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Photo # NH 96119:  USS Anderson running trials, 1939

Online Library of Selected Images:

U.S. NAVY SHIPS -- Listed by Hull Number

The U.S. Navy's system of alpha-numeric ship designators, and its associated hull numbers, have been for several decades a unique method of categorizing ships of all types: combatants, auxiliaries and district craft. Though considerably changed in detail and expanded over the years, this system remains essentially the same as when formally implemented in 1920. It is a very useful tool for organizing and keeping track of naval vessels, and also provides the basis for the identification numbers painted on the bows (and frequently the sterns) of most U.S. Navy ships.

The ship designator and hull number system's roots extend back to the late 1880s, when ship type serial numbers were assigned to most of the new-construction warships of the emerging "Steel Navy". During the course of the next thirty years, these same numbers were combined with filing codes used by the Navy's clerks to create an informal version of the system that was put in place in 1920. Limited usage of ship numbers goes back even earlier, most notably to the "Jeffersonian Gunboats" of the early 1800s and the "Tinclad" river gunboats of the Civil War Mississippi Squadron.

It is important to understand that hull number letter prefixes are not acronyms, and should not be carelessly treated as abbreviations of ship type classifications. Thus, "DD" does not stand for anything more than "Destroyer". "SS" simply means "Submarine". And "FF", the post-1975 type code for "Frigate", most emphatically is not translated "fast frigate"!.

This page provides links to the hull numbers of many U.S. Navy Ships whose photos are available in the Online Library.

Select the hull number series of the ship you want from the listing below, and follow subsequent pages to locate photographs of that ship that have been posted on the Online Library.

Note: This listing is under construction and is only complete for those hull number series which have active links below. If the hull number series does not have an active link on these pages, contact the Photographic Section concerning other research options.

Left Column -- Auxiliary and Amphibious Warfare ships (A, I & L prefixes) :

  • AB -- Crane Ships
  • AC -- Colliers
  • ACV -- Auxiliary Aircraft Carriers
  • AD -- Destroyer Tenders
  • AE -- Ammunition Ships
  • AF -- Store Ships
  • AFS -- Combat Store Ships

  • AG -- Miscellaneous Auxiliaries
  • AGB -- Icebreakers
  • AGC -- Amphibious Force Flagships
  • AGER -- Environmental Research Ships
  • AGF -- Miscellaneous Command Ships
  • AGMR -- Major Communications Relay Ships
  • AGP -- Motor Torpedo Boat Tenders
  • AGTR -- Technical Research Ships

  • AH -- Hospital Ships
  • AK -- Cargo Ships
  • AKA -- Attack Cargo Ships
  • AKS -- Stores Issue Ships
  • AKV -- Aircraft Ferrys

  • AM -- Minesweepers
  • AMc -- Coastal Minesweepers
  • AMS -- Motor Minesweepers
  • AN -- Net Laying Ships

  • AO -- Oiler, or Fuel Oil Tankers
  • AOE -- Fast Combat Support Ships
  • AOG -- Gasoline Tankers
  • AOR -- Replenishment Oilers

  • AP -- Transports
  • APA -- Attack Transports
  • APB -- Self-Propelled Barracks Ships
  • APD -- High-Speed Transports

  • AR -- Repair Ships
  • ARS -- Salvage Ships
  • AS -- Submarine Tenders
  • ASR -- Submarine Rescue Ships

  • AT -- Ocean Tugs
  • ATA -- Auxiliary Ocean Tugs
  • ATF -- Fleet Ocean Tugs
  • ATO -- Ocean Tugs, Old

  • AV -- Seaplane Tenders
  • AVD -- Seaplane Tenders (Destroyer)
  • AVG -- Aircraft Escort Vessels
  • AVP -- Small Seaplane Tenders
  • AVT -- Auxiliary Aircraft Transports. Also Training Aircraft Carriers
  • AW -- Distilling Ships

  • "ID" -- World War I Acquired Vessels
  • IX -- Unclassified

  • LCI(L) -- Landing Craft, Infantry (Large)
  • LCT -- Landing Craft, Tank
  • LCU -- Landing Craft, Utility
  • LKA(L) -- Amphibious Cargo Ship
  • LPA -- Amphibious Transports
  • LPD -- Amphibious Transports Dock
  • LPH -- Amphibious Assault Ships
  • LPR -- Amphibious Transports, Small

  • LSD -- Dock Landing Ships
  • LSI(L) -- Landing Ships, Infantry (Large)
  • LSM -- Medium Landing Ships
  • LSM(R) -- Medium Landing Ships (Rocket)
  • LST -- Tank Landing Ships

Right Column -- Combatant, Patrol and Mine Warfare Ships (B, C, D, F, M, P and S prefixes, plus "ACR" & "TB"):


  • To the best of our knowledge, the Online Library's pictures are all in the Public Domain, and can therefore be freely downloaded and used for any purpose.

  • Some images linked from this page may bear obsolete credit lines citing the organization name: "Naval Historical Center". Effective 1 December 2008 the name should be cited as: "Naval History and Heritage Command".

    If you want higher resolution reproductions than the Online Library's digital images, see: "How to Obtain Photographic Reproductions."

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    Page made 20 April 2002
    Minor typographical error corrected 12 November 2010