Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “navy background and tools”

Navy Online Journals

Navy Online Journals – http://www.navy.mil/navydata/infoIndex.asp?id=M

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What can you learn from a crashed plane?
  • How is the US Navy using unmanned helicopters?
  • Where can I find examples of Navy art?


This URL actually points to part of the Navy Information Index, which could be worth an entry of its own. The top part of this page points to the following online Navy magazines:

  • All Hands (August 1922 – Present) – The Magazine of the U.S. Navy
  • Chips (July 2004 – Present) – The Navy’s technical journal. Focus on IT
  • Naval Aviation News (Jan 1943 – Present) – the magazine of U.S. Navy aviation
  • Naval War College Review (June 1950 – Present)
  • Navy Reservist (2003 – Present) – the monthly publication of the Reserve Component
  • Shift Colors (January 2000 – Present) – The newsletter for Navy retirees
  • Undersea Warfare Magazine (Fall 1998 – Spring 2010) – the official magazine of the U.S. Navy Submarine Force

For the most part, these journals will be most helpful in establishing background and mood. All Hands, Naval Aviation News and Naval War College journals will probably be helpful for historical based stories or “How did they do it?” type questions. 

Here are a couple of example articles:

  • Technical Aviation Intelligence: Captured Equipment Reveals Enemy’s Secrets to Buaer’s Air Information Branch. Naval Aviation News. June 1943, page 1. – Provides information on the value of captured enemy equipment to Allied forces and describes in some detail how that value is extracted.
  • Bureau of Navigation News Bulletin No.1 (Now All Hands) August 30, 1922. A litany of complaints to Navy field personnel including a scolding for not turning in ships logs in the time and manner directed.
  • On 2d Anniversary… Waves Pass 70,000 All Hands, August 1944, page 8. Article on the Navy Women’s Reserve. Commended or freeing “enough officers and men to man a fleet of 10 battleships, 10 aircraft carriers, 28 cruisers and 50 destroyers.” Details on different types of positions that employed waves including but not limited to radio operators, navigation instructors, dentists, yeomans, chauffeur and film projectionists. Article notes that as of August 1944, Waves were limited to the continental United States

If you don’t have a high-speed internet connection, be aware that some of these magazines, especially the ones digitized from paper, may have large file sizes. For example, the August 1944 issue of “All hands” was 34 MB. Paper copies of most of these magazines ought to be available through Federal Depository Libraries or through interlibrary loan through your local library.


Navy Marine Mammal Program

Navy Marine Mammal Program – http://www.public.navy.mil/spawar/Pacific/71500/Pages/default.aspx  (Site currently down 9/8/17)   
Try searching “marine mammal” on main site for several links: http://www.navy.mil/

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • When was the Navy training the false killer whale?
  • What sort of tasks were pilot whales trained to do?
  • How does the Navy train marine mammals?


The US Navy equates dolphins and sea lions to dogs. Dogs sniff out bombs and drugs. Dolphins and Sea Lions can locate mines and other items and alert Navy personnel to them. While the Navy has used a number of marine mammal species since the 1960s, according to the website:

Today, the Navy cares for, trains, and relies on two species: the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and the California sea lion (Zalophus californianus). Both of these species are known for their trainability, adaptability, and heartiness in the marine environment.

The website is divided into a number of sections, including:

  • Animals
  • Training
  • Fleet Systems
  • Health Care
  • Research Programs
  • Frequently Asked Questions

All the sections beside Fleet Systems and Frequently Asked Questions are relatively brief, but still offer useful background. The Animals page has pictures of the various marine mammals used over the years along with the years the Navy used them. The training section has a brief overview of their training methods, along with some pictures of training in progress.

From a writer’s perspective, the Fleet Systems page will probably be the most useful because it goes into significant detail about the different missions assigned to marine mammals including the “quickfind” program where dolphins and sea lions recover materials lost at sea.

The Frequently Asked Questions section has a Q&A on whether the Navy is now or has ever used dolphins to other mammals to attack people and ships. The answer is that it would have been foolish to do so because there is no way to teach mammals the difference between friend and foe. They can find ships and swimmers, but can’t decide whose flag they are under. A few other questions touch on this topic and it’s clear that the Marine Mammal program won’t be showing the 1973 movie “Day of the Dolphin” on movie night anytime soon.

Navy Fact File

Navy Fact File – http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact.asp

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • When was the first Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) first deployed?
  • What is the explosive capacity of a MK 54 torpedo?
  • What is the sleeve insignia of a Navy Captain?


This is the place to go to put your sailor on a ship and provision him with weapons. This site is a series of one page fact sheets broken down into the following topics:

  • Aircraft, Fixed Wing
  • Aircraft, Rotary Wing
  • Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Training Targets
  • Guns, Weapons Systems
  • Missiles
  • People
  • Submarines
  • Surface Ships
  • Underwater Search and Recovery Equipment
  • Naval Fleet Auxilliary Force (NFAF)
  • Special Mission Ships
  • Prepositioning Ships
  • Sealift Ships
  • Ready Reserve Forces

Some of the fact sheets of pictures of the ship or weapon they are describing. They will usually list physical dimensions and weight and include a point of contact for more information.

The People section is the home of a page on Navy Rank (officer) and Rate (enlisted). See http://www.navy.mil/navydata/ranks/rankrate.html for a direct link. You can get extra accuracy points in your story if you refer to the “Rate” of a Chief Petty Officer instead of his rank.

Dolphins – Library of Congress Science Tracer Bulletin

Dolphins – Library of Congress Science Tracer Bulletin – http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/tracer-bullets/dolphinstb.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What are some uses of dolphins?
  • What diseases are dolphins subject to?
  • What journals relate to dolphins?


The “Tracer Bullet” series from the Library of Congress were intended as starting points to put people “on target” for a specific topic. This is an older bibliography (1991) that still has a lot of good basic information in it. The “subject headings” of the Tracer Bulletin are searches into the LC catalog and can generate newer titles. The “basic texts” section will probably get you up to speed if you haven’t researched dolphins before.

I’ve included this resource here because the US Navy has a history of using dolphins as service animals.

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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