When the writing project was developed the parameters for this series were designed to cover only commissioned US Navy ships with assigned names. If the ship was not assigned a name it was not included in the histories written for the series. In addition to the ship entries, DANFS and the online links have been expanded to include appendices on small craft, histories of Confederate Navy ships, and various essays related to naval ships.
|Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships|
|Author||James L. Mooney|
|Publisher||Navy Dept., Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Naval History Division|
|I||1959||A–B||Out of print|
|II||1963||C–F||Out of print|
|III||1968||G–K||Out of print|
|V||1970||N–Q||Out of print|
|VIII||1981||W–Z||Out of print|
|I-A||1991||A||Out of print|
|Hazegray||A–Z||Histories end at dates above|
|Naval History and Heritage Command||A–Z||Histories being brought up to date|
DANFS was published in print by the Naval Historical Center (NHC) as bound hardcover volumes, ordered by ship name, from Volume I (A–B) in 1959 to Volume VIII (W–Z) in 1981. Several volumes subsequently went out of print. In 1991 a revised Volume I Part A, covering only ship names beginning with A, was released. Work continues on revisions of the remaining volumes.
Volunteers at the Hazegray website undertook to transcribe the DANFS and make it available on the World Wide Web. The project goal is a direct transcription of the DANFS, with changes limited to correcting typographical errors and editorial notes for incorrect facts in the original. In 2008 the NHC was re-designated as the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC). It has developed an online version of DANFS (see External links section below) through a combination of optical character recognition (OCR) and hand transcription. The NHHC is slowly updating its online DANFS to correct errors and take into account the gap in time between the print publication and the present date. NHHC prioritizes updates as follows: ships currently commissioned, ships commissioned after the original volume publication, ships decommissioned after original volume publication, and finally updates to older ships. The NHHC has begun a related project to place Ship History and Command Operations Reports online at their DANFS site.
As the DANFS is a work of the U.S. government, its content is in the public domain, and the text is often quoted verbatim in other works (including in some cases Wikipedia articles). Many websites organized by former and active crew members of U.S. Navy vessels include a copy of their ships' DANFS entries.
The Dictionary limits itself largely to basic descriptions and brief operational notes, and includes almost no analysis or historical context.