Chapter 7
Organization of the Ship

A. The Chain of Command

7A1. Introduction. The organization of any ship is designed to implement the primary function of the ship--effectiveness in battle. Details of organization will vary among different types of vessels, but the principles upon which they are based are the same. These are:

  1. The complement of officers and men is composed of such numbers, ratings, and ranks as are necessary to fight the ship most efficiently.

  2. To the extent that it is practicable, men work at cleaning stations, and berth in the vicinity of their battle stations.

  3. The complement of the ship is organized into divisions and crews. Assignment to divisions is based primarily upon crews detailed to battle stations.

  4. Insofar as possible, all line officers are assigned to divisions composed of petty officers and crews which they command in action.

7B2. The Commanding Officer. The Commanding Officer of a U.S. naval vessel is the officer regularly ordered to command it by the Secretary of the Navy. Regardless of his rank, he has full command, authority, and precedence over all officers and persons serving in his ship.

Many specific duties and responsibilities are placed directly in the hand of the Commanding Officer by Navy Regulations, and he is solely responsible for his acts. It is directed that he show in himself a good example of virtue, honor, patriotism, and subordination. He is charged with the supervision of the conduct of all personnel under his command, and may not delegate his authority in the investigation of offenses and the assignment of punishments. In this connection, he is required to publish monthly to all hand the Articles for the Government of the Navy. These articles, often called "Rocks and Shoals," contain the provisions of law governing the disciplinary system in force in the Navy.

It is the Commanding Officer's duty to maintain the material readiness of the ship for war service. This means that he is not only responsible for holding the drills and exercises necessary to secure proficiency, but must also preserve the security of material against compromise and sabotage.

The safety of the ship is, of course, a major responsibility of the Commanding Officer. It involves many factors, including good navigation, maintenance of watertight integrity, and proper handling and storage of ammunition and stores. The welfare and living conditions of the crew must also be matters of constant concern. The ship must be maintained in a sanitary condition, and proper precautions observed in order to assure the preservation of provisions.

If the ship is to be an efficient fighting unit,it must also be an effective school for training personnel. The Commanding Officer is therefore charged with the instruction of officers and men in order that they may do their appointed work efficiently and advance to positions of greater responsibility.

In the presence of the enemy, or when approaching a strange vessel, the crew is called to general quarters and the ship made ready for battle. The battle station of the Commanding Officer is that station which will enable him to fight the ship to the best advantage, usually the conning tower or battle bridge.

If the officer regularly ordered to command a ship is absent, disabled, relieved from duty, or detached without relief, the command devolves on the line officer next in rank regularly attached to, and on board, the ship (exclusive of such officers as may be restricted to the performance of engineering duties only).


7A3. The executive officer. The Commanding Officer's chief assistant is the executive officer, who is detailed as such by the Secretary of the Navy. The duties of the executive officer may be compared to those performed by a general manager and personnel director of a commercial plant. He is thoroughly informed as to the policies of the Commanding Officer and sees that these are carried out by his subordinates is such a way as to insure the military and general efficiency of the ship. The executive officer has no authority independent of the Commanding Officer, and the details of his duties are regarded as execution of the Captain's orders. While executing the orders of the Commanding Officer, he takes precedence over all other officers, including the officer of the deck.

When on board ship, the executive officer is always on duty. He must be familiar with every part of the ship, and is responsible for the arrangement and coordination of all ship's work, drills and exercises, personnel organization, policing, and inspection. He is charged with the maintenance of cleanliness, good order, efficiency, and the neat and trim appearance, insofar as these things apply to both ship and crew.

The executive officer is the relief Commanding Officer, and, in battle, has a separate station, usually in secondary ship control.

7A4. The administrative organization. Reporting to the Commanding Officer are the officers assigned as heads of the various departments. These departments on a battleship are gunnery, navigation, engineering, construction and repair (hull), medical, supply, and communications. The department heads serve as the principal assistants to the executive officer in the coordination of ship's work and drills. In the performance of their duties, department heads have the general right, at all proper times, to confer directly with the Commanding Officer concerning any matter relating to their respective departments.

To each department is assigned one or more divisions of the ship's company, each division being in charge of a divisions officer. Departmental organization exists on all ships. On small vessels, however, it is usually necessary to combine two or more departments, and the Commanding Officer and the executive officer must sometimes assume the duties of department heads. Because there are fewer men, the number of divisions is reduced accordingly.

B. The Heads of Departments

7B1. The gunnery officer. The head of the gunnery department is the officer detailed by the Chief (of the Bureau) of Naval Personnel as the ship's gunnery officer. He has supervision over, and is responsible for, the entire ordnance equipment of the ship. The gunnery officer is charged with the efficiency of all armament and appurtenances thereto, cleanliness and good condition of all ammunition stowage spaces and workshops, stowage and care of explosives, necessary inspections, examinations, and tests, and issuing of safety orders for operating equipment and handling munitions.

Detailed instructions for safe operation of armament and for handling of munitions are contained in Navy Regulations, and the gunnery officer is responsible for compliance therewith. He is charged with control and supervision of the torpedo and aviation divisions.

The gunnery officer is senior to all watch and division officers, and has as his assistants the assistant fire control officer, the officers in the various gun divisions, the officers in the fire control division, the (chief) gunnery, and the officers assigned to aviation and torpedo duties. The gunnery officer's battle station is normally in the primary main battle control.

7B2. The navigating officer. The navigating officer, or navigator, is detailed by the Chief of Naval Personnel to perform the navigation duties, and is head of the navigation department. He is responsible for all equipment (except electrical) pertaining to navigation of the ship. This includes steering gear, lead lines and sounding gear, gyro and magnetic compasses, chronometers and clocks, sextants, azimuth circles, stadimeters, binoculars, and all compartments, offices, and storerooms assigned to the navigation divisions.

In navigating, he is responsible for fixing the position of the ship at all times. He must study charts, sailing directions, and other sources of information and keep them up to date. He may make and report tidal observations and weather information. He maintains an official record of navigation.

The navigating officer has charge of the preparation and care of the ship's log, and the instruction of watch officers in keeping the log. Generally, he acts as the ship's tactical officer, and as instructor to the watch officers in studying tactical publications. He relieves the officer of the deck at general drills, and usually at quarters.

In addition to his regular duties, the navigator is usually the senior member of the summary court-martial and the hull board. He acts as deck-court officer and may be survey officer, acting on requests for surveys of materials. He is often placed in charge of the ship's library and is usually the ship's educational


officer. Like the gunnery officer, the navigator is senior to all watch and division officers, and Navy Regulations permit one officer, usually an ensign, to be assigned as his assistant.

In battle, the navigating officer becomes ship control officer, relieving the officer of the deck.

7B3. The engineer officer. The engineer officer of the ship is detailed as such by the Chief of Naval Personnel and is head of the engineering department. He is commonly known as the chief engineer and is senior to all watch and division officers. His responsibilities include care, maintenance, and operation of all machinery except certain radio, sound, and visual signaling apparatus; he also has charge of all electrical machinery, equipment, and workshops. He is charged with the upkeep and cleanliness of the firerooms and engine rooms and of all compartments, shaft alleys, storerooms, workshops, and machine ships assigned to the engineer division.

The engineer officer directs the proper training of the officers and men in his department and is responsible for keeping the bell book and other operational and maintenance records. In battle, he personally supervises the operation of the machinery.

7B4. The first lieutenant and damage control officer. The construction department is usually known as the "C and R" (construction and repair) or hull department. On battleships, cruisers, aircraft carriers, and destroyers, an officer is assigned to duty as damage control officer and first lieutenant. He is detailed by the Chief of Naval Personnel and is senior to all watch and division officers. Navy Regulations states that the first lieutenant shall be the construction officer of the ship and head of the construction department.

The damage control officer and first lieutenant assists the executive officer in arranging the ship's work, drills, and exercises of the crew as a whole. He is particularly concerned with the coordination of all departments for damage control and for placing the ship in material condition for battle. The first lieutenant is responsible for the cleanliness, good order, and neat and trim appearance of the ship as a whole, and of all parts thereof, except spaces for which the engineer officer is responsible. He makes frequent inspections of all mess gear of the crew and of all mess tables, chests, and lockers. He has charge of all equipage, equipment, stores, and supplies under the cognizance of the Bureau of Ships, assigned or issued to his department by the supply officer.

The assistants to the first lieutenant include the deck division officers, the boatswain, the carpenter, and officers assigned as assistants for damage control. In battle, the regular station of the damage control officer and first lieutenant is in the central station in general charge of the organization and damage control and repair parties.

The communication officer. On board capital ships, aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, and also in other vessels where conditions warrant, an officer of the line is assigned to duty as communication officer. It should be noted that this officer usually is detailed as such by the Chief of Naval Personnel. Under certain conditions, an officer of the line may be designated as communication officer by the Captain. The communication officer is not, strictly speaking, a department head, but his duties are such that he is often so considered.

The communication officer is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the radio and sound apparatus and of all visual signaling apparatus and equipment. He is responsible for the preparation of all communication records and reports and is charged with the procurement, custody, distribution, and reports of all confidential and secret publications issued to the ship.

The communication officer's assistants are the signal officer, the radio officer, and the ship's secretary. In battle, the communication officer is stationed in the primary communication office, the code room, or on the signal bridge.

7B6. The medical officer. The medical officer of the ship is head of the medical department. He has charge of all material and stores aboard under the cognizance of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. He is in direct charge of treatment and care of the sick and wounded, and advises the Commanding Officer in regard to matters affecting the physical fitness of all personnel.

The medical officer inspects, as to quality, all fresh provisions delivered to the ship. Before cooking or drinking water is brought on board from shore, he must investigate its source, test it, and report at once if any doubt exists as to its purity. He is required to make inspections of cells or other places of confinement and of all prisoners, reporting the results to the Commanding Officer. The medical officer accompanies the first lieutenant on his weekly inspections of living spaces and storerooms. Before leaving port, a bill of health must be procured and upon arrival in port the medical officer must be prepared to receive a health officer, to present the bill of health, and to answer any questions concerning sanitary conditions of the ship.


In battle, the medical officer is in charge of the primary dressing station, often established in the wardroom.

7B7. The supply officer. The supply officer of the ship is the senior officer of the Supply COrps attached thereto and is head of the supply department. He has charge of the accounts of the personnel, of the purchase of stores and material for the ship, and of the disbursement of funds in connection with the general operation of the ship. He has custody of all stores for which he renders accounts excepting equipage in use, bunker fuel, and such other bulky supplies as may be in the physical custody of other departments.

The supply officer is responsible for the cleanliness and good condition of the galley, bakery, issuing room, and storerooms under his charge. All provisions delivered on board by a contractor are inspected as to quantity by the supply officer or by another officer designated by the Captain.

The ship's store is in the charge of the supply officer, clothing and small stores being issued at such times as may be directed by the Commanding Officer. The ship's service store, however, is not under the cognizance of the supply officer.

The supply officer may have two officer assistants, one for disbursing and one for general stores. In battle, the supply officer is stationed in the code room, as a member of the coding board.

7B8. The air officer. It has been pointed out previously that the gunnery officer on a battleship or cruiser is in charge of the aircraft division. On aircraft carriers, however, an officer is designated as air officer. He is charged with the administration and operation of the air department, including the squadrons when embarked. The air officer is responsible for maintenance and repair of all spaces, materials, and apparatus under the cognizance of the air department and squadrons.

When embarked, the air group commander acts as assistant to the air officer in the planning and conduct of air operations. Squadron commanders act through the group commander as assistants to the air officer in the operation of their respective squadrons.

7B9. The engineer and repair officer. In ships of the tender class, such as destroyer tenders and submarine tenders, a separate department, known as the engineering and repair department, in maintained. This is in addition to the ship's engineering department and is administered by the engineer and repair officer, who is usually senior to the ship's engineer officer.

The engineer and repair department is a part of the ship's organization but is operated as an entirely separate unit devoted to the repair and upkeep of ships based on the tender. The repair officer is wholly responsible for the maintenance, repair, and overhaul of those ships as requested by the Commanding Officers. All activities of the tender are subsidiary and contribute to the maintenance and supply of ships so based.

7B10. Combat Information Center. With the continued development of radar and other detection equipment, the need for a coordinating center on board ship has become more and more acute. As a result, the Combat Information Center (C.I.C.) has been developed and is now found on most major combat vessels. C.I.C. is neither a department nor a division, but rather an agency that coordinates the activities of both departments and divisions during preparations for battle and in actual battle. C.I.C. is the sensory center of the ship, the place in which tactical information is gathered and evaluated, and action coordinated.

Specifically, C.I.C. is charged with the responsibility of gathering all possible information concerning friendly or enemy ships or aircraft within range of the equipment, evaluating this information, delivering parts of the evaluated information to appropriate stations aboard ship, and controlling tactical units. In addition, C.I.C. must be able to take over control of part or parts of the ship as directed by the Captain.

C.I.C. is manned by a trained C.I.C. team consisting of both officers and enlisted personnel. The size and composition of the teams vary according to the information-gathering equipment available. On many ships, the general quarters station of the executive officer is in C.I.C.

C. Divisions

7C1. The division officers. Reporting to the heads of departments are the officers in command of the various divisions into which the entire ship's company is divided. A division officer, according to Navy Regulations, is one regularly assigned to command a division. The Commanding Officer makes these assignments in such manner as will, in his judgment, be most conducive to the efficiency of the ship as a whole.


Figure 7-1. Battleship organization chart.
Figure 7-1. Battleship organization chart.


Navy Regulations requires that division officers punctually and zealously execute all methods prescribed by, and orders received from the Commanding Officer, the executive officer, their respective heads of departments, and other superiors. The regulations further state that division officers shall see that their subordinates on board perform with diligence the duties assigned to them, check all improper language, suppress all disturbances, and report all infractions of laws, regulations, or orders to the executive officer.

Division officers are responsible for the care, preservation, and manipulation of the part of the ship assigned to their divisions and of all material, stores, supplies, and articles of outfit issued to their divisions. They must report to the heads of departments concerned any repairs, or extra cleaning which may be necessary, and to the officer of the deck any articles under their charge that have been lost or injured.

By regulation, division officers are required to keep a book containing correctly copies of the Watch, Quarter, Station, Fire, Collision, Abandon Ship, Boat, and other bills, of all internal orders, of the routine book, and of other written instructions concerning the duties of the ship. They personally instruct their divisions at all prescribed drills and give the junior officers and petty officers assigned to divisions every opportunity to become proficient in exercising and handling men. During exercise the division officers must follow the directions laid down in official instructions and take the necessary precautions to avoid accidents. The effect of personal leadership in all training cannot be overemphasized. This is the division officer's chief duty in preparing his men for battle and in the upkeep of material.

7C2. The divisions. As has been stated, the number of divisions will vary according to the size, type, and complement of the ship. Divisions, furthermore, are not of standard size within an individual ship's organization; some divisions may have as few as five or six members, while others will be composed of more than a hundred petty officers and enlisted men. It is customary for purposes of identification to designate gun divisions by number and other divisions by letters. Figure 7-1 shows in chart form an example of the administrative organization of a modern battleship.

In the following table, the divisional assignments and personnel of one of the U.S. Navy's newer battleships are shown. It should be remembered that there is no standard divisional organization for Navy ships. Changes form the plan shown, based upon experience in meeting wartime needs, are to be expected frequently.

Gunnery Department
Division Personnel Assignment
FC Fire controlmen, gunner's mates, yeomen, seamen Fire control, optics, repair
FR Radarmen, seamen Radar detection
1 Boatswain's mates, gunner's mates, turret captains, seamen Turret 1
2 Same as Division 1 Turret 2
3 Same as Division 1 Turret 3 and catapults
4 Boatswain's mates, gunner's mates, seamen 5-inch guns, group 2 (mounts 2, 4)
5 Same as Division 4 5-inch guns, group 1 (mounts 1, 3)
6 Same as Division 4 5-inch guns, group 4 (mounts 6, 8)


Gunnery Department (Continued)
Division Personnel Assignment
7 Marines 5-inch guns, group 3 (mounts 5, 7)
8 Boatswain's mates, gunner's mates, seamen Machine guns, forward
9 Same as Division 8 Machine guns, aft
V Aviation machinist's mates, aviation radiomen, aviation ordnancemen, aerographers Aircraft and bomb stowage
Navigation Department
N Quartermasters, boatswain's mates, yeomen, seamen, musicians, buglers Navigation, lookouts, bands and burglars, library
Engineering Department
MF Machinist's mates, water tenders, firemen Machinery spaces 1 and 2
MA Machinist's mates, water tenders, boilermakers, firemen Machinery space 3 and 4
A Machinist's mates, water tenders, metalsmiths, molders, firemen Auxiliaries
E Electricians' mates, firemen Electrical equipment
Hull Department
R Shipfitter, carpenter's mates, painters, boatswain's mates, patternmakers, sailmakers Construction and repair, damage control
X Boatwains' mates, seamen Police petty officers, mess cooks, scullery detail
Supply Department
S Storekeepers, chief commissary stewards, ship's cooks, bakers, steward's mates, cooks, stewards Equipage, supplies, provisions, clothing, maintenance and issue, disbursing, messing
Communications Department
CC Yeomen, printers, boatswain's mates, seamen Captain's office, executive officer's office, post office
CS Signalmen, seamen Signals
CR Radiomen, radio technicians Radio
Medical Department
H Pharmacist's mates, hospital apprentices Sick bay, battle dressing stations


Figure 7-2. Typical organization for a 1600-ton destroyer.
Figure 7-2. Typical organization for a 1600-ton destroyer.


Figure 7-3. Typical submarine chaser organization.
Figure 7-3. Typical submarine chaser organization.

7C3. Divisions on small ships. In general, the organization of small ships is similar to that of large vessels. Because there are fewer officers, some hold several positions, and heads of departments seldom have assistants. There are fewer divisions due to the smaller complement of enlisted personnel. Medical officers are not usually provided for small ships, although pharmacist's mates are assigned to destroyers. It is customary for a medical officer to be assigned to each division of four destroyers. Supply officers for disbursing are likewise detailed to ship divisions rather than to individual ships. The other duties of supply officers are performed by line officers on board their respective ships. Medical and supply officers are, of course, quartered on board one of the vessels of the division to which they are attached. Figures 7-2 and 7-3 illustrate the typical organization for certain types of destroyers and submarine chasers.

D. The Ship's Organization Book

7D1. Introduction. The first general principle of ship organization stated in the introduction to this chapter, is worthy of repetition; the complement of officers and men is composed of such numbers, ratings


and ranks, as are necessary to fight the ship most efficiently. The organization of the ship has so far been discussed only from the standpoint of administration. Under the supervision of their division officers, the enlisted personnel of the ship perform the routine duties of their particular ratings. It is impressed upon all members of the service, however, that, important as these regular duties may be, they are secondary to the military duties or battle assignments of each man. Every officer and man has his place in the operation of the ship in whatever activity it may be engaged. To further this end, each ship, prior to commissioning prepares a Ship's Organization Book, a Battle Bill, and Watch, Quarter, and Station Bills detailing the assignments of officers and men in the performance of their duties.

The Ship's Organization Book is a general directive and has the force of regulations. In addition to outlining the ship's administrative organization, it contains such bills as the Fire Bill, Collision Bill, Abandon Ship Bill, Fueling Bill, Visit and Search Bill, Towing Ship Bill, and other bills necessary to provide for any known contingency. Some of these bills are of such importance they they will be discussed more fully in the next chapter.

7D2. The Battle Bill. Under the supervision of the Captain, the executive officer prepares the Battle Bill. It is generally classified as confidential, and organizes and assigns the officers and crew to battle stations. Consideration in making these assignments is given to the particular qualifications of the men concerned, placing them where they are best fitted. The assignment designates the duties to be performed in battle and indicates the succession to command in each station. The Battle Bill provides for different conditions of readiness for battle, depending upon the existing situation. Condition 1, or general quarters, calls for all hands to be at battle stations.

Conditions 2 and 3 make provision for manning some stations with partial crews in order to guard against surprise attack at all times.

7D3. Watch, Quarter, and Station Bills. It is obvious that assignment of ship's company to departments and divisions is not sufficient to administer the daily ship routine. When a business enterprise is called upon to operate for 24 hours a day, it meets the situation by installing shifts or relays. This is not possible on a naval vessel where all hands are on duty at all times. Nevertheless, provisions must be made for carrying on the ship's work, for sleeping, and for messing. This problem is solved by the watch organization.

The personnel filling the offices and stations of the watch are temporarily removed from their regular stations and duties in the ship's organization, and devote their entire attention to their watch duties. (These are of such importance that they will be fully discussed in a later chapter.)

It may be pointed out here, however, that the watch is usually organized by subdividing the divisions into sections. Even-numbered sections are designated as the port watch, and odd-numbered sections as the starboard watch. Depending upon the size of the ship, available personnel, and condition of readiness, two, three or four sections may be formed.

A Watch, Quarter, and Station Bill is prepared with the Battle Bill as a basis. Men are generally berthed and assigned cleaning stations adjacent to their battle stations. Division officers prepare complete and detailed station bills which, when approved, are posted in prominent places in the parts of the ship assigned their respective divisions. A station bill shows the name, rate, billet number, and locker number of each man in the division. In addition, it indicates his battle station, fire station, fire and rescue stations, collision station, abandon ship station, special station for getting underway and anchoring, sea watch station, port watch station, and cleaning station. This bill must be kept corrected to date at all times.


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