Willard M. Sweetser Papers, 1898-2008 (bulk 1921-1956): Finding Aid
Published in October 2009
- Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
- Publisher Address:
589 McNair Road
Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
- Call number: MS 399
- Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
- Title: Willard M. Sweetser Papers
- Dates: 1898-2008
- Bulk Dates: 1921-1956
- Size: 5.34 linear feet
- Container Summary: 6 manuscript boxes, 2 flat boxes
- Creator: Sweetser, Willard Merton, 1902-2007
- Language(s) of material: English, Russian, Serbian
- Abstract: Willard M. Sweetser was a graduate of the United States Naval Academy Class of 1922 and a U.S. Navy officer who served as a member of the Yangtze River Patrol, a Destroyer Squadron Commander, a Naval Science instructor, and as a Naval Attaché. The papers, consisting of correspondence, visiting cards, press clippings, books, photographs, and ephemera, primarily describe Sweetser's duties and experiences as a member of the Yangtze River Patrol, and as a Naval Attaché at the U.S. Embassies in Belgrade and Moscow.
Biography of Willard M. Sweetser
Willard M. Sweetser, son of Willard B. Sweetser, was born in Gray, Maine on June 9, 1902. After one year of study at the Severn School in Severna Park, Maryland, Sweetser entered the United States Naval Academy in 1922.
Following graduation from the Naval Academy on June 3, 1926, Sweetser was assigned to U.S.S. Marblehead (Light Cruiser: CL-12). During this assignment, Sweetser attended Naval Aviation School in Hampton, Virginia and Torpedo School in Newport, Rhode Island. After completing Torpedo School, he was transferred to U.S.S. Charles Ausburn (Destroyer: DD-294). In January 1929, Sweetser was assigned to U.S.S. Lexington (Aircraft Carrier: CV-2).
Sweetser began the 1930s with a transfer to foreign service, serving in the Philippines and as part of the Yangtze River Patrol aboard U.S.S. Panay (Gunboat: PR-5). In 1933, Sweetser joined the 4th Marine Regiment in Shanghai, during which time he was assigned to study the Russian language. In September 1934, Sweetser returned to the United States, having been assigned as an instructor in Naval Science at Yale University. After a two-year tour at Yale, he was again sent to sea in June 1936, serving aboard U.S.S. Mississippi (Battleship: BB-41). After two years in the Pacific, Sweetser transferred back to the East Coast to serve aboard U.S.S. Wyoming (Battleship BB-32). Following his service aboard Wyoming, Sweetser was again assigned to Yale University as a Naval Science instructor.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Sweetser left Yale and returned to sea duty as captain of the newly completed U.S.S. Lardner (Destroyer: DD 487), which entered commissioned service on May 13, 1942. After a brief tour in the South Pacific, Sweetser returned to the East Coast to take command of U.S.S. Hickox (Destroyer: DD-673) upon that ship's commissioning on September 10, 1943. Sweetser rounded out his wartime service with tours as commander of Destroyer Division 92 and as a member of the Chief of Naval Operations' staff. Sweetser was awarded two Commendation ribbons, two Bronze Stars, and a Silver Star.
After World War II, Sweetser served two tours at the American Embassy in Belgrade as a Naval Attaché to Yugoslavia, during which time he served as the U.S. representative to the International Conference to Consider Free Navigation of the Danube in July 1948. Following his diplomatic service, Sweetser served tours as a professor of Naval Science at Dartmouth College, commander of Destroyer Squadron 32, and Chief of Staff to the Commander, Hunter Killer Force, Atlantic. In his final assignment, Sweetser again would serve in a diplomatic role as attaché in the American Embassy in Moscow. Following his retirement from the Navy with the rank of Rear Admiral in 1956, Sweetser pursued a Master of Science degree at Purdue University. After graduation, Sweetser taught mathematics at LaSalle University in Philadelphia until 1972. After retiring from LaSalle, Sweetser returned to his birthplace of Gray, Maine, residing in the same home for his remaining 35 years. Willard Sweetser died on November 30, 2007, at the age of 105.
The Willard M. Sweetser Papers, comprising 5.34 linear feet of documentation, span the bulk of Sweetser's career in the U.S. Navy, from his time as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy in 1921, until his retirement in 1956. In varying levels of detail, the papers describe Sweetser's duties and experiences as a member of the Yangtze River Patrol, and as a Naval Attaché at the U.S. Embassies in Belgrade and Moscow.
The collection is composed of varying document types, including letters (primarily incoming), memoranda, invitations, visiting cards, press clippings, books, photographs, orders, event programs, travel permits, identification cards, and ephemera, such as luggage tags and tickets. The papers also include a single scrapbook.
The Sweetser Papers are organized into four series by document type and office of origin. UNITED STATES NAVAL ACADEMY FILES consists primarily of a scrapbook containing photographs, event programs, and awards from throughout Sweetser's naval career. The majority of materials pertaining directly to Sweetser's naval career are found in UNITED STATES NAVAY FILES. Broken into four sub-series, the files focus primarily on Sweetser's duties as a member of the Yangtze River Patrol, and as a Naval Attaché at the U.S. Embassies in Belgrade and Moscow, but also include materials from his service as captain of U.S.S. Lardner. Documents and ephemera tangentially or loosely related to Sweetser's naval career, such as reference works on Russia and travel materials, such as Aeroflot luggage tags, can be found in SUBJECT FILES AND PERSONAL EPHEMERA. Photographs documenting Sweetser's naval career as a diplomat and surface warfare officer, as well as life as a midshipman at the Naval Academy, can be found in PHOTOGRPAHS.
Research interests served by the Sweetser Papers, in addition to biographical inquiries, include the general nature of diplomatic service in the U.S. Navy and the service of U.S.S. Panay on the Yangtze River.
Organized into the following series:
- Series 1: UNITED STATES NAVAL ACADEMY FILES, 1921-1949, 1977
- Series 2: UNITED STATES NAVY FILES, 1931-1964
- Subseries 2a: General, 1941-1964
- Subseries 2b: Yangtze River Patrol, 1931-1932
- Subseries 2c: Attaché to Belgrade, Yugoslavia, 1946-1949
- Subseries 2d: Attaché to Moscow, USSR, 1948-1956
- Series 3: SUBJECT FILES AND PERSONAL EPHEMERA, 1898-2008
- Series 4: PHOTOGRAPHS, 1922-1953
Access and Use
Access is unrestricted.
Copyright and Permission
The Willard M. Sweetser Papers are the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.
It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information.
Acquisition and Appraisal
Provenance and Acquisition
Gift of Willard M. Sweetser, Jr. in March 2009. Accession No. 09-03.
Related Archival Material
Additional biographical materials pertaining to Willard M. Sweetser may be found in his Alumni Jacket in Special Collections & Archives, Nimitz Library. Additional material pertaining to the Yangtze River Patrol can be found in the O. Kemp Tolley Papers, MS 380 in Special Collections & Archives, Nimitz Library.
Materials Cataloged Separately
The following five books have been removed from the collection and cataloged separately:
Koester, Hans. Jugoslavia: Land of Promise. London: Robert Hale, 1937. (Spec Coll DR309.K6 1937)
Lyman, Charles Huntington. Exit with a Full Heart: Being a Love Letter to the United States Navy. Washington, DC: Published in Cooperation with the Navy League of the United States, 1973. (Spec Coll V63.L95 A3 1973)
Nash, Ray. Navy at Dartmouth. Hanover: Dartmouth Publications, 1946. (Spec Coll LD1438.N3 1946)
Soule, Charles Carroll and Cleveland McCauley. International Law for Naval Officers. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute, 1923. (Spec Coll JX3180.S6 1923)
Wallace, James Henry. A Cross for Bravery. Portland, ME: Bradford Press, 1941 (Spec Coll PS3545.A55 C7 1941) Copy 149 of 500, signed by the author.
Processing and Other Information
Willard M. Sweetser Papers, MS 399
Special Collections & Archives Department
United States Naval Academy
This collection was processed by David D'Onofrio in October 2009. Finding aid written by David D'Onofrio in October 2009.
These materials have been indexed in the Naval Academy Library online catalog using the following terms. Those seeking related materials should search under these terms.
Name and Subject Terms
- Lardner (Destroyer : DD-487)
- Military attachés -- United States
- Panay (River Gunboat : PR-5)
- Sweetser, Willard Merton, 1902-2007
- United States -- Foreign relations
- United States. Navy. Yangtze Patrol
- Clippings (information artifacts)
- Orders (military records)
Series 1: UNITED STATES NAVAL ACADEMY FILES, 1921-1949, 1977 Boxes 1, 7[OS]Series Description
Documentation of Sweetser’s time as a midshipman at the Naval Academy, as well as his later interactions with the Naval Academy Alumni Association. The materials pertain largely to special events, such as dances, Army-Navy football, and graduation. Included in the series are certificates, correspondence, ephemera, greeting cards, a lesson schedule, and a scrapbook.
The scrapbook, spanning from 1921 to 1949, includes photographs, dance programs, football programs, certificates, press clippings and postcards. The scrapbook also contains material pre and postdating Sweetser’s time at the Naval Academy, including awards from the Severn School, his appointments as Commander and Captain, and a citation for a Silver Star.
Additional material pertaining to the United States Naval Academy can be found in PHOTOGRAPHS.Series Arrangement
Arranged alphabetically by document type.
Subseries 2a: General, 1941-1964Subseries Description
Documentation, of a general nature, of several unrelated aspects of Sweetser's career in the United States Navy. The materials pertain to awards received by Sweetser, security clearance, social protocol, U.S.S. Lardner, and Sweetser's retirement. Included in the sub-series are letters, certificates, identification cards, handbooks, orders, a pocket diary, and a 16mm motion picture film.
The 16mm, silent, motion picture film depicts the "Crossing the Line" ceremony of the U.S.S. Lardner. Photographs of U.S.S. Lardner, as well as a rescue operation probably carried out aboard Lardner or Hickox can be found in PHOTOGRAPHS.
Additional awards and certificates from Sweetser's naval career can be found in the scrapbook in UNITED STATES NAVAL ACADEMY FILES.Subseries Arrangement
Arranged alphabetically by document type.
Subseries 2b: Yangtze River Patrol, 1931-1932Subseries Description
Documentation of events and duties during Sweetser's tour aboard U.S.S. Panay of the Yangtze River Patrol. The materials pertain specifically to Sweetser's duty as an armed guard aboard steamer I'Ling, salvaging of the steamer I'Ping, and the ransoming of Captain Charles Baker by Chinese Communists. Included in the sub-series are memoranda, log entries, and a map.Subseries Arrangement
Arranged alphabetically by document title or type.
Subseries 2c: Attaché to Belgrade, Yugoslavia, 1946-1949Subseries Description
Documentation related to Sweetser's service as a Naval Attaché at the American Embassy in Belgrade. The materials focus on the social nature and protocol of diplomatic duty, as well as the International Conference to Consider Free Navigation of the Danube. Included in the sub-series are invitations, incoming letters, incoming and outgoing visitor cards, diplomatic lists, press clippings, handwritten notes, schedules, orders, certificates, identification cards, and ephemera.
Included in the sub-series are several documents, including visiting cards and certificates, in the Serbian language.Subseries Arrangement
Arranged alphabetically by document type.
Subseries 2d: Attaché to Moscow, USSR, 1948-1956Subseries Description
Documentation of Sweetser's service as a Naval Attaché at the American Embassy in Moscow, USSR. The materials pertain to the social nature of diplomatic service, as well as Sweetser's travels, and specific Soviet public events, such as the Physical Culture Parade and celebrations for May Day. Included in the sub-series are incoming letters, diplomatic lists, event tickets, event programs, visiting cards, invitations, maps, travel permits, account statements, and handwritten notes.
Included in the sub-series are several documents in the Russian language.Subseries Arrangement
Arranged alphabetically by document type.
Series 3: SUBJECT FILES AND PERSONAL EPHEMERA, 1898-2008 Boxes 4-6, 8[OS]Series Description
Documents and ephemera relating to various topics of personal and professional interest to Sweetser. The materials pertain to such varied topics as the history of the Russian Navy, Soviet satellite armies, the Church of St. George Oplenac, the dedication of the United States Naval Academy Alumni House, historic United States Navy vessels, and travel in the Soviet Union. The series also includes professional development material from the U.S. Naval War College. Included in the series are books, press clippings, event programs, airplane [and railway] tickets, pamphlets, luggage tags, and a map.
All of the U.S. Naval War College Publications within this series are also available in the general collections of Nimitz Library.Series Arrangement
Arranged alphabetically by document type or subject.
Series 4: PHOTOGRAPHS, 1922-1953 Boxes 6, 8[OS]Series Description
Photographs, primarily black-and-white, depicting various events from Sweetser's career in the U.S. Navy. In addition to group and individual portraits featuring Sweetser, the photographs also depict the United States Naval Academy (including buildings and grounds, football, parades, and the Class of 1926 commencement), various U.S. Navy vessels (including U.S. Ships Panay, Lardner, and Charles Ausburn), a visit to an allied military cemetery in Murmansk, Russia, and World War II battle scenes. Included in the series are photographic prints, postcards, and printouts.
The photographs of World War II battle scenes include unidentified depictions of what appear to be European ruins and the recovery of refugees or prisoners of war in the Pacific.
Included in the series is a photograph of President Warren G. Harding reviewing the Brigade of Midshipmen, and a photograph of President Lyndon B. Johnson at an unidentified event.Series Arrangement
Arranged alphabetically by subject type.