The Master Sailing List Research Project was started at the beginning of March last year with the intent of identifying all officers and enlisted that have been assigned to the USS William H. Bates (SSN 680) and incorporating them into the Master Sailing List.
To do so, it would be necessary to obtain all of the boat’s muster official muster reports, known as Officer and Enlisted Personnel Diaries, from the National Archives and Records Administration. Using these documents, as well as Enlisted Distribution Verification Reports and Officer Control and Distribution Reports, it was anticipated that we would be able to verify all existing members and identify all personnel that had been assigned to the USS William H. Bates (SSN 680) then incorporated them into our Master Sailing List.
At the time, I naively estimated the project could be completed by the end of 2018, but, as they say, little did I know!
So now it is March 2019, and I have spent the morning working through Enlisted Personnel Diaries from May 1980. To date, we have identified 137 individuals not previously in any of our records and added them to the Master Sailing List. All of this has come from records procured from the National Archives through Freedom of Information Requests (FOIAs).
In terms of documents, we have obtained all personnel related ship’s (not individuals) records between 1972 and 1981, amounting to about 420 pages at a cost of roughly $350.
I haven’t kept track of the hours I’ve spent, but it’s been rare that a day has gone by without me working on the data since March 1st of last year. When I finally get through the remainder of 1980, I’ll only be a third of the way through the project.
It also puts the project up against a wall. I’ve just filed the final FOIA request for records from 1982 with the National Archives, and have been informed that all of 1982 is not available.
The reason for that seems to be that the Navy has been turning over records to the National Archives, on microfilm, that have not been indexed, and the National Archives apparently does not have the resources to index the records. They have informed me they will be glad to search the records for us, but estimate the cost for recovery may exceed hundreds of dollars per page recovered in contrast to the $0.80 we have been paying for indexed records.
The National Archives claims to be working on a solution, but until they get off top dead center and start indexing, our Master Sailing List Research Project is going to be ringing up All Stop.
I’ll follow this post up in a few days with some ideas about how you can help. We are going to have to raise a bit of a stink with the National Archives, and probably our federal representatives to get archiving and record-keeping moved out of the 20th century, but without their help, the remaining two-thirds of the life of the boat will remain inaccessible.
All that said, there is good news. If you were on the boat between 1972 and 1981, your profile should be updated with the documents that verify when your were assigned to the boat and when you transferred off. You simply click on a validation document link, and you can examine a copy of the document itself, straight from the National Archives.
To review your record (or any other shipmate’s recent tour) validation:
If you served two tours, review your earlier tour validation here:
To examine the list of the 137 shipmates added to the Master Sailing List through this project:
Finally, you can contribute to the Master Sailing List Project as well as general maintenance of the website and Association using Paypal, credit card, or your checking account on almost every page of the website in the lower right corner of your browser window. Additionally, 100% of every ball cap or challenge coin purchase in the Ship’s Store goes toward the same needs. Your contributions keep the website ad-free, and keep us moving forward toward our goals.