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William V. Pratt Memoirs, 1939: Finding Aid

Published in August 2019

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 514
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: William V. Pratt Memoirs
  • Dates: 1939
  • Size: 0.21 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 1 half-manuscript box
  • Creator: Pratt, William Veazie, 1869-1957
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: William V. Pratt was an admiral in the United States Navy, a Chief of Naval Operations, and a member of the United States Naval Academy Class of 1889. The William V. Pratt Memoirs were written in 1939. The memoirs, which were compiled by Felicia Hyde, cover nearly the entirety of Pratt's career in the United States Navy, from his time as a Naval Academy midshipman until his retirement as Chief of Naval Operations in 1933.

Biographical Chronology of William Veazie Pratt

  • Born on February 28 in Belfast, Maine.
  • On September 9, admitted to the United States Naval Academy on appointment from S. L. Milliken.
  • In June, graduates from the United States Naval Academy.
  • Attached to U.S.S. Atlanta (Protected cruiser) of the White Squadron.
  • On July 1, commissioned as an Ensign.
  • Attached to U.S.S. Philadelphia (Protected cruiser: C-4), followed by service with the Asiatic Squadron aboard U.S.S. Petrel (Gunboat: PG-2), U.S.S. Lancaster (Screw sloop-of-war).
  • In July, attached to the United States Naval Academy as an instructor in Mathematics.
  • In July, attached to U.S.S. Annapolis (Gunboat: PG-10), training apprentices.
  • In April, transfers to U.S.S. Mayflower (Yacht: PY-1), blockading Havana, and later, the prize steamer New Foundland.
  • On August 10, promoted to Lieutenant (junior grade).
  • In or around August, transfers to U.S.S. Newark (Protected cruiser: C-1), steaming in South American waters before proceeding to the Philippines during the Philippine-American War.
  • On March 3, promoted to Lieutenant.
  • In April, transfers to U.S.S. Bennington (Patrol gunboat: PG-4) for passage home.
  • Transfers to U.S.S. Solace (Hospital ship: AH-2).
  • In September, attached to United States Naval Academy as an instructor in Mathematics.
  • In June, attached to U.S.S. Kearsarge (Battleship: BB-5), flagship of the North Atlantic Squadron.
  • On July 1, promoted to Lieutenant Commander.
  • In September, attached to United States Naval Academy as an instructor in Navigation, and later, Mechanics.
  • In August, attached to U.S.S. St. Louis (Protected cruiser: C-20) as Executive Officer.
  • On July 1, promoted to Commander.
  • In December, detached from U.S.S. St. Louis and waiting orders.
  • In January, assigned to the Naval War College.
  • In June, ordered to Torpedo Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet as Aide to the Commander.
  • Assigned to additional duty as Commanding Officer of U.S.S. Birmingham (Light cruiser: CL-2).
  • On September 29, promoted to Captain.
  • In November, ordered to the Panama Canal Zone.
  • In September, assigned to the Army War College for instruction.
  • In February, assigned special temporary duty in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
  • In April, detached from the Army War College for regular duty in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
  • In August, appointed Assistant Chief of Naval Operations.
  • In December, accompanies President Woodrow Wilson to Europe following the Armistice.
  • On January 23, assumes command of U.S.S. New York (Battleship: BB-34).
  • In October, assumes command of Destroyer Force, Pacific Fleet.
  • On June 3, promoted to Rear Admiral.
  • In July, detaches from Destroyer Force, Pacific Fleet for duty with the General Board.
  • In November, appointed to the Technical Staff of the U.S. Delegation to the Washington Naval Conference.
  • In June, assumes command of Battleship Division Four, Battle Fleet.
  • In September, appointed President of the Naval War College.
  • In September, assumes command of Battleship Divisions, Battle Fleet.
  • Appointed Commander in Chief, Battle Fleet.
  • Appointed to the American Delegation to the London Naval Conference.
  • In September, appointed Chief of Naval Operations.
  • On June 30, retires from the United States Navy.
  • In January, recalled to active duty developing escort carriers fro anti-submarine warfare.
  • On July 15, returns to inactive status.
  • On November 25, dies in Chelsea, Massachusetts.
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Description of Contents

The William V. Pratt Memoirs, comprising 0.21 linear feet of documentation, were written in 1939. The memoirs, which were compiled by Felicia Hyde, cover nearly the entirety of Pratt's career in the United States Navy, from his time as a Naval Academy midshipman until his retirement as Chief of Naval Operations in 1933.

The chapters of the Pratt Memoirs are arranged chronologically, with the exception of Pratt's tours of duty at the Naval Academy, which were assembled into a single chapter. The memoirs, which begin with Pratt's family history, span all of Pratt's career in the United States Navy, with the exception of his reactivation during World War II. Duty stations and major events covered include Pratt's time as a midshipman, his mandatory two years of pre-commissioning sea service, his cruises in China, teaching at the Naval Academy, the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection (Philippine-American War), U.S.S. Kearsarge, U.S.S. St. Louis, the Atlantic Fleet Torpedo Flotilla, intelligence work in the Panama Canal Zone, World War I, command of U.S.S. New York, the Pacific Fleet Destroyer Force, the Battle Fleet's Fourth Battleship Division, the Presidency of the Naval War College, the Washington Naval Conference, and the London Naval Conference, culminating in Pratt's tour as Chief of Naval Operations. Throughout the memoirs, Pratt offers opinions on officers he served with and under, including Albert Gleaves, Bowman Hendry McCalla, Henry A. Wiley, and William A. Moffett, as well as General Douglas MacArthur, President Herbert Hoover, and Naval Academy Professor Paul Dashiell.

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The William V. Pratt Memoirs are arranged chronologically into 21 chapters, with an introduction and epilogue.

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Access and Use


Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The William V. Pratt Memoirs 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 Craig Symonds in June 1978.

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Related Materials

Location of Originals

The original of the William V. Pratt Memoirs can be found in the Papers of Admiral William V. Pratt at the Operational Archives, Naval History and Heritage Command.

Related Archival Material

Additional material in this repository pertaining to William V. Pratt include Pratt's Alumni Jacket and Midshipman Conduct Record. Correspondence pertaining to Pratt can also be found in RG 405.2.3 Entry 75, Office of the Superintendent/Administrative Records: Letters and Reports Received by the Superintendent Relating to Individual Midshipmen. A portrait of Pratt as a midshipman is available in Photo Album 19, United States Naval Academy : Class of 1889 : Photograph Album.

The Papers of Admiral William V. Pratt are available at the Operational Archives, Naval History and Heritage Command.

Materials Cataloged Separately

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

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

William V. Pratt Memoirs, MS 514

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Selected Bibliography

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

United States. Bureau of Naval Personnel. Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1890-1930.

Pratt, William Veazie Alumni Jacket, RG 405, Special Collections & Archives, Nimitz Library.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by David D'Onofrio in August 2019. Finding aid written by David D'Onofrio in August 2019.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Conference on the Limitation of Armament (1921-1922 : Washington, D.C.)
  • Kearsarge (Battleship : BB-5)
  • Midshipmen -- Conduct of life
  • Naval War College (U.S.)
  • New York (Battleship : BB-34)
  • Petrel (Gunboat : PG-2)
  • Pratt, William Veazie, 1869-1957
  • Spanish-American War, 1898
  • St. Louis (Protected cruiser: C-20)
  • United States. Navy -- Officers -- Biography
  • World War, 1914-1918

Genre Terms

  • Manuscripts
  • Memoirs

Additional Creator/Author

  • Hyde, Felecia
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Introduction, 1939

Box 1 Folder 2

Chapter 1 - Background and Early Years, 1939

Pratt family history, his father's work as a merchant mariner in China, growing up in Shanghai, homeschooling in Maine, and attendance at Little Blue School.

Box 1 Folder 3

Chapter 2 - Naval Cadet, 1939

Poor prospects for Naval Academy graduates, relative mildness of hazing, honor code, discipline, aesthetics of the old Naval Academy, classmates, and summer practice cruises.

Box 1 Folder 4

Chapter 3 - Midshipman Cruise, 1939

Pratt's two year mandatory pre-graduation sea service with the White Squadron and port calls in the Mediterranean.

Box 1 Folder 5

Chapter 4 - China Cruise, 1939

Transfer to U.S.S. Petrel, transiting the Mediterranean to China, port calls in southeast Asia, Yangtze and Chinese coastline patrols, experiences in Hankow and Yokohama, Bering Sea patrols, and the Sino-Japanese War.

Box 1 Folder 6

Chapter 5 - Academy Duty, 1939

Teaching mathematics, thoughts on Paul Dashiell, a visit by a British cruiser squadron, horseback riding, and summer practice cruise duty.

Box 1 Folder 7

Chapter 6 - Spanish American War, 1939

Training duty aboard U.S.S. Annapolis, transfer to U.S.S. Mayflower, blockade of Havana, and service on a prize crew.

Box 1 Folder 8

Chapter 7 - Spanish American War, 1939

Transfer to U.S.S. Newark and port calls in South America.

Box 1 Folder 9

Chapter 8 - Philippine Insurrection, 1939

Service under Bowman McCalla, thoughts on Jim Cutler, gun drills, and the surrender of Aparri. Also includes a section on the Boxer Rebellion.

Box 1 Folder 10

Chapter 9 - U.S.F.S. Kearsarge, 1939

Service as navigator aboard the North Atlantic Fleet's flagship, the dangers of brown powder in gunnery, the Kiel Regatta, thoughts on the Germans, receptions in England following the Regatta, and cruising the Mediterranean.

Box 1 Folder 11

Chapter 10 - U.S.S. St. Louis, 1939

Duty as Executive Officer, thoughts on Albert Gleaves, overhaul and shakedown, and port calls in the islands of the South Pacific.

Box 1 Folder 12

Chapter 11 - Naval War College, 1939

Duty as instructor in tactics and the teaching of the Art of War.

Box 1 Folder 13

Chapter 12 - Torpedo Flotilla Atlantic Fleet - U.S.S. Birmingham, 1939

Duty as Chief of Staff, thoughts on William Sowden Sims, development of destroyer doctrine, and incompetence of the Flotilla's navigator.

Box 1 Folder 14

Chapter 13 - The Panama Canal Zone, 1939

Work for General Edwards in developing Canal Zone defense plans and intelligence.

Box 1 Folder 15

Chapter 14 - The World War, 1939

Instruction at the Army War College, appointment as Assistant Chief of Naval Operations, American unpreparedness for war, thoughts on Josephus Daniels, organizational weaknesses of the Navy Department, and the convoy system.

Box 1 Folder 16

Chapter 15 - The U.S.S. New York, 1939

Command of U.S.S. New York, thoughts on Charles Frederick Hughes, thoughts on Hugh Rodman, the ship's football team, and thoughts on Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Roosevelt.

Box 1 Folder 17

Chapter 16 - Destroyer Force Pacific Fleet, 1939

Thoughts on assembling a staff, working with Hugh Rodman, and the collision between U.S.S. Woolsey and S.S. Steel Inventor.

Box 1 Folder 18

Chapter 17 - The Washington Conference for Limitation of Naval Armament, 1939

The opposing roles of statesmen and the technicians of warcraft, General Board recommendations, and opinions of various delegates.

Box 1 Folder 19

Chapter 18 - Fourth Battleship Division, Battle Fleet, 1939

Anecdote of a female stowaway on Pratt's flagship, fleet maneuvers, troubles with fog, the Honda Point Disaster, and a turret explosion aboard U.S.S. Mississippi.

Box 1 Folder 20

Chapter 19 - President, Naval War College, 1939

Development of fleet doctrine in light of the introduction of aircraft carriers into the fleet.

Box 1 Folder 21

Chapter 20 - Last Sea Cruise, 1939

Tours as Commander of Battleship Divisions of the Battle Fleet, Battle Fleet Commander in Chief, and U.S. Fleet Commander in Chief. Thoughts on the Hawaiian Islands, management philosophy, working with Henry A. Wiley, and the London Naval Conference of 19

Box 1 Folder 22

Chapter 21 - Chief of Naval Operations, 1939

Thoughts on William A. Moffett, Secretary of the Navy Charles Francis Adams, the General Board, relations with the State Department, relations with Japan, Congressional relations, the Massie Affair, and opinion of Douglas MacArthur and Herbert Hoover.

Box 1 Folder 23

Epilogue, 1939

Additional reflections on World War I.

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