2 Replies Latest reply on Mar 23, 2022 9:07 AM by Jason Atkinson

    What datum was used to determine coordinates of USS South Dakota?

    Greg Robinson Newbie

      I have received a preliminary small set of latitude/longitude coordinates in Degrees, Minutes, Seconds format from the deck log of the WWII Battleship USS South Dakota.  The ships position was recorded three times a day every day except when at anchor.  I am going to be using these to develop an interactive GIS display of the battleships movements for educational purposes.  The one question I have is what datum or datums would have been used on ship for these coordinates by the U.S. Navy during WWII.  The USS South Dakota was active in both the Atlantic and Pacific so I can see the potential for different datums. I want to make sure I register the locations properly in the GIS software before I convert them to WGS84 datum. Thank you to anyone who can help me with this.

        • Re: What datum was used to determine coordinates of USS South Dakota?
          Alex Daverede Scout

          Greg,

           

          You have chosen a particularly challenging project, but I offer a possible path forward.  While the deck log positions are a good start, you will have to know from which charts the South Dakota’s quartermasters were working from to get their positions.  To find out the charts, you will have to establish the battleship’s tracks, then research the Hydrographic Office chart catalogs available at the time to derive the specific charts the navigators and quartermasters would have used.  Once you have the charts identified, that will greatly aid your records request.

           

          Please note that early in the war the U.S. Navy did not have the infrastructure that it would enjoy in 1944 and 1945.  That means that for deployments such as South Dakota’s 1942 South Pacific cruise, the charts available could have either been British or French in origin or derived from those nation’s charts.  Their information could be several decades old by the Second World War.  Later on the Navy’s Hydrographic Office operated a small fleet of survey vessels that provided more up to date information and charts.

           

          Good luck in your research!

          A. J.

          • Re: What datum was used to determine coordinates of USS South Dakota?
            Jason Atkinson Guide

            Dear Mr. Robinson,

            Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!

             

            The coordinate system used by the US Navy during World War II was based on  GMT with 0 - through Greenwich and 180 is the international date line.

             

            We searched the National Archives Catalog and located 91 record series in various record groups related to Department of Navy charts during the 1940s. For more information about these records, please contact the National Archives at College Park - Cartographic (RDSC) at carto@nara.gov.

             

            We also located 41 textual series in various record groups from the Department of Navy’s Hydrographic Office that includes records from the 1940s. For more information about these records, please contact the National Archives at College Park - Textual Reference (RDT2) at archives2reference@nara.gov.

             

            You may experience a delay in receiving an initial acknowledgment as well as a substantive response to your reference request from RDSC and RDT2. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience as we balance mission-critical work and the safety of our staff during the pandemic.  Please check NARA’s web page about COVID-19 updates for the latest information.

             

            We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your research!

             

            [information provided in part by Nate Patch, Subject Matter Expert]