Ship Deck Logs & Radar

0306706 CVE-67 Escort Carrier 1941-1946

3 November 2016

As leader of the research group my plan was to search specifically for the deck logs of the USS Solomons CVE-67 from the December 1945 time frame.(Pic 1) We were successful in finding it and those of the ships in formation with it during the search for the missing Flight-19 TBM’s (Pic 2, Model from the National Air & Space Museum) Excluding the Solomons, the USS Borum (DE-790), USS Durik (DE-666) and the USS Jenks (DE-665) all destroyer escorts  were in the same area of operations for the search.  The DE’s performed various functions during the cruise to include actions as plane guards and radar picketing.

At a couple of points they each broke off to either refuel or drop off injured personnel in there home port of Mayport Florida or were tasked to search other areas of ocean in reponse to orders from the Solomons in response to possible sightings of rafts or debris.

Having never seen a Deck Log before I was surprised to find how clean and legible they are. I had pictured an actual hard covered log with hand written notes, similar to those of a diary or a radio logbook or like an old fashioned Captains Log.

They are laid out very systematically. The first page for every day contains columnar numerical figures in regards to meteorological and oceananic information as well as ship and engine performance.

Every notation on the other ‘remarks’ page is usually no longer than a paragraph and mentions every course change, speed change, and time periods.Everything is annotated for a 24 hour period in blocks of 4 hours so the information doesn’t fill more than a 9″ by 14 inch page. It’s very systematic almost robotic in nature.

Having said that. Is it any surprise that the there are very few mentions of the search for Flight-19 in the log?  In fact, there is no mention in any of the pages from December 4th through the 11th December of the weather conditions on the remarks page. That is to say there are no anecdotal entries. Nothing with any personalized commentary or observations. Something I found very strange as it is alleged that she was encountering bad weather in the days immediately following the disappearance to include 30 foot waves at times. Waves tall enough to crash over the bow of the ship.

The Destroyer Escorts would have had a very difficult time plodding through these waters and though many course and speed changes were plotted, again, there was no mention of weather.

Use of SL radar (Ship and close in aircraft with a range at best 20 miles)  by the USS Durik and the USS Borum is mentioned several times during the period between the 5th and 11th of December but at no other time does any other ship indicated the use of any type of radar in any kind of situation. I suppose we can assume, if from nothing else then from the Navy report of the Flight-19 investigation that the Solomons had some type -likely SC – radar in use at some point on December 5th. The SC radar has a maximum range of approx 100 miles. But again it is not indicated at all in the deck logs.

If there is any documentation from the ship regarding the radar track it picked up late on the 5th indicating a non-identified formation of between 5 and 6 planes, it is either in some other form of log, or unfortunately lost to history. We may have to return to the archives at some point.





Special List #44, World War II Vessels

In brief this list (special list #44) is essential to finding any deck logs from naval vessels during the World War II time frame. The book itself is over 100 pages long which explains why only a small portion is visible online. It would take a heck of a large PDF file to provide the information.

As it was explained to me, the book only lists the first accession of records sent from the Navy Historical and Heritage Center to the archives. I’m not sure the NHHC sees it like that but NARA II does.

So even if the dates listed don’t reflect the time frame you are looking for -usually post June 1945- it is likely they have the documentation you are looking for.  It’s probably safe to say that they have deck logs at least to 1946.

If you are researching for deck logs from a particular vessel it is best to visit or call the NARA Archives in College Park Maryland and ask for their assistance.  Though they may be busy, they are more than willing to assist serious researchers. Be patient, as the place is usually packed with people needing help.

If you should ever visit be prepared with the bare minimum of  information needed for them to work with. Start with the (RG) Record Group number that you wish to investigate. If you can provide the Stack Area, Row, Compartment and Shelf No. with the box no you’re golden. Of course you won’t be able to find out this information until you look through the finding aids which are only located in College Park.

So in the end you will need to make a road trip as I did. Good Luck.

NARA II Investigation Brief

6 November 2016

My research assistant Alice and I visited the National Archives in College Park Maryland this past week.  For three days-it was a working vacation- we scoured three different record groups located in the naval historical section of the archives.

First off, I’ve got to say the staff at the archives is most helpful and friendly.  They and the security force may come off harsh at times, but its all done respectfully and for a good reason.  Without the somewhat draconian policies and procedures documents could disappear inexplicably. Furthermore, and perhaps worse for future researchers items could be placed out of order. If you’ve done any raw document investigating the order of things can make a big difference between finding the smoking gun, and missing it.

As for our specific research goals, lets just say we learned more from what we didn’t find than from what we did find. Though it is interesting some of the information we did find is circumstantial to building any case, it still was very limited.

Overall it was a very nice trip and we were somewhat successful in my research.

More detail and specifics to follow in the next blog.