Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
Nimitz Library
Nimitz Library

Norris W. Potter Letters, 1941-1986 (bulk 1941-1945): 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
    https://www.usna.edu/Library/sca/index.php
  • Call number: MS 519
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: Norris W. Potter Letters
  • Dates: 1941-1986
  • Bulk Dates: 1941-1945
  • Size: 0.04 linear feet (1 volume)
  • Creator: Potter, Norris W. (Norris Whitfield), 1904-
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: Norris Whitfield Potter was an educator, historian, and Rear Admiral in the United States Navy Reserve. The Norris W. Potter Letters span primarily from 1941 to 1945, with several letters dating from 1952 and several additional documents dating as late as 1986. The letters are primarily the product of Potter's World War II service in the United States Navy Reserve in Hawaii and as a logistics officer in the Philippines Campaign. Several letters are the product of Potter's time as a military observer and adviser in Vietnam during the First Indochina War.

Biography of Norris W. Potter

Norris Whitfield Potter was an educator, historian, and Rear Admiral in the United States Navy Reserve. Born in 1904, Potter attended Colby College in Maine before receiving his Ph.D. from Boston University. As an officer in the Navy Reserve, Potter was initially stationed at an ammunition depot on Hawaii, in which duty he was serving at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Following amphibious training in early 1944, he was attached to the staff of Rear Admiral Forrest B. Royal as Logistics Officer. Stationed aboard U.S.S. Rocky Mount (AGC-3: Amphibious Command Ship), Potter was in charge of logistics for the various amphibious assaults during the Philippine Campaign. Shortly after the conclusion of World War II, Potter was stationed back in Hawaii as Executive Officer to the officer in charge of all receiving stations in Hawaii, before being placed on inactive status. In 1952, he returned to active duty as a military observer and adviser in Vietnam during the First Indochina War.

Following his return to inactive status after World War II, Potter took a position at the Punahou School in Honolulu, where he taught history from 1947 until 1967. He was also the founder of the school's Hawaiian history program, as well as the author of The Punahou Story and co-author of Hawaii, Our Island State. Norris W. Potter died on July 21, 1985 in Seattle, Washington.

Back to Top

Description of Contents

The Norris W. Potter Letters, comprising 0.04 linear feet documentation, span primarily from 1941 to 1945, with several letters dating from 1952 and several additional documents dating as late as 1986. The letters are primarily the product of Potter's World War II service in the United States Navy Reserve in Hawaii and as a logistics officer in the Philippines Campaign. Several letters are the product of Potter's time as a military observer and adviser in Vietnam during the First Indochina War.

Include with the letters are copies of other documents, such as dispatches, certificates, Christmas cards and menus, orders, citations, and newspaper clippings.

The Norris W. Potter Letters consist of a single typescript volume of excepts of letter sent by Potter, primarily letters to his wife, Penny, but also to his sister (Grace), daughter (Alan), and his mother. General themes include discussions of logistics duties across a fleet of amphibious landing craft, the emotional toll and waste of war, daily shipboard routine, responses to stories of life on the home front in Boston, and opinions of the Philippines and Filipino people. Potters early letters often include literary allusions, including the works of Joseph Conrad.

From October 8, 1941 until October 20, 1942, the letters are the product of Potter's duty commanding a field unit at the Naval Ammunition Depot in Hawaii. The letters from this period pertain to such topics as the disappearing native Hawaiian culture, Potter's belief in the security of Hawaii from foreign attack, the multicultural nature of Catholic church services in Hawaii, and the recovery from December 7 attacks on Pearl Harbor. The letters skip all of 1943, but resume from February 23 until April 6, 1944, offering descriptions of amphibious training at Camp Pierce and field radio training in California.

From July 7, 1944 until November 1945, the letters are the product of Potter's duty as Logistics Officer on the staff of Rear Admiral Forrest B. Royal, and later Arthur D. Struble, aboard U.S.S. Rocky Mount (AGC-3: Amphibious command ship) during the Philippine Campaign. Specific topics covered the letters of this period include maneuvers on Army transports; transfer to Rear Admiral Royal's staff; crossing-the-line ceremonies; General MacArthur's return to and the initial American landings in the Philippines (beginning October 20, 1944); impressions of the Battle of Leyte and Battle of Leyte Gulf; preparations for and the Invasion of Luzon (beginning January 1, 1945); shipboard church services (January 21, 1945); touring Army logistics sites in the Philippines (February 5, 1945); the capture of a Japanese submarine (February 10, 1945); landings at Zamboanga (beginning March 9, 1945); a trip to and thoughts on the destruction of Manila (March 28 and April 3, 1945); duty as observer aboard a B-29 reconnaissance flight over Java and Sumatra (April 20-21, 1945); landing Australian infantry on Tarakan Island off Borneo (beginning May 3, 1945); landings at Brunei Bay during the Borneo Campaign (June 9, 1945); the death of Admiral Forrest B. Royal and replacement by Admiral Arthur D. Struble (June 21, 1945); thoughts on the Japanese surrender and concerns over the awesome power of atomic weapons (August 17, 1945); assignment to Manila following the Japanese surrender; a recapitulation of various salty stories told at a makeshift Officers' Club in Manila (September 11, 1945); the surprising level of acceptance of American occupants by the Japanese (September 20, 1945); and Potter's appointment as Executive Officer to Captain Kain, the Commander for the Receiving Stations in Hawaii (beginning October 4, 1945).

The final grouping of five letters date from June 27 through December 26, 1952, during which time Potter was returned to active duty as a member of a U.S. Military delegation sent to Vietnam during the First Indochina War. Topics covered by these letters include a description of Saigon (June 27, 1952); observation of French fighting methods against the Viet Minh outside of Hanoi (June 29 and December 26, 1952); and descriptions of the life of Vietnamese farmers caught amidst the fighting and an incident in which Potter's jeep struck a local girl (June 30, 1952).

Back to Top

Arrangement

The Norris W. Potter Letters comprise a single volume, the contents of which are arranged chronologically.

Back to Top

Access and Use

Access

Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The Norris W. Potter Letters 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.

Back to Top

Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition

Gift of Lieutenant Colonel William J. Burg in July 1996. Accession No. 96-52.

Back to Top

Related Materials

Related Archival Material

Additional material in this repository pertaining to U.S.S. Rocky Mount can be found in World War II Ship Action Reports, MS 415.

Materials Cataloged Separately

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

Back to Top

Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

Norris W. Potter Letters, MS 519

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Processing Information

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

Back to Top

Subject Headings

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

  • Indochinese War, 1946-1954
  • Logistics, Naval
  • Philippines -- Description and travel
  • Potter, Norris W. (Norris Whitfield), 1904-
  • Rocky Mount (AGC-3: Amphibious command ship)
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Amphibious operations
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Campaigns -- Philippines
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Naval operations, American
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal narratives, American

Genre Terms

  • Correspondence
  • Manuscripts
Back to Top

Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Excerpts from the Letters of Rear Admiral Norris W. Potter, 1941-1986

Back to Top