Happy New Year everyone! We hope you enjoyed your holidays and are looking forward to starting off the New Year with a bang. As we watched the ball drop from the comfort of our living rooms and enjoyed our holiday parties, our military maintained their ever-vigilant watch. Holiday or not, they are always steadfast in their duties, even when it comes to something as simple as correctly filling out the deck log. But on New Years’, the ever-rigid Navy lets its sailors have a little fun in the New Year’s Eve deck log.
While most naval ships keep a running record called a “log”, only deck logs on a commissioned naval vessel are retained for future viewing. The purpose of a deck log is to maintain a chronological account of events, serve as reminders to the deck officers of various duties, and as potential evidence if ever needed in a legal proceeding. The log is kept by the Quartermaster of the watch and by the OOD- designated Officer of the Deck. Each month, the logs are sent to the Washington Navy Yard where the Naval History and Heritage Command retain the records. Each log is meticulously maintained and written by the letter of the rules laid down by the Navy. The deck log is not typically where a sailor gets to let their inner poet shine…that is, until New Year’s Eve. While not officially documented anywhere, it is known that on the first night of the new year during the mid watch only (midnight-0400), the OOD can record this entry in verse. Regulations are still abided, making sure that all required information is written in the log. Such required information includes the weather, position, and speed of the ship, changes in personnel and bearings of objects sighted. These regulations present a creative challenge to the author on the midwatch. Two examples of some OOD’s creative works are listed below.
At 8kts, steaming with Hanson in stride,
Richmond K. Turner serves country with pride.
Dangerous waters are these on the coast,
Rimmed with Viet Cong who are hardly our host.
Nothing must daunt on this New year’s night,
This year, as last, we must concentrate might,
Fighting aggression, and guarding our home,
Wary, lest Commies try farther to roam.
This ship is darkened as Hanson is too,
Hiding the fact we’re on 020 True.
SOPA and Officer in Tactical Command-
Captain of Turner is much in demand.
His is the judgment, on which we rely,
He calls the shots, and TE 188.8.131.52 does comply.
COMSEVENTH Fleet has positioned us here
Near North Vietnam, where our purpose is clear.
USS Richmond K. Turner (DLG 20)
1 January 1967
And moored pier side a little closer to home…
I’d like to say ‘Happy New year to you’
And tell you our ship is moored starboard side to
Berths Mike and November, and here’s the location:
San Diego, California at North Island Air Station.
As an added precaution again any trouble,
Our mooring lines are, not singled but doubled.
Our broilers are cold at the start of this year
So we must receive various services from the pier.
To lost all ships present indeed would be hard
But Oklahoma City (CLG 5) and Bon Homme Richard (CVA 31)
Are two of the ships, one forward, on aft
The others are various yard and distract craft.
SOPA Admin said tonight, and I quote,
‘COMFIRSTFLT is senior officer present afloat.’
He’s presently embarked in Oklahoma City,
But being aboard tonight, what a pity.
The night has been long, but would you believe,
That this watch is over – I stand relieved
USS Constellation (CVA 64)
1 January 1968
While the exact origin of the New Year’s mid-watch deck log is unknown, it has become a tradition that has endured following the First World War. By the time of the Vietnam War, the practice was so ingrained into the naval tradition that a New Year’s Eve contest was promoted by the Navy Times. Today the tradition has dwindled to fewer than 20 written in 2017. However, for those who keep it going, it brings a little frivolity to a sometimes-mundane task. We will leave you will the deck log from the USS O’Kane as it crossed into 2018.
LTJG Naylor here, ready to assume OOD, duties as assigned,
The New year is near its on all O’Kane watch standers minds,
Of the year past: the port calls, the dining-ins, the long underways,
That one funny story, that training moment, and the weekend getaways.
Of Hawaiian Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer, (its really all the same)
Surely…but, oh surely this has been the year of the mighty Dick O’Kane!
The New year is nigh! And I have the watch, oh! So late.
To Be out at sea with 2018 close by, it must be fate!
But before I get too excited, I must log how our plant is lighted:
2A, 1B engine fired burning while the shafts are turning!
As split plant, of course, but wait there’s more!
2,3, and 5 Sea water Service Pumps are at full operation,
Number 1 Reefer, cold as can be, thank goodness for refrigeration!
1, 2, and 4 Acs are running, cold air and berthing shall be met,
No sailor asleep shall break even a sweat!
To Combat Systems, my log must continue,
For Alpha Uniform has mandated O’Kane is in a BMD window!
SPY is high power, 360, oh my!
If any hostile misses are spotted, we’ll shoot them out of the sky!
5 Inch is loaded to shoot Illum fireworks out to the stars,
There’s a steel beach celebration on the flight deck, everything is grand so far.
The Captain hums, “Auld Lang Sybe” whilst making a toast with CMC by his
“O’Kane, 2017 has been one hell of a ride!
We’ve had a few lows,
But the highest of highs,
We’ve sailed to the edges of the Mighty Pacific,
From Alaska to Guam, it’s all been terrific!
And into 2018, O’Kane’s story will go on,
Our saw will sharpen and we will strengthen our bond!
Through the end of Deployment until we sail into Drydock,
Oh, by the way that’s soon, so submit you 80% lock!
Ok back to the fun stuff, let’s hail the New Year with a bang!”
And with that the crew shouted, their voices shrill as they rang,
“10, 9, 8, 7, 6…
And with that, I give the watch team a smile,
2018 is here, The deck log is done, at least for awhile…
Lt. j.g. Steve Naylor*
1 January 2018
*Steve Naylor is from Waterbury Connecticut. The USS O’Kane (DDG-77) is an Arleigh Burke-class destroy named after Medal of Honor Recipient Rear Admiral Richard O’ Kane who commanded the submarine tender USS Tang.
[Photo Credit and deck logs credit to http://usnhistory.navylive.dodlive.mil/2017/12/28/the-navys-tradition-of-the-new-years-day-deck-log/ and http://navylive.dodlive.mil/2017/12/31/uss-okane-crosses-into-2018/]