Three members of the original Blue Water Navy Association [which ended in October, 2017] have put together this series of reports that presents information on when aircraft carriers of the Vietnam War entered the Territorial Seas defined as 12 miles from Baseline. We had the help of many volunteer readers, to whom we are gratefully indebted. Each of these Deck Logs has been read twice and was finally cross-checked by a very clever software program written by George Deichert. John Rossie and Ray Melninkaitis were also involved in the project.
The reason it was necessary to undertake this project is that the only Blue Water Navy (BWN) Vietnam personnel to be granted presumption of exposure to herbicides in Vietnam by the HR-299 BWN Legislation are those who served within the Territorial Seas of Vietnam. That location precludes those who served within the Theater of Combat but not within the Territorial Seas. To the best of our reckoning, that excludes only aircraft carriers and their crews. Our assumption is that all smaller ships entered the Territorial Seas at least once during each of their WESTPAC Cruises.
As of November 1, 2019, there are only 43 carrier Deck Logs out of a total of 556* that have not yet been scanned and read, and so that information is missing from these Carrier Reports. This introduction and the Reports themselves are being constantly updated, so these numbers will change with time. We have been waiting nearly two years for the remaining Deck Logs from a variety of aircraft carriers to be scanned by the National Archives at Bethesda, MD. Perhaps those scans might be provided sometime in the near future. NARA has had this list of missing carrier Deck Logs since 2015.
During the Vietnam War, there were 22 aircraft carriers that entered the Theater of Combat. For most of the War, there was more than one aircraft carrier in the Theater of Combat at any time. Every aircraft carrier, just like every other commissioned Navy ship, kept a monthly log book called the Deck Log. A Deck Log records the condition of the ship for every minute of the day entered by the Watch Sections which were usually 4-hour spans. On any particular day, the Watch Sections usually ran 0000 to 0400; 0400 to 0800; 0800 to 1200; 1200 to 1400; 1400 to 1800; and 1800 to 2400. At 0000 hour of the first day of each month, a new Deck Log was started. The Officer of the Deck (OOD) is in charge of the entries made into the Deck Log during every watch. The OOD might write in the Log or a junior officer or enlisted man might make the entries, to be reviewed by the OOD at the end of each Watch. But regardless of how the watch sections were set up, a detailed accounting of the condition of the ship was always kept.
During the Vietnam War, the 22 aircraft carriers logged a total of 556* months operating in the Theater of Combat. As stated, 43 Deck Log months for these carriers have not yet been included in our research. Of the available 513 Deck Logs, we found that 458 showed no time in the Territorial Seas, and 53 showed incursions into the Territorial Seas based on the three daily entries of latitude and longitude. We used the latitude and longitude that were entered on the first page of every day as reported at 0800, 1200 and 2000. If we found additional specific latitude and longitude points entered into the daily narrative, we considered those also.
What resulted are the Carrier Reports as shown below. For each -hit- (an occasion of entering the Territorial Seas), we included the Header of each such Deck Log along with its page number with the time-block outlined in red and we included a graphic of where that position is in relation to the outer boundary of 12 miles beyond the Baseline as defined within the current legislation. The only locations that warranted a -hit- were occasions when the carrier was south of the 17th Parallel while within the Territorial Seas, which is acknowledged by the VA to be the furthest northern point where exposure to herbicides in Vietnam could have occurred.
One other feature shown in the Reports is a bar chart showing each month (or partial month) that an aircraft carrier was recorded to have been within the Theater of Combat. This data was taken from the OPNAV NOTICE 1650 identified as Reference: Canc frp: Mar 2002, OPNAVNOTE 1650, N09B1, 9 Mar 01. This alleges to show every date a naval unit qualified for a medal or ribbon, including each day in the Theater of Combat of Vietnam, which was awarded by several such medals.
These Carrier Reports may possibly be the only thing that is necessary to prove to the VA that the carrier was at that location and that a crew member is eligible for presumption of exposure under the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019. At the very least, it provides the page number within each Deck Log where this information can be verified. These Reports should make 'proof of exposure' a minimal effort on the part of both the VA and the individual veteran filing for disability. As the 43 unscanned Deck Logs become available, we intend to create a similar report for each of those new Logs.
Please note: There are ways of finding additional times when ships were in the Territorial Seas. This would include plotting the ships course using heading and speed changes for some period of time starting from a known position. These course and speed changes are also noted in the Deck Logs. Because of the intervening time between the fixed points plotted at 0800, 1200 and 2000, it is possible the the ship's movement could have put it within the specific boundaries of the Territorial Seas. We have NOT done any course plotting for ships in our study. However, the results of course plotting would be a legitimate way to prove a ship's location to establish eligibility for presumption of exposure based on locations other than the three daily entries.
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