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James C. Shaw papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSC-107

Scope and Contents

The papers document his naval career from 1933 until his retirement in 1958. The collection consists of personal and official materials that include his years at the U.S. Naval Academy, his service during World War II, his naval commands, his contribution to Samuel Eliot Morison’s The History of U.S. Naval Operations in World War II, his service as a naval attaché in The Netherlands, his work with the motion picture industry as a technical advisor to The Caine Mutiny, and his published and unpublished writings.


  • 1936 - 1989


Conditions Governing Access

Access is open to all researchers, unless otherwise specified.

Conditions Governing Use

Material in this collection is in the public domain, unless otherwise noted.

Biographical Note

James Clair Shaw was born in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 21, 1913 to Wade J. and Elizabeth G. Shaw. He graduated from Northwestern Military Preparatory Academy and with the class of 1936 at the U.S. Naval Academy. He was manager of the Academy football team, was a member of the Quarterdeck Society and on the Log staff.

After graduation from the Academy, he served in USS Northampton (CL 26) in the Pacific Fleet, in the USS Litchfield (DD 336) in Hawaii and in USS Stewart (DD 224) in the Asiatic Fleet. In 1941, he fitted out the USS Atlanta (CL 17) at Kearny, New Jersey, and remained with the ship until November 1942. He participated in sixteen campaigns in the Pacific, including the Battle of Midway, the landings in the Solomons, the Battle of Stewart Islands and the Battle of Guadalcanal where his ship went down and he was wounded. Subsequently, Shaw was hospitalized and returned to the United States in February 1943. For actions during the battle, he received the Silver Star, the Purple Heart, and the ribbon for the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to the Atlanta.

He joined the USS Bunker Hill (CV 17) as gunnery officer in March 1943 and returned to the Pacific Theater where the ship participated in the attack on Rabaul, the Bougainville landings, the invasion of the Gilberts and Marshalls, raids on Truk, Palau, the Marianas, Leyte and Luzon, the landings on Hollandia, the battle of the Philippine Sea, and raids in the Bonins, Saipan, Guam, Palau Islands, Japan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Gold Star and the Presidential unit citation for these actions.

Shaw survived a plane crash and was hospitalized before entering the Naval War College in September 1945, where he was a member of the Command Class. From January to June 1946 he was flag secretary to the Commander, Fifth Fleet in Japan and on the west coast. He returned to Newport in July as a member of the faculty of the General Line School. Beginning in November 1947 and for the next three years, he worked with Rear Admiral Samuel E. Morison researching and writing the sixteen-volume "The History of U.S. Naval Operations in World War II."

Shaw took command of USS Waldron (DD 699) in October 1950 and remained in this post until 1952 when he was assigned as Director, Current History Division, Office of Information, Navy Department. He spent six months in Hollywood as technical advisor for the movie The Caine Mutiny. His next assignment was as Director of the Planning Division of the Office of Information. Duty as naval and air attaché followed at The Hague, The Netherlands and Brussels, Belgium. In August 1957 he returned to the United States and served on the staff of the Commandant, Third Naval District, New York City until he retired on February 1, 1958.

Rear Admiral Shaw holds the China Service Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the Navy Occupation Service Medal, Europe and Asia Clasps, the National Defense Service Medal and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one star. His clubs include the Army and Navy and Army and Navy Country Club, Washington, D.C. He was a member of the U.S. Naval Historical Foundation and U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association.

Shaw died on December 4, 1988 at the age of seventy-four in Bellow Falls, Vermont. Prior to his death, he was New England Director of the Humane Society of the United States, which he had been affiliated with for twenty-five years.

Career Outline

Born, June 21, St. Paul, Minnesota
Graduated, U.S. Naval Academy
USS Northampton (CL-26)
USS Litchfield (DD-336)
USS Stewart (DD 224)
USS Atlanta (CL-17), Gunnery Officer
USS Bunker Hill (CV-17), Gunnery Officer
U.S. Naval War College, Newport, RI, Student
Staff, Commander Fifth Fleet, Flag Secretary
General Line School, Newport, RI, Instructor, Strategy and Tactics
U.S. Naval Operations in World War II, Historian
USS Waldron (DD 699), Commanding Officer
Current History Division, Office of Information, Navy Department, Director
Promoted to Captain
Office of Information, Planning Division, Director
The Hague, The Netherlands, and Brussels, Belgium, U.S. Naval Attaché and U.S. Naval Attaché for Air
Commandant, Third Naval District, Staff member
February 1, Retired, U.S. Navy and promoted to Rear Admiral
Died, December 4, Bellows Falls, VT


22 boxes

Language of Materials



Biographical information; Personal and official naval correspondence, including letters sent and received, 1939–1975; naval orders, 1938–1957; Journals, notebooks and diaries, 1935–1949; Speeches, notes, note cards and speeches of others, 1936–1977; Writings, including published and unpublished novels, short stories and articles, 1947–1979; Draft of film script for “The Caine Mutiny,” “Midway” and “The Jarvis Story”; Subject Files on ships and naval topics; Miscellany, including citations, programs, rosters, invitations and newspaper articles; Career photographs; Unpublished manuscript by Elizabeth Shaw entitled “Crossed Swords Forever.”

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The James C. Shaw Papers were presented to the Naval War College Foundation by his wife, Elizabeth Riley Shaw, in September 1989.
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Naval Historical Collection Repository

US Naval War College
686 Cushing Rd
Newport RI 02841 US