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An Admiral's Yarn, 1941 (approximate): Finding Aid

Published in September 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 529
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: An Admiral's Yarn
  • Dates: 1941 (approximate)
  • Size: 0.42 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 1 manuscript box
  • Creator: Laning, Harris, 1873-1941
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: Harris Laning was an Admiral in the United States Navy and a member of the United States Naval Academy Class of 1895. The Harris Laning Memoirs, entitled An Admiral's Yarn, were written circa 1941. The memoirs span Laning's entire life and career in the United States Navy, from his boyhood in Petersburg, Illinois through his retirement to the Philadelphia Naval Home.

Biographical Chronology of Harris Laning

  • Born on October 18 in Petersburg, Illinois to Caleb Barrett and Mary Esther Harris Laning.
  • Admitted to the United States Naval Academy as a member of the Class of 1895.
  • In June, graduates from the United States Naval Academy and is attached to U.S.S. Philadelphia (Protected cruiser: C-4), and later U.S.S. Oregon (Battleship: BB-3), for mandatory sea service.
  • Commissioned an Ensign in the United States Navy.
  • Attached to U.S.S. Marion (Screw steamer) in Hawaii.
  • In December, transfers to U.S.S. Mohican (Screw sloop-of-war) following the decommissioning of U.S.S. Marion is decommissioned.
  • Attached to U.S.S. Monadnock (Monitor: BM-3) for duty in the Philippines.
  • Assumes command of U.S.S. Panay (Gunboat) during the Philippine Insurrection, followed by a return to duty aboard U.S.S. Monadnock.
  • Ordered to the United States Naval Academy as an instructor in the Department of English, History and Law.
  • Attached to U.S.S. Dolphin (Gunboat: PG-24), which was serving as the Secretary of the Navy's yacht.
  • Assigned to the United States Naval Academy's Department of Ordnance and Gunnery, with additional duty as Captain of the Navy Rifle Team.
  • Ordered to U.S.S. Nebraska (Battleship: BB-14) as Navigation Officer during the cruise of the Great White Fleet.
  • Returns to the United States Naval Academy for duty in charge of Physical Training.
  • Serves as Captain of the U.S. Olympic Rifle Team at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm.
  • Transferred to U.S.S. Cassin (Destroyer: DD-43) for fitting out and duty as her first commanding officer.
  • Assumes command of the Sixth Division, Torpedo Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet, followed by command of the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla.
  • Assigned to the war plans office of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
  • Transferred to the Bureau of Navigation for duty in charge of personnel detailing.
  • Appointed Chief of Staff to Commander, Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet
  • In July, transferred to Destroyer Squadron Three, Atlantic Fleet as Chief of Staff.
  • Assigned to the Naval War College for instruction, followed by duty as head of the Department of Tactics.
  • In June, assumes command of U.S.S. Pennsylvania (Battleship: BB-38).
  • In September, reports as commanding officer, Naval Training Station, San Diego.
  • Appointed Chief of Staff to Commander, Battle Fleet.
  • Assumes command of Battleship Division Two, Scouting Fleet.
  • On June 16, appointed President of the Naval War College.
  • In May, appointed Commander Cruisers, Scouting Force, U.S. Fleet with the rank of Vice Admiral aboard U.S.S. Chicago (Heavy cruiser: CA-29). Later assigned additional duty as Commander Cruisers, U.S. Fleet and Commander Cruiser Division Five.
  • On April 1, assumed command of Battle Force with the rank of Admiral aboard U.S.S. California (Battleship: BB-44).
  • Assumes command of the Third Naval District and New York Navy Yard.
  • On November 1, retires from the United States Navy.
  • Appointed Governor of the Philadelphia Naval Home.
  • On February 2, dies in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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Description of Contents

The Harris Laning Memoirs, entitled An Admiral's Yarn and comprising 0.42 linear feet of microfilm printouts, were written circa 1941. The memoirs span Laning's entire life and career in the United States Navy, from his boyhood in Petersburg, Illinois through his retirement to the Philadelphia Naval Home.

An Admiral's Yarn, originally drafted in two volumes, is divided into fifty-one, chronologically arranged chapters. Beginning with Laning's childhood in Petersburg, Illinois, and studies at Peekskill Military Academy, the memoirs discuss Laning's time as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, including his summer cruises and his time aboard U.S.S. Philadelphia (Protected cruiser: C-4) during mandatory sea service; his cruises aboard the wooden vessels U.S.S. Marion (Screw steamer) and U.S.S. Mohican (Screw sloop-of-war); duty in the Philippines before and during the Philippine Insurrection; his direction of personnel efforts during World War I; commands of destroyer flotillas, the Navy's cruiser force, and the Battle Fleet; work as an educator at both the Naval Academy and Naval War College; and his work with the Navy Rifle Team at the 1907 National Matches and 1912 Summer Olympics. The memoirs close with Laning's appointment as Governor of the Naval Home in Philadelphia upon retirement.

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An Admiral's Yarn is arranged in fifty-one chapters.

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Access and Use


Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

An Admiral's Yarn is 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

Custodial History

Upon receipt, the manuscript of An Admiral's Yarn was initially cataloged as E746.L28A1.

Provenance and Acquisition

Gift of Ernest M. Eller in October 1969.

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Related Materials

Location of Originals

The original of Laning's memoir is presumably held by the Naval War College as part of the Harris Laning Papers.

Related Archival Material

Additional material in this repository pertaining to Harris Laning can be found in his Alumni Jacket and Midshipman Conduct Record.

The Harris Laning Papers, MSC-115 can be found in the Naval Historical Collection Archives at the Naval War College.

Materials Cataloged Separately

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

Publications Citing These Papers

An edited edition of An Admiral's Yarn was published by the Naval War College Press in 1999.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

An Admiral's Yarn, MS 529

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Selected Bibliography

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

Cherpak, Evelyn M. Register of the Harris Laning Papers. Newport: Naval Historical Collection, 1991.

Laning, Harris Alumni Jacket, RG 405, Special Collections & Archives, Nimitz Library.

Processing Information

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

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Admirals -- United States -- Biography
  • Battleships -- United States
  • Cassin (Destroyer: DD-43)
  • Cruisers (Warships) -- United States
  • Destroyers -- United States
  • Dolphin (Dispatch boat : PG-24)
  • Laning, Harris, 1873-1941
  • Midshipmen -- United States -- Conduct of life
  • Monadnock (Monitor : BM-3)
  • Naval War College (U.S.)
  • Panay (Gunboat)
  • Philippines -- History -- Philippine American War, 1899-1902
  • Rifle practice
  • United States Naval Academy -- Midshipmen -- Cruises
  • United States Naval Academy -- Social life and customs
  • United States. Navy -- Officers -- Biography
  • War games

Genre Terms

  • Manuscripts
  • Memoirs
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Title Page and Table of Contents, 1941 (approximate)

Box 1 Folder 2

Chapter 1: Boyhood, 1941 (approximate)

Childhood in Petersburg, Illinois and the area's ties to Abraham Lincoln.

Box 1 Folder 3

Chapter 2: Leaving Home, 1941 (approximate)

Studies at the Peekskill Military Academy, watching the first Army-Navy Game, and appointment to the United States Naval Academy.

Box 1 Folder 4

Chapter 3: I Join the Navy and Take a Cruise, 1941 (approximate)

Life as a plebe in May 1891 as a "function," thoughts on hazing, and Plebe summer practice cruise aboard U.S.S. Constellation.

Box 1 Folder 5

Chapter 4: At the Naval Academy, 1941 (approximate)

Daily routine, the hoisting of a Jolly Roger above the New Quarters, and a practical joke on an officer referred to as the "Asphyxiation of Frenchy."

Box 1 Folder 6

Chapter 5: At Sea as a Middy, 1941 (approximate)

Assignment to and life aboard U.S.S. Philadelphia (Protected cruiser: C-4) during mandatory sea service, and discussion of the nature of the enlisted ranks.

Box 1 Folder 7

Chapter 6: Middy Days in Puget Sound, 1941 (approximate)

Description of Port Angeles, Washington, fishing at Lake Crescent with Admiral Beardsley, and port calls in the Washington cities of Port Townsend, Seattle, and Tacoma.

Box 1 Folder 8

Chapter 7: Middy Days in Southern California, 1941 (approximate)

Port calls at Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, San Pedro, and San Diego. Social functions at the Hotel del Coronado, the Flower Carnival at Santa Barbara, and additional calls at Port Orford and Monterey.

Box 1 Folder 9

Chapter 8: In the Oregons, 1941 (approximate)

Duty aboard U.S.S. Oregon (Battleship: BB-3), social life in San Francisco, training in Magdalena Bay, intense rolling while entering the Golden Gate, and the installation of the ship's bilge keels.

Box 1 Folder 10

Chapter 9: The Woods Again, 1941 (approximate)

Cruise to Hawaii aboard U.S.S. Marion (Screw steamer), description of Honolulu, attendance at a hula dance, and returning to Mare Island under sail without engines.

Box 1 Folder 11

Chapter 10: Still in Wood, 1941 (approximate)

Recommissioning U.S.S. Mohican (Screw sloop-of-war), difficulties with a ship's boy named Ross, transporting ammunition to Hawaii for transfer to Admiral Dewey's fleet in Manila, and frustrations over stationing in Honolulu during the Spanish-American War.

Box 1 Folder 12

Chapter 11: Off to War in a Monitor, 1941 (approximate)

Deployment to the Philippines aboard U.S.S. Monadnock (Monitor: BM-3), the nature of crossing an ocean in a monitor, and arrival at Manila Bay.

Box 1 Folder 13

Chapter 12: In Manila Bay, 1941 (approximate)

Description of Manila, concerns over mounting insurrection, and the "capture" of an empty Filipino canoe by an Ensign referred to as Dickey.

Box 1 Folder 14

Chapter 13: Insurrection in the Philippines, 1941 (approximate)

American surprise over the insurrection, Monadnock firing on insurrectionists around Manila and taking rifle fire in return.

Box 1 Folder 15

Chapter 14: Around Luzon in a Gunboat, 1941 (approximate)

Command of the former Spanish gunboat U.S.S. Panay, reconnaissance around Luzon, and steaming through a tropical storm.

Box 1 Folder 16

Chapter 15: More Gun Boating, 1941 (approximate)

U.S.S. Panay's duty intercepting insurrectionist supplies in Balayan and Batangas Bay, rescuing a horse from Cape Santiago, and the nature of sailing in a gunboat loaded with captured livestock.

Box 1 Folder 17

Chapter 16: In the Monadnock Again, 1941 (approximate)

Using the launch Mercedes to destroy shipping north of Bohul and a fight between one of Monadnock's Ensigns and a doctor from U.S.S. Iris.

Box 1 Folder 18

Chapter 17: Ordered Home, 1941 (approximate)

Awaiting the commissioning of U.S.S. Isla de Cuba (Gunboat) in Hong Kong, Laning's impending marriage, bubonic plague in the Far East, and return to the U.S. aboard the Army transport Hancock.

Box 1 Folder 19

Chapter 18: Annapolis Once More, 1941 (approximate)

Duty at the Naval Academy as an instructor in the Department of English, History and Law, experiences with first promotion examination, experiencing snowfall in Annapolis, summer training cruise aboard U.S.S. Chesapeake, and life with an African-American servant.

Box 1 Folder 20

Chapter 19: In the Dolphin, 1941 (approximate)

Duty aboard the Secretary of the Navy's yacht U.S.S. Dolphin, interactions with Senator Boies Penrose, and thoughts on William Sowden Sims and the modernization of the U.S. Navy.

Box 1 Folder 21

Chapter 20: A Painful Interlude, 1941 (approximate)

A bout with typhoid fever.

Box 1 Folder 22

Chapter 21: More of the Dolphin, 1941 (approximate)

Gunnery practice aboard Dolphin, inspections of progress on the Panama Canal, escorting inspection parties, target practice competitions, and transporting the Japanese delegation to Portsmouth to negotiate the end of the Russo-Japanese War.

Box 1 Folder 23

Chapter 22: A New Shooting Game, 1941 (approximate)

Assignment to the Naval Academy as an instructor in Ordnance and Gunnery, duty in charge of the Navy Rifle Team, small arms instruction, training at the New York range at Creedmoor, and flaws with Navy pistols.

Box 1 Folder 24

Chapter 23: Another Season with Small Arms, 1941 (approximate)

Preparations for the 1907 National Rifle Matches, description of the National Matches at Camp Perry, including coming from behind to defeat Massachusetts.

Box 1 Folder 25

Chapter 24: In a Battleship Once More, 1941 (approximate)

Orders to U.S.S. Nebraska (Battleship: BB-14) as Navigation Officer, difficulty with the ship's compasses, implementation of fishing parties, and drills between West Coast ports.

Box 1 Folder 26

Chapter 25: A Trip Around the World, 1941 (approximate)

The role of the navigator at sea during the cruise of the Great White Fleet, rifle matches in New Zealand and Melbourne, and brief descriptions of the ports visited by the Fleet.

Box 1 Folder 27

Chapter 26: A New Type of Work, 1941 (approximate)

Duty at the Naval Academy Commandant's Office in charge of physical training, state of Naval Academy athletics, construction of Thompson Stadium, and preparations for the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm.

Box 1 Folder 28

Chapter 27: The Olympic Games, 1941 (approximate)

Captaining the U.S. Olympic Rifle Team at the 1912 Olympics.

Box 1 Folder 29

Chapter 28: In Destroyers, 1941 (approximate)

Attachment to the newly commissioned U.S.S. Cassin (Destroyer: DD-43) in 1913, shakedown off the Dry Tortugas, evolution of the Battle Fleet, interactions with the ship's cook (Carter), convoying the S.S. Morro Castle to Veracruz, and blockading Tampico following the Veracruz Incident.

Box 1 Folder 30

Chapter 29: Commanding a Destroyer Flotilla, 1941 (approximate)

Command of a Reserve Destroyer Flotilla, the Naval War College Correspondence Course, and deployment to Santo Domingo to put down an uprising.

Box 1 Folder 31

Chapter 30: War, 1941 (approximate)

Attachment to the war plans office of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, problems of transporting troops through a war zone, transfer to the Officer Personnel Division, and the task of building an officer corps large enough for World War I.

Box 1 Folder 32

Chapter 31: The First Trans-Atlantic Flight, 1941 (approximate)

Attachment to Destroyer Force flagship U.S.S. Rochester (Heavy cruiser: CA-2) and supporting the 1919 transatlantic flight of the Navy's NC flying boats.

Box 1 Folder 33

Chapter 32: London and Paris, 1941 (approximate)

Celebrations for the King's birthday and attending the opera in Paris during the Peace Conference.

Box 1 Folder 34

Chapter 33: Destroyers After the War, 1941 (approximate)

Post-war training of the Navy's massive destroyer force, the Sims-Daniels controversy, and difficulties in manning the destroyers in the post-War draw down.

Box 1 Folder 35

Chapter 34: Naval War College Student, 1941 (approximate)

Discussion of the War College's role and pedagogy.

Box 1 Folder 36

Chapter 35: A Vacation in the Oregon Woods, 1941 (approximate)

Description of a trip to an island in the Umpqua River.

Box 1 Folder 37

Chapter 36: On the War College Staff, 1941 (approximate)

Duty as head of the Department of Tactics, the College's war games, the process of battle analysis, the evolving role of naval aviation, and the impacts of the Washington Naval Treaty.

Box 1 Folder 38

Chapter 37: Commanding a Battleship, 1941 (approximate)

Command and description of U.S.S. Pennsylvania (Battleship: BB-38), battle efficiency competitions, turret explosion aboard U.S.S. Mississippi (Battleship: BB-41), and the nature of navigating through fog.

Box 1 Folder 39

Chapter 38: We Visit the Antipodes, 1941 (approximate)

The impact of radio on sailing, receptions in Australia, wild kangaroos, description of Wellington, Glow Worm Caves, and the hot springs at Rotorua.

Box 1 Folder 40

Chapter 39: We Return to the U.S.A., 1941 (approximate)

The customs and culture of Samoa, and Laning's thoughts on leaving the last ship under his direct command.

Box 1 Folder 41

Chapter 40: Shore Duty Again, 1941 (approximate)

Temporary duty on a joint Army Navy board planning underwater coastal defenses, command of the San Diego Naval Training Station, and Charles Lindbergh's attempts to procure an airplane for his transatlantic flight.

Box 1 Folder 42

Chapter 41: At Sea as a Rear Admiral, 1941 (approximate)

Duty as Chief of Staff of the Battle Fleet, life in Southern California, war games in Hawaii, transfer to Battleship Division Two, and the Midshipman summer practice cruise.

Box 1 Folder 43

Chapter 42: A Cruise to Europe, 1941 (approximate)

Midshipman summer practice cruise in European waters, port calls in Barcelona and Naples, an audience with the Pope, description of Weymouth, and training exercises.

Box 1 Folder 44

Chapter 43: President of the Naval War College, 1941 (approximate)

Assumption of duties in June 1930, description of war games, demands on Laning as a public speaker, the 1930 America's Cup, the role of visiting lecturers, and the relationship between the War College and the General Board.

Box 1 Folder 45

Chapter 44: Interlude at Sea, 1941 (approximate)

Orders in winter 1932 to serve as assistant umpire for the annual Fleet Problem, tensions in Hawaii due to the Massie Affair, visiting Maui, and promotion to Vice Admiral.

Box 1 Folder 46

Chapter 45: Vice Admiral, 1941 (approximate)

Driving cross-country in 1933.

Box 1 Folder 47

Chapter 46: In Heavy Cruisers, 1941 (approximate)

Duty as Commander Cruisers, the increased role of cruisers as a result of the Washington Naval Treaty, development of cruiser tactics, inspection by the House Naval Affairs Committee, U.S.S. Chicago's collision with the freighter Silver Palm, and the Pasadena Rose Parade.

Box 1 Folder 48

Chapter 47: We Change Oceans, 1941 (approximate)

1934 Fleet war games simulating attacks on the Panama Canal, expedited transiting of the Canal, fleet review by the President in New York, Fourth of July celebrations in Philadelphia, and marveling over Houston Harbor.

Box 1 Folder 49

Chapter 48: Four Star Admiral, 1941 (approximate)

Assumption of command of the Battle Force in April 1935, annual Fleet Problem focused on retaking Midway, search and rescue for a lost bomber during the war game, and transfer to the Third Naval District.

Box 1 Folder 50

Chapter 49: A Trans-Continental Cruise, 1941 (approximate)

Trans-continental drive to New York on the way to assuming command of the Third Naval District.

Box 1 Folder 51

Chapter 50: Commanding a Naval District and Navy Yard, 1941 (approximate)

Demand as a public speaker, touring the greater New York area, fiftieth anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, and orders to the Philadelphia Naval Home as Governor.

Box 1 Folder 52

Chapter 51: The Naval Home, 1941 (approximate)

Description of the Philadelphia Naval Home.

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