Learning about the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the war that followed, there are certain words and phrases that might not be familiar to everyone. When discussing the ships that were present that morning and what became of them, the words Naval Vessel Register usually come up.
Whenever a US Navy vessel is decommissioned and taken out of service, it is also stricken from the Naval Vessel Register. But what does that mean? What exactly is the Naval Vessel Register?
Inventory of the US Navy
Think of the United States Navy as a retail store. It has an inventory of product that goes in and out of stock. When a new item comes in, it’s put in the store’s inventory list. When it’s discontinued and no longer sold, it’s removed from inventory.
For the Navy, that’s the purpose of the Naval Vessel Register: it’s an inventory of active ships. When a new ship is commissioned into the US Navy, she’s given a hull designation and name and added to the register. At the end of her career, when the ship is sold off or removed from service by any other means, she’s stricken from it.
History of the Naval Vessel Register
The Register was used during World War II and is still in use today, but its roots can be traced to the late 19th century. During the 1880s, the Naval Vessel Register wasn’t one compiled publication. Instead, it was several different publications that, in 1911, were condensed into Ships Data US Naval Vessels published by the Bureau of Construction and Repair. Thirty-one years later, the Bureau of Ordnance published the Vessel Register, which became the framework for the Naval Vessel Register.
In the 1950s, the earlier publication was renamed the Ships Data Book, compiled by the Bureau of Ships. Seven years later, the Ships Data Book was joined with the Ordnance Bureau’s Vessel Register to create what’s known today as the Naval Vessel Register.
The Register Today
Ten years after the Naval Vessel Register came about, the NAVSEA Shipbuilding Support Office (NAVSHIPSO) of the Naval Sea Systems Command became the sole body responsible for maintaining and updating it. A vessel becomes listed in the register when her classification and hull number is assigned and authorized, or when a ship is reinstated to active service in the Navy.
Among the data listed in the register, NAVSHIPSO logs different aspects of ships including a vessel’s fleet assignment, home port, age, planning yard, hull and machinery characteristics, battle forces, and key construction dates.
The Naval Vessel Register is still in use today and can be viewed on the Navy’s website. Every week, it’s updated to ensure all registered vessels are labeled properly.