Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


ROBERT L. DENNISON PAPERS

Dates: 1943-1972.

Naval Aide to the President, 1948-1953.

The papers of Robert L. Dennison document some aspects of his service as Naval Aide to President Truman from 1948 to 1953 and his personal relationship with Mr. Truman in the years that followed. The collection includes correspondence between Dennison and Truman; memoranda, reports and other documents relating to the diary of James Forrestal, the U.S. Merchant Marine and the dispute between the U.S. government and the United States Lines Company; White House telegrams; newspaper clippings; and other items.

See also Robert L. Dennison Files and oral history.

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


ADMINISTRATIVE INFORMATION

Size: 1.2 linear feet (about 2400 pages).
Access: Open, with the exception of documents that are closed in accordance with provisions of the donor's deed of gift, or for national security reasons.
Copyright: Robert L. Dennison donated his literary property rights in these papers to the U.S. government. Documents prepared by U.S. government officials in the course of their official duties are also in the public domain. Copyright interest in other documents in this collection presumably belongs to the creators of those documents, or their heirs.
Processed by: C. Warren Ohrvall (1972), Phil D. Lagerquist (1976), Jeremy D. Spencer (2003).


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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

1901 (April 13) Born, Warren, Pennsylvania
1923 B.S., United States Naval Academy
1930 M.S., Pennsylvania State College
1935 D.Eng., Johns Hopkins University
1935-1937 Commander, U.S.S. Ortolan (submarine rescue vehicle)
1937 (May 10) Married Mildred Fenton Mooney Neely
1937-1938 Commander, U.S.S. Cuttlefish (submarine)
1940-1941 Commander, U.S.S. John D. Ford (destroyer)
1944-1945 Member, Joint War Plans Committee, Joint Chiefs of Staff
1945-1947 Assistant Chief of Naval Operations
1947-1948 Commander, U.S.S. Missouri (battleship)
1948-1953 Naval Aide to President Truman
1956-1958 Commander, First Fleet, U.S. Pacific Fleet
1959 Promoted to rank of Admiral
1959-1960 Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean
1960-1963 Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic
1963-1973 Executive, Copley Newspapers
1980 (March 14) Died, Bethesda Naval Hospital, Washington, D.C.

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COLLECTION DESCRIPTION

Robert L. Dennison, a career officer in the U.S. Navy, served as Naval Aide to President Harry S. Truman from 1948 to 1953. During those years, Dennison and Truman developed a friendship that would continue until the former President's death in 1972. Dennison's papers document this personal relationship as well as certain aspects of his work as the Navy's representative on the Truman White House staff.

The collection consists of four series. The first series, the Correspondence File, contains correspondence between Dennison and Truman, mostly dating from the period after the end of the Truman administration in 1953. This correspondence is largely personal in nature and includes exchanges of birthday and holiday greetings, and references to meetings between the two men. After retiring from the Navy in 1963, Dennison became an executive with Copley Newspapers. In this capacity, he sometimes alerted Truman to newspaper editorials that reflected on his Presidency. On one occasion, he sent the former President a series of questions for a prospective interview on international affairs. The series also includes correspondence pertaining to Truman, between Dennison and such persons as Philip C. Brooks (Director of the Truman Library), Henry J. Talge (businessman and organizer of Truman's annual birthday celebrations in Kansas City), and Harry H. Vaughan (former Military Aide to President Truman). The Correspondence File also contains newspaper clippings, programs, and other items.

The second series, the General File, contains correspondence, memoranda, newspaper clippings, and other items relating for the most part to some of Dennison's duties as Naval Aide to the President. Following the suicide of former Navy and Defense Secretary James Forrestal in 1949, Forrestal's estate made arrangements for the publication of his diary. The diary and related papers of a sensitive nature were placed temporarily in Dennison's custody. He was responsible for providing access to the materials and ensuring that nothing was published that would infringe upon national security. Dennison's involvement with the publication of the Forrestal diary and the disposition of Forrestal's papers is reflected in extensive correspondence and memoranda in the General File. The series also includes a report on federal assistance to the U.S. Merchant Marine; newspaper clippings documenting the controversy surrounding President Truman's description of the U.S. Marine Corps as the "Navy's police force" in a 1950 letter; and correspondence between Dennison and historian Eugene Rostow concerning Truman's decision not to seek reelection in 1952.

The third series, the United States Lines File, includes correspondence, memoranda, and other items relating to a dispute between the federal government and the United States Lines Company over the cost of constructing the S.S. United States, an ocean liner that had been partially subsidized by the government. The documents in this series trace the controversy from the signing of the contract for the vessel in 1949 until a settlement between the government and the company was reached in 1954.

The last series in the collection is called the Classified File because much of the material in it was once classified for national security reasons. It now contains only a few documents that are still classified. The series includes telegrams received at the White House from 1943 to 1952, which pertain to a wide variety of foreign policy and national security issues. The Classified File also contains CIA summaries of events in the Korean conflict in 1951, and miscellaneous information concerning the defense of Formosa and other parts of Asia, the President's planned trip to Hawaii in 1949, the death of the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Forrest Sherman, and other matters.

Other materials at the Truman Library that relate to Robert L. Dennison include the Robert L. Dennison Files, which are part of the Staff Member and Office Files of the Harry S. Truman Papers. The Library also has an oral history interview with Dennison.

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SERIES DESCRIPTIONS

Container Nos. Series
1 CORRESPONDENCE FILE, 1949-1971
Correspondence and other items mostly pertaining to the relationship between Dennison and Truman. Arranged in chronological order.
1 GENERAL FILE, 1949-1972
Correspondence, memoranda, newspaper clippings, and other items mostly relating to Dennison's duties as White House Naval Aide. Arranged in alphabetical order.
2 UNITED STATES LINES FILE, 1949-1955
Correspondence, memoranda, and reports relating to a dispute between the U.S. government and the United States Lines Company over the ocean liner S.S. United States. Arranged according to type of material.
2-3 CLASSIFIED FILE, 1943-1952
Telegrams, reports, correspondence, and other items documenting telegraph messages received at the White House, the Korean War, and various aspects of Dennison's duties as White House Naval Aide. Arranged in alphabetical order.

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FOLDER TITLE LIST
Box 1
    CORRESPONDENCE FILE, 1949-1971
  • General Correspondence: Feb. 16, 1949-Jan. 10, 1957
  • General Correspondence: Sept. 10, 1963-Aug. 11, 1965
  • General Correspondence: Jan. 20, 1966-May 9, 1967
  • General Correspondence: Jan. 16, 1968-Aug. 6, 1971
    GENERAL FILE, 1949-1972
  • Forrestal Diary, Correspondence Regarding
      [1 of 2]
      [2 of 2]
  • Log of Truman's Trip to Wake Island
  • Material Transferred to the Audiovisual and Museum Collections
  • Newspaper Clippings
  • Program for Celebration of President Truman's 87th Birthday, May 8, 1971
  • Staff Analysis of Policy Issues Regarding Federal Assistance to the Merchant Marine
  • Truman's Decision Not to Run in 1956, Correspondence Regarding
  • Truman's Draft of Rules for Reviews and Formal Visits to the Military
Box 2
    UNITED STATES LINES FILE, 1949-1955
  • The Case of the United States Lines Company-Volume I
      [1 of 2]
      [2 of 2]
  • The Case of the United States Lines Company-Volume II
  • Correspondence Regarding United States Lines Case
      [1 of 2]
      [2 of 2]
    CLASSIFIED FILE, 1943-1952
  • Daily Korean Summaries (CIA), March-Nov. 1951 Regarding Korean Military Affairs
  • Miscellaneous
Box 3
  • White House Message Traffic, Oct. 1943-March 1945
  • White House Message Traffic, Oct. 1945
  • White House Message Traffic, 1946
  • White House Message Traffic, 1947
  • White House Message Traffic, 1948
  • White House Message Traffic, 1949
  • White House Message Traffic, 1950
  • White House Message Traffic, 1951
  • White House Message Traffic, 1952
  • White House Message Traffic, Undated

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