Grandson of Pulitzer-winning Naval historian charged with stealing records

Rear Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison


By TIM PRATT | The (Annapolis, Md.) Capital | Published: June 10, 2014

The grandson of a former Naval historian was arrested Monday and charged in federal court with stealing government property from Navy Archives in Washington, D.C.

Samuel Loring Morison, 69, of Crofton, Maryland, is accused of pilfering more than 34 boxes of materials, including maps, charts, illustrations, negatives, textual materials and photographs.

A portion of the material was compiled by Morison's grandfather, Rear Adm. Samuel E. Morison, who worked as a Naval historian and spent extensive time documenting Naval operations during World War II, according to federal charging documents.

The elder Morison wrote a seminal 15-volume history of naval operations during World War II. A Harvard professor, he was also a two-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in the biography category. He died in 1976.

Samuel L. Morison stole and attempted to sell his grandfather's works in April to a reseller of books and other documents, the charging documents say. He had an initial appearance Tuesday in federal court.

Samuel L. Morison previously was in the news when he was convicted of espionage and theft of government property in 1985, then pardoned by President Bill Clinton in 2001. He worked as an intelligence analyst for Naval Intelligence Support Center in Prince George's County and was convicted for providing classified information to British military publication Jane's Defence Weekly, to which he contributed in London, according to federal court documents.

He was the only government official ever convicted for giving classified information to the press, according to media reports at the time.

More recently, Morison worked as a part-time researcher at the Navy Archives between July 2010 and February 2013, according to charging documents. He had extensive access to files, including those belonging to his grandfather.

The elder Morison used his research to write "The History of United States Naval Operations in World War II," which was published in 15 volumes between 1947 and 1962.

In April, Samuel L. Morison met with a reseller of books and other documents at his home in Crofton, where they discussed the sale of his grandfather's files, charging documents state.

The reseller agreed to take possession of the materials and place them on consignment through his bookstore and offer them for sale on eBay, according to charging documents. They were collected a week later.

The reseller agreed to return to Samuel L. Morison's home at a later date to review additional Navy photographs he was offering to sell.

On May 12, special agents with the National Archives and Records Administration traveled to the bookstore and reviewed the materials acquired from Morison, appraising them at $5,000, according to charging documents

Morison had additional materials at his home, charging documents state, and asked the reseller to pay him $15,000 for them.

A search warrant was executed at Samuel L. Morison's home May 21, during which agents collected 34 boxes of evidence that were identified as property stolen from the Navy archives, according to charging documents.

A retired curator confirmed to investigators that Samuel L. Morison was never given authority to remove the materials from the archives.

Morison faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted for theft of government property. He couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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