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Captain William Robert Anderson Collection

Identifier: MS-3806

  • Staff Only

The Captain William Robert Anderson Collection consists of 40 boxes. It spans the years 1910 to 2013 with the majority of the collection dating between 1957 and 2013. Materials include documents from Anderson's personal life, naval career, political career, publications, and business ventures.

Series I: Correspondence and Personal Papers, 1910-2013, undated -- This series contains correspondence and personal papers belonging to William Robert Anderson. The series includes correspondence between Anderson and his friends, family, coworkers, colleagues, and fans. It also includes personal documents that are otherwise unrelated to Anderson's professional careers.

Subseries A: Correspondence, 1910-2013, undated -- The correspondence within this subseries occurs between William Anderson and his family, his superiors, his colleagues, his friends, and his acquaintances. It is arranged in chronological order.

Subseries B: Correspondent Files -- This subseries consists of correspondence and various other documents that the donor originally arranged by correspondent name. The files are placed in alphabetical order by the correspondent's surname.

Subseries C: Personal Papers, 1911-2008, undated -- The Personal Papers concern a variety of subjects related to Anderson and his personal interests. They are arranged topically in alphabetical order.

Series II: Military Papers, 1940-2007, undated -- This series concerns Anderson's professional career in the U.S. military, specifically the Navy. The majority of this series consists of papers documenting Anderson's time as commander of the USS Nautilus, including documents detailing the execution of Operation Sunshine. This series also includes Anderson's enlistment and discharge papers, publications about Anderson's military career, documents concerning Anderson's other military service, and some correspondence concerning Anderson's service.

Subseries A: Anderson Personal Military Documents, 1942-1962 -- This subseries includes personal files regarding Anderson and his time in the military, including Anderson's physical file for his military enlistment, handwritten observations from his time on the Nautilus, and discharge papers.

Subseries B: USS Nautilus, 1945-2005 -- This subseries consists of materials concerning Anderson's time as Commander of the USS Nautilus (1957-1959). Many of the documents discuss the mechanics of the ship itself, which was the very first nuclear-powered submarine. A large portion of the subseries contains documents concerning the public's response to the success of the Nautilus and it's Cold War mission, Operation Sunshine. The subseries also contains information regarding the Nautilus Memorial Submarine Force Library and Museum.

Subseries C: Military Publications, circa 1950s -- This subseries holds newspapers and other types of publications concerning the Nautilus, Anderson, and other military announcements within the years of Anderson's military service.

Subseries D: Other Military Service, 1940-2007, undated -- This subseries contains information regarding Anderson's other military endeavors including documents about the other submarines on which Anderson served.

Subseries E: Military Correspondence, 1940-1970, undated -- This subseries holds correspondence between Anderson and other military officials regarding certain missions and tasks.

Series III: Political Papers, 1958-2007, undated -- This series includes documents and publications discussing Anderson's time in politics. A great deal of the series consists of Congressional Record publications, press materials regarding Anderson's election to Congress, and Anderson's statements on certain bills during his time as a representative.

Series IV: Publications and Research, 1945-2010, undated -- This series includes drafts, manuscripts, research, and correspondence concerning publications written by Anderson. Those publications include The Ice Diaries, Nautilus 90 North, and The Useful Atom. Other materials within this collection include speeches and interviews written or recorded by Anderson, and other publications that were written about Anderson.

Subseries A: The Ice Diaries, circa 2000s -- This subseries contains multiple chapter drafts, manuscripts, and research materials that aided Anderson in his writing of The Ice Diaries. The Ice Diaries is an updated memoir of Anderson's voyage under the North Pole in the USS Nautilus. It was co-written with author Don Keith and published posthumously in July 2008.

Subseries B: Nautilus 90 North, 1957-2003, undated -- This subseries contains multiple chapter drafts, manuscripts, and research materials that aided Anderson in his writing of Nautilus 90 North. Nautilus 90 North details Anderson's historic voyage under the North Pole in the USS Nautilus. It was cowritten with Clay Blair, Jr. and published in 1959.

Subseries C: The Useful Atom, 1965-1968 -- This subseries contains a manuscript and correspondence regarding The Useful Atom, a children's book written by Anderson that discusses the importance of atomic energy. It was published in 1966.

Subseries D: Publications Research, 1958-2010, undated -- This subseries contains various drafts and research materials used for Anderson's publications. It also includes information regarding the publication process of his books.

Subseries E: Speeches and Interviews, 1955-2005, undated -- This subseries holds documented speeches given by and/or about Anderson at various events. Additionally, the subseries contains transcripts of interviews with Anderson as well.

Subseries F: Other Publications, 1945-2010, undated -- This subseries houses a variety of publications written about Anderson in magazines, newspapers, brochures, and other publications. Most of the publications concern Anderson's military career.

Series V: Photographs, 1930-2010, undated -- This series contains photographss of Anderson and his life. They include personal photos, photos from Anderson's time on the Nautilus, other military photos, photos while he was in office, and more. The series also includes some cartoons of the Naultilus submarine.

Subseries A: Nautilus Cartoons, circa 1950s -- This subseries contains illustrated Nautilus cartoons. Most of the cartoons portray the Nautilus behaving as a human.

Subseries B: Personal Photographs, 1930-2010, undated -- This subseries contains photos from Anderson's personal life. Photos include portraits of Anderson as a child and young adult, photos from various events, photos from military and club reunions, and photos from his 70th birthday.

Subseries C: Nautilus and Other Military Photographs, circa 1950s, undated -- This subseries contains photos of the Nautilus interior and exterior as well as photos of Anderson and his crew onboard. Additionally, the subseries includes photos from the Nautilus welcome tour and other military events as well.

Subseries D: Political Photographs, 1959-1970, undated -- This subseries contains photos taken during Anderson's political career.

Subseries E: Other Photographs, undated -- This subseries contains other photos as well as photo negatives.

Series VI: Ephemera, 1938, 1958-1959, undated -- This series includes the entirety of ephemera found in this collection. Such ephemera includes: fabric stickers and patches of submarines; "Re-elect Anderson" campaign stickers and brochures; Anderson's name plates; personal booklets and passports; a submarine license plate and sign; Anderson's medals and other personal awards; and Nautilus memorabilila.

Series VII: Audiovisual, undated -- This series contains audiovisual material found in the collection including cassette tapes, VHS tapes, and film.

Series VIII: Oversize, 1957-1971, undated -- This series contains oversize material. Items in this series include certificates and other documents, photoraphs, large film reels, and vinyl records. It also includes a globe originally belonging to Anderson's only daughter, Jane. The route that the USS Nautilus traveled is outlined in red on the globe.

Series IX: Addendum, 1936-1962, undated -- This material was added to the collection in March 2018 and contains military paperwork, military-related correspondence, and Captain Anderson's Legion of Merit Medal.


  • 1910-2017
  • Majority of material found within 1957 - 2013


The material in this collection is in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collections are stored offsite and must be requested in advance. See for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.

Conditions Governing Use

The UT Libraries claims only physical ownership of most material in the collections. Persons wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants on for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.


31 Linear Feet (43 boxes)


This collection contains material documenting the life and accomplishments of William Robert Anderson, Captain of the USS Nautilus SSN 571 during the Cold War and Tennessee Congressman in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Biographical/Historical Note

William Robert Anderson was born in Bakerville,Tennessee on June 17, 1921. He graduated from Columbia Military Academy in Columbia, Tennessee in 1938 and proceeded to attend the United States Naval Academy. He graduated with the USNA class of 1943.

Anderson served in World War II on eleven different submarine patrols. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his service during this time. However, his most famous military feat would not come until 1957, the year he was chosen to be the commanding officer of the first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus SSN 571. During his time as commanding officer, Anderson would successfully lead the crew on the first submarine trip under the North Pole. Deemed "Operation Sunshine" by the United States government, this trip was ordered in response to the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik. President Eisenhower awarded Anderson with the Legion of Merit for his leadership on this mission.

After retiring from the Navy in 1960, Anderson entered the realm of politics. In 1964, he entered the race to become the Democratic Congressman for the sixth district of Tennessee. Anderson won by a landslide and was reelected three times. He was in office from 1965-1973.

Following his time in public office, Anderson started the Public Office Corporation with his wife Patricia Anderson. Public Office Corporation was a data-processing business designed to help political candidates with their campaigns. Notable clients include the Clinton/Gore campaign of 1992. Additionally Anderson wrote three books in his lifetime about his military career, Nautilus 90 North; the children's book, The Useful Atom; and Ice Diaries, which was published posthumously.

Anderson died on February 25, 2007 at his home in Leesburg, Virginia. He was 85.


This collection is in 43 boxes and is arranged into 9 series:

Missing Title

  1. Series I: Correspondence and Personal Papers, 1910-2013, undated
  2. Series II: Military Papers, 1940-2007, undated
  3. Series III: Political Papers, 1958-2007, undated
  4. Series IV: Publications and Research, 1945-2010, undated
  5. Series V: Photographs, 1930-2010, undated
  6. Series VI: Ephemera, 1938, 1958-1959, undated
  7. Series VII: Audiovisual, undated
  8. Series VIII: Oversize, 1957-1971, undated
  9. Series IX: Addendum, 1936-1962, undated

Related Archival Materials

Interested researchers may wish to consult: MPA.0132: William R. Anderson Papers

Separated Materials

As of February 2020, eleven books have been removed from the collection and catalogued with Rare Books. Their names and call numbers are as follows:

Anderson, William R., Ice Diaries: The Untold Story of the Cold War's Most Daring Mission. (VA65.N3 A48 2008, includes two copies)

Anderson, William R., Nautilus 90 North. (VA65.N3 A5 1959b and VA65.N3 A5 1959c)

Anderson, William R., Useful Atom. (QC778.A55 1966)

Bishop, David J., Naval Submarine Base New London. (VA70.N5 B57 2005)

Boyd, Frank, Out Here in the Hills, and Other Poems. (PS3503.O874 O8 1929)

Byrd, Richard Evelyn, Skyward. (TL540.B8 A3 1981)

Byrd, Richard Evelyn, Underway on Nuclear Power: 50th Anniversary of USS Nautilus. (VA65.N3 U 53 2004)

Byrd, Richard Evelyn, Greatest Adventures of All Time. (G525.L53 2000)

Genat, Robert, Modern U.S. Nazy Submarines. (V858.G46 1997)

Gunston, Bill, Submarines in Color. (VM368.G78 1977)

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA