Thanks to shipmate Ron Prisco for suggesting that I visit the National Archives site at College Park, MD, where ships' deck logs are kept !
Thanks to all the helpful, professional staff at the Archives II site.
I have two recommendations for visiting the Archives:
Plan Ahead and Call Ahead.
I actually did both and our visit went very well but it's easy to see how a lack of preparation could sabotage a research visit.
Rules and procedures are necessarily strict and complex but preparation should make them relatively easy to navigate.
I identified ahead of time the specific "hostile file" days that we wanted to copy. I called the Archives to ensure that the ship's
deck logs for 1967 and 1968 would be pulled and held for us. (They don't pull any records on Saturdays.) I also made sure that my scanner would be acceptable for
the deck logs (but also took my digital camera , just in case). We were waiting at the gate when they opened, registered as researchers, and spent most
of the day there.
The next day, in an email to our Aussie mate, Doug Cook, I described the visit like this:
My wife ("Saint Patti") and I spent much of the day there, copying selected Newport News deck log pages from the 67-68 Vietnam deployment. I spent our time
in the research room scanning pages like a wild man (or as wild as I could be with archivists all around) while Saint Patti read the entire deployment's deck logs
looking for a record of the POW event. She found it at the last minute, in the last days of the last month she read. So much for using my memory to guide her
on which months to look in first. My guidance was exactly backwards ! We then made a mad, 9-hour dash home to Charleston, SC, staying just a hour or
so ahead of the freezing rain and sleet. Just got in a few hours ago, a little damp but no ice ! I love it when a plan comes together !
Fortunately the original, handwritten Newport News deck logs are in good enough shape that we didn't have wear gloves to handle them but there were plenty of
rules, restrictions, and procedures. All that bureaucracy was, however, offset by an incredible staff. Everyone - from the archivist I spoke
to on the phone ahead of time, to the guard at the gate, the guards in the lobby, the person who registered us, and the folks in the research room - was
helpful, knowledgeable, and cheerful ! I'm currently engaged in serious remorse for every ugly, nasty thing I've ever said or thought about bureaucrats and other
government employees !
I was a little disappointed in the amount of information in some of the deck logs. For example, hostile fire was apparently only occasionally recorded in
the logs. (Maybe folks just got jaded. Something like: "Yeah, they shot back for while today. Was I supposed to write that down?") Anyway,
I got everything I went there to get, plus a little.