Military Records

Submarine Deck Logs

Deck logs maintained by submarines during the World War II and early post-war period appear to be nearly identical to logs maintained by other vessels. However, owing to the sensitivity of underwater warfare, and the fact that deck logs are generally either unclassified or set at a low classification level, it is uncommon for logs to contain much information about actual warfare operations. That information is generally seen in submarine war patrol reports. The National Archives is in custody of declassified war patrol reports from 1941-1945 (National Archives Identifier 305243) and additional war patrol reports dating from 1946-1953 that for the moment remain classified. Patrol reports beyond 1953 remain in the custody of the Navy.

Beginning in the 1960s, deck logs of submarines, particularly during periods of active patrolling, become most uninformative. An entire month may consist of a single page that merely states that the submarine is on patrol, with no other remarks at all. Submarines often maintained classified (Confidential or Secret) deck logs that remain classified. A New Year's Day poem in the 1974 deck log of USS John Marshall (SSBN-611) sums this up nicely:

I CAN'T BELIEVE THE FUN WE'RE HAVING
GOOD TIMES BY THE SCORE.
I'D TELL YOU ALL ABOUT THEM
BUT THE CAPTAIN WOULD BE SORE.

TO STAY IN HIS GOOD GRACES
AND RETAIN MY RAILROAD TRACKS,
"UNDERWAY ON SPECIAL OPS"
IS ALL YOU WILL EXTRACT.

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