As of last Friday June 10th 2016, I had finally verified the location of the ‘missing’ CVE-67 USS Solomons decklog. A minor success for me, but potentially a huge one for anyone following in my steps and researching the flight-19 mystery.
The written record covering the official ship activities from May 1945 to June 1946; come to find out is at the National Archives at College Park Maryland. The chain of custody is relatively short but confusing. The US Navy has what I will call ‘a modern day policy’ that all deck logs from ships that are decommissioned are turned over to the navy and stay with the Navy’s History and Heritage Command (NHHC) for thirty years, after which time they are transferred unceremoniously to the National Archives.
Now you have to imagine what things were like seventy one years ago, at the end of the greatest war ever known. A time when many soldiers, sailors and airmen had been drafted and wanted to get the heck out of the service of Uncle SAM. An entire nation was dismantling a war machine never seen in its history. Many ships were being decommissioned and sold for scrap or mothballed at a furious pace.
It had to be organized chaos, but chaos non the less. Things could get lost or destroyed. According to the Navy, at that time a deck log was basically a bound diary the size of legal paper and could contain up to thousands of pages of paper, and possibly that many entries for that matter. Not an easy item to loose or over look, but it was a possibility during the frantic deconstruction of the naval service.
It was also a possibility; albeit a slim one, that the ships final commander may have packed it up for a souvenir. Hence one reason for my search for Captain Smith. It could have been saved by the scrap yard too. These were all avenues I had to look into when I first started my research.
After making inquiries with both NHHC and NARA in Waltham MA- both dead ends- I was starting to realize that finding it was not going to be an easy task. I was beginning to think that I would have to put more time into finding it than the missing flight-19 itself.
Clue: Thirty three years after the war. Something called Special List #44 was created by the Navy Historical Service the fore runner of the NHHC. This list indicated what ship deck logs the agency had in storage at that time. However when I read it, I was disappointed to learn that it only listed the Solomons logbook in inventory annotated everything up to May 1945.
When I inquired with the Navy they indicated that as far as they were aware the list was correct. The end of my search right? Not really. I kept digging.
I got lucky. I was clued into the second logbooks existence by a fellow researcher Jon Myhre who in an email mentioned he had received a copy of the Dec 5th deck log entries from the navy back in the early 1980’s for his book. Someone had had the logbook at one point!
So I had to re-inquire with my contacts at NHHC in Washington D.C. who passed me onto a specialist at NARA and voila! E-mail confirmation of the logbook.
Now it’s 2016 and many deck log histories have been added to the collection since the 70’s. But Special list #44, really hasn’t changed. Why? Well in my mind remember in 1978 it was a time before personal computers. Spreadsheets came off of big printers. It wasn’t an easy thing to make changes. Excel hadn’t even been created yet. Typewriters were still the technology of the day and word processors were just starting to make it into the market. It’s also a huge list and a lot of man hours would have to go into updating it.
So after all that, is it any wonder that I had such a hard time finding it? I plan to eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later, visit college park and see it for myself. Jon did warn me though that there really isn’t much to it. We’ll see.