For over two centuries the U.S. Navy has operated across the globe, forging a legacy that stands as a testament to the nation’s commitment to safeguarding freedom, securing peace, and defending democracy around the world. Amidst this history, a tradition was born that captures the Navy’s spirit like no other – the New Year’s Deck Log Poem.
Dating back to 1929, every January 1st, the officer of the deck or another designated individual on a U.S. Navy vessel, may write the normally customary deck log entry in poetic style of a to mark the transition to the New Year.
Deck logs are official records that register required reports, significant events and activities on a ship, and are maintained for administrative and historical purposes. However, the normal style of deck log entries is typically dry and factual, focusing on the ship’s location, weather conditions, and notable occurrences. The tradition of the New Year’s Deck Log Poem allows Sailors to inject a little bit of humor, creativity, and personal expression into their duty of maintaining the deck log. It provides a way for the crew to bond with their fellow shipmates and celebrate the holiday spirit even when they are far from home and loved ones.
Over time, it has become a cherished tradition, with each ship putting its own unique spin on the New Year’s Deck Log Poem. Every year, Naval History and Heritage Command spotlights the most creative deck log poems in an annual contest. Sailors from across the fleet are encouraged to submit their most creative deck log poems, turning the usually formal records of ship activities into vibrant and imaginative expressions of naval life.
“I think the tradition of the New Year’s Deck Log is extremely important,” said Alexis Van Pool, the recent Deck Log coordinator at NHHC. “It is a way to connect with the past, with the entire history of the Navy. In 1929, you’d have a young Ensign writing the poem, and now in 2023 you have a similarly young Ensign writing it. There’s something larger than themselves that forms a line between the two of them connecting them nearly 100 years apart.”
While the officer of the deck is often the most common author of these poems, it’s not uncommon for other crew members, especially those with a talent for poetry or a knack for creative writing, to contribute or collaborate on the New Year’s Deck Log Poem. This tradition fosters a sense of camaraderie and allows Sailors to collectively celebrate the holiday in a unique and meaningful way.
As 2023 comes to a close, it is in the tradition of the New Year’s Deck Log Poem to find a moment of reflection and unity. In a year marked by heavy operational commitments and extended periods away from loved ones, Sailors across the world have faced challenges with remarkable tenacity. Through their dedication and sacrifice, they have upheld the values and mission of nation and the U.S. Navy. The New Year’s Deck Log Poem has allowed for the deck log to transcend its role as a simple record, becoming a cherished and enduring expression of the Navy’s heritage and tradition.
“In the lines of the Navy’s New Year’s Deck Log Poems, we find a unique tapestry of resilience, camaraderie, and tradition, woven together by the men and women who serve with unwavering dedication,” said Sam Cox, director of Naval History and Heritage Command, Rear Adm. (retired). “As we boldly go and plot our course for the New Year, we are hopeful that this cherished naval tradition continues to be a source of unity and inspiration, reminding us that even in the most challenging of times, the spirit of the U.S. Navy perseveres.”
To be eligible for the competition:
Entries must be from a commissioned US Navy vessel deployed or at shore.
Entries must be submissions to the ship’s official deck log.
Entries must be written as the first entry on January 1, 2024.
Entries must be unclassified.
All paygrades active and reserve are eligible.
First to third place winners will be announced in April, National Poetry Month. The first-place author will receive a piece of historic copper sheathing from USS Constitution.
Submission will only be accepted by email at email@example.com. Scanned PDFs of the deck log entry are the preferred form of digital submission.
For more information about the deck log completion, visit NHHC at www.history.navy.mil.
NHHC, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for preserving, analyzing, and disseminating US naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC comprises many activities, including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, ten museums, the USS Constitution repair facility, and the historic ship Nautilus.*