The topic for the fourth and last part of this blog series is on Cold War Submarine deck logs.  I devoted a separate blog to the submarine deck logs because there is a devolution in the content of the deck logs through the Cold War period, which requires an explanation.  Submarine Deck logs are located in Record Group 24: Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel in the sub-entries of P 118-A (1941-50) thru P 118-G (1976-78).  The 1979 to 1982 deck logs of submarines and some submarine support vessels such as submarine tenders (AS) and submarine rescue ships (ASR) are located in Record Group 38: Records of the Chief of Naval Operations in Entry UD-18W 5: Navy Deck Logs.  This series is still classified and the deck logs need to be requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and undergo a review before being released.  There are some unclassified deck logs of submarine support vessels in Record Group 24 in Entry P 118-H going up through 1983.

[Please NOTE: As you review the various Catalog entries on these topics that the entries mentioned in this blog may be still classified for various reasons including for containing Restricted Data (RD) and Formerly Restricted Data (FRD).  Please check the “Access Restriction(s)” section of each of the Catalog entries and that if you are interested in these records that you should follow the guidance on filing a Freedom of Information Act request]

The Submarine Service is referred to as the “Silent Service” because submarines are quiet, stealthy, and appear without warning.  But another interpretation of the moniker is that the submariners are tight-lipped about what they do and their missions are top secret.  In either case, the growing need to control information during the Cold War is reflected in the evolution of the scant and very limited deck log entries of this period.

In the beginning of the Cold War, the deck logs of submarines from 1946 to mid-1950’s were similar to entries maintained in deck logs during World War II.  This means that for every day there should be six 4-hour watch entries with details about what was going on aboard the submarine and where the submarine was going.

Things began to change in the late 1950’s when restrictions to the content of the remarks in the deck log were limited by orders from Chief of Naval Operations, Theater Commanders, or Commanders of Submarine Forces. The deck log comments were restricted to only remarks about non-operational events. Information that did not disclose what the submarine was doing, how she was operating, and where she was going.   As a result of these restrictions, deck log entries maintained the six 4-hour watches, but each entry would have “Underway as Before '' or “On Special Operations” with no further comments.

These restrictions became solidified in the 1960’s with the institution of OPNAV/CNO Instruction 3100.7, which provided guidance on how deck logs were to be maintained.  This instruction and all subsequent updates stated that when a vessel started any kind of “Special Operation”, the deck logs were only to record non-operational remarks and not include coordinates or locations.  The submarine deck logs of the mid-1960’s to the end of our holdings in 1982 reflect this directive.  The directive does state that only non-operational remarks can be entered into the log, but in practice even non-operational remarks were rarely added.  In most cases, the deck log comes to an end when the boat heads out on patrol thus “closing” the deck log temporarily.  It remains “closed” until the boat comes off patrol and returns to port, at which point the deck logs resume.

The term “closing” the deck log refers to the cessation of daily watch entry keeping.  The practice began with a single line at the top of the page when the patrol began and continued until the boat returned that summarized a week, weeks, or a whole month with simply “Underway as Before,'' or “On Special Operations.” In most cases, an arrow was drawn pointing down from the top of the page to indicate “ditto” or “ibid” for all related entries during that period while on patrol.  Unfortunately, this severely limited any information regarding the operations of American submarines on patrol making it difficult to verify many of the claims requested by veterans regarding Vietnam service, events that caused PTSD, and incidents where sailors were injured. 

On August 9, 2019 the National Archives and the Department of Veterans Affairs entered into an agreement to digitize the Vietnam-era (1956-1978) U.S. Navy Deck Logs.  To date, the Department of Veterans Affairs has digitized more than 20 million pages of the Vietnam Era deck logs.  All of these images will be retained by both the National Archives and the Department of Veterans Affairs.  This project was completed in 2020 and the digital scans are being added to the National Archives Catalog.  Data contained in the digitized images will be used by the Department of Veterans Affairs to assist Veterans in resolving claims filed with the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).

We are working expeditiously to make the millions of resulting digital images available in the National Archives Catalog. There are already a few digitized deck logs of U.S. Submarines currently on the National Archives Catalog and National Archives Deck Log page.  However, we are unable to provide specific details, estimations, or time tables on when any particular ship's logs will be made available.

We are adding individual monthly deck logs to the Catalog instead of complete years of deck logs, and so, these months may not be consecutive or complete a ship’s duration of service.  If a month for a particular ship is not posted we cannot make any determination of when that month will be made digitally available.

You can search the National Archives Catalog for submarine deck logs by refining your search to RG 24 and searching the name of the boat with or without the “USS”. A recommended method of searching the National Archives Catalog for a submarine deck log from a certain year is to refine your search to RG 24 and search - [NAME of Boat] AND [Year].  To refine your search, you can go into the Advanced Search options and set the search to Record Group 24.  

If you have further questions about searching the Catalog, email

For deck logs of U.S. submarines after 1982 to 1992 when the Cold War ends, you will need to contact the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Naval History and Heritage Command

805 Kidder Breese Street SE

Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5060

(202) 433-3224; Fax (202) 433-2833

  • Hello 

    looking for some help finding the deck logs of the USS George C. Marshall (SSBN 654) from the blue crew. The months that I am looking for are April 1977 to July 1977, October 1977 to February 1978, and May 1978 to August 1978.

  • SUBMARINE POSITION REPORTS   As an addendum to Nathaniel's very informative blog post, the VA/NARA deck log scanning project provided VA with data regarding every deck log's daily position reports (3 per day) for every USN vessel that deployed to the Wester Pacific for the years of 1961-75.  As Nathaniel said, there are essentially no operational details, (including position reports) for submarines,  BUT there are frequently entries for non operation transit to Guam, Samoa, and Thailand which under PACT Act rules would qualify the vessels and crew for Agent Orange presumed exposure.

    Although VA has refused to publish this information, we have been able to obtain (lega;y) those position reports for all scanned submarine (and air-craft carrier) logs and have extracted the information indicating exposure waters presence including the 1971-1975 data in logs not yet released for on line access by NARA.

    If you provide a vessel name and approximate dates of interest, we are offering to do lookups as a public service for anyone needing that info.  You can contact me either by comment to this post, or click on my profile name and then the "CONNECT" link on my profile page and you SHOULD be able to se my email address (preferred method).