This site is dedicated to the old US Navy tradition of writing the first log of the new year in verse.
Welcome to Midwatch in Verse! The authors have written the first book-length treatment of the topic, Midwatch in Verse: New Year’s Deck Log Poetry of the United States Navy, 1941-1946, to be published by McFarland Books in late 2022. The book is dedicated to the deck log poetry written during World War II, but the website will continue to examine the New Year’s Midwatch poetry tradition—its history and its various manifestations.
The book is now available for pre-order. The book will be available in both paperback and ebook formats when it is published.
Click this link to go to McFarland Books’ page to pre-order the paperback version. McFarland does not sell ebooks directly. See this link for information about how to order the ebook once it is published (NOTE: as of 4/20/2022, no ebooks are available for pre-order).
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.
This post is an example of what we do with the ships and deck logs in each chapter of Midwatch in Verse. Each chapter of the book is divided into three parts—a history of the ship, a brief discussion of … Continue reading →
More than sixty years ago, in the January 1959 issue of the US Naval Institute Proceedings, Captain Robert W. McNitt, USN, wrote an article describing the unusual Navy tradition of writing the New Year’s deck log on US ships … Continue reading →