Dear Ms. Van Ham,
Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!
If you have not already done so, we suggest that you request a copy of his Official Military Personnel File (OMPF). OMPFs and medical records of enlisted men and officers of the U.S. Navy who were separated from the service after 1958 and before January 31, 1994 (to include reserve time) are located at NARA's National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), (Military Personnel Records), 1 Archives Drive, St. Louis, MO 63138-1002. To request these records, please mail a completed GSA Standard Form 180 to NPRC. If there is any information requested by the form that you do not know, you may omit it or provide estimates (such as for dates), but the more information you provide, the easier it will be to locate the correct file. Certain information in the records is not available to the general public without the written consent of the veteran or his next of kin. For more information see Request Military Service Records.
Also, we searched the National Archives and located 22 record series relating to Navy chaplains from the 1940s through the 1970s. For more information about specific record series, please contact the reference unit listed in the Catalog description.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pursuant to guidance received from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), NARA has adjusted its normal operations to balance the need of completing its mission-critical work while also adhering to the recommended social distancing for the safety of NARA staff. As a result of this re-prioritization of activities, you may experience a delay in receiving an initial acknowledgement as well as a substantive response to your reference request from various NARA reference units. Also, the NPRC is closed except for emergencies. Currently, NPRC will continue servicing requests ONLY associated with medical treatments, burials, and homeless veterans seeking admittance to a homeless shelter. If your request is urgent, please see Emergency Requests and Deadlines. Please refrain from submitting non-emergency requests such as replacement medals, administrative corrections, or records research until NPRC returns to pre-COVID staffing levels. Please check archives.gov/veterans for updates to the NPRC operating hours and status. We apologize for any inconvenience.
In regards to some of your specific questions:
1. Will his service number remain the same throughout the years or does it change with re-enlistment?
Chaplains were commissioned officers, and at the time officers had different types of service numbers. If he was a commissioned officer rather than an enlisted chaplain’s aide, he would have received an officer number when he received his commission which would have been different from the service number he had as an enlisted sailor. His service number may also have changed to his Social Security number if he was still in service after January 1, 1972.
2. I have a few articles showing him ministering with enlisted men. What magazines are available online for me to search on this topic?
The National Archives generally does not have periodicals in our holdings. We suggest that you contact the Library of Congress to inquire about periodicals.
3. He's also listed in numerous funerals, obituaries, dedications and other military functions. Where would I find this type of information?
There will be no single official record of all these functions. You, would need to systematically go through all the base and facility and ship records where the chaplain was stationed, and even then, many of the types of events where a chaplain officiated or offered any contribution such as a prayer would have been considered routine and the records of them would not necessarily have been retained as permanent records.
4. Did the military keep a record of Chaplain's officiating at ceremonies?
No, they would not have kept a permanent record of each ceremony in which he participated or officiated. Some chaplains may have kept a pastoral record book for their own personal records.
5. Are there specific record groups for Chaplain's activities on board and any notes he may have submitted?
The National Archives does not have a specific record group for Navy chaplain activities and has only a limited number of record series concerning them. Please see the list of record series we linked in our response above.
For activities aboard a commissioned active duty ship, there may be a minimal mention of some ceremonies in the deck logs for that day. Most records concerning routine ceremonies would have been scheduled as temporary records. If you determine which ships he served on, you may wish to post an additional request for deck logs of those ships.
6. Would there be separate record groups for those on active duty and those serving in the reserves?
The National Archives does not have a separate record group for Naval Reserves.
7. When he was in the reserves, he would have been assigned to different ships. Where would I find that information?
The information should be in his Official Military Personnel File.
8. Are you aware of any specific groups/societies/websites/organizations/books/articles etc. focusing on this type of Navy service?
may have further information on this topic. Their website includes a page on the Chaplain Corps. Also, the Department of Veterans Affairs maintains a directory of veteran service organizations. In regards to books, we located The history of the Chaplain Corps, United States Navy [compiled by] Clifford Merrill Drury on HaithiTrust that may be of interest. Please note that this is a 9 volume work, with each volume covering distinct time periods.
9. If any letters were written (i.e. recommendations, thanks, etc.) would they be in his personnel file or elsewhere?
There may be some letters within his OMPF. We can not say precisely what those letters might be. However, it most likely that any letters will be official rather than personal in nature. Personal letters, to include letters of thanks for officiating at a ceremony, who have most likely been retained or disposed of by the chaplain at his own discretion.
We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your research!
[Information provided by Nate Patch, Subject Matter Expert]