Submarine Info Link   ||   The Rabbit Hole aka The Site Index

Looking Up Submarine Stuff
By Sid Harrison ETCM(SS) USN(Ret)

Jump over my B.S. and go direct to the "how to" section

Over the past few years I have received many inquiries from folks looking for information about someone who served in submarines as well as questions about other submarine related topics. Often I found myself re-typing the same answers in response to each questioner.

Obviously that is doing it the hard way. 

So I decided the easiest way to address these questions was to put the whole thing into a webpage format. In that way I won't leave anything out. Also I can add new and updated information as it occurs to me and/or becomes available from other sources. Additionally, other submariners can, if they wish, use this as a single source of "hot links".

The bottom line is this.... it is nearly impossible to give a short "single-source" answer to "how do I find grandpa who served in the USS Ustafish in 1943"?

I have no special insight into these matters nor do I as a retired Submariner enjoy privileged access to special databases or storehouses of information beyond what the general public can find.

There are many sources, any one of which may lead you to the answer you seek --- and very likely you will need to be patient and pursue all of them. With persistence and a bit of luck you may find the information you are looking for.

If I had a magic way to make your task easier I would gladly share it. I don't, so I can't.

Anyway, here is my brief on why finding information is no easy task.

Unlike our brothers in the USN Special Warfare community (SEALS, UDT etc.) the US Submarine force over the past 100+ years has no single-source, reliable, consolidated database which can access those who served in our submarine force. Unlike the units of SEALs/UDT et al, who with their smaller groups, have managed to collect all the rosters of men who completed their BUDs classes, we have no such "one-stop" archive of data.

Yes, our submarine force has the Submarine School. Their records, so far as I know, have not been maintained over the years for SubSchool graduates. Any available sub school records would not show the boats that each submariner was assigned to anyway. Furthermore many submariners entered the force without attending Basic SubSchool.

The records of those who died in submarines have been fairly accurately and thoroughly documented. (Links to those sources are later in this page)

Yes --- it will require that YOU SPEND a great deal of time in your search. In fact - you might spend a year or more before you find what you want. You may even have to vist the National Archives in the Washington DC. area (physically travel there - not in cyberspace), particularly for patrol reports or crew muster rolls.

The best I can do is to offer a few suggestions for YOU TO DO YOUR OWN SEARCHES.

I can suggest some starting points and the direction you might take.... and if it isn't covered here - then I can also say I DON'T KNOW ... and wish you good luck in your quest.

2002 - Sid Harrison

In general, the requests to me for information can be placed into five general groupings:

1. Looking for old shipmates

2. Looking for family members who served in submarines

3. Looking for patrol reports, muster rolls and awards earned

4. Students and others who want to know how "submarines work"

5. Validation of current popular "tell all the secrets" books. ie "is it true that....?".
That includes such books as "Blind Man's Bluff" and all of Clancy's books about submarine ops.

This one is easy:
      a) I don't recall ever being released from all those signed documents to "keep my mouth shut"
      b) So don't ask.

Most requesters of info on "how subs work" simply need some direction on looking up stuff on the net. I frequently receive requests that basically amount to "do the research" for student home-work, school projects and term papers. I usually give them some samples of a quick search results - encourage them to get creative with search engines, and send them on their way.

For example, a quick ten minute search yielded the following list of URLs

Howstuffworks "How Submarines Work"
The Engines of Our Ingenuity - Use the term "submarine" in their SEARCH utility

Some of their sections:
No. 237: Submarine
No. 381: Civil War Submarine
No. 304: Fulton's Submarine
No. 60: Submarine
No. 1385: Bushnell's Submarine
No. 238: Momsen's Lung
The key words I used for the results shown above were in the form of a phrase: "how submarines work" (amazing huh?)

Other material on the subject can be found by being innovative and creative and using other combos of words and phrases in one's search techniques.

My own online convenient collection of search tools is here   [ see The Engine Room ]

Good luck on your search for "how submarines work" and remember it's the internet. Learn to use the search tools and you can find anything you want.

Looking for info on a particular submarine or sailor? I suggest starting with the boat. The first question is, is it a WWII submarine or post WWII?

I recommend:

1)   Go to "WE CAME BACK" /cameback.htm , from there you can click "The DETAILS"  and try Don Gentry's list of links to boat websites.

2)  Try these BBS'

Don Gentry's Listing of Submarine Forums (aka BBS')

Ask your questions there. Someone on may provide a few leads.

and try the USSVI SUBMAINE MEMORIALS section - Click memorials here

3)  Putting together a reunion and want to locate shipmates from a particular boat?
Here are the two best ways to start:
Don Gentry's

Ron Martini's D.O.S. (Directory of Submariners) is linked from here also has links to other databases
Go here
4)   Enter various combinations of keywords, such as BARB (USS BARB was a submarine) - substituting the boat name you want -- or any other words that you think might work in some good search engines. Again - I recommend INFO.COM.   [see The Engine Room ]

5)  Try the National Archives in Wash DC. They have patrol reports and muster rolls.

6)  Submarine Research Center
Their website states the following:

Dedicated to the preservation of submarine history"

    The Submarine Research Center is a small group of retired submariners who in civilian life performed various kinds of research. We now apply this knowledge and ability to collecting and disseminating information about submarines. Our research is not constrained to nationality or time. We simply try to answer questions that come to us from the public while charging nothing for the service.
7)  Some books you should read:
    Silent Victory by Clay Blair
    Submarine Operations in WWII by Roscoe
    U.S. Submarines Through 1945 by Norman Friedman
    Submarines of World War Two by Bagnasco
    Silent Chase by Steve and Yogi Kaufman
    Thunder Below! by Adm Fluckey
    U.S. Submarines in World War II-An Illustrated History by Kimmet and Regi

From Ron Martini
Submarine World Net

To assist those looking for lost relatives/shipmates here are three sources for doing military people searches:

Ron's recommended  SOURCE - 1
How to Locate Anyone Who Is or Has Been in the Military by Lt. Col. Richard S. Johnson and Debra Johnson Knox -  299 pages    ISBN 1877639508 by MIE Publishing.  Over 100,000 copies sold and it's in it's 8th edition. $16+ at Amazon
Available from Amazon or B&N.
Ron's recommended  SOURCE - 2
U.S. Military Records : A Guide to Federal and State Sources, Colonial America to the Present by James C. Neagles 455 pages (March 1998)
Ancestry Publishing; ISBN: 0916489558

Order from:

U. S. Military Records describes the records that are available and where they can be found. Gathered in the volume is source information for the National Archives and its adjuncts; historical institutions and archives of the armed forces; the Department of Veterans Affairs (Veterans Administration); state archives, libraries, and historical organizations; and such patriotic organizations as the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Has extensive bibliographic listings of published sources for the United States in general and published sources for each state are also included.

Ron's recommended  SOURCE - 3
    Military Service Records : A Select Catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publications -- by Natl. Archives, Rec. Admin. Staff
    Paperback Price: $3.50    If can't get NARA to open for the mailing address, Amazon can get it -  but with 4-6 week delivery time.

Another hint submitted by another Submariner:
    About the National Archives... they also have the muster sheets for most of the ships that would send them in quarterly. You can look at these and get the roster for any year that you may want. These are on micro film and some are hard to read. They have coping machines that you can make copies on for .25 a copy. We got over 1500 names from the USS CHIVO records. They have the rate, date reported aboard, service number, and other information on transfers, etc.
For links to BURIAL AT SEA and other such related topics.   /mil/gezr-1.htm

From the HAZE GRAY website FAQS (Frequently Asked Questions)

Any of you Submarine vets (or active duty) that have any other good words of advice on guiding folks in their internet searches please send your suggestions to me at   The Rabbit Hole