What Is The Cruise Book Tradition?
US Navy, Seabee and Marine Corps Cruise Books are unofficial publications created by a ship’s crew to document a ship’s commissioning, cruise and deployment. The number of copies and pages of a cruise book is determined by the compliment on the ship and budget. Often the books are financed by the ship’s recreation fund.
Cruise books are yearbook-style books put together by volunteers on board ship that usually include portraits of the sailors, officers, and other personnel aboard the ship. They may include photos of crew members at work and recreation, details and history of the ship, and short biographies on captains, commanders, especially during change of command, and other prominent officers.
Cruise books are created for private distribution to the crew aboard during deployment and sometimes their families. They are not official Navy publications, and the Navy does not stock, sell, or republish these books.
Back during the Vietnam War, the crew at Allen Publishing Company and I really never thought about the tradition or history of U.S. Navy ships producing cruise books since back around the late 1800s. We were busy just working to produce historical publications for the men and women who were fighting the present War. I just recently learned that this tradition dates back to the late 1800s, when the crews began documenting events of the cruises.
Also, I have heard that the difference compared to today’s cruise books is that the early “log books” as they were originally called, covered a period of up to two years, which was the common period for a standard deployment at that time. It is estimated that more than 10,000 different U.S. Navy cruise book titles have been published. The number of collectors is constantly increasing.
Over the past 35 years I have traveled with Bob, my father in law, who was the flight engineer on a Navy PB2Y flying boat during World War II. His crew and those that flew PB2Ys have had reunions around the United States. His squadron has gotten together now for 70 years as comrades, most recently to Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida. The Naval Museum restored a PB2Y – the one that flew into Tokyo Harbor along side the Battleship Missouri for the signing of the Japanese Surrender. General Mac Arthur landed in this aircraft.
The pilot that flew this plane into Tokyo Harbor was there. I was standing behind him as he sat into the Captains seat – he reached out and put his hands on the controls, turned and looked at me with a smile from ear to ear. The surrender was 70 years ago but yet in his mind I could tell it was as clear as yesterday. Many military groups such as the PB2Y Squadron do not have deployment books like those ships on Med cruises or Westpac, so these reunions are especially important.
Another reunion I attended with Bob was in Tuscon, Arizona. The 302 Bomb Group that flew out of England into Germany during World War II was meeting at the same time as the PB2Y crews.That was a breakfast I’ll never forget.
This photo is from the last reunion at the boot camp Naval Training Station in Farragut, Idaho:
About all I care to tell you here is, the men and women who have served in the United States Military are amazing Americans – many of whom are young, shortly out of high school. As you see first hand the challenges that they accept with skill and total focus – it humbles a person.
The cruise books on sale here were created by the shipboard crews and published by the Allen Publishing Company during the Vietnam War era. These books were overruns and placed into a storage locker by Lawrence W. Allen, my father. Dad oversaw our military portrait section of Allen Publishing Company and was our bookkeeper. Upon his death in 1983, my wife Linda and I, who is also a Vietnam era Navy veteran, continued to store the historical books. They now are offered for sale to those who would be interested in owning them.
If you are a past crewman and lost yours, or never received a cruise book, or the sons or daughters of a father who served and are interested in what Dad did during the Vietnam War when he served our Country, you may want to purchase a book. (If you are a crewman, I’d love to here from you directly.) Collectors of military memorabilia are scooping them up, but if it comes down to the last copy, the serviceman will take priority.
Allen Publishing Company produced over 300 different titles for Navy, Coast Guard, Seabees, and Marine Corps units from the years 1968 to 1972. We have in our storage locker about 90 of these titles with a few copies of some and only one of others. We are not a collector in general, and would rather get the books out to the families of the men and women who served.
Thank you for your interest in the cruise book tradition.
Lawrence J. Allen
US Navy Cruise Books Of The Historic Vietnam Era
Allen Publishing Company
New, Never Distributed, Collectible Navy Cruise Books