Walter Stratton Anderson, son of William E. P. Anderson and Nellie
Douglas Hamilton, was born on October 4, 1881 in Carlinville, Illinois. He
graduated from the United States Naval Academy "with distinction" in 1903.
As part of his required sea service as a midshipman, he served on board USS
Brooklyn, flagship of the European Squadron. On February 3, 1905 he
was commissioned ensign.
In June of 1905, Anderson was ordered to USS Galveston. On board Galveston Anderson sailed to France as part of the squadron under the
command of Rear Admiral Charles D. Sigsbee, USN, to retrieve the body of
John Paul Jones for interment in the crypt under the Naval Academy Chapel.
On that occasion, Anderson commanded Galveston's company in the
battalion sent to Paris from the United States ships.
From December 1905 until May 1907, Anderson enrolled in postgraduate
instruction in ordnance at the Washington Navy Yard, and at the plants of
various private industries. Following his completion of the program, he was
ordered to Asiatic Station as an aide and flag secretary to Rear Admiral
Joseph N. Hemphill, USN, Commander, Third Squadron, Pacific Fleet. From
August to November 1908 he served as aide on the staff of Rear Admiral B.
Harbor, USN He joined USS Nebraska at Manila, Philippine Islands in
November 1908, and made the remainder of the cruise around the world with
the Great White Fleet. In November 1909, he was ordered to the Naval Torpedo
Station, Newport, Rhode Island to work with torpedoes, mines, explosives,
and organize the planning and stock records departments for a period of two
In December 1911, Anderson (then in the grade of lieutenant) assumed command
of USS Yankton, the Commander in Chief's dispatch boat and small
relief flagship. From April 1912 to January 1913, he served as aide and flag
lieutenant on the staff of Rear Admiral Hugh Osterhaus, USN, Commander in
Chief, Atlantic Fleet. He then served on board USS Utah from December
1912 to June 1913. Following that assignment, Anderson served in USS Des
Moines from June 1913 to December 1914, seeing action in San Domingo and
also at Vera Cruz. Anderson then returned to New York to serve as Ordnance
Superintendent in the Navy Yard. His responsibilities included supervision
of ordnance work on all classes of ships, including the installation on
battleships of the earliest director fire systems.
In May 1916, Anderson's orders were in connection with fitting out USS Arizona. He served on board Arizona from her commissioning in
October 1916 until November 1919, first as gunnery officer, later as
executive officer. While serving in Arizona, he cruised out to sea
from Portland, England in November 1918 to meet USS George Washington,
then carrying President Woodrow Wilson, and escorted that transport to
Brest, France. Arizona toured European waters in the spring of 1919,
visiting Smyrna, Asia Minor, and Constantinople (the first visit of the
United States battleship to that city). On that cruise, Anderson was present
when the Greeks took Smyrna.
Anderson served as Officer in Charge of the Navy Recruiting Bureau, New
York, New York, from November 1919 until November 1920. The function of this
large printing establishment, moving picture, and photographic exchange was
to publicize the Navy and inspire large numbers of needed enlistments
following World War I's demobilization. Following that term of duty,
Anderson enrolled in the senior course at the Naval War College in Newport,
From 1922 until 1924, Anderson held command of USS Sinclair and later
USS Kidder, with duty also as Commander, Divisions THIRTY and
THIRTY-FOUR, Destroyer Squadrons, Pacific Fleet. From July 1924 until July
1927, Anderson acted as head of the Department of Ordnance and Gunnery at
the Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland. Additionally, he organized the first
of all Naval Reserve Officer's Training Corps Units at St. John's College,
Anderson served as assistant chief of staff and operations officer to
Admiral H. A. Wiley, USN, Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, from August 1927
until May 1929 after a short assignment on board USS Texas. On May
31, 1929 Anderson assumed the position of Supervisor of New York Harbor
until May 23, 1930. He then served as Officer in Charge of the Naval
Ammunition Depot, Hingham, Massachusetts, from May 1930 until January 1932.
Anderson commanded USS West Virginia from January 1932 until April
1933. West Virginia won the battle efficiency pennant for the
entirety of his command, a record that stands unique for a battleship and
for a captain.
Anderson served as Naval Attaché at the American Embassy, London, England,
from March 1934 until February 1937. During the term of that duty he was
promoted to rear admiral in July 1936. His assignment in London saw the 25th
Anniversary Jubilee of George V, the death of George V, the abdication of
Edward VIII, and the London Naval Conference of 1935-1936. Anderson attended
the conference as a member of the American Delegation. Upon his return to
the United States, he assumed command of (heavy) Cruiser Division 4,
Scouting Force, USS Northampton flagship. In that command, Anderson
became the first flag officer of the U.S. Navy to visit Bogota, Columbia. He
received the thanks of the Colombian government for services rendered upon
From June 1939 until December 1940, Anderson acted as Director of the Office
of Naval Intelligence, Navy Department, Washington, D.C. While in that
detail he greatly enlarged the Naval Intelligence Service in preparation for
war. He also reported personally and daily to President Franklin D.
Roosevelt for a considerable period and served, by the President's order, as
a member of a special intelligence committee along with the Director of
Military Intelligence and the Director of the Federal Bureau of
In January 1941, Anderson assumed command of Battleships, Battle Force, and
also performed additional duty as Commander, Battleship Division 4. In April
1941 the designation of that command was changed to Battleships, Pacific
Fleet, and additional duty as Commander, Battleship Division 4. Flying his
flag on board USS Maryland, he was present at Pearl Harbor, T. H.,
when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941.
On September 28, 1942, Anderson reported for duty as President of the Board
of Inspection and Survey, Navy Department, Washington, D.C., a position that
was responsible for the preliminary trial, inspection, and acceptance of all
vessels and aircraft for use by the Navy.
On July 17, 1944, Anderson assumed duty as Commander, Gulf Sea Frontier, and
Commandant, Seventh Naval District, with Headquarters in Miami, Florida. In
that capacity, Anderson collaborated with the Cuban and Mexican Navies, and
with the Royal Air Force in the Bahamas for cooperative operations in the
waters of the Gulf Sea Frontier. The responsibilities of that command
included the supervision and general direction, in its operational capacity,
of the United States Naval Mission to Cuba, and of such vessels of the Cuban
Navy as were placed under his general operational direction. On April 3,
1945, Anderson was appointed to the rank of vice admiral. On October 24,
1945, Anderson was relieved as Commander Gulf Sea Frontier and Commandant,
Seventh Naval District. He retired on March 1, 1946.
Anderson's wife of fifty-six years died on June 15, 1966. His son, Walter
Stratton Anderson Jr., died in 1977. Vice Admiral Anderson died on October
24, 1981 at one hundred years old. At that time he was the oldest living
graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. Survivors included his two grandchildren
Virginia Randolph Anderson and Thomas Stratton Anderson.