as Assistant Secretary of Commerce, M-Z
  • Letters received and copies of letters sent, reference his resignation as Assistant Secretary of Commerce, 1949
  • Personal, Alison
  • Personal, A
  • Personal, B
  • Personal, Bellah, James Warner
  • Personal, C
  • Personal, Cooper, Merian C.
  • Personal, D
  • Personal, E
  • Personal, F

Box 2

  • Personal, G
  • Personal, H
  • Personal, I, J, K
  • Personal, L
  • Personal, N
  • Personal, P
  • Personal, R
  • Personal, S
  • Personal, T
  • Personal, U-Z
  • "Earliest Maps of Washington, D.C." (a reprint of an article in The Military Engineer, July-August 1949, pp. 247-250)

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