This site is dedicated to the US Navy tradition of writing the first log of the new year in verse.

       Welcome to the Midwatch in Verse Project, the location for information regarding this old US Navy tradition. One of the first outcomes of this project was the publication of the first comprehensive book-length treatment of the topic, Midwatch in Verse: New Year’s Deck Log Poetry of the United States Navy, 1941-1946, published by McFarland Books. The book is dedicated to the deck log poetry written during World War II, but this website will continue to examine the New Year’s Midwatch poetry tradition—its history and its various manifestations.

We are currently sifting through over 10,000 deck log poems from years 1947 to 1978. New projects will be announced soon!! Stay tuned!

As a service to the writers of deck log poems, we sometimes attempt to locate them or their family members to provide a copy of this bit of US Navy tradition. We find that surviving deck log poem writers rarely remember their small slice of service in which they took on the mantle of a bard. Family members of deceased writers are usually delighted to receive their relative’s attempt to wrangle the complexities of a deck log into a coherent verse.
 Click this link to go to McFarland Books’ page to order the paperback version.  The book is also available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. McFarland does not sell ebooks directly. Ebooks are available through a variety of sources including Barnes & Noble, Ebooks, Rakuten/Kobo, and Amazon.


“A unique and original telling of the story of the US Navy in World War II. A humane and delightful look at young officers in wartime called on to perform the most incongruous of duties—to write a poem in the place of a deck log. Midwatch in Verse informs, delights, and reveals a side of the US Navy known only to the few. Highly recommended.”

Admiral James Stavridis, author of “To Risk It All: Nine Conflicts and the Crucible of Decision” and “2034: A Novel of the Next World War.” Sixteenth Supreme Allied Commander at NATO – 2009-2013.


More Comments on Midwatch in Verse

Midwatch in Verse reveals a side of sailors seldom seen in the thousands of articles and books written about the US Navy during the war. I definitely want a copy of this book to add to my collection of books on WWII.
William Buskist, Professor Emeritus, Distinguished Professor of the Teaching of Psychology at Auburn University.

It’s always delightful to come across something completely unexpected, and that’s what this work by Guinn and Johnson is—an unexpected delight.
Patty Kirk, author of Confessions of an Amateur Believer; Starting from Scratch: Memoirs of a Wandering Cook; The Easy Burden of Pleasing God; and The Gospel of Christmas.

Midwatch examines the little-known Navy tradition of writing the New Year’s midwatch deck log in poetry on U. S. Naval ships. All other watches of the year required mundane, minute details of ships’ condition, and nothing more. This watch, and only this watch, allowed young officers to enter the log as poetry.

The midwatch poetry written from 1941 to 1946 was formed in the crucible of World War II. Each chapter examines a ship that engaged in combat during World War II, beginning with an overview of the history of the ship. It then offers a midwatch poem (or poems) written during those years, relating the poem to that moment in history. The chapter closes with a biographical sketch of the writer(s), revealing the individual humanity of the person caught up in the inhumanity of war. The ships include giants of history, like the USS Enterprise, and small and nameless craft, like PC 1264.

The inexplicable tradition of writing the first deck log of each year in verse lays bare the humanity—in particular, the American humanity—that persisted in the most inhumane of endeavors, warfare. To assist readers unfamiliar with Navy jargon, several appendices are included.

What’s New?

Naval History & Heritage Command Podcast on deck log poetry (2/21/2024)

Naval History & Heritage Command announces 2024 Midwatch Poetry Contest.

Midwatch on social media!  Links to Youtube and Tiktok

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