The National Archives entered into an agreement on August 9, 2019 with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to digitize U.S. Navy and Coast Guard deck logs from vessels with Vietnam-era service.
“Our goal is to support the processing of claims by the VA and enable sailors to relive their tours online through the actual deck logs, to pinpoint where they served," said Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero. “As a Navy veteran who served in Vietnam on the hospital ship USS Sanctuary, I look forward to seeing my ship's deck logs and revisiting this important history."
U.S. Naval and Coast Guard deck logs, in the custody of the National Archives, contain critical information required to validate the claims for those who served in Vietnam and establish service-connection for disability benefits. Deck logs are part of the National Archives’ archival holdings and therefore are not normally permitted to leave their storage locations.
A deck log is a daily report of ship activity, typically completed by junior officers and signed by the ship’s commanding officer. The deck log contains information regarding movements (heading and speed), and the ship’s location, and in some cases have information on combat operations, accidents, injuries, and other personnel events. This partnership includes the digitization of deck logs from 1956-78.
Beginning on August 22, 2019, the VA will begin scanning more than 20 million images from the U.S. Naval and Coast Guard deck logs. While the scanning project is underway this group of records will be closed to researchers at National Archives facilities, but access will be restored as soon as possible after the paper records are returned. The National Archives will also begin the process of making the digitized records available on archives.gov, after images are transferred to NARA by the VA, and the images are screened for privacy concerns. Tentatively, the scanning/digitization part of the project is scheduled to be completed by February 2020.
This project will support the processing of veterans’ claims, including those related to the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, and eventually facilitate increased access to these records by researchers in a digital format without having to travel to a National Archives facility. Through this partnership, National Archives will improve access to and discovery of these historically significant records.