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Dear Mr. Wingate,
Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!
According to this page ( https://www.archives.gov/research/military/logbooks/merchant-vessels.html), the National Archives has a limited number of merchant ship operational logs (e.g., deck logs among other types of logs). But the Archives’ collection apparently covers only the period 1918-1941, therefore not including the World War II era. Also see https://historyhub.history.gov/community/military-records/blog and scroll down to “Logbooks of U.S. Merchant Marine Vessels.”
The Archives does have "official logs," which were records maintained per federal statute by each vessel for each voyage. Arguably official logs are less interesting than deck logs; they do not contain day-by-day operational or location records that deck logs contain. Official logs contain such information as the name, home port, and official number of the vessel; the name of the master; names and ratings of crew members; the dates and destinations of a given voyage; disciplinary records; illnesses and injuries of crew members; the engagement or discharge of crew members during the voyage; births, deaths and marriages during the voyage. The crew lists are likely of greatest interest, the other matters possibly less so.
But be aware that rather than being found in a central repository, official logs are found in the National Archives regional facility nearest to the port in which a given voyage ended, at which location official logs were submitted originally to the Coast Guard. You would have to know the ultimate destination and end date of the voyage(s) of the vessels in which you are interested, then identify and contact the National Archives facility holding the official log(s).
Another promising body of records that may apply to you is that the Archives maintains official reports for each voyage submitted by the commanding officer of the U.S. Navy Armed Guard contingent that was assigned to a given vessel. (Most U.S.-flagged merchant vessels, as well as many foreign-flagged Allied vessels, other than those of the British Merchant Navy, had Navy Armed Guard units on board throughout most of World War II. Armed Guard sailors were responsible for operating the defensive weaponry installed on merchant vessels and also served as signalmen and radiomen.) These reports focus on Armed Guard activities and responsibilities, rather than those of the civilian merchant crew, but likely contain information on the dates and whereabouts of the vessel throughout the voyage. The quality of these reports varies depending on the diligence of the commanding officer but may yield information of interest to you. (Note that there would be no Armed Guard reports for the voyages you identify in 1945-1946 and 1951-1952 since the war was over by then and Armed Guard units were no longer assigned to merchant vessels; in fact the Armed Guard was disbanded at the end of World War II.) These Armed Guard officers’ reports are centrally located at the National Archives facility in College Park, Maryland, and are found in the Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, 1798 - 2007 (Record Group 24) and the Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 1875 - 2006 (Record Group 38). For access to these records, please contact the National Archives at College Park - Textual Reference (RDT2) via email at email@example.com.
We hope this information is helpful. Best of luck with your research.
2 people found this helpful
Dear Jesse Wingate,
Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!
We searched the Records of the U.S. Maritime Commission (Record Group 178) and located Merchant Ship Deck Logs for the following ships & indicated the NARA facility that has custody of the logbooks based on the port:
- SS Joel Chandler Harris (9/14/1942 to 11/9/1942) -- National Archives at New York (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
- SS Robin Gray (12/19/1942 to 12/29/1942) -- National Archives at Philadelphia (email: email@example.com)
- SS Thomas Hartley (1/13/1943 to 1/23/1943) -- National Archives at New York & Philadelphia
- SS John E. Schmeltzer (12/8/1945 to 1/18/1946) -- National Archives at New York
- SS Mandoil (7/31/1951 to 3/20/1952) -- National Archives at Boston (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
- SS William A. Graham -- National Archives at New York, Philadelphia, Seattle (email: email@example.com) & San Francisco (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
- SS William Gaston -- National Archives at New York, Philadelphia & Atlanta (email: email@example.com)
We were unable to locate logbooks of the SS Molly Pitcher since it was torpedoed by a German U-boat on 17 March 1943 during the vessel’s maiden voyage.
We searched the National Archives Catalog and located a series titled Armed Guard Files, 1934 - 1946 in the Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (Record Group 38) that includes a file unit titled Alexander Macomb (6/4/42 - 11/5/45) - Torpedoed and Sunk. The ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat on 3 July 1942. For access to and/or copies of this file unit, please contact the National Archives at College Park - Textual Reference (RDT2) via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also located a series titled Reports Concerning the Sinking of Merchant Vessels During World War II in the Records of the U.S. Coast Guard (Record Group 26) that includes files for both the SS Molly Pitcher and the SS Alexander Macomb. For access to and/or copies of these file units, please contact the National Archives at Washington, DC (RDT1) via email at email@example.com.
We hope this information is helpful. Best of luck with your family research!