A "plank owner" is
an individual who was a member of the crew of a ship when that ship
was placed in commission. In earlier years, this applied to a first
commissioning; since then, it has often been applied to one who was
part of a recommissioning crew as well. "Plank owner" is
not an official Navy term, and has consequently been variously
defined by different Navy units.
Plank-owner certificates are procured by and issued to crew members of the ship being commissioned; they are not officially issued by the Navy. Some ships' crews design their own, while others purchase them from commercial sources. Perhaps the best-known of these are the ones sold by the United States Naval Institute. These color certificates can be obtained as blanks; if the purchaser wishes to provide the necessary information, they can be filled in for an additional charge.
As a plankowner, am I entitled to a piece of the ship when it is decommissioned?
In the case of ships with wooden decks, if the veteran has a plank owner certificate or statement of service showing that he was on the ship when it was commissioned, the veteran can write to the Naval Historical Center's Curator Branch, and request a piece of deck planking. If the veteran meets the above criteria and the Curator Branch has possession of deck planking, the plank owner or his widow can receive a small section of the deck. For more recent ships with metallic decks, the Navy is regretfully unable to issue deck sections. The address for the Curator is:
Naval Historical Center
805 Kidder-Breese St.
Washington Navy Yard
Washington, D.C. 20374-5060