This bibliography lists more than 700 souvenir books--or cruise books, as they have been called in the U.S. Navy--issued during and immediately after World War II.
The practice of publishing such books dates back to the early days of the twentieth century. Cruise books were issued for some special event, such as the Great White Fleet sailing around the world or some dignitary travelling on an international cruise. A few were issued for U.S. naval vessels that served in World War I, but this practice was not widespread.
It took the greatest naval war in history, namely World War II, to bring forth the first large group of cruise books. During this war millions of Americans were involved with the United States Navy and the drama of sea warfare, especially in the Pacific campaigns. It was natural for these Americans to want a souvenir book recording the part that their own ship or unit played in World War II.
Cruise books are not official U.S. Navy or government publications. Instead, they were produced from money either in the unit's welfare fund or donated by the crew, and they were initiated and produced by the crew. Frequently, it was the chaplain, medical officer, or a welfare officer who took on the task. Fortunate was the crew who had someone on board with journalism training who could put together the ship's story with candid photos, portraits, and maps of the cruises. The books were then distributed free to each crew member or sold for a nominal price. Some of the books are amateurish; others are remarkably professional.
The cover and size of these books varied greatly. Some were mimeographed by the unit or ship's crew and had only a paper cover. Most were printed by commercial firms in the States and some of these have elaborate covers. A few books were printed in England, New Zealand, or Japan soon after the surrender.
Immediately after the war a number of publishing and printing companies produced more professional books. A few of these companies were Army & Navy Pictorial Publishers of Baton Rouge, Schwabacher-Frey Company of San Francisco, and Newsfoto Publishing Company of San Angelo, Texas.
Although no government funds were ever expended directly on the books, the Navy did encourage personnel to spend time producing them. Surely the Navy realized that these books were good public relations and that they promoted unit morale. They were aimed at the Navy personnel, their relatives back home, and the taxpayers to whom the Navy would have to go for the funds to maintain a postwar Navy.
During the last forty-five years the cruise book tradition has continued, and some ships produce one almost every year. The books have become larger and more elaborate with color photography--altogether a more professional product. However, the books commemorating World War II have a more spontaneous feel to them and may provide historians with a more intimate view of naval life. Much credit needs be given the well-known bibliographer Charles E. Dornbusch and the New York Public Library for putting together a collection of these World War II souvenir books and for publishing the first bibliography in 1950, entitled Unit Histories of World War II, United States Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, under the auspices of the Army's Chief of Military History. With interest in World War II naval history on the increase more than forty years later, it seems to be an appropriate time to reevaluate and update the data.
In doing so, I have diligently tried to find and examine all cruise books of the World War II era, but am the first to admit that there are more in existence than I have located. Even with large collections now in the Navy Department Library at the Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., and the Nimitz Library at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, World War II cruise books are hard to find. This is because most were printed in small quantities, especially in the case of smaller ships with their smaller crews. And no single collection is complete or even nearly complete.
To establish a book as an authentic World War II souvenir, or cruise, book as opposed to a unit history, I have used several criteria: The book was produced either by the crew or at the behest of the crew. It was published during or soon after World War II for the benefit of the crew. It was not an official U.S. Navy document. It was not the history of a ship or unit written by an author independently of the crew and crew desires.
Although souvenir books of World War II are generally undated, it is logical to assume that, with the fighting over in September 1945, most were published that year or the next. This assumption is supported by the many advertisements in All Hands magazine for these books between 1945 and 1947.
Some ships of the late World War II naval shipbuilding program were not commissioned until after Japan's surrender; nevertheless, I have also included the first cruise books for these ships. The cruise books for units involved in the Bikini atomic bomb tests, Operation Crossroads, are also listed even though this operation took place shortly after the war.
Whenever possible I have examined the books to confirm all data from earlier references. So that researchers may have some idea of the contents of a given book, I have also indicated whether or not the book contains photographs, portraits, maps, rosters, and other useful information.
Because many of these books were self-published by crew members, they often lack standard information and sometimes provide facts not typically found in a book. Sometimes, no copy could be found and the little information on them is taken from earlier references. Other books are in private collections that I was sometimes unable to view. I have often corresponded with the owners of the collections and in such instances was able to provide descriptions. My own collection is carefully detailed and listed as a private collection. If there is no description of the contents or appearance of a book, it means I was unable to check it personally or get this information from another source.
This bibliography is divided into four major sections, following the pattern set by Dornbusch. Section 1 lists ship cruise books in alphabetical order. Section 2 covers naval aviation units, with flying units listed serially by number; air ground bases and commands appear alphabetically. Books issued by naval construction (Seabee) units appear in section 3, presented serially by number, except for the last section, which is in alphabetical order. Books issued by other naval commands make up section 4, classified according to amphibious forces, Coast Guard units, medical facilities, naval officer training units, naval supply units and other commands. Each subcategory is in alphabetical order.
Coast Guard ships and units serving under the Navy in wartime are included. Marine Corps units, whether ground or air, are not included.
I would greatly appreciate readers forwarding new information to me on the books listed in this bibliography, or on books that fit the criteria but are omitted altogether. Write to me in care of the Naval Historical Center, Washington, D.C., 20374-0571. A supplement to this bibliography may be considered some time in the future.