Dennison, Robert L. 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]


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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1901 (April 13)

Born, Warren, Pennsylvania


B.S., United States Naval Academy


M.S., Pennsylvania State College


D.Eng., Johns Hopkins University


Commander, U.S.S. Ortolan (submarine rescue vehicle)

1937 (May 10)

Married Mildred Fenton Mooney Neely


Commander, U.S.S. Cuttlefish (submarine)


Commander, U.S.S. John D. Ford (destroyer)


Member, Joint War Plans Committee, Joint Chiefs of Staff


Assistant Chief of Naval Operations


Commander, U.S.S. Missouri (battleship)


Naval Aide to President Truman


Commander, First Fleet, U.S. Pacific Fleet


Promoted to rank of Admiral


Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean


Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic


Executive, Copley Newspapers

1980 (March 14)

Died, Bethesda Naval Hospital, Washington, D.C.

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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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Container Nos.




Correspondence and other items mostly pertaining to the relationship between Dennison and Truman. Arranged in chronological order.


  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.


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.


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.