1934 Photo of Arizona in full dress Ship Facts
Originally written and compiled by Lorraine Marks-Haislip for the instruction of children.

This is continued to be used by various schools as part of instruction about Pearl Harbor.

Click on links below for topics.
Speaking The Language | Definition Of "Ship" | Construction Of Hulls | Exterior Parts Of A Hull | Compartmentation & Tanks | Superstructure | Ordnance | Director Towers & Masts | Mechanical Equipment | Damage Control Center | Living Quarters


Speaking The Language
     To understand ship construction and duties afloat, you must learn Navy language.

     You do not get on a ship; you go aboard, using the gangway. You do not put your clothes in drawers; you stow your gear. The head of the ship is the bow. The rear end is the stern.
     When you stand at the center of the ship and face the bow, you face forward; if you turn around you face aft. Facing forward, the right side of the ship is the starboard side; the left side of the ship is the port side.
     An imaginary line from bow to stern is the centerline; it runs fore-and-aft; the length of this line is the length of the ship. The greatest width of the ship is the beam. An object directly off the side of your ship is abeam.
     An object or line running directly across the ship, like a passageway or deck beam, is athwartships. When you stand at the center of the ship you are amidships.
     When you face either side, you face outboard. Your shipmate at the rail who looks back at you is facing inboard. An object over your head is above; an object underneath you is below.
     The floors of a ship are decks; walls are bulkheads; stairs are ladders. Halls and corridors are passageways. No ceiling in your room; only the overhead of your compartment.
     No windows on your ship; ports are the openings to the outside. Other openings in decks and bulkheads are hatches. You never shut the windows and lock the doors; you close the ports and dog the hatches.
     A picture is never nailed to the wall; it is secured to the bulkhead. Floors do not get mopped; you swab the deck.
     Smoke from the ships boilers come out of a stack, not a chimney.
     You never, never get out of bed in the morning and go to work (school); you hit the deck and turn to.
     You will never be requested to run downstairs to the kitchen and turn on the stove, even if it is your job. You will get an order to lay below on the double and light off the galley range.

Back To The Top

Definition of "Ship" & "Boat"

     SHIP, a general term for any large floating vessel which moves through the water under its own power. The sole function and the only reason for the fighting ships existence is to move guns and others weapons to the scene of battle, a floating gun platform that can cross vast oceans and seas. Transports and cargo ships are designed to load, move and unload men and materials.

     BOAT, any vessel small enough to be hoisted and carried aboard a ship.

Back To The Top

Construction of Hulls

     The hull is the main body of the ship below the weather deck, and must keep water out in order for the ship to float. The outside covering, or skin is fastened to the inside structural framework. Both are made of steel and are constructed by the use of welding and sometimes rivets. Shell plating; the term used for the skin. Fighting ships use armored hulls because of the extra layers and thicknesses of steel plating to protect the vital parts of the ship from enemy shells, bombs and torpedos.
     Keel; main structural part of the ship which runs from the stem (bow) to sternpost (stern).
     Frames; fastened to the keel which run artwartships and suport the shell plating (skin).
     Bulkheads, deck beams and stanchions support the decks and resist the pressure of the water on the sides of the hull through interlocking system of bulkheads and decks.
     Names of Decks: Decks of a ship serve the same function as floors of a building. Together with the fore-and-aft and athwartships bulkheads they divide the inside of the hull into spaces for living quarters, machinery, armament, storage and other uses.
     Main Deck: highest deck extends over the entire ship from stem to stern.
     Second Deck, Third Deck, etc., are other complete decks below the main deck, numbered from the topside down.
     Part Deck: above the main deck. At the bow it is called Forecastle Deck; amidships is is called the Upper Deck; at the stern it is called a Poop Deck.
     Weather Deck:; all parts of the main, forecastle, upper and poop decks which are exposed to the weather.
     Quarter Deck:; not a structural part of the ship but is a location on or below the main deck, designated by the commanding officer as the place for masts and ceremonies.
     Superstructure Deck:; any deck above the main, upper, forecastle or poop decks.
Back To The Top

Exterior Parts of the Hull

     Waterline; the line to which the water rises on a hull.
     Freeboard; vertical distance from the waterline to the lowest edge of the weather deck.
     Draft; vertical distance from the waterline to the lowest part of the ships bottom. Draft is also used to determine the least depth of water in which the ship will float. Waterline, freeboard and draft will vary with the weight of the load carried by the ship. Draft is measured in feet. Numbered scales are painted on the sides of the ship at both bow and stern.
     Trim; the relation between drafts at the bow and stern.
     In Trim; properly balanced fore-and-aft.
     Out of Trim; can be caused by damage or unequal loading.
     Down by the Head or Stern; out of trim.
     Listing to Starboard or to Port; out of balance athwartship.
     Both Trim and List are adjusted by emptying or filling tanks and compartments in various parts of the hull.
     Prow; part of the bow structure above the waterline.
     Forecastle (fos'cle); general area of the weather deck in the forward part of the ship even though the ship may not have a forecastle deck.
     Life Lines; edges of the weather deck from bow to stern (stem to stern) are usually guarded by removable light cables and stanchions.
     Bulwarks; the extension of the ship's side above the deck, fortified ramparts.
     Fantail; deck area at the stern of the ship.
     Overhang; part of the stern which literally hangs over the water.
     Bilge; flat part of the bottom of a ship.
     Turn of the Bilge; curved section where the bottom meets the side.
     Propellers or Screws; drive the ship through the water and are attached to the ends of propeller shafts and turned by them.
     Single Screw; ships with one propeller.
     Twin Screw; two propellers.
     Multiple Screw; more than two, usually four propellers.
Back To The Top

Compartmentation and Tanks

     Watertight Integrity; interior of the ship is divided by bulkheads and decks into watertight compartments to prevent sinking that would occur if the interior of the hull were all one space.
     Compartments; aboard are numbered from forward aft, with the starboard side odd numbers and the port side even numbers.
     Double Bottoms; outer and inner bottom on large ships are divided into many compartments. In armored hulls the inner bottom at the turn of the bilge to form an inner side for more compartments that could be used as tanks for fuel storage, fresh water or for trimming ship.
     Peak Tanks; extreme bow and stern used for trimming ship fore and aft.
     Collision Bulkhead; heavy watertight bulkhead just abaft the forward peak tank. All compartments and tanks have pump and drain connections for pumping out seawater and for transferring fuel or water from one part of the ship to another.
     Scuttles; a small, covered opening or hatchway in the outer hull or deck of a ship and hatches must be closed to maintain wateright integrity.
     Dogs; set up on wateright doors and hatches secure them from opening. Releasing the dog by the hinge first will keep the hatch from springing open and makes it easier to operate the remaining dogs. Proper organization and disciplie in closing of wateright doors and hatches plays a vital part in the control of battle or other damage. Lack of vigilance has caused the loss of ships.
Back To The Top


     All superstructure of a fighting ship, above the weather deck, is made up of armament and controls necessary for operting the ship.
     Amidships; on battleships, deckhouses, platforms, ladders and spaces for enclosing gun, ship and fire control equipment. Nerve Center of the ship.
     Bridge; a major part on all ships from where the commanding officer operates.
     Conning Tower; just forward of and slightly below the bridge. Heavily armored structure containing duplicates of all the control apparatus found on the bridge.
     Battle Bridge; an open platform used by the captain during battle.
     Fire Control Tower; contains equipment for the control of gunfire and the battle station of the gunnery officer.
     Signal Bridge; near the bridge from which signalman maintains visual communication with other ships.
     Radio Room; quickly available to the commanding officer.
Back To The Top


     Turrets, gun houses, gun mounts, fire control apparatus and other ordnance play such an important part in the function of a battleship. Remember, it is a floating gun platform. The only reason for its existance.
     Turrets; found in armoured ships containing up to four guns that are the
     Main Battery; USS Arizona's guns were 14: 45 Cal. Three to turret, four turrets, two forward and two aft. The turret rotates within a heavily armored cylinder called a
     Barbette; extending from the armored upper part of the turret down to the lowest armored deck protecting the gun crews and ammunition from enemy fire.
     Magazine; place where powder is stowed. Battleships usually have three, one forward, one admidships, one aft.
     Shellroom; shell is stowed adjacent to the magazine.
     Gun Houses; revolving, box-shaped structures which contain the
     Secondary Battery; located along each side amidships on a battleship. Five inch dual purpose guns are mounted in each house, 51 Cal.
     Antiaircraft Battery; 5-inch/25 Cal. Eight guns were fitted, four on each side atop Arizona's new superstructure deck house. Air and surface targets.
     Antiaircraft; 1.1-inch Mount machine gun intermediate range weapon to supplement the 5-inch/25 antiaircraft gun and the .50 Cal. machine gun.
     Antiaircraft Battery; .50 Cal. mounted high on both tripod masts.
     Torpedo Tubes; USS Arizona was supposed to be fitted with four tubes. Was completed with only two athwartship below the waterline for broadside firing. Tubes were removed when the ship was reconstructed because they were considered useless.
Back To The Top

Director Towers and Masts

     Foremast; mast closest to the bow.
     Mainmast; amidships, towards the stern.
     Yard; a spar used for flags and other signal devices to be visible from other ships.
     Truck; the top of any mast.
     Pigstick; a slender vertical extension of the mainmast from which the commission pennant or an admiral;s personal flag is flown.
     Gaff; extending abaft the mainmast is a small spar from which the national ensign is flown when underway.
     Jack Staff; on bow of ship that flies the Union Jack when anchored or moored.
     Flag Staff; on stern of ship that flies the national ensign from 0800 to sunset when anchored or moored.
Back To The Top

Mechanical Equipment

     Main Engines; which turn the propeller shafts which drive the ship through the water.
     Steam Turbines; ships driven at high speed from high pressure turbines receive superheated steam from boilers that are oil burning.
     Drainage Systems; a complete system of piping and valves connected with pumps, that collects and discharges all water, whether it is waste or sea water which has come into the hull because of damage. The USS Arizona BB-39 was a floating city and was self contained by a series of systems as any city operates with.
     Ventilator System,Fresh Water System, Salt Water Service Room, Fire Main, Fuel Oil System, Compressed Air System, and
     Auxiliary Motors and Equipment; operate the many mechanical systems. Thousands of motors, compressors, generators, pumps and other pieces of equipment represents a large part of the building, operating and maintaining a large fighting ship.
Back To The Top

Damage Control System

     The main function is to keep the ship afloat on an even keel by using the drainage systems, salt water service system, the fuel oil system and any and all part of the fire fighting system and apparatus. Damage control also includes the design and operation of all watertight hatches. Proper maintenance and operation which preserves watertight integrity is first in importance.
Back To The Top

Living Quarters

     Quarters and Mess Facilities for the ship's complement use a large portion of the interior of the ship.      Officers; generally near the bridge.
     Enlisted Men; distributed throughout a large ship.
     Galley; kitchen.
     Washrooms and Heads; bathrooms.
     Sick Bay; hospital.
     Storerooms; where gear and supplies are stowed.
     Mess; each division had their own area for eating and Mess Cook. Officers enjoyed separate messes. The Admiral and Captain had individual mess cooks so they could entertain dignitaries in their quarters.
Back To The Top


Copyright 2002-2018 Lorraine Marks-Haislip