By Onaona Guay
Know Your Records: U.S. Navy Deck Logs
U.S. Navy deck logs and muster rolls are among the most popular U.S. Navy records in our holdings. Archivists here at Archives II frequently consult these records to answer researcher requests. Considering their popularity, we thought it might be helpful to dive a little deeper [pun intended!] into the information contained within each record type. Today’s topic: Deck logs!
U.S. Navy Deck Logs – What they are:
A deck log is a brief record of the daily administrative activities of a ship. It includes journal-style entries of the ship’s administrative activities; location and course of travel; disciplinary procedures; and any unusual events. The logs sometime include information related to operational activities, although the level of content and detail may vary widely.
[Click on any image to enlarge.]
For the period of 1941 through 1956, deck logs generally include monthly rosters of officers. Beginning in March 1957, officer rosters are no longer included in the deck logs. From 1957 onwards, officer rosters are included in the ship’s Muster Rolls/Personnel Diaries. Rosters of enlisted crew are always found on the ship’s Muster Rolls/Personnel Diaries.
Only the deck logs of major combatant and support ships are considered permanent records, per the Department of the Navy records management regulations. Other types of logs (engineer, engine room, quarter deck, sick bay or sick call, radio, and quartermaster) are deemed to be temporary records and destroyed by the Navy after initial administrative use. Medical information concerning individuals should be included in the medical file of the individual.
What they are not:
Deck logs are not detailed journals describing a ship’s mission and all events transpiring in and around the ship, although they do sometimes provide information about a ship’s operations.
Deck logs also do not provide personnel information besides the monthly officer rosters for the years 1941 through 1956, as mentioned above. Personnel might be listed if they were involved in an accident or if they faced disciplinary action aboard ship. Unfortunately, we do not have a name index for these records.
Requesting deck logs from 1941-1978:
If you are interested in requesting information from or copies of U.S. Navy deck logs for the period 1941-1978, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
In your request, please include:
- Full name of the ship, and hull number, if possible
- the dates of interest
- the nature of your inquiry
Tips for requesting deck logs:
Due to the number of requests received, and the limitations of staff and resources, archivists are unable to consult a large volume of deck logs per request. The following tips should be kept in mind when submitting a request:
- Do some research in advance of submitting your request. The Naval History and Heritage Command Histories Branch website provides links to very useful information, including the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Consulting these sites may help you better frame your inquiry.
- Provide as much information about your inquiry as possible. Be specific. A general request such as “I would like the deck logs of the USS Essex from January-December 1945” is too broad a request for the archivists to sufficiently answer. What would you like to know about the USS Essex during this time? As mentioned above, a little research beforehand may help you better frame your inquiry.
- Keep your timeframe as narrow as possible. Deck logs per ship per day frequently comprise multiple pages. For example, the deck logs of the USS Essex from April-June 1945 will likely consist of hundreds of pages. A narrow timeframe enables the Navy archivists to better answer your request.
Requesting pre-1941 deck logs:
Deck logs prior to 1941 are maintained by NARA’s Archives I Reference Section (RDTR1), National Archives Main Building, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20408-0001. To request deck logs prior to 1941, please contact email@example.com.
Requesting post-1978 deck logs:
Deck logs dated after 1978 are maintained at the Navy History and Heritage Command. To request post-1978 deck logs, please write to the Ships Deck Logs Section, Naval History & Heritage Command, 805 Kidder Breese Street, SE, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, DC 20374-5060. More information can be found here.
Deck logs online:
Many deck logs have been digitized and are available via the National Archives Catalog (NAC). Following the link https://catalog.archives.gov/id/594258 will take you to the series “Logbooks of the U.S. Navy Ships and Stations, 1941-1978.” To search within the series:
- In the Details area, look for “…file(s) described in the catalog”
- Click on the “Search within this Series” button
- A search box will appear in the NAC banner at the top of the screen
- Enter ship name or hull name. Do not include the prefix USS.
If the deck logs of the ship of interest have been digitized, an image of the first page will appear on the results page.
Click on the image or hyperlink of the desired deck log to see a larger view of the image and to be able to download the image.
Do you Know Your Records?
Found anything interesting in the deck logs? Do you have another series of records you’d like us to similarly describe? We’d love to hear about it! Let us know in the comments!
[April 2020: This post was updated with the current URL for the Navy Deck Logs online, which is https://catalog.archives.gov/id/594258 and no longer http://research.archives.gov/description/594258 (although this URL redirects to the site). The National Archives Identifier (594258) has not changed.]