There are three basic ways to approach reuniting with your shipmates. The first is to find an existing reunion group (if there is one), the second is to make contact with individual shipmates, and the third is to organize a reunion of your own.
The USS Rankin Association began by locating a few individual shipmates, and we quickly moved into having a reunion of our own. When we started, we knew the names and addresses of exactly three former shipmates. A year later, we knew the names of all 3,866 men who had served aboard the ship from 1945-1971, and we had been in touch with 1,206 of them, both living and deceased, including all but one of the 437 officers. Every one of these men is happy that we found him, and many of them have given us generous financial support.
The secret to our success was acquiring a set of official rosters of the ship's company. Enlisted and officer rosters from WWII through 1970 are kept at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. Anyone can access them, but it requires specific knowledge to do so. Our publication "How to Get Copies of Navy Crew Lists" provides that specific knowledge in a format that anyone can use. It includes sample pages from actual records in the Archives. Click Here to learn more.
To learn more about our experiences in finding former shipmates, send email or call Skip Sander at (412) 367-1376 (Eastern time zone).
If you aren't yet ready to take things as far as we have, the following information may help you:
Reunion groups make themselves known in many ways, and though we can't begin to cover all of them here, we know three good ways to find these groups on the Internet:
1) NavSource Online displays reunion information on each ship's page. To find it, go to your ship's page and scroll to the very bottom. There you should find links to the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation and the Fleet Reserve Association. You can follow these links and see if they list a reunion for your ship. Right below those links, NavSource often has links to Additional Resources and Web Sites of Interest. Following these links will often lead to information about reunions. You can visit the NavSource home page by clicking here.
2) Search engines can also help you find reunions. Enter the name of the ship and the word reunion, and see what comes up. The main problem with this method is the large number of non-applicable hits it generates. To minimize the number of unwanted hits, you can enclose the ship's name in quotation marks, such as "USS Rankin" the word reunion should appear outside the quotes.
Individual shipmates can be found in many ways. Here are some good ones.
1) Military.com has Navy ships and all sorts of other military units. They have a system for sending email through their site. Everything is free, and registration is painless. Click here to visit Military.com
2) Online people directories are very useful, especially if your shipmate has an unusual name or if you have some idea about where he lives (don't forget that people often move back to the state or city they were from in their Navy days). There are many such directories on the Internet, and which one you use is a matter of personal preference. We have had success using Intelius and the White Pages Phone Directory. Where we don't know the person's location, US Search has been helpful in finding it. Once we know a location, we plug it into the White Pages.
If your shipmate is possibly deceased, you can look for him in the Social Security Death Index.
3) Search engines can be surprisingly helpful, especially if your shipmate has an unusual name. We found many USS Rankin officers just by doing a Google search. Be careful about spelling, because if you're even one letter off, you probably won't find your man.
4) If your man went to college, his school may be able to help you find him. The Registrar's Office (or whatever it may be called at his school) will usually confirm his full name and the dates of his attendance. Once you have that information, the Alumni Office may be able to provide contact information. Some alumni offices will not give you this information directly, but will get in touch with the alumnus and tell them you are looking for him.
Organizing a reunion of your own can be an extremely rewarding activity. And once you've had your first reunion, it can be followed by others in a string that can go on for years. There's a lot of work in organizing a reunion, and fortunately a lot of help is available at little or no charge. The basic decision is whether to "do it yourself," or to hire a reunion planning company. Excellent assistance in "doing it yourself" is available from Reunion Friendly Network and elsewhere. Reunion planning companies can be found through Internet searches for terms like 'military reunion planners'. One of the best of these companies is Military Locator & Reunion Service, Inc., which we have used to plan our first seven reunions.