Creating a WW II
Crewmember Database for USS New Jersey (BB-62)
Margaret Burgess, Radio Club
Early in April 2013 I was talking to Rich Thrash about the kiosk that he
was working on that would contain the names of all the crewmembers that
had served on the USS New Jersey. He mentioned that Jason Hall, our
curator, had microfilm that contained copies of all the muster rolls for
the USS New Jersey for World War II. They were hoping to print out the
pages from the microfilm and try to create a database from them.
mentioned that he was going to try to “OCR” scan the pages (this means
scanning the pages and have a special program interpret the graphics
into a printable text format). There was no guarantee that this process
This is where my background doing genealogy research came in handy. In
order to do my family research I had subscribed to an on-line database
This site is constantly adding databases to the site and they had
recently added a database of “U.S. World War II Navy Muster Rolls,
1938 - 1949”.
I mentioned this to Rich and showed him some of the actual
images. I then volunteered to create a WW
II database for the USS New
figured it would be easy since it was indexed – boy was I wrong!
The first objective was to get the listing of crewmembers onboard when
the ship was commissioned on May 23, 1943. We wanted to do this so it
could be added to the kiosk in time for the ships
of her commissioning on May 23, 2013.
I went into the online database
and searched for a listing of all names on the USS New Jersey on May 23,
1943. I was expecting about 2,400 names
- I got a list of over 4,800.
After looking closely at the list I noticed each name was listed twice.
Looking into the actual records it was determined there were two types
of records: 1)
- which lists every time a crew member had
some type of change to his status while onboard the ship and 2) A
– which lists every crew member onboard at the end of each quarter.
Change Records listed 15 names at the top of the page and 15 lines below
that corresponded with each name and gave the information about the
change. Muster Rolls contained 34 names per sheet.
Examples of these two documents are included below.
I copied the index information and put it into a spreadsheet, eliminated
the duplicates and ended up with a listing of about 2,370 names.
we wanted more than just the names, I then went back to
ancestry.com and asked for the
first name on my list to see what other info was recorded on the Change
Records and Muster Rolls. What I discovered was a wealth of info for
each crewmember. The first record I found was a Change Record that
recorded a sailor’s service number, when he enlisted, where he enlisted
from, the date he arrived on the ship, where he was before he came
aboard and the date he left the ship. Now knowing what information was
available, I put the original list of names into a database and added
fields for all the pertinent info given on the Change Record.
with the first Change Records from May 23, 1943 and proceeded to fill in
the info given for each crewmember that came aboard that day.
us a start of a history of every crewmember that served on the ship
during WWII. Once I had finished the Commissioning Day Muster Roll,
Rich incorporated it into the kiosk in time for the May 23, 2013
For 1943, there are over 763 images covering all the changes in crew.
went through every page and entered the info from every Change Record.
These records included every time a crewmember came aboard, any rate
changes, when he was transferred off the ship and the reason for
transfer (ie… to another ship, to a navy hospital for treatment, for
training classes, ..etc), and any disciplinary actions. For the most
part entry went smoothly but there were some problems such as names
misspelled and service numbers not matching. For each of these problems
I had to search all the records (1943 -
1946) to see what the correct information was. Using the
indexing feature on
I would put the sailor’s name in the search feature asking for every
time his name appeared on the muster rolls for the USS New Jersey.
then would check each of those records to see if it was a onetime
problem or if the problem existed over several time frames.
problem was easy to fix. However, with service numbers it became more
complicated - I found some crewmembers who had 2 or 3 different service
numbers during their stay on the ship. For those people I would usually
keep the number that occurred the most in the records and add a special
note in the database explaining the differences in service numbers.
When there was a discrepancy with the names I would keep the spelling
given when he came aboard and put a note in their database file.
A Muster Roll of those present on the ship at the end of each quarter
usually contained 70-80 pages of just names, rate, enlistment date and
date they arrived on the ship. After entering names and changes for a
quarter I would create my own “muster roll” and then compare my listing
to the original Muster Roll. I always seemed to have more names in my
list then were on the original Muster Roll. By comparing names I found
that at times I would forget to put the “date left ship” in the correct
field so I would fix my oversight. I also discovered that when a rate
change occurred that promoted a sailor to “officer” standing he would no
longer be on the crew Muster Roll so I had to add a line to their file
saying “moved to Officer list” and then specify that any record with
“officer” in it be excluded from my muster roll. In the same manner,
there was a separate listing of those who reported onboard for duty in
the “Aviation Unit”. I learned I had to exclude any records that said
“Aviation” from my muster roll. Eventually, I had an exact match with
the original Navy Muster Roll. That first muster roll comparison was
the hardest, but I learned to add a separate line containing the word
“officer” or “aviation” (and in future listings I had to add a line for
“Flag Allowance” and then exclude them from my Muster Roll.
quarterly Muster Roll comparison went much smoother. Eventually after
several months, we finished the entire crew listing for 1943.
One thing I did notice was that there were 3 different types of
crewmembers onboard. There was a separate listing of all crewmembers
who were in the “Aviation Unit” and later another listing of “Flag
Allowance” crewmembers. Neither of these listings are included in the
regular Muster Rolls but have their own separate muster rolls. Since
these two units did serve onboard the USS New Jersey, their names and
history are included in the database.
I was now ready to start adding crewmembers for 1944 which is comprised
of 663 images. This time it went a little easier as I knew what to
watch for. As of Dec 10, 2013 we had completed all of the 1944
additions to the database. Below are some of the statistics I thought
you might be interested in.
Between May 23, 1943 and Dec 31, 1944
3,902 sailors crossed the brow of the USS
1,385 of the May 23, 1943 Plank Owners
were still onboard
Enlistment locations covered 48 states (+ Hawaii) and 11 countries
21 crewmembers were promoted to “Officer” standing
30 re-enlistments occurred onboard
3 crew members died onboard in-line-of-duty (non-combatant)
34 issues with Service Numbers
4 official name changes
At end of 1944 there were 2,242 regular crew members aboard
At end of 1944 there were 2,465 sailors aboard (includes Aviation &
We continue to make progress on this effort. Margaret is now entering
names from the mid 1945 timeframe and I continue to enter names for the
Korean War period of service. We don't have the detailed microfilm
records for the Korean War period so we are forced to rely on Cruise
Books to come up with the crew lists. There were as far as I know three
Cruise Books published during that period, one in 1951, another in 1953
and a final one in 1955. So far I have finished entering the names
from the first two books and have started on the third. We're hoping
that by the end of the year we will have all the names from those two
periods of service entered into the kiosk and then we can move on to the
Vietnam and 1980s era crews.
Sample Report of Changes Page.
from the Muster Roll of the Crew.
Seeking New Members to Join the USS New Jersey
Bob Dingman, Vice President
early part of 1980, a group of friends, who served on the USS New Jersey
BB-62, got together in Champaign, IL. Champaign was the hometown of
former crew member, Russ Brown. It was at this gathering, that it was
decided, they would hold the first official reunion of former crew
members at the decommissioning of the USS New Jersey in Long Beach, CA.
The decommissioning was scheduled for January 12, 1983, so the group
scheduled their reunion to coincide with that date. The only challenge
to that first reunion was that then President Ronald Reagan was going to
be home in California for Christmas 1982. So the decommissioning was
moved to December 28th to allow the President to attend. Needles to say,
the move upset some reunion plans, but thats typical Navy. The gathering
went on and a second reunion was planned by former sailors who still
loved the New Jersey. The original group began contacting fellow
shipmates and at the next reunion in Atlantic City, NJ, nearly 500
on October 26, 1985, that Russell Brown, along with Attorney George
Elwood and Edwin Fogelson, signed the documents that formed the Articles
of Incorporation, making official, with by-laws and rules of membership,
the USS New Jersey Veterans Association, Inc. Russ Brown remained
President for 10 years and was instrumental in growing the association.
Russ passed away on January 1, 2005.
association is made up of former crew members, both Sailors and Marines,
who served on the ship during WW II, Korea,
Vietnam and the 1980's. Our primary function is our annual reunion. from
our 1st reunion in Long Beach, CA, in 1982 till our 6th in Nashville,
TN, in 1992, we held them every other year, Since 1992, we have held a
reunion every year. Our 29th reunion will be held in St. Louis, MO,
August 20 - 24,
organization consists of approximately 1,000 former crew members. The
reunion is held from Wednesday till Sunday. There is a Welcome Aboard
party on Wednesday night. Organized tours of local sites are offered.
There is a small stores, and hospitality room in the hotel. There is a
Memorial Service on Friday where we honor the memory of shipmates who
have passed away since our last reunion. On Saturday evening we have a Dinner
Dance. Our magazine style newsletter, The Jersey Bounce, is published
twice a year.
year, we award three college scholarships to children and grandchildren
of current members who served onboard. We are currently working with the
ship to organize fundraising for the many projects that are needed
onboard. We give an annual donation, that is from our membership through
an extra offering, at the time of membership renewal. Our primary
purpose though is to bring together former crewmembers, on a regular
basis, to keep our friendships alive and well. We hope that our reunions
help sailors of each era start lasting friendships with those of their
own and other eras. We
have made it our responsibility to carry the history and legacy of our
great ship into the future. Your participation is needed. We welcome all
those who wish to join.
Below is a
copy of the
membership application. It is also available as a .pdf
if you Click Here.
Navy Reserves Relieve Crew for Leave during extended
Deployment off Beirut in 1983
Joel (Skip) Leeson, Commander,
28, 1982 the USS New Jersey came to life for
the 4th and final time with Captain W.M. Fogarty Commanding. President
Ronald Regan honored the Navy with his presence for the
The ship was modernized and now
carried 32 Tomahawk Missiles,
16 Harpoon Missiles, and 4 CIWS. In June 1983, it was decided to start a Naval
Reserve Unit at Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center, West Trenton, NJ.
This was the first reserve unit ever assigned to a reactivated
Battleship. Iowa started one two years later.
I was fortunate enough to be selected as the
first Commanding Officer of that unit, the task was to build a unit of
125 sailors and 3 officers.
Over the Summer of 1983 New Jersey was operating
on a short deployment in the Pacific and was ordered to the Panama
Canal. She then proceeded through the canal and through the Gulf of Mexico.
Next Captain Richard Milligan relieved Captain Fogarty
and the ship began a high speed run to the Middle East, arriving on
station off the coast of Beirut, Lebanon on September 23rd. The
ships mission was to protect U.S. interests and the Marines ashore
that were part
of a multi-national peace keeping force and to provide a presence in
Beirut that would in turn help establish the stability necessary for the
Lebanese Government to regain control of their Capital.
On October 22nd ETC
ashore to help the Marines with electronic equipment. He stayed
overnight and the next morning, the Marine Barracks were blown up. We
lost the Chief that day.
On November 28th, the DoD announced that New
Jersey would be extended on station indefinitely.
At that point, the Chief of
Naval Reserve was contacted and it was proposed to have flights of
reservists sent to the ship to relieve active duty sailors
so they could go
home for 3a 0 day leave.
The Captain and crew were all for it.
My unit was the first to fly out.
left the day before New Year's 1984. Because of commitments at home
(wife had bad car accident) I sent my Executive Officer with this
group. I went in the February, March
timeframe. We were so
successful that 5 flights were eventually sent,
calling on reservists
from all over the country. It was the largest peacetime crew relief in
the history of the Navy.
We flew in DC-9 planes from Norfolk,
VA to St
John's, Newfoundland, to Lagos Azores, to Rhoda, Spain, to
Italy, to Ben Gurion International in Tel Aviv.
Then bussed to Haifa
where the ship was at anchor waiting for us. We took a packet boat to
the ship and our adventure started.
On February 8th the ship fired about 300 rounds at
Druze and Syrian forces in the Bekka Valley. Some 30 of these shells
were aimed at a Syrian Command post, killing the General commanding the
Syrian Forces in Lebanon. Other targets included surface to air
missile sites. I saw the BDA (Battle Damage Assessment).
We hit everything we
Just before I left to go over, the State
Legislature issued a Proclamation which I delivered to Captain Milligan.
He in turn, gave me a picture of the New Jersey, plus a letter to the
State, which I presented to Governor Kean.
The ship sent sailors on leave by priority.
sailors with children born after they left went first, then the
newlyweds, after that it was by lottery. Over half the crew had leave.
It was an honor to be part of this.
obviously will never forget. From time to time I come across Sailors
who either had leave from the ship or were reservists going to the ship.
Reservists posing with Captain
Milligan on the forecastle in
Battleship Volunteers Tour the USS Somerset
prior to her Commissioning
Rich Zimmermann, Overnight Encampment Volunteer
It was a cold, windy, snowy day
on the Delaware and nothing much was happening. Wrong, a lot was
happening. Philadelphia’s Penn's Landing was
preparing to host another
commissioning on March 1st.
On February 26th our friends at
the Independence Seaport
Museum arranged a very special tour of the USS Somerset
for some of
our crew members. The Somerset is the
3rd in a series of 4
special ships designed as memorials to those who
died on 9-11. She is a memorial
to the passengers and crew who were
hijacked on Flight 93 and crashed in central Pennsylvania. Some of the salvaged beams
from the twin towers were melted
became part of the Somerset's keel.
The Somerset is a spectacular,
modern ship full of the latest technology and spotlessly clean.
It is crewed by about 380 select crew
members who have been trained in the very latest technology. The middle
management, Chiefs on up are professional, hard working and
represent the modern Navy. In a few
months, the Somerset will pass through the Panama Canal and be berthed
at San Diego, CA.
She is a fitting tribute to the
40 innocent people who were murdered by terrorists on Flight 93.
Shot of the
Somerset tired up at Penn's Landing.
The snow was
falling but these guys weren't going to let that
stop them from the opportunity to check out the Somerset.
guard on the forecastle while in port, ever vigilant.
way of boarding the ship, let the tour begin.
Wow, look at
the cavernous interior of the hull, amazing!
the shipyard she looks spotless.
Here the gang
pauses for a group
shot, everybody is all smiles.
amphibious assault craft onboard the Somerset.
space, sure looks a lot more
comfortable than those on the Battleship!
the modern Navy, some
of the latest technology in the fleet.
Ships Sick Bay looks like something
see in your neighborhood hospital.
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