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Guide to U.S. Naval History
Organizations, Programs, and Resources

Foreword and Preface


This Guide to Naval History Organizations, Programs, and Resources, compiled by Dr. Edward J. Marolda, the Naval Historical Center's Senior Historian, is intended to serve as a ready reference source for our Sailors and others interested in the proud history of the United States Navy. 

The Center's Website, on which is already posted our Sources on U.S. Naval History in the United States, will now also provide our customers with useful descriptions and contact information on the many institutions nationwide that concentrate on the history and heritage of the Navy and Marine Corps. Included in this group are the Naval Historical Center, Marine Corps Historical Center, and Naval War College; Naval Historical Foundation and other non-governmental organizations; and the twelve official Navy museums. The Guide details major programs, both official and unofficial, that seek to enhance the understanding by Sailors and the public of the service's rich history. Described are programs that directly support current Fleet operations; protect underwater ship and aircraft wrecks; complement Navy educational and training efforts; highlight naval heritage through museum and art exhibits; and offer scholarship and grant support to students of naval history. Finally, the Guide identifies national archival, art, artifact, book and manuscript, photographic, and oral history interview collections and the institutions that maintain them. 

We sincerely appreciate the gracious assistance and support given this project by our professional colleagues around the country and by their institutions. Indeed, the members of the Secretary of Navy's Advisory Subcommittee on Naval History and representatives at the October 2002 Stakeholders and Supporters of Naval History Meeting strongly encouraged completion of this Guide. It is my firm belief that there is much we can do now and in future to share relevant information on the history of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.  I am confident that this Guide will be a useful research tool for our Sailors and the larger community and look forward to its refinement in succeeding iterations, made easier by its digital format.  

I especially wish to thank Dr. Marolda for his patience in gathering, collating, and editing this large body of information. Also deserving of considerable praise are Ms. Sandra Doyle, the Center's Senior Editor, and Wade Wyckoff of the Website committee, who patiently and professionally prepared the Guide for posting online.

William S. Dudley, Ph.D.
Director of Naval History          


This Guide to U.S. Naval History provides a starting point for anyone interested in the history and heritage of the U.S. Navy. We hope to empower active-duty and retired Sailors, Navy commands and staffs, other U.S. government agencies, domestic and international scholars, and the American people with information that is relevant to their needs and interests. We will have succeeded if this guide steers readers to take advantage of the more comprehensive information on the Navy's broad and varied historical programs.

The Director of Naval History, who serves on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations, has specific responsibility for developing, implementing, and maintaining the Navy's overall historical program. For that reason, we are providing what might loosely be called the "owners and operators manual" of U.S. naval history. We envision the work as a living document to be revised and improved, so we welcome suggestions from its users.

Many of the Navy's historical efforts originated with the Naval Historical Center and its one hundred dedicated, professional staff members so the guide devotes considerable attention to the organization and functioning of this flagship institution. The guide relates how the Center evolved from establishment of the Navy Department Library in 1800 to an organization comprising twelve branches that provide the Navy with direct historical support; publish award-winning histories; manage the Navy's unique art, artifact, book, photographic, oral history, and records collections; serve the needs of the Navy and the public for accurate and timely information on all periods and aspects of naval history; help preserve and protect underwater U.S. naval vessel and aircraft wrecks worldwide; release documents from the archives on how the Navy has served the public trust; sponsor museum exhibits; and encourage the study of the Navy's momentous past.

The Naval Historical Center would be hard-pressed to succeed in its mission without the dedicated and skillful efforts of the men and women assigned to Naval Reserve Combat Documentation Detachment 206 and Naval Reserve Volunteer Training Unit 0615. Routinely the personnel of DET 206 provide the vital link between the Center and the Fleet and when called up, as they were during the Persian Gulf War and the Global War on Terrorism, sacrifice the comforts of hearth and home to serve the Navy and the nation. These naval reservists conduct oral history interviews and collect the documents, artifacts, and other original materials vital to the future of the historical program. Members of the VTU supplement the work of the Center's staff by accomplishing many essential long-range projects.

The partnership between the Center and the Naval Historical Foundation has been critical to the success of many of the Navy's historical endeavors. Led and staffed by enthusiastic and hard-working members, many of them former Sailors, the Foundation identifies sponsors of United States Navy Museum exhibits and reaches out to thousands of people through Pull Together, a joint newsletter of the Foundation and the Center, and All Ears, an oral history newsletter. The two organizations routinely sponsor joint conferences, publications, and commemorative activities.

The Secretary of the Navy's Advisory Subcommittee on Naval History, comprising distinguished retired flag officers, historians, librarians, archivists, art curators, museum directors, and other professionals, annually evaluates the state of the Navy's historical programs and recommends improvements directly to the Secretary of the Navy.

Several other Washington-area naval historical activities focus on important aspects of the Navy's history and heritage. The Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Historian's Office, at the Old Naval Observatory, preserves records, photographs, and artifacts and disseminates information on the contributions of the Navy's medical establishment through documentary films and Navy Medicine magazine. The Naval Research Laboratory Historian's Office is concerned with maintaining the unique paper and electronic records relating to the basic and applied scientific research that led to seminal discoveries in Navy communications, rocketry, intelligence, and satellite systems such as GPS. A robust oral history program complements this work. The Office of the Curator of Ship Models located at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock, MD, maintains a unique collection of over 2,000 museum-type ship models and puts 400 of them on display at installations all over the world. The Navy's Cultural Resources Program, headquartered at the Naval Facilities Engineering Command in the Washington Navy Yard, ensures that those responsible for managing the Navy's inventory of historic buildings and structures and terrestrial archaeological sites comply with federal and state laws.

The study of U.S. naval history would be incomplete and inaccurate without the inclusion of the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard. The Marine Corps, the other major component of the Department of the Navy, and the Coast Guard have routinely operated and fought side by side with the Navy. For that reason, this guide describes the programs of the U.S. Marine Corps History and Museums Division and the U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office. These activities maintain archival, photographic, documentary, and other collections relating to naval operations and publish first-rate histories. Moreover, the historical offices of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard often jointly sponsor conferences and lectures, process oral histories, and in general share information common to the group.

It is a fact that millions of Americans and guests from overseas learn about the history and heritage of the U.S. Navy through visits to USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship still afloat, and to Navy museums nationwide. We hope this guide helps potential visitors find useful information on exhibits, programs, collections, and hours of operation for the twelve official U.S. Navy museums in the United States.

Official and unofficial documentary collections, unique artifacts, rare books, original photographs, oral history interviews, and priceless paintings covering the history and heritage of the U.S. Navy are maintained not only by the Naval Historical Center but other institutions of higher learning and federal repositories. Hence, this guide familiarizes users with the fine historical collections cared for by the geographically separated Naval War College, U.S. Naval Academy, Naval Postgraduate School, Library of Congress, and National Archives and Records Administration. Hundreds of other repositories nationwide hold smaller, but no less valuable collections, as identified in the Center's new Sources on U.S. Naval History.

Preserving and promoting the Navy's legacy would be a daunting task if not for the dedicated efforts of thousands of Americans and friends who are members of proactive non-governmental organizations. Not only does the Navy League of the United States work to maintain the current and future strength of the naval services, but also to promote interest in their heritage. Members of the Historic Naval Ships Association, many of whom are former Sailors, help keep the Navy's history alive by giving guided tours and maintaining historic battleships, submarines, PT boats, tugboats, and other naval vessels at sites all across the United States. The Naval Order of the United States works to educate the American people about their Navy's glorious past by organizing ceremonies to mark key victories and to honor renowned leaders. The U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation frequently sponsors historical conferences at its Naval Heritage Center on Pennsylvania Avenue in the heart of the nation's capital and sponsors the emplacement of its Lone Sailor statue at naval installations around the country. The U.S. Naval Institute, through its books, Proceedings and Naval History magazines, oral history effort, and other outreach programs, has an especially positive impact on the promotion of U.S. naval history and heritage. While small in number, the members of the North American Society for Oceanic History foster interest and study of naval and maritime affairs through their publications, yearly conferences, and awards.

In short, many Americans and numerous organizations are dedicated to highlighting the historic contribution of the Navy and its Sailors to the freedom, prosperity, and well being of the United States. We hope this guide assists in their worthy efforts.

Edward J. Marolda
Senior Historian

21 October 2003