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HH104 American Naval History

A Library Research Guide intended for USNA Midshipmen enrolled in HH104

Ship's History

The first places to check for information about a ship or boat are:

  • Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships -- this 8 vol. set is also in print under VA61.A53
  • Jane's Fighting Ships -- covering the world's navies, the online version focuses mostly on current, active ships.  Use the yearly print volumes back to 1898 for older ships.  The volumes are in VA40.F52 on the third floor.
  • The Library Catalog -- there may be a book on your ship or boat or look for books on the class of ship. You'll also find a collection of "cruise books" on the third floor in VA65.


For books that discuss ship design, start with the appropriate one in this series of illustrated design histories by Norman Friedman.

Check for journal or newspaper articles from when your ship or boat was commissioned or in the news for some reason.  A librarian can help you find these, no matter how old your ship is.  In particular, look at the separate index for the early U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, which began in 1874.  The index is in print on Reference Table 1.

There also are some bibliographies like Shipindex which give references to articles or chapters of books on specific ships.  Click on the tab called Bibliographies at the top of the page and check the Ships section in the left column for other choices.

There are some hearings on shipbuilding programs which are one kind of primary source, but they are not online.  For example, Hearings Before the General Board of the Navy, 1917-1950 is a useful collection on 15 reels of microfilm under VA52.A834H43.  Or older Naval Affairs Committee Hearings are in the general collection book stacks under VA53.A2.

Other kinds of primary sources might include war patrol reports, papers of the officer who commanded the ship, records of an inquiry into an accident or disaster involving the ship, debates on funding or requirements, papers of ship designers like John Ericsson, ships logs or cruise books, and accounts of battles involving the ship.

There may be some original primary source material in Nimitz Library's Special Collections and Archives Division, so you might want to check with them as well.

Ask a librarian for additional assistance.

Battle Analysis

Here are some factors to consider in analyzing a battle:

  • The critical players -- who were the opponents or leaders, what ships or units were involved
  • Titles, persons and positions -- ranks and positions of officers or civilians who had authority or could make decisions
  • Exact dates -- verify the specific dates as many resources on wars are arranged chronologically
  • Sequence of what happened -- how did the battle progress and what was the outcome
  • Location, terrain, environmental factors -- geography and the conditions under which the battle was fought are critical and you may want to get a map to help you understand why the battle happened where it did
  • Technology and weapons -- what weapons or resources were available to each side
  • Leadership -- how effective and adaptable were the people in charge


These steps may help you with your research:

  • Read a background article to understand the above factors as you start your research. 
  • Use the library catalog to identify books on your battle. 
    • Browse the books nearby on the shelves for additional titles. 
    • Check the bibliographies in these books to lead you to more sources. 
  • Use article databases to find scholarly journal articles.
  • Finding newspaper coverage from the date of your battle or old magazine articles.
  • Finding at least one primary source (see the tab on left side).
  • Consider visiting Nimitz Library's Special Collections and Archives Division.
  • Ask a librarian for help.

Book Reviews for History

Most book reviews come out within a year of the date the book was published.  Subsequent paperback editions or reprints are not normally reviewed again, so use the original publication date.

These sources are primarly just book reviews:

These sources are journal databases that contain book reviews:

  • Academic Search Premier is interdisciplinary, but it is not completely full-text.
  • Air University Library Index to Military Periodicals is online since 1988, but only gives the citation.  Enter book reviews and the author or title.  It is in print back to 1948 under Ref U1.A56; look under the heading Book Reviews.
  • America: History and Life is the major index for scholarly U.S. history journals, with coverage back to 1964.  Check the box called Reviews to get only book reviews and not articles.
  • Historical Abstracts covers world history and goes back to 1954.  Check the box called Reviews to get only book reviews and not articles.
  • JSTOR offers full-text journals many containing lengthly book reviews.  Check the box called Review to get only book reviews.
  • OmniFile Full Text Mega covers journals in humanities and social sciences, but is only partly full-text.
  • ProQuest Military Collection has military publications.  Use the drop-down box to select Document Type and enter book review.

USNA Monuments

The best starting point is 2 books specifically on USNA monuments.  Both are on the book cases immediately behind the Reference Desk on the first floor. 

  • Monument Survey, Legacy Project 878, USNA, call number Ref V415.M4U52.


  • Guiding Lights: United States Naval Academy Monuments and Memorials, call number Ref V415.L1A736.


Notice both are in the call number section V415, which is a call number specifically for USNA.  Books in the general collection with this call number are shelved on the 3rd floor.  You'll find a number of books on Naval Academy history which will have some information on the monuments.

There may be some coverage of the dedication, traditions, or repairing of a monument in Shipmate, the USNA Alumni Association magazine, or the Capital, the local Annapolis newspaper.  Ask a librarian to help you check these. 

You probably need to find some information on the person or event which the monument commenorates. Use scholarly encyclopedias or jounal databases to do this.

Nimitz Library's Special Collections and Archives Division will also have information on monuments, so stop by there on the 3rd deck for additonal information.