sci.military.naval FAQ, Part C
General Naval Information

Revised 30 March 2000
Version 1.54
Compiled and Maintained by: Andrew Toppan
SMN FAQ Main Page:

Contents of this section:
Section C.1: Finding shipmates and reunions
Section C.2: The fate of a certain ship
Section C.3: Lists of ships in service; state of a particular fleet
Section C.4: State of the Russian/ex-USSR Fleet
Section C.5: Tomahawk Missiles
Section C.6: Five Star Admirals
Section C.7: The Sullivan Brothers
Section C.8: TWA Flight 800
Section C.9: Basic Naval Research
Section C.10: Wooden decks on battleships, cruisers and carriers
Section C.11: Finding Logs and Muster Rolls
Section C.12: Other resources
Section C.13: Navy and Maritime Administration reserve ("mothball") fleets

Section C.1: Finding shipmates and reunions

Section C.2: The fate of a certain ship

Many people want to know what happened to a ship they served on. In virtually all cases, the ship has been scrapped. Information on many ships is avaialable via the WWW. For example, you can find information about all aircraft carriers, most 20th century battleships, over 6,000 US Navy vessels, and most Canadian ships, at

The Naval Vessels Register (NVR), the official listing of US Navy ships, is located at http:/// The NVR includes the fate of many ships, but only through the date of disposal by the US Navy. Subsequent fate (i.e. service in a foreign navy) is not covered.

For all other vessels you should post a request for information on the newsgroup; it is very likely that someone will be able to provide the information you need.

Section C.3: Lists of ships in service; state of a particular fleet

A frequent request is the status of a certain fleet, the number and type of ships in a certain nation's navy, etc. The most complete sources for this information are books such as Jane's Fighting Ships and Combat Fleets of the World. Unfortunately these books are often too expensive for those with only a casual interest.

Information for a great many navies is now available online. In most cases this information is frequently updated, and it's free. The following is a listing of known fleet list/status web pages.

Section C.4: State of the Russian/ex-USSR Fleet

In general, the Russian fleet is in very poor condition. Only a few ships deploy each year, construction of new ships is essentially stopped, and older ships are not being overhauled or upgraded. Fuel, crews, spares and money for maintainance are in short supply. In general, all but the newest generation of warships have been or will be discarded, and even many newer warships (1980's era) are being discarded.

Many of the units nominally "in service" are inoperable due to accidents, mechanical failures, lack of maintainance, inavailability of repair or nuclear refuelling facilities, etc.

See the Russian Navy Fleet Lists at for details on the status of Russian ships.

Section C.5: Tomahawk Missiles

The Tomahawk is a surface- and submarine-launched cruise missile, built in several variants. It was originally known as the Sea Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM). A ground-launched variant (GLCM) previously used by US forces in Europe has been eliminated. An air launched version competed in the Air Force's Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) competion, but it lost to the competing missile, which is now in service as the ALCM. The current Tomahawks cannot be air-launched, despite consistent news reports of B-52 bombers launching "Tomahawks".

The Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) is the version currently in service with the US Navy and Royal Navy. It can be launched from all US ships equipped with the Mk41 VLS (DD, DDG, and CG types), all US SSNs, and certain Royal Navy SSNs. The TLAM is a conventional weapon, with a 700 or 1000 pound high-explosive warhead; there are also a number of "specialized" warheads, the details of which have not been released. All TLAMs have TERCOM (terrain contour matching) guidance; later missiles use Global Positioning System (GPS) in addition to TERCOM.

The nuclear-armed version of the Tomahawk, the TLAM-N, was withdrawn from service in 1992 as part of the United States' unilateral removal of tactical nuclear weapons.

The Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile (TASM) was a long range (~250 miles) anti-ship weapon. TASM has been withdrawn from service; the missiles are being converted to TLAMs. This is being done because TLAMs were very much needed after their extensive use in various conflicts, while there are relatively few potential TASM targets. Also, it is hard to provide targeting information for a TASM at maximum range, and the latest Harpoon has a rather long range (150 nm).

The Armored Box Launchers (ABLs) that previously carried Tomahawks aboard some ships (DD, CGN, BB types) have been withdrawn from service.

Section C.6: Five Star Admirals

Section provided by Merlin Dorfman

There are frequent postings to sci.military.naval (as well as and the Tom Clancy groups) about five-star admirals in the US Navy, and occasionally about US Army five-star generals as well.

There have been a total of nine five-star officers in the history of the US military. They were:



In addition, John J. Pershing, during World War I, was appointed General of the Armies and was authorized to design his own insignia, but never wore anything other than the four stars of a full General.

Five-star officers are always on active duty, i.e., they do not retire. They are, of course, on full pay since they are on active duty. When Eisenhower was elected President he resigned his rank, since there is a Constitutional prohibition against active-duty officers serving as elected officials. After he left the Presidency, Congress restored his rank. The prohibition does not apply to appointed officials; Marshall served as Secretary of State under Truman.

During 1944, Congress authorized the Army and the Navy to appoint four officers each to five-star rank. As of December 16, 1944, the Army appointed Marshall, Eisenhower, MacArthur, and Arnold, and the Navy appointed Leahy, King, and Nimitz. The authorization was never rescinded, and it did not make clear whether the eight could be replaced if they resigned or died--presumably each Service could appoint four today, though there are many political considerations, inculding the role of the Air Force, and if any appointments were made Congress would surely become involved. After Arnold's death in 1950, the Army appointed Omar Bradley, a prominent World War II commander then serving as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, to the vacant billet.

The Navy did not immediately fill its fourth billet because there was not a clear single choice. Of the four-star admirals, the leading candidates were Raymond A. Spruance and William F. Halsey, who alternated as commander of the striking force of the Pacific Fleet. The Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, left the choice to King. Both Halsey and Spruance had supporters in Congress; the most influential was Representative Carl Vinson of Georgia, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who strongly supported Halsey. After the war was over, in December 1945, the Navy promoted Halsey to five-star rank. Congress passed a special bill authorizing Spruance to be maintained on full pay upon his retirement. (Pay for three-, four-, and five-star ranks is the same; Spruance was the only officer of any service retired at full pay by act of Congress.) After vacancies occurred in the ranks of Fleet Admiral with the deaths of King in 1956 and Halsey in 1959, there were efforts in Congress to promote Spruance; Vinson thwarted them all. After Vinson's retirement the Navy did not want to reopen the issue, given Spruance's recognition by the special retirement status described above.

With the death of Bradley there are no five-star officers left, and it appears that there may never be any again.

Section C.7: The Sullivan Brothers

Who were the Sullivans?

Albert, Francis, George, Joseph and Madison Sullivan, five brothers from Iowa, enlisted in the Navy at the start of World War Two. They requested and received special permission to serve together on the same ship, USS Juneau (CL 52). They were killed when the ship was sunk on 13 Novemeber 1942. Following this tragedy, policies were put into place prohibiting all members of a family from serving in a combat zone at the same time.

USS The Sullivans (DD 537) was named in honor of the brothers; this ship survives as a museum at Buffalo NY. A new USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) entered service in 1997.

Section C.8: TWA Flight 800

The theory that the US Navy was somehow involved in the crash of TWA 800 is one of the best-known absurd conspriacy theories of our era. There has never been any evidence that the Navy was in any way involved. On the contrary, all facts that have been presented show the USN-shootdown theory to be absurd. In short:

The whole theory is absurd.
Section C.9: Basic Naval Research

This section provided by Jim Christley (jchris@BBN.COM)

Basic Naval Research Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Where can I find information on the USS ?????

The place to start any research on any specific US naval vessel is a book set called Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships or DANFS for short. This is compiled by the Ships History Branch of the Naval Historical Center in Washington. The books are printed by the Government Printing Office and are held in the Reference Section of most substantial public libraries. These books are a wealth of information not only on the specific ship, but ship naming, classes and so forth. Some of DANFS is available online:

Two publishing organizations have major works which cover present day ships. First is Janes from the UK. They have published Janes Fighting Ships for most of this century and have expanded in recent decades to cover all manner of weapons and weapons systems. Again, public libraries generally carry one or more fairly recent Janes Fighting Ships. Second is US Naval Institute Press. Two books of note are published by these people. First is World Naval Weapons Systems. Edited by Dr. Norman Friedman, this work lists nearly as much as is publically known about all the weapons systems carried by ships and naval aircraft. The last full publishing of this book was 1997-98. The second of the USNIP Books is Combat Fleets of the World edited by A.D. Baker. Like Janes, this list the contents of each contry's navy by country and has a wealth of information about each ship and ship type.

For ship design histories, Dr. Friedman's works in this area cover Battleships, Cruiser, Destroyers, Small Combatants, Aircraft Carriers, and Submarines. These form a good framework for any reasearcher to use in looking at almost any ship.

For ships prior to the days of steam, there is probably no better source of information for the beginning researcher than Howard I. Chappell's book The American Sailing Navy.

Once you have looked at these works in search of your information, you are ready to do some serious research in primary sources.

That being said, there are thousands of books on naval subjects, some better than others and some may contain more information than the ones listed above. But the ones selected here will form a good basis and give much general information.

2. Where are originals of Naval Records for the US Navy kept?

Naval Historical Center: Located in the Washington Navy Yard, along the Anacostia River in the southeast part of the city along with several other commands and facilities. The Navy Yard no longer functions as a shipyard but it has retained many of the original buildings. Among these are the Naval Gun Factory building which houses the Navy Memorial Museum, the original Model Towing Basin building, the Commandants Headquarters (which now is the home of CNO) and others.

The Naval Historical Center occupies three floors of a two building complex just down the hill from CNO's residence. On the first floor is the Center Library which houses a large library of naval reference books, cruise books and books relating to history and naval science. Cruise books published by ships may be contained in the collection if the ship sent one or one has been donated. Access to this library collection is through the main reading room on the first deck. The stacks are accessable only to library staff.

The second area on the first floor is the Ship's History Branch. Run by Mr. John Reiley, the Branch keeps files on all the ships ever owned by the US Navy. These files are used to produce the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS). Staffed by only six people and not in the reporting stream of ship operations, naval construction and disposal, or ship written histories, puts a severe crimp in the possibilities for the branch. They answer numerous queries each day for information on specific ships and ship groups. Access to the files is via two routes. First is by personal visit to the facility. There, a person can request a specific ship's file. The files consist of various items collected by the staff and include original or copies of naval record forms that show commissioning dates, decommissioning dates, sponsor and other data. Not all ships files have these sheets. Also included are some messages concerning the ship, ship generated histories and miscelaneous records. The second is to request copies of the contents of the file for one or more specific ship. The cost for this service will run $.25-$.35 per page. There may be much in a specific ship file or there may be very little. The staff has done a remarkable job in compiling what they have.

Included in this branch is the Deck Log Section. This branch hold deck logs for most ships from 1 January 1962 to the present. Most are actually stored at the Historical Center's area of the Federal Record Center in Suitland, Maryland about 15 miles to the southeast of the Navy Yard. To view these deck logs, a person needs to write a letter about 4-6 weeks in advance of a visit to the Washington area. In the letter, state which logs and for what year you wish to view. These will be obtained and brought to the Ship's History section for viewing. Copies of ships logs can be ordered. Deck logs for naval vessels from the earlest ones (~1790) to 1941 are maintained at the National Archives and Records Administration facility at the National Archives building in downtown Washington. Deck logs for naval vessels from 1941 to 1961 are maintained at the NARA facility at Archives II in College Park, Maryland about 10 miles north of the DC line

Also in this area of the Center is the Photographic Section. This is the baliwick of Mr. Charles Haberlein. He has a phenomonal collection of an estimated 4.5 million photos of naval vessels, naval facilities and naval folks. Most of the collection (which grows by thousands of photos a month) is indexed by ship name, person's name or subject. Photos can be ordered from the branch by ship name and if possible period. Researchers can use the indexed collection on site. The staff for the section is only 5 people and they answer many queries each day. A dedicated group, most can identify ships on sight better than any of us, not just type, but by name. Mr. Haberlein has formulated a policy on photographic reproduction that makes that portion of the operation self supporting and therefore not dependent on the whims of funding. The end result is the continued ability to supply the finest quality photos to us. A small down side is that the service is a bit more expensive than it would be if it were funded through other paths. But, in this day of service cuts, the concept of making the service self sufficient is a great one and Mr. Haberlien's efforts mean a continuation of service to us.

The Operational Archives forms the group to be found on the third deck of the Historical Center. It has custody of many records such as command files, action reports, individual ship war diaries and personal papers collections. The holdings of the branch can be found on internet by searching for the Navy Historical Center home page. Research can be performed at this facility in person. The requested records are brought by archivests to a reading room where they can be viewed.

Naval records are also held by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in two locations. The records for the Navy prior to 1941 are held at the Navy and Old Army section of NARA in the National Archives building in downtown Washington. This building is on the north side of the Mall across the street from the Navy Memorial. Records of the Navy after 1941 including most WWII records are held at the new Archives II building in College Park. This is a new, large multi floored building which houses modern facilities for storage, conservation and use of the records. The main area of interest to Naval researchers are the second and third decks of Archives II.

The second deck has textual records and the third has cartographic records and ship's plans. Ships plans have Booklets of General Plans for many ships and submarines. Most of the paper plans are for ships prior to 1941. In the area of submarine plans post 1941, Portsmouth Naval Yard has sent boxes of microfilmed plans and drawings to the Archives and some are available for viewing. These include no nuclear powered submarines, as those are still classified by NavSea Code 08. Much of the ship plans holdings are cataloged and available through the efforts of Mr Cotton and Mr Bottom and others.

Textual records which are the core of the history of post WWII operations are contained in on the second deck of NARA Archives II. These consist of the records such as ComSubLant and ComSubPac for the period 1946 to 1981 as well as the records of Squadrons 1,,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,10 and others. At present these records are not properly cataloged and not available for researchers. The archivests indicate that they will be working on these collections and within the next couple of years should have them available. These records include the reports on the special operations and the logs kept for those operations which are not available as standard deck logs.

Section C.10: Wooden decks on battleships, cruisers and carriers

Why did certain warships have wooden decks up through the 1940's? There is no single answer to this question, but there are some general reasons.

During the 1940's, especially after WWII, the wooden decks began to vanish. In carriers, the need for protection against aircraft required the use of an armored flight deck. In other ships, appearance and tradition became less of an issue, while it became imperative to reduce crew size (and thus workload) by any means possible. Thus, the wooden deck passed into history.

Section C.11: Finding Logs and Muster Rolls

The following information concerning log books and muster rolls (crew lists) is taken from the US Navy FAQ at

To obtain information from historical muster rolls or deck logs, write to the appropriate repository given below:

For muster rolls from 1801 to 1938 or for deck logs from 1801 to 1940, write to:

National Archives
Archives I
Washington, D.C. 20408

For muster rolls from 1939 to 1966 or for deck logs from 1941 to 1961, write to:

National Archives
Archives II
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, Md. 20740-6001

For muster rolls for the period 1967 through 1975, write to:

Department of the Navy
Bureau of Naval Personnel (PERS-093)
Washington DC., 20370-0920

For muster rolls for the period 1976 through the present, write to:

Commanding Officer
Enlisted Personnel Management Center (Code 311)
New Orleans, La. 70159-7900
ATTN: Personnel Accounting

For deck logs from July 1962 through the present, write to:

Naval Historical Center (DL)
Washington Navy Yard
901 M Street S.E.
Washington DC., 20374-5060

Section C.12: Other resources

There are numerous newsgroups, mailing lists and websites that may be of interest to readers of sci.military.naval. This list is not complete, but it should give a good sample of what is available.

Section C.13: Navy and Maritime Administration reserve ("mothball") fleets

Where can I find a list of ships in the mothball fleets?

The US Navy and the US Maritime Administration both have "mothball" fleets in various ports. These fleets include a wide variety of naval and commercial ships, both laid up in reserve and in storage pending disposal.

The US Navy mothball fleets are located at Naval Inactive Ships Maintenance Facility (NISMF) Portsmouth, VA; NISMF Philadelphia, PA, NISMF Bremerton, WA, and NISMF Pearl Harbor, HI. Lists of ships in the custody of these facilites can be found at the Naval Vessels Register website (, as follows:
*For ships:
*For service craft:

Note that these lists include all ships assigned to each facility, regardless of status - in addition to ships in reserve ("mothballs"), they include many ships that simply in storage, awaiting disposal. Also, note that these lists include ships administratively assigned to these facilities, but actually berthed elsewhere, i.e. the carriers Forrestal and Saratoga, which are actually berthed at Newport, RI, but appear in the NISMF Philadelphia list. Finally, note that these lists are not always correct; for example USNS Invincible (T-AGOS 10) is listed as stricken and stored at NISMF Portsmouth, when in fact the vessel was reactivated in 1998 and is currently in active service.

There is a list of US Navy ships laid up in reserve (i.e. excluding those ships simply awaiting disposal) at This list includes only ships laid up in Mobilization Category B, the highest level of reserve, indicating potential for reactivation in US Navy service. All lower categories of reserve indicate the ship is scheduled for disposal and is not considered a reactivation asset.

The Maritime Administration (MARAD) has reserve fleets at James River, VA; Beaumont, TX; and Suisun Bay (San Francisco), CA. Lists of ships in these fleets are located at These lists include ships owned by several agencies, and in various forms of reserve - the US Navy/MSC Ready Reserve Force sealift ships, US Navy vessels temporarily berthed in MARAD fleets for storage purposes, former US Navy vessels transferred to MARAD ownership for disposal, and commercial merchant vessels laid up temporarily, or pending disposal. Note that these lists also include vessels administratively assigned to the MARAD reserve fleets, but actually berthed elsewhere.

Back to the FAQ Archive Page

This FAQ created and maintained by Andrew Toppan
Copyright © 1997-2003, Andrew Toppan.
Reproduction, reuse, or distribution without permission is prohibited.