The Navy Deck Logs
I have been with NARA for a year as a student and since I started, I have been working on the team that has been processing and consolidating the Navy deck logs in RG 24, Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, or as we call it, “the deck log project.” I helped process, re-folder, re-house, label, and verify box contents of deck logs from the years 1941 through 1978. The series is “Logbooks of the U.S. Navy Ships and Stations, 1941-1978.”
It has been a lot of work and our team cannot wait until it’s completed. Even though I look forward to the day when the deck log project is finished, I came to appreciate getting the chance to work with these records. It became a learning experience as I got a glimpse of the history of the Navy and its endeavors. Sure, some people do not like to do repetitive things day in and day out, but when you sit down and get into the records, you’re amazed at how much information the deck logs really hold.
One of my most memorable experiences working on the deck logs was when I processed the deck log for the ship, USS Vestal, which was stationed at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack against the Pacific Fleet. Few deck logs of ships stationed at Pearl Harbor survived; when the ships were sunk, so were their records. However, the USS Vestal and its deck log survived. The USS Vestal was stationed alongside the USS Arizona, and its deck log contains detailed descriptions of the events on the USS Arizona, including the bombings and injuries of the naval personnel serving aboard the ship.
Archivist Patrick Osborn, the team lead for the Navy processing team, offered an explanation of why consolidating the deck logs is so important to staff and researchers. The deck logs are some of the most requested records by researchers and are heavily pulled by staff. Consolidating the logs into fewer chronological blocks greatly facilitates records pulls. Previously, if someone wanted the logs of USS Constellation from 1966 to 1970, they’d have to submit five separate pull slips, and pulling and refiling would involve going to five different locations in Stack 470, twice. Now, the same pull would entail only one pull slip and going to one location inside the stack. Over time, this will help save a lot of time for both researchers and staff!