8 Replies Latest reply on Jun 23, 2021 4:16 PM by Alex Daverede

    Seeking WWII radio code names of US warships

    gary santos Wayfarer

      During World War II, when ships or planes communicated with each other on HF radios, they used codenames rather than the ship's actual name. For example, scrambling fighters of Carrier Air Group 12 from the USS Randolph by the carrier in charge of air defense, USS Hornet. The transmissions were immediate. The air group and carriers would never transmit their real identities over an open airwave. How do I find the code names of warships during this period?

        • Re: Seeking WWII radio code names of US warships
          Alex Daverede Adventurer



          What you seek will not be easy to find.  The names are known as codes for ship calls and are promulgated by various authorities such as the officer in tactical command (OTC), task force/task group commander, squadron/division commander, and so on. 

          As you correctly noted, such information needs to be protected, so the documents with this information would be classified.  The problem with classified operational information such as this is that the information is readily superseded by newer promulgations and are subsequently destroyed, meaning that few documents of this type survived the war.


          In my former career as a declassification archivist, I had the good fortune to examine some records salvaged from the wreck of the USS Peary (DD-226).  Among the legible documents in this collection was a list written on 23 December 1941 by Commander, Destroyer Squadron Twenty-Nine listing the calls for all of the ships in the Asiatic Fleet’s strike force.   Peary’s call was Harry; that for USS Houston (CA-30) was Atchinson.  Finding this particular document was a fluke.  It was part of the Peary’s Registered Publications collection and would have been destroyed when superseded by a newer issuance of the document.  However, Peary was sunk before that happened.  The contents of her registered publications safe were somehow preserved, and NARA now holds these records.


          I hope you find this information helpful.


          A. J.

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