History Does Matter: Admiral Dunn Awarded Distinguished Public Service Award

Chairman of the Naval Historical Foundation, Adm. Bruce DeMars, USN (Ret.) and Capt. James Wyatt, Deputy Director of the Navy Staff, present Vice Adm. Robert Dunn, USN (Ret.), center, with his Distinguished Public Service Award certificate at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy's Museum Education Center. Dunn received the award for his many efforts to promote the U.S. Navy's history throughout his 14 year tenure as president of the Naval Historical Foundation (NHF) from 1998-2012. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford/Released)

Chairman of the Naval Historical Foundation, Adm. Bruce DeMars, USN (Ret.) and Capt. James Wyatt, Deputy Director of the Navy Staff, present Vice Adm. Robert Dunn, USN (Ret.), center, with his Distinguished Public Service Award certificate at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy’s Museum Education Center. Dunn received the award for his many efforts to promote the U.S. Navy’s history throughout his 14 year tenure as president of the Naval Historical Foundation (NHF) from 1998-2012. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford/Released)


Retired Vice Admiral Robert F. Dunn received the Department of the Navy’s Distinguished Public Service Award during the 10 December Naval Historical Foundation’s semiannual Board of Directors Meeting. The award is a testament to Vice Admiral Dunn’s tireless efforts to educate the public about naval history, and to his commitment to the core tenants of the Foundation: preservation, education, and commemoration. Admiral Bruce DeMars, USN (Ret.), NHF Chairman, and Captain James Wyatt, Deputy Director of the Navy Staff, presented Vice Admiral Dunn with his award at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy.

The full citation of the award reads:

For exemplary service on behalf of the Department of the Navy while serving as President of the Naval Historical Foundation from June 1998 to June 2012. During his tenure, Vice Admiral Dunn advanced the objectives of the organization that was founded in 1926 with the mission of preserving and promoting our Nation’s naval heritage. During his 14-year tenure with the Foundation, he assured the preservation of numerous collections of personal papers, art and photographic collections, and historical artifacts valued at millions of dollars and their donation and placement in appropriate government repositories. He led efforts to commemorate the role of the Navy’s air component in the years leading up to the centennial of naval aviation. Among his successful efforts to promote the Navy’s history to audiences within and outside the service are: the publication of The Navy coffee table book, the installation of a museum room aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65), the renovation of the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium to include memorial arches, and the creation of a Navy Heritage Video series for General Military Training. Under his leadership, the Naval Historical Foundation has raised and transferred funds and services to the Naval History and Heritage Command and National Museum of the United States Navy valued at over ten million dollars and he oversaw the Capital Campaign of the Navy Museum’s Cold War Gallery. His dedicated and selfless service demonstrated the highest level of loyalty and leadership, and brought great credit to the Naval Historical Foundation and the Department of the Navy.

The award is the highest that the Secretary of the Navy can bestow on individuals who are not active duty military members or civilian employees of the Department of the Navy. Among other notable recipients of the award over the years are Joe Rosenthal, Pulitzer Prize winning WWII Photographer; and Sybil Stockdale, wife of Vice Admiral James Stockdale, and spokesperson for POW/MIA families.

Always humble when reflecting on his myriad accomplishments, Vice Admiral Dunn was quick to thank other members of the NHF Board of Directors and staff for their contributions and efforts. At a time when the busy future of the 88-year old educational nonprofit Foundation was being reviewed, it was only fitting to honor a leader who has helped ensure its success for years to come.

His accomplishments extend far beyond his distinguished career as a naval aviator. He is certainly no stranger to the discipline of history. He is currently finishing a monograph on the history of naval aviation safety in the second half of the twentieth century (Dunn commanded the Naval Safety Center in Norfolk from 1976 to 1977). Selfless service is an oversimplified way to say how much impact he has made on the future of naval history.

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History Does Matter
In May 2002, Vice Admiral Dunn wrote a short article in the Naval Academy’s alumni magazine, Shipmate, about the importance of naval history. His article, titled “History Does Matter,” talked a lot about the need to preserve naval history. History matters because the documents exist for historians to write about it. Vice Admiral Dunn understood that importance with extreme clarity. Twelve years later, much of his sage advice and wisdom is as true as ever, especially in our every-increasing dependence on digitization:

“We must [. . .] collect and preserve communications in whatever media they might be carried [. . .] It’s the job of the rest of us, in the words of Vice Admiral Giambastiani, to collect, chronicle, and connect naval history in all its forms.”

The Naval Historical Foundation continues to help preserve naval history in this manner, and educate the American public accordingly, thanks to the efforts of inspiring leaders like Vice Admiral Dunn.

A special thanks to MC1 Tim Comerford, USN for the event images.

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