The US Naval Administrative Histories of World War II are located in the Navy Department Library's Rare Book Room. These unpublished histories record experiences and provide insights into policies, decisions, implementing actions, and accomplishments of the United States Navy.
The collection is comprised of 175 numbered histories, bound in approximately 300 volumes. It includes narrative histories dealing with virtually every aspect of the administration of the naval establishment and the roles it played in contributing to victory during World War II. Some of the volumes also contain brief coverage of the pre-war beginnings and early histories of organizations and activities. The amount of information in these studies varies; some are extremely detailed, while others are more cursory in nature.
These administrative histories were one part of the Navy's effort to record its wartime experience. The first project was headed by Lieutenant Commander (later Rear Admiral) Samuel Eliot Morison, who early in 1942 was designated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox to prepare a history of naval operations. This led to the postwar publishing of the 15-volume History of United States Naval Operations in World War II (Boston, MA: Little, Brown, and Co., 1947-1962), the Navy's official history of World War II.
The second project was initiated after the President directed the establishment of a government-wide program, under the direction of the Bureau of the Budget, to document the administrative aspects of the war effort. In February 1943, Professor Robert G. Albion was charged with supervising the Navy's portion of that program, including oversight of the preparation of narrative summaries by the Offices of the Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations, and by the various departmental bureaus.
The Navy's historical endeavors were reorganized on 12 July 1944 when Admiral Edward C. Kalbfus, USN (Retired) was detached from the General Board and became Director of Naval History. His orders were to coordinate the various programs underway, including those of Professors Albion and Morison. Early in 1945, Admiral Kalbfus issued a series of directives relating to the writing of administrative histories. In one measure, he broadened the scope of the project beyond the Navy Department proper by requesting that major fleet and shore-based commands submit narratives of their wartime experiences. As a result, the United States Fleet, Pacific and Atlantic Fleets, sea frontiers, naval districts, and several independent commands were added to the program.
Admiral Kalbfus's Office of Naval History also provided guidance on the desired scope of the manuscripts, recommending that emphasis be given to such topics as policy formulation, the development of administrative structure, and relationships with other commands. Commanders also were urged to encourage their historians to consult the source materials maintained by the independent Office of Naval Records and Library in Washington that was under the direction of Kalbfus' deputy, Commodore Dudley W. Knox, USN (Retired). While some organizations utilized existing historical sections and personnel for the project, the Office of Naval History also assisted other commands in the assignment and orientation of a number of officers designated to perform historical duties.
At the end of World War II, the Office of Naval History began writing a single volume, based primarily on the administrative histories, that would provide a condensed analysis of the Navy Department's wartime experiences. After initial work by Professor Albion, the project was undertaken by Rear Admiral Julius A. Furer, USN (Retired). In 1959, the Naval History Division completed Admiral Furer's 1,042-page volume titled Administration of the Navy Department in World War II (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1959).
As the title suggests, this comprehensive work focuses on the headquarters offices and bureaus which comprised the Navy Department. Coverage of the administration of the shore establishment and operating forces is limited to brief information of a background nature. Thus, the histories described in this guide provide an important supplement to the Furer volume.
Although the documents described below represent the basic administrative histories of the Navy in World War II, the reader should be aware of other sources on the subject. Numerous subsidiary histories and unbound appendix materials were submitted as supplements to specific volumes in the series. That collection is held in the Operational Archives Branch of the Naval Historical Center. A description of the histories included in the group appears in Partial Checklist: World War II Histories and Reports in the Naval History Division (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1973).
Except for the administrative histories, the majority of the Navy's unpublished original World War II-era records, including many of those once held by Office of Naval Records and Library (renamed the Naval Historical Center), are now located in various record groups at the National Archives in College Park, MD, and at regional branches of the National Archives, often within the records of the Naval Districts and Shore Establishments in Record Group 181.
Use and Reproduction Policy
Original US Naval Administrative Histories of World War II are unavailable for loan and must be consulted in the library. Photocopying of these manuscripts is generally prohibited, though the use of digital cameras by researchers is permitted. Permission to photocopy a limited number of pages may be granted by the reference staff, contingent upon the physical state of items. All photocopying of materials shall be done by the reference staff, or under their close supervision. In most cases, microfiche of these histories are available; these can be borrowed through interlibrary loan or purchased. The use of personal scanners by non-library staff personnel must be approved by the reference staff on a document-by-document basis (Reference: Naval Historical Center Instruction [NAVHISTCENTINST] 5070.1C.). When requesting an administrative history, please specify its number. For example: "I'd like to examine/purchase World War Two Admin. History #127."
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