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Ernest J. King Papers, 1897-1981 (bulk 1897-1953): Finding Aid

Published in May 2016

Summary Information

  • Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
  • Publisher Address:
    589 McNair Road
    Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
    Phone: 410-293-6917
  • Call number: MS 437
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: Ernest J. King Papers
  • Dates: 1897-1981
  • Bulk Dates: 1897-1953
  • Size: 2.5 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 2 manuscript boxes, 1 flat box
  • Creator: King, Ernest Joseph, 1878-1956
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: Ernest J. King was an admiral in the United States Navy and a member of the United States Naval Academy Class of 1901. The Ernest J. King Papers focus on King's time as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy and the publication of Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record following his retirement, while also offering a sample of his World War II era personal correspondence.

Biographical Chronology of Ernest J. King

  • Born November 23 in Lorain, Ohio to James C. and Elizabeth Keam King.
  • Appointed to the United States Naval Academy.
  • In July and August, serves aboard U.S.S. San Francisco (Protected cruiser: C-5) of the Northern Patrol Squadron during the Spanish-American War.
  • On June 7, graduates from the United States Naval Academy.
  • Following graduation, begins two years mandatory service at sea aboard U.S.S. Eagle (Gunboat), U.S.S. Cincinnati (Protected cruiser: C-7), and U.S.S. Illinois (Battleship: BB-7).
  • In January, is reattached to U.S.S. Cincinnati of the Asiatic Fleet.
  • On June 7, is commissioned Ensign.
  • In August, is attached to U.S.S. Alabama (Battleship: BB-8) of the Atlantic Fleet.
  • Marries Martha Lamkin Edgerton of Baltimore, Maryland.
  • In June, is promoted to Lieutenant.
  • In September, begins service as instructor in the Naval Academy's Department of Ordnance and Gunnery, followed by a year of service on the Academy's Executive Staff.
  • In June, is detached from the Naval Academy for service as Aide on the staff of Commander, Second Division, Atlantic Fleet.
  • In March, is transferred to U.S.S. Minnesota (Battleship: BB-22) for service as first assistant to the Senior Engineer Officer and, later, as Senior Engineer Officer.
  • In June, begins service as Aide and Flag Secretary to the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.
  • In June, is assigned to shore duty in Annapolis at the Engineering Experiment Station.
  • In July, is promoted to Lieutenant Commander.
  • In April, is detached for duty as Commanding Officer of U.S.S. Terry (Destroyer: DD-25) during the Mexican Crisis.
  • On July 18, assumes command of U.S.S. Cassin (Destroyer: DD-43).
  • On August 10, assigned to additional duty as Aide to Commander Torpedo Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet, Commander W. S. Sims.
  • In June, assumes command of Sixth Division, Torpedo Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet.
  • In December, is relieved of command for duty on the staff of Admiral H. T. Mayo, who served as Second in Command, Atlantic Fleet, and during World War I as Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet.
  • In July, is promoted to Commander.
  • In July, is promoted to Captain.
  • In May, is assigned Head of the Postgraduate Department at the Naval Academy.
  • In July, is detached from the U.S. Naval Academy.
  • Receives command of U.S.S. Bridge (Store ship: AF-1).
  • In July, reports for duty on the staff of Commander, Submarine Flotillas, Atlantic Fleet.
  • On November 20, assumes command of Submarine Division Eleven.
  • In April, assigned additional duty as Commander, Submarine Division Three.
  • In September, assumes command of Submarine Base, New London.
  • In July, commands the salvage operations of U.S.S. S-51 (Submarine: SS-162).
  • On July 28, assumes command of U.S.S. Wright (Aircraft tender: AV-1), with additional duty as Senior Aide on the staff of Commander, Aircraft Squadron, Scouting Fleet.
  • In January, reports to Naval Air Station Pensacola for flight training.
  • On May 26, is designated Naval Aviator #3368.
  • In June, rejoins U.S.S. Wright.
  • Following the December sinking of U.S.S. S-4 (Submarine: SS-109), is assigned command of the Salvage Force.
  • In June, is relieved of command of U.S.S. Wright.
  • On June 1, assumes command of Aircraft Squadrons, Scouting Fleet.
  • On August 2, is named Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics.
  • In April, is detached from the Bureau of Aeronautics for command of Naval Air Station Norfolk.
  • In June, assumes command of U.S.S. Lexington (Aircraft carrier: CV-2).
  • In April, completes the senior course at the Naval War College and is promoted to Rear Admiral.
  • Assigned Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics.
  • In June, is detached from the Bureau of Aeronautics for duty as Commander of Aircraft, Base Force in the Pacific and Caribbean, with additional duty as Commander, Patrol Wing One towards the end of his tour.
  • In September, is relieved of command of Aircraft, Base Force.
  • In January, is designated Commander Aircraft, Battle Force with the temporary rank of Vice Admiral.
  • In August, reports for duty as a member of the General Board.
  • In December, assumes command of the Patrol Force, U.S. Fleet.
  • On February 1, is appointed Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet with the rank of Admiral.
  • On December 20, is appointed Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet, assuming command on December 30.
  • On March 13, is nominated as Chief of Naval Operations following that position's merging with the duties of Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet.
  • On March 18, is confirmed as Chief of Naval Operations by the U.S. Senate.
  • On December 20, accepts appointment to the rank of Fleet Admiral.
  • On December 15, is relieved of duty as Chief of Naval Operations by Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and is transferred to the retired list with the rank of Fleet Admiral.
  • Publishes Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record.
  • On June 25, dies at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital.
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Description of Contents

The Ernest J. King Papers, comprising 2.5 linear feet of documentation, span from 1897 to 1981, with a bulk of the documentation ceasing by 1953. The papers focus on King's time as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy and the publication of Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record following his retirement, while also offering a sample of his World War II era personal correspondence.

Composed primarily of correspondence and photographs, the collection also includes certificates, notes, clippings, speeches, legal documents, biographical sketches, and a scrapbook.

The King Papers are arranged alphabetically by document type into a single record series with no subdivisions. The papers offer a sampling of documentation from several eras in King's life and U.S. Navy career. King's time as a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy is represented primarily by a scrapbook and photograph album, documenting Academy dances, holiday dinners, King's grades, and the activation of Naval Academy midshipman during the Spanish-American War. King's World War II service as Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet is represented by a small selection of personal correspondence, as well as copies of two of his official reports. While most of the correspondence takes the form of notes of congratulations and thanks, letters between King and then Representative Lyndon B. Johnson focus on Japanese broadcast propaganda practices. King's retirement years are represented primarily by correspondence relating to the publication of Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record, originally published in 1952.

Photographs in the King Papers, aside from those depicting the naval activities of midshipman during the Spanish-American War, tend to focus on naval portraiture, as well as some of the vessels King served on and the Allied Powers' conferences of World War II. Other topics covered in the collection include King's estate, the 1929 Presidential Inauguration, and King's speaking engagements.

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The Ernest J. King Papers are arranged alphabetically by document type.

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Access and Use


Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The Ernest J. King 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.

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Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition

Gift of Colonel Frederic Smith, III, U.S.A.F. (Ret.) in September 1999. Accession No. 99-80.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Material

Additional material pertaining to Ernest J. King's time as a midshipman and subsequent U.S. Navy career may be found in his Midshipman Personnel Jacket and Alumni Jacket, Special Collections & Archives, Nimitz Library.

Additional personal and official papers of King's may be found in the Ernest Joseph King Papers, 1908-1966 at the Library of Congress Manuscripts Division and in the Papers of Admiral Ernest J. King, 1918-1955 at the Naval History and Heritage Command Operational Archives.

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection and cataloged separately.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

Ernest J. King Papers, MS 437

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Selected Bibliography

The following sources were consulted during preparation of the biographical note:

Reynolds, Clark G. Famous American Admirals. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1978.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by David D'Onofrio in May 2016. Finding aid written by David D'Onofrio in May 2016.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Admirals -- United States -- Biography
  • King, Ernest Joseph, 1878-1956
  • Midshipmen -- United States -- Conduct of life
  • Spanish-American War, 1898
  • United States Naval Academy -- Midshipmen -- Cruises
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Pictorial works

Genre Terms

  • Certificates
  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Correspondence
  • Manuscripts
  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Biographies, 1976-1980, undated

Draft excerpts of a biography of King, as well as correspondence regarding and critical of Thomas Buell's Master of Sea Power: A Biography of Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King.

Box 1 Folder 2

Book - The Life of John Jervis, Admiral Lord St. Vincent, 1913

Inscribed "E. J. King, Base Two, 13 May 1918."

Box 1 Folder 3

Certificates, 1897, 1946

King's authorization for his Naval Academy examination and Mrs. King's Nurses National Memorial certificate.

Box 1 Folder 4

Correspondence - Correspondents C, 1941-1953

Correspondents include Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope, Winston Churchill, Amon G. Carter, and Wat T. Cluverius. Primarily letters of thanks and congratulations.

Box 1 Folder 5

Correspondence - Correspondents G, 1943-1947

Correspondents include William Francis Gibbs, Robert C. Giffen, Margaret Delano Gage, and Governor of Pennsylvania Edward Martin. Honorary memberships, speaking engagements, and letters of thanks and congratulations.

Box 1 Folder 6

Correspondence - Correspondents J, 1942-1943

Correspondents include Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard H. Jackson, and Ernest Lee Jahncke. Includes discussion of Japanese wartime news broadcasts by the DOMEI News Agency and Jahncke's commission as a Commodore.

Box 1 Folder 7

Correspondence - Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record, 1949-1952

Includes contracts and memoranda of agreement between King and W. W. Norton & Company, as well as materials regarding promotion.

Box 1 Folder 8

Correspondence - Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record, 1952-1953

Primarily notes of thanks and congratulations on the publishing of King's book.

Box 3[OS] Folder 1

Diplomatic Passport, 1918

Box 1 Folder 9

Ephemera, undated

Includes samples of King's stationery as Fleet Admiral.

Box 1 Folder 10

Event Program, 1981

Dedication of King Hall at the United States Naval Academy.

Box 1 Folder 11

Newspaper Clippings, 1929-1945, undated

1929 Presidential inauguration and the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet in Hawaii.

Box 3[OS] Folder 2

Newspaper Clippings, 1930-1946

Includes coverage of King's honorary degree from Princeton University.

Box 1 Folder 12

Notecards, undated

Notes on naval history, naval policy, global affairs, and international trade, possibly in preparation for a speech.

Box 1 Folder 13

Official Reports, 1944-1945

Copies of King's published World War II reports as Commander in Chief of the United States Fleet.

Box 2 Folder 1

Photographs - Album, 1898

Photographs of operations from Key West during the Spanish-American War.

Box 3[OS] Folder 3

Photographs - Album (Casablanca Conference), 1943

Box 2 Folder 2

Photographs - Events, 1933-1943, undated

Includes images of the Tehran Conference and an inspection of N.A.S. Sunnyvale, as well as unidentified meetings and conferences.

Box 2 Folder 3

Photographs - Group Portraits, 1902-1943, undated

Box 3[OS] Folder 4

Photographs - Group Portraits, undated

Box 2 Folder 4

Photographs - Individual Portraits (King), undated

Box 3[OS] Folder 5

Photographs - Individual Portraits (King), undated

Box 2 Folder 5

Photographs - Individual Portraits (Others), 1942, undated

Includes inscribed photographs of British Admirals Sir Charles Little and David Beatty.

Box 3[OS] Folder 6

Photographs - Individual Portraits (Others), 1915-1938, undated

Includes inscribed photographs of Admiral William S. Sims, Admiral Henry T. Mayo, and British Admiral John R. Jellicoe.

Box 2 Folder 6

Photographs - Ships, undated

Includes images of U.S.S. King (Guided missile frigate: DLG-10) and a stateroom aboard an unidentified vessel.

Box 3[OS] Folder 7

Photographs - Ships, undated

Includes U.S.S. Lexington (Aircraft carrier: CV-2).

Box 2 Folder 7

Scrapbook, 1897-1901

United States Naval Academy. Includes cruise photographs from the Spanish-American War, athletic programs, menus, newspaper clippings, and tables noting King's grades and standing.

Box 2 Folder 8

Speeches, 1947, undated

Speeches before the Brigade of Midshipmen and the Spokane Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs.

Box 2 Folder 9

Will and Estate, 1964-1970

Disposition of the Ernest J. King Trust and the will of Martha King.

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