The Department of Navy (DON) manages a collection of 17,000 sunken ship and aircraft wrecks that are distributed worldwide and date from the American Revolution to the years following World War II. These wreck sites are often the final resting places of sailors who paid the ultimate sacrifice, carry significant historical importance, or may contain hazards such as oil or unexploded ordnance. Accordingly, DON ship and aircraft wrecks are in principle to be left in place and undisturbed. At times, however, artifact removal or site disturbance is necessary or appropriate to protect a cultural resource, conduct scientific research, or provide for public education and access. In these instances, the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) may issue a research permit authorizing such activities.
Permitting Program Summary
While the NHHC prefers that non-intrusive in situ research takes place on historic DON ship and aircraft wrecks, site disturbance or archaeological recovery may be authorized on a case by case basis as specified through a permit process established by 32 CFR 767.
Please visit the Underwater Archaeology Branch Permitting Policy and Cultural Resource Management page for more information by clicking here.