Sponsors give gifts to ships and submarines at the time of their Christenings. These gifts are then displayed onboard during the life of the vessel. As sponsors, it is important to decide whether this gift is an outright donation to the Navy or a loan to the ship. You, as the sponsor, are the only person that can make that decision. Loaned gifts to your ship would be returned to either the sponsor or their designated heir. At decommissioning, any donated sponsor gifts would remain Navy property and become part of the historical collection at the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) located at the Washington Navy Yard, DC.
When working with the Commissioning Commanding Officer, it is helpful for the sponsor to make sure their wishes for the gift are clear. This information can be handed down during officer turnovers and helps future Commanding Officers know whether the gift should be returned or kept by the Navy at the time of decommissioning.
If you decide to donate your sponsor gift to the vessel, at decommissioning, your gift will be sent to the Curator Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC). This is the Navy repository for all historical objects removed from decommissioned vessels. Your sponsor gift would be added into their historical object collection.
You, as a sponsor, can also inform the NHHC what your gift is, to which ship it is given, and whether you are loaning the gift to the ship or donating it outright to the ship, and thus the Navy. This information will be kept on file at NHHC and when the ship decommissions, it will be easier to either assist the ship to return the gift to you or your heirs or know that the Navy has formal ownership of the gift and can retain it in their collection.
In order to facilitate the return of a sponsor gift, it is also prudent that the Sponsor provide the Society of Sponsors with up to date contact information (including address, phone number, email address) so that the Society can help notify the Sponsor of planned decommissioning dates. If you have a designated heir(s), that information can also be given to the Society.
In addition to your own sponsor gift, vessels also have the authority to gift to their Sponsor a small sentimental object from that vessel. Per Title 10 USC, “The Secretary of the Navy, under regulations prescribed by him and with expense to the United States, may lend or give to the sponsor of a vessel the name plate or any small article of negligible or sentimental value from that vessel.” This gift is in addition to the returning of your sponsor gift, should you choose that route.
If you have not already done so, please tell your spouse and children what your wishes are for your sponsor gift. Many of these vessels, especially if you are a sponsor of an aircraft carrier, are active for more than 40 years and see numerous staffing changes.
For more information about the Naval History and Heritage Command:
Naval History and Heritage Command
805 Kidder Breese Street SE
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374