I got my grandpa’s Navy service file and his discharge paper shows a few places where he was but no ships and I remember him telling me……..
Navy projects can be a bit tricky because the records are not as straightforward as the Army or Army Air Forces records. Let’s take a look at a Discharge Paper to learn more. You can click the image to open it.
Box 24 – Service (Vessels & Stations Served On)
This box, as you can see, is only so large. It’s been my experience that the primary stations/ships or ones in which someone served the longest or were most important, are often listed here. Sometimes men were assigned to so many that they can’t all possibly fit there. I have seen some papers where they were listed elsewhere. Not all paperwork was created equally.
What can we do to learn more about where he was? The first thing to do is create a timeline of his service history. Start with the discharge paper and list everything from it that indicates what ship/station/unit/location he was in based on what’s listed in box 24.
Next, start working through his Official Military Personnel File (OMPF – service file) to see where else he was and when he was in those locations. Arrange your timeline to show the proper chronological order. It is possible there is a document that already lists these so look for this. Often though, we have to look at all the transfer slips to see when someone was assigned to a ship/station, when they were transferred, when they arrived for duty, and often there is another date the form was received in an office or a file.
Be aware! Navy files have so many duplicate pages because things were done in at least triplicate and one form may have stayed with the ship/station, another sent to the records department (and date/time stamped again) and another sent elsewhere. While these forms may look exactly the same, read carefully because sometimes beyond a date there is something else typed or written once it was received elsewhere. All those seemingly “tiny” details can make a big difference in your story.
Just because it looks like a rank doesn’t make it a rank. I just finished a project where a man told me his father was a Commander on a ship. Citing this on his discharge:
Commander Philippine Sea Front (Y1c (T))
Actually, Commander Philippine Sea Front is a station. In Fold3 you can find records for it with this abbreviation (COMPHILSEAFRON). It is not a person’s rank.
Next, start looking for Navy Muster Rolls to help fill in more gaps. Then investigate unit records, deck logs, vessel histories, etc. to learn more about the ships/stations war experience while your family member was there.
In Navy research, it is a combination of all those types of records that put the puzzle together to tell the story. You can’t rely only on a discharge paper or service file. These basics will help you get you started. If you would like to learn more, please pick up a copy of one of my research books or search the website for more articles on Navy service.
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