Vice Admiral Robert Francis Dunn, United States Navy (Retired)

VADM Dunn - 1987Vice Admiral Dunn left active service as the top naval aviator, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Air Warfare, responsible for establishing materiel requirements and setting policies for the training, operations, management and personnel throughout the Navy’s aviation establishment. He is currently the president of the Naval Historical Foundation, president of the Naval Academy Class of 1951, serves as an aviation consultant, a member of the board of UT-Services, a research and development company, and is a contributor of book reviews to the Washington Times.  In the past he studied for one year as a Ramsey Fellow at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum and served as the chairman and president of the Association of Naval Aviation.  He also served on several aerospace company boards, as Chair of GSA’s Aviation Policy Management Board in a review of safety as pertains to non-DOD government aircraft, as Deputy Chairman of the NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel and president of the National Consortium for Aviation Mobility (NCAM).  NCAM was the private partner in a public/private partnership with NASA aimed at development of technologies which would enhance small aircraft transportation.  The culmination of that partnership was a large, successful, publicly acclaimed, demonstration of those technologies at Danville, Virginia, in 2005.

During his navy career Vice Admiral Dunn commanded a large number of organizations, large and small, with extensive time airborne including combat in Vietnam.  Most of his flying was in carrier based jet attack and fighter aircraft but he is also a designated helicopter pilot and has flown single and multiengine props and turboprops and sailplanes.  He has commanded a carrier squadron, a carrier air wing, a large amphibious ship, the aircraft carrier Saratoga and a carrier battle group.

Later in his Navy career he commanded all Naval Air Forces of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet preceded by command of the worldwide forces of the Naval Reserve and before that the Naval Military Personnel Command:  in charge of personnel management and assignment of all uniformed navy people.

Vice Admiral Dunn writes for publication and is an experienced public speaker.  He has been a commentator on various news programs and has been called upon to testify before Congress as an active officer, in his retired capacity and as a NASA safety panel member.  His hobbies are flying, golf, travel, reading and the study of naval history.

Vice Admiral Dunn is a native of Chicago, married to the former Claire Snyder Leaver.  They have four grown children.


B.S. (Engineering)  U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland
M.S. (Management)  U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California
**   Aviation Safety Course, University of Southern California
**   United Kingdom Joint Services Staff College
**   Harvard University, Kennedy School Course for Senior Executives

42 Responses to Vice Admiral Robert Francis Dunn, United States Navy (Retired)

  1. CDR Dean French USN Ret, USNA Class 1950, VC-33 (AD-6), VA-153 (A-4D), says:

    John Lehman SECNAV wrote that Navy pilots were killed in 50s and 60s at 50% a recent article in USNI Proceedings.
    Was this difference all about Vietnam? I did not fly during that war.

    “Six Amazing Years” by VADM Dunn shows the pilot death problem basically solved by 1961 by RAGs, Level Readiness, NATOPS, Angled Deck, Meatball etc.

    From 1953 till1960, I had 3000 hours of uneventful carrier flights with 150 night and 150 day carrier landings on straight and angled decks. I retired in July 1970.

    Where can I find answers to this question in Navy archives?

    • admin says:

      CDR French,

      VADM Dunn has replied directly to you on this question, we hope his answer was sufficiently informative to help with your query.

  2. Mark Davis says:

    Dear Sir,
    I have purchased a jacket that was supposedly owned by Admiral Dunn while commanding the Saratoga. I am avery serious history buff and was wondering if there was a way to get this confirmed?

  3. Roger Bohn says:

    I just discovered Vice Adm. Dunn’s very useful article “Six Amazing Years,” which fills in some gaps for a book I am writing on the transformation of flying from an “art” to a “science.”
    Does anyone know a source for year-by-year data on accident rates? (Such as per hundred thousand flight hours.) A comparison with the Air Force would also be very useful.
    I also wonder if Adm. Flatley’s famous 1953 report on safety exists anywhere. It must contain a wealth of information.
    Thanks for any suggestions.

    • admin says:

      Dr. Bohn,

      VADM Dunn may be able to assist you directly and will be in touch.

    • Robert F. Dunn says:

      With abject apologies for being so tardy in response to your query via the Naval Historical Foundation website here is what I have.

      Two good references re the Flatley Report are:
      Reaper Leader, The Life of Jimmy Flatley; Steve Ewing, U.S. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Md., 2002.
      Foundation, the Journal of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. “The Flatley Report – Which Saved Naval Aviation.” Unfortuantely I don’t have the issue in which that articel appeared but if you contact the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation in Pensacola they can probably give you a good steer.

      As for the rest of your request you can write me at and I may be able to help you out.

      • Mark White says:

        Your mention of art vs. science brings to mind Col. John “40-second” Boyd and his work on energy, flight and dogfighting, Roger Bohn. You’re surely aware of this given your research interests, but others might find the story of his team’s “insurgent” development of the F-16 fascinating in this context.

        As always, Wikipedia is a start:

        … but, as always with Wikipedia, check the references. Don’t trust, but use it for leads and verify, verify, verify!

  4. Eric Burris says:

    I served on the flag staff (Admirals Driver) in 1986 under VADM Dunn when he was COMNAVAIRLANT (CNAL). I often think of the Admiral and what an inspiration both he and Mrs. Dunn were to me as a young man of 17 at the time. He had an incredible staff (CAPT Dow, LCDR Larry Cable, Chief Hill and PO1 Lynnmeyer) that also gave me positive direction and motivation. In the history of my military career, there’s been no other leader I’ve looked up to or thought of as frequently as VADM Dunn. I wanted to take the time to convey a very heartfelt and sincere apreciation to being the role model he was to me. I’m now 45 and he and his family are still in my thoughts and prayers. What a powerful and positive impact he has made personally on my life and completely unknown to himself all these years. Admiral, thank you!

    As a Life Member of the UDT/SEAL Association and ambassador for the Navy SEAL Foundation, I find myself often praising memories and thoughts of you during the annual east coast SEAL reunions. I’m a very active member of the Association and am one of the coordinators for the Navy SEAL Frogs for Freedom motorcycle we host annually for the Great Lakes Chapter. Should you find yourself in the Chicagoland area June 8, 2013, I would love to see you; either as a guest of honor, guest or just as an old but dear friend.

    The three men I that have admired the most my entire life have been my father, my grandfather and Admiral Dunn. Personally, there’s no higher honor.

    Again Sir, thank you for your leadership and your guidance to a very impressionable young sailor many blue moons ago.


    Eric L. Burris

  5. Robert F. Dunn says:

    Thank you so very much. I’m very flattered. ComNavAirLant was a “Fun” tour and I look back on it often and fondly.

    It’s interesting in that you’re now in Chicago. I was born and raised there, went to high school at Lane Tech, and my brother still lives in the area; Morton Grove. I will indeed get in touch when and if I get back there this year.

    All the very best,

    VADM Bob Dunn

  6. Robert Dunn says:


    I know this is odd, but when I was on-boarded at PM TRASYS, the first thing my government handler asked was, “was your father THE Robert Dunn?”

    My government lead, Rand (Turn) Stiles, was a student at the academy during your time and said that you were the finest officer he’d ever met.

    For a moment I was tempted to claim lineage, considering the glowing appreciation and obvious respect he conveyed.

    Honor forbade me. I, nonetheless, remain proud to share the name.

    In my own way I try to continue the tradition and am making training for the Marines the best it can be so that more of our country’s best return safely..

    Thank you.


    Robert (JR) Dunn
    Instructional Systems Specialist
    Combat Vehicle Training Systems (CVTS)
    Orlando, FL

    • Thanks much for making contact, Robert. From your address it seems like you work in the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division at Orlando. If so, I recognize that as an extremely important part of our defense, saving dollars through simulation.

      Back to your comments on the web page, your remarks are most flattering and I appreciate you mentioning a couple of my former colleagues. I had a most enjoyable and rewarding career as a Naval Aviator and am now enjoying retirement in Northern Virginia, although I do frequently miss the home in Chicago where I grew up.

      I’ve discovered there are a lot of Dunns in this world, some as far away as Australia. I’m sure we’re connected somewhere way back there but no matter. I’m proud that we share a name.
      VADM Bob Dunn

  7. Harry S Gault LT,USN, (RET) says:

    I served under, then Capt Dunn, as EMO f the Saratoga 74 to 77. VADM Dunn was indeed the finest Naval Officer I ever served under.

  8. Thanks very much. That’s very high praise and I much appreciate it. The whole crew did outstanding work during those years. We took a near-basket case to where we almost won the AirLant E. I often look back fondly on those two years.

    Best wishes to you,

    VADM Bob Dunn, USN (Ret)

  9. K. Lee Van Brocklin, Lcdr, USN (ret) says:

    I want to echo Lt Gault’s comments. I worked on the flight deck as a brown shirt on the 74-75 cruise, and Saratoga was my first ship. I made a career out of the Navy, eventually getting my Commission, largely because of my experience there. Thank you for making a difference in this young man’s life.

  10. VADM Robert F. Dunn, USN (Ret) says:

    The Navy, particularly the great learning crucible we knew as Saratoga, affected us all for the better. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

  11. michael mahoney says:

    Dear sir,
    While I was never a member of the military,my father was a member of the Navy who fought in the pacific the son of a Navy man I am proud and humbled,because Everything I am is because of my father. I just wanted to convey that you dont to be a member of the armed services to be inspired, all you have to do is put it to good use. Thank you for so much to our great nation, Sincerely, Michael J Mahoney

  12. Guy Baratte says:

    Dear Admiral Dunn – I worked for Commander Jim Holland on the Sixth Fleet staff when you were the Operations officer. Later, a small detachment of comsixthflt staff embarked on the Mt. Whitney for several days during the Yom Kippur War. You were the co and gave all of us a nice photograph of the Mt. Whitney, which I still have. I wanted to know if Commander Holland is still alive; I remember that you and him were good friends.


    YN3 Guy Baratte

  13. Chaplain John W. Long says:

    Greeting Sir: I served under you on the Sara from 1975 to 1977 as an electricians mate. I remember the collision we had with the fuel ship and often tell the story to my veteran patients .It seems Wikipedia has the wrong date of the collision. Do you know the exact date? It was a privilege to serve under you Sir, God Bless .

  14. Chaplain John W. Long says:

    Greetings again Sir. after further research It may Have been Captain Hunter who was in command of the Sara at the time of the collision. sorry Sir.

    • Thomas J. Cassady (Butch) E-DIV says:

      John, you are correct that Capt Dunn was in command when we collided with the USS Missinawa. However, I don’t remember the date.


  15. Thomas J. Cassady (Butch) E-DIV says:

    I served on USS Saratoga CV60 1974-1977 under then Capt Dunn. When you were doing the “walk around” on pier during change of command in Mayport FL, EM3 Manuel Diaz and I popped a salute to you from the flight deck (we shouted to you) and you heard us, and was kind enough to pop a salute back to us. Sir, you have no idea, but that would become a favorite of memory for us. Truly, you were a people person for the average guy. Hardly anyone believed us. If you remember doing it, please confirm it here. Thanks Much! I was honored to serve under you, SALUTE!

  16. Robin W. Hartford says:

    I was aboard the USS SARATOGA CV-60 from March 3, 1973 until June 5, 1976 as a PH-3 attached to OZ Division’s CVIC-Photo.

    Got a technical question that I have been curious about for decades: What was wrong with the SARA’s boilers?

    I later read a Naval History magazine column by you that they gave every SARA skipper fits until the SLEP.

    What exactly was the problem?

    BTW: I remember how OP Division screwed photographing your Change of Command. Was sooo glad I was in OZ Division. Whenever I was up on the Signal Bridge for a “Sighting Team” call, I wanted to wear a badge that said, “Not OP!”

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  20. Kenneth Boren MD says:

    I was the Mt Whitney.s Medical officer during the deployment to the Med in the fall of 1973. The Mt Whitney was deployed to a NATO exercise off the coast of Turkey in the fall of 1973. After a liberty in Istanbul we were headed home when we became involved with the Yum Kipper war and the confrontation with the Soviet Navy. My memory involved the Mt Whitney carried the Flag for the 6 th fleet at least part of the time during that time period. When I review some information about this incident iit was the largest engagement between the US Navy and the Soviet navy since the Cuban crisis. Does anyone know of a history of this event? This was my first duty station and I was privileged to serve under Capt Dunn Command and I enjoyed the experience learn how to be a dept head and only in the navy for 2 weeks

  21. Currently consulting for the NAVAIR TACAMO Program Office, PMA-271. We are trying to understand if Congress ever issued a directive to the Navy to locate the TACAMO E-6 Mercury units at Tinker AFB, OK because of the Tinker Air Logistics Center. There is plenty of evidence of claims of great benefits of being co-located with the Air Force E-3s and the depot at Tinker that worked E-3s but no Congressional language has been found so far directing Tinker because of the depot work. The full story of how SECNAV came to approve the move to Tinker is clearly understood by this writer as I was the PCO of VQ-3 at that time working in PMA-271.
    Very respectfully requesting any insights that the Admiral may have.

    • Steve Le Fevre says:

      Captain: just a simple question if you can answer this, did you ever hear anything about jp-5 jet fuel in any freshwater supplies on the aircraft carriers at all. even if you didn’t taste it yourself did you ever hear about it. i hope you can answer this truthfully, without fears of any kind. thank you

  22. Steve Le Fevre says:

    VADM Dunn I also was in E-DIV and worked in the electrical light shop. there was two times that I went to your room to fix electrical problems. One of my best friends was BM3 Terry and he worked up on the bridge with you a lot. admiral do you ever remember hearing rumors and maybe just rumors from around the ship that there was a jet fuel smell in the drinking water, in the water the cooks used, they had to use bug juice (kool-aid) to hide the taste and the smell, and when we would take showers there usually was a film left on your skin. The Sara is gone now probably and do you remember anything about the water situation on-board Sara at all? There are a lot of sailors that remember this condition. It seemed to only happen out to sea and moored at dock side. Somebody had to have made even a slight comment. It was the only bad experience that I had on Sara Thank you sir, pleasure serving under you 1975 to 1979

    EM3 Le Fevre

  23. Joseph Spanilo says:

    I was on the Mount Whitney as a Operation Specialist (Radarman) 1973-1974. It doesn’t surprise me that you’re a Vice Admiral – you were a great captain.

  24. Steve Le Fevre says:

    Dear Mr./admiral Dunn. i served on the Sara from 76-79 in E-div and did my time honorably. I have had some health issues due to my time aboard the Saratoga CV-60, my next duty station was reserves in Pomona calif. in 1991 just twelve years later from leaving the Sara i had massive kidney failure( absolutely no kidney failure in my family line at all, then and including today’s date) and had to go on dialysis for 1 year, then received a kidney transplant from a cadaver. it lasted ten years approx. i lost that one and went back on dialysis for almost 9 years then my 20 year old son donated one to me. it’s been working great for two years now. in between the two transplants i had open heart surgery because of all the meds i have to take, they replaced a valve with a mechanical valve. not done yet, during that surgery had to have a blood transfusion and ended up with hepatitis c, took new medicine (this year)that cost a 1000 per pill for 90 days. The reason im telling you all this is because i have been fighting the VA since 2001 and all they keep telling me is that they cant find any of my medical records (just a dd-214) now going on 15 years. my trips to the sick bay and reports from medical in Mayport fla ( a doctor/officer told me ( about two months before leaving the Saratoga) after doing test on board ship and in Mayport that someday i was/would probably going to have kidney issues later in life, my military records “surprise” nowhere to be found(except dd-214), go figure. So out of all this i just need to know if while on the Sara during your time as commanding officer if you ever heard of, tasted it in the food and water, (that’s why we had bug juice at least in our galley), felt it on your skin during/after showers “we did” the presence of jp-5 or jet fuel in any manner that you would be willing to say that it was there, and if you’re not willing to state the true facts, at least be willing to say that you heard of it while you were captain. I have HUNDREDS OF SAILORS from the early years on the Sara and the latter years up to decommissioned, not only from the Sara but from all four Forrestal-class super-carriers. i remember doing electrical work in your stateroom and talking to you about the very same issues, everyone talked about it all the time. i talked to a lot of officers while on board, also but can’t find them. please respond i need the help and so do many others, believe me. Ask me any question that you want in my email. or if anyone else remembers this please email ASAP EM5 Le Fevre E-DIV THANK YOU

    • Peggy says:

      My son was on the Saratoga….he wrote many letters to us about the water tasting of jet fuel. Right after he got out of the service he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. He is now in end stage kidney failure…doing dialysis and on a waiting list for a kidney transplant.

      • Steve Le Fevre EM4 says:

        Peggy I’am fighting the VA right now for end stage kidney problems “two transplants and other issues as well from this”. It is definitely a up hill battle and what i understand they will probably shoot me down. they did the same thing to sailors with asbestos problems until to many came forward to complain, they had to start giving out benefits then, just to many to just throw away in the trash. if there is anything i can help you with let me know. my email address is or post here. i have been trying to find officers who are not afraid to come forward to talk about this, i have found a couple, but wish more would grow a pair and at least admit they remember it being in the freshwater aboard any forrestal class carriers. good luck.

  25. steve says:

    why won’t anyone who was an officer answer these questions about jp-5 in the freshwater on the Saratoga, was that it wasn’t in your water supply. someone has to be able to tell the truth

  26. Babs says:


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