To highlight another series that is available on the National Archives Catalog, we are featuring the new scanned series of index cards to the Anti-Submarine Incident Reports from the Anti-Submarine War (ASW) Section of the Records of the 10th Fleet in the Records of the Chief of Naval Operations (Record Group 38).
Like many records at the National Archives, accessing the ASW Incident Reports has been a two-step process by reviewing the index and then ordering the reports. The Incident Reports are arranged by report number, which is numeric and does not indicate the target, attacker, or date. Because of this, the index is the only way to access them. The index is arranged by the designation of the attacker of the enemy submarines. On each card for an attacker, the incidents are arranged by date with a report number listed.
To further explain the arrangement of the index cards, the four small boxes are divided into Ships (A-Z), US Naval Aviation, Non-Navy Aviation (Army, Marine Corps, Coast Guard), Foriegn Aviation, and a few cards on Surrendered Vessels.
The reports themselves are a record of an attack on an enemy submarine usually German U-boats and some Japanese submarines. These reports detail how contact was made, how the attacking unit proceeded to pursue the enemy, the attack itself, and the assumed result of the attack. The purpose of the reports and the collection as a whole was to learn how to improve anti-submarine strategies and tactics by seeing what worked and what did not.
Due to the lack of organization and a central channel for reporting incidents at the beginning of the war, anti-submarine incident reports were not consistent until mid-1942. As the United States entered World War II, America was confronted by a clear and present threat of German and Japanese submarines attacking our supply lines with Great Britain and Australia as well as moving our own troops and equipment to the battle fronts across the sea. Despite this threat, the US was slow to adopt anti-submarine methods like convoying, securing information on departing ships at ports, and even blacking out coastal cities so as not to silhouette incoming and outgoing ships.
The first move to addressing the submarine threat was the formation of the Convoy and Routing Division under the Chief of Naval Operations in May 1942. The Convoy and Routing Division was responsible for routing and protecting merchant shipping in U. S. waters and troopships going abroad. C and R was the forerunner to the 10th Fleet, which was established in May 1943. In the year between the establishment of the two commands, the science of anti-submarine warfare had blossomed with refinements to SONAR, improved depth charges, and forward throwing subsurface weapons called Hedgehogs. Also, there was improvement to aviation with multi-engine aircraft that could take air patrols out further into the U-boat infested waters of the Atlantic and with new Arc lights to illuminate them in the night as they recharged their batteries on the surface following a day’s hunting.
Around April-May 1942, the reporting on anti-submarine activity became more regular and consistent.
The index cards and the ASW Incident Reports also relate to other series in the Records of the Chief of Naval Operations (Record Group 38). The Incident Reports, in some cases, may duplicate what are in the Action Reports and in other cases, they are purely unique. The detail also varies widely from a single page or less description to a multi-page report complete with sketches of the attack. Therefore, if you are researching anti-submarine operations during the war, it is important to review both the Action Reports and the ASW Incident Reports.
These series also relate to other records within the Records of the 10th Fleet such as Convoy Reports and US and Allied Shipping Losses as well as the separate series of Armed Guard Files, which are reports from the US Naval Armed Guard units that served aboard merchant ships to defend them.
Another series of records that have records relating to Anti-Submarine Warfare during World War II are the World War II Command Files. This series is arranged hierarchically by command and office. For example, there are ASW bulletins among the files of the Commander-in-Chief, US Fleet (COMINCH/CINCUS); ASW Information (weekly notices) filed with the records of the Atlantic Fleet; and separate sections of records for the offices of the Anti-Submarine Section and the 10th Fleet that were directly related to ASW efforts during the war. There may be other ASW-related materials incorporated into a larger report sent to a higher fleet or regional command such as an island command, sea frontier or naval district.
To inquire about the availability of an Anti-Submarine Incident Report or any of the records suggested, please contact the National Archives at College Park - Textual Reference (RDT2) via email firstname.lastname@example.org, If you are interested in ordering a copy, please provide your mailing address and phone number in your request, which is required for the reproduction order form.