John L. Sullivan (United States Navy)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
John Sullivan
John L Sullivan SecofNavy.jpg
United States Secretary of the Navy
In office
September 17, 1947 – May 24, 1949
PresidentHarry S. Truman
Preceded byJames Forrestal
Succeeded byFrancis P. Matthews
Personal details
John Lawrence Sullivan

(1899-06-16)June 16, 1899
Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S.
DiedAugust 8, 1982(1982-08-08) (aged 83)
Exeter, New Hampshire, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
EducationDartmouth College (BA)
Harvard University (LLB)

John Lawrence Sullivan (June 16, 1899 – August 8, 1982) was an American lawyer who served in several positions in the US federal government, including as the first Secretary of the Navy during the administration of Harry S. Truman.


Born in Manchester, New Hampshire, Sullivan was an alumnus of Dartmouth College.[1] He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1924. Sullivan served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in 1940–44, Assistant Secretary of the Navy (AIR) in 1945–46, and as Under Secretary of the Navy in 1946–47.

John L. Sullivan (right) and John S. McCain Sr. aboard USS Shangri-La

Sullivan was appointed Secretary of the Navy upon James Forrestal's installation as the first Secretary of Defense. Sullivan's major contributions to the Navy's future directions include the advent of naval nuclear propulsion. In 1947, then-Captain Hyman G. Rickover went around his chain-of-command and directly to the Chief of Naval Operations, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, by chance also a former submariner, to pitch his ideas for creating a nuclear-powered warship. Nimitz immediately understood the potential of nuclear propulsion and recommended the project to Sullivan, whose endorsement to build the world's first nuclear-powered vessel, USS Nautilus (SSN-571), later caused Rickover to state that Sullivan was "the true father of the Nuclear Navy."[2][3] In May 1949, Sullivan resigned in protest after the second Secretary of Defense, Louis A. Johnson, canceled the heavy aircraft carrier United States. This event was part of an interservice conflict known as the Revolt of the Admirals.

Sullivan and his wife had two daughters and a son. Sullivan died on August 8, 1982.[4] He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


  1. ^ "John L. Sullivan Papers". Truman Library. Retrieved 2007-08-20.
  2. ^ LIFE magazine, September 8, 1958, page 108
  3. ^ "Rye resident writes biography". Portsmouth, New Hampshire. December 16, 2011.
  4. ^ "Rites slated for John Sullivan, 83, ex-secretary of the Navy". Chicago Tribune. UPI. August 11, 1982. p. 2-12. Retrieved May 21, 2019 – via

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Artemus Gates
Assistant Secretary of the Navy (AIR)
July 5, 1945 – June 17, 1946
Succeeded by
John N. Brown
Preceded by
Artemus Gates
Under Secretary of the Navy
June 17, 1946 – September 18, 1947
Succeeded by
W. John Kenney
Preceded by
James V. Forrestal
United States Secretary of the Navy

September 18, 1947 – May 24, 1949
Succeeded by
Francis P. Matthews