John Conner Atkeson, Sr., Oral History Interview

November 29, 1975; March 30, 1976
Oral History #OH0029
Atkeson, John Conner; Lennon, Donald R.
Physical description
0.015 Cubic Feet, 3 audiocassettes, 1.5 hours, 75 pages
Preferred Citation
John Conner Atkeson, Sr., Oral History Interview (#OH0029), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Biographical/historical information

John Conner Atkeson, Sr. (b. Sept. 11, 1905), entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1922. He served in the South Atlantic (Panama, Cuba, and Nicaragua; 1927-1939) and was a destroyer commander in both the Pacific and Atlantic during World War II. Following the war he served in the Mediterranean and then as head of the Navy's division of the Military Advisory Group. Heavily decorated during World War II, Atkeson retired as a rear admiral in 1957.

Scope and arrangement

The interview covers his duty aboard the ARKANSAS and DENVER in the late 1920s, the WYOMING, LEARY, and BARRY. in the 1930s, the GILMER, LEARY, BAILEY, HEALEY, BENNER, and ENGLISH in the 1940s, and the NEW JERSEY in the 1950s.

In addition to normal shipboard duty, pre-World War II topics discussed were the effect on the U.S. Navy of the Washington Conference of 1921-1922 which set limits on the number of battleships permitted the U.S., Great Britain, and Japan; life on Guantanamo naval base (late 1920s); information about the search for Amelia Earhart; comparison of "goldplaters" and "four-stackers" (destroyers); and the 1931 sale of the U.S. submarine OTWALA to British adventurer Sir Hubert Wilkins. Wilkins renamed the submarine NAUTILUS and was attempting unsuccessfully to sail her under the Arctic ice pack when she was rescued by the U.S.S. WYOMING,on which Atkeson was serving. Also described are the wreck of the REUBEN JAMES on the north coast of Cuba (1940?) and an anecdote concerning Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels's ban on shipboard consumption of alcoholic beverages.

World War II topics discussed include kamikaze attacks, rescue operations, convoy duties, and fueling at sea. Detailed descriptions are given of the battles of the Komandorskie Islands (1943), the Philippines (Aug. or Sept., 1944?), and other skirmishes in the Surigao Straits. Atkeson also comments on Admiral Halsey's decision to sail a task force through a typhoon (1943), in addition to giving a general opinion of Admiral Halsey.

Administrative information
Source of acquisition

Gift of John Conner Atkeson, Sr.

Processing information

Processed by J. Morris III; M. Elmore, May 1985

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Repository does not own copyright to the oral history collection. Permission to cite, reproduce, or broadcast must be obtained from both the repository and the participants in the oral history, or their heirs.

General note


Key terms
Personal Names
Atkeson, John Conner
Earhart, Amelia, 1897-1937
Halsey, William F. (William Frederick), 1882-1959
Wilkins, George H. (George Hubert), Sir, 1888-1958
Corporate Names
Gilmer (Destroyer)
Nautilus (Submarine : SS-73)
New Jersey (Battleship : BB-62)
Reuben James (Destroyer)
United States. Navy--Officers
Meeting Names
Conference on the Limitation of Armament (1921-1922 : Washington, D.C.)
Admirals--United States--Interviews
World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Pacific Ocean
Arctic regions--Discovery and exploration
Guantánamo Bay (Cuba)--History