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Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships  
Author James L. Mooney
Publisher Navy Dept., Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Naval History Division
Publication date 1959–1981
OCLC Number 2794587

The Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS for short) is the primary reference work for the basic facts about every ship ever used by the United States Navy. Although called a dictionary, it is more accurately described as a specialized encyclopedia. In addition to the ship entries, DANFS includes appendices on small craft, histories of Confederate Navy ships, and various essays related to naval ships.

When the writing project was developed the parameters for this series were designed to cover only commissioned US Navy ships with assigned names. If the ship was not assigned a name it was not included in the histories written for the series.[1]

Publication data

DANFS was originally released by the Naval Historical Center (NHC) in bound hardcover volumes, ordered by ship name, from Volume I (A–B) published in 1959 to Volume VII (T–Z) published in 1981. Volume I (A–B) subsequently went out of print. In 1991 a revised Volume I Part A, covering only ship names beginning with A, was released. Work continues on revisions of the remaining volumes.

Volunteers at the Hazegray website undertook to transcribe the DANFS and make it available on the World Wide Web. The project goal is a direct transcription of the DANFS, with changes limited to correcting typographical errors and editorial notes for incorrect facts in the original.

Subsequently, the NHC developed an online version of DANFS through a combination of optical character recognition (OCR) and hand transcription. The NHC is slowly updating its online DANFS to correct errors and take into account the gap in time between its publication and the present date. NHC prioritizes updates as follows: ships currently in commission, ships that came into commission after the volume (missing), ships decommissioned after the volume (incomplete), and finally updates to older ships.[2] The NHC has begun a related project to place Ship History and Command Operations Reports online at their DANFS site.

Volume Date Ships Notes
I 1959 A–B Out of print
II 1963 C–F
III 1968 G–K
IV 1969 L–M
V 1970 N–Q
VI 1976 R–S
VII 1981 T–Z
I-A 1991 A
Hazegray A–Z Histories end at dates above
Naval Historical Center A–Z Histories being brought up to date

Reference use

Because DANFS is a work of the U.S. government, its content is in the public domain, and the text is often quoted verbatim in other works. Many websites organized by former and active crew members of U.S. Navy vessels include a copy of their ship's DANFS entries.

Since the Dictionary limits itself to the bare facts, it includes almost no analysis or historical context. Typically, it will say that a ship was transferred from one station to another on a specific date, but not why, and the reader must consult other sources for explanations. While most entries are limited to objective data, some use a pro-U.S. tone, especially with reference to Cold War and World War II events. For example, the DANFS entry for the USS King (DLG-10) states, "Operating with this mighty peacekeeping force, King helped to check Communist aggression in Southeast Asia."[3] Something on the order of a few hundred entries out of the thousands contain something along these lines, though to varying degrees. Some vessels, especially ones with proud records like USS Enterprise (CV-6) and USS Constitution, have articles strongly praising of their subjects' histories.

DANFS also utilizes some of the Navy's more obscure jargon. For example, DANFS, along with several other U.S. Navy ship chronologies, uses the '19th Fleet' as a term to indicate the location of a ship after it has been decommissioned, struck, or scrapped. In Navy tradition a ship never dies, it is simply "transferred to the 19th Fleet."


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