Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships  – http://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/danfs.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What Navy ships were destroyed in World War II?
  • How many Navy ships were named Experiment?
  • How is a large auxiliary floating dry dock abbreviated?


This multivolume work is available online and in paper. From the website:

The Histories Branch researches and writes the multi-volume Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, available in many libraries in the United States and abroad. Compiled like an encyclopedia, each volume includes summary histories of U.S. Navy ships from certain sections of the alphabet. The volumes also include an assortment of appendices on small craft, dictionary entries for Confederate Navy ships and various essays related to naval ships.

Each entry starts with the background on the name of the ship, then a brief physical description, followed by a ship history from keel laying to final disposition (final decommissioning/destruction/sale). In cases where multiple ships have had the same name (I.e Mosquito), ship histories will be separated by roman numerals.

If you station characters on real ships, this book will avoid placing ships in wrong place and time.

Search Tips / Story Ideas

The primary access to this resource is by browsing. There is no official dedicated search to the Dictionary. But you can use Google if you format your search like [keyword/phrase inurl:/ship-histories/danfs site:navy.mil]

This opens up some good possibilities for a writer. Try some of these searches and see if you’re touched with a story idea:

destroyed inurl:/ship-histories/danfs site:navy.mil
sunk inurl:/ship-histories/danfs site:navy.mil
burned inurl:/ship-histories/danfs site:navy.mil
sold inurl:/ship-histories/danfs site:navy.mil


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