The Naval Historical Center, something of an academic beach-head in the military world, employ 49 civilians and 12 Navy personnel under the command of Rear Adm. John D.H. Kane Jr.(retired).

Beyond answering Navy Department research requests, the center compiles, stores and publishes official Navy records. A colossal 15-volume "Naval Documents of the American Revolution" has been under way since the early 1960s and is now roughly half complete. The centre has just published Volume 1 of The United States Navy and the Vietnam Conflict."

The centre has also published secondary works of naval history, like Adm. Hyman Rickover's book on the battleship Maine, and Navy-related memoirs, like the upcoming "Autobiography of Charles Wilkies," by a 19th centuary Navy explorer.

The Ship's Histories branch of the centre has already issued six volumes of a projected seven of its "Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships," which will include histories of all ships commissioned from 1775 to the present.

The centre also operates the Navy Memorial Museum and the Navy Library, which was established upon John Adams' decree in 1800 and includes such oddities as Commodore Thomas Truxton's "Instructions, Signals and Explanations Offered for the U.S. Fleet." a 1797 volume with hand'coloured illustrations and a Truxton inscription.

An unofficial but time-consuming duty for centre employees is responding to outside requests, by phone or mail, for such information as a deseased father's wartime record.

The centre's annual budget, according to Adm. Kane, stands at $1.300.000. but that is a figure that leaves out naval officers' salaries (his own,for instance), and takes no account of the cost of the office space occupied by the center.

The precise line of demarcation between official Navy records that belong at the center and those that belong in the National Archives is a subject of some dispute between the two agencies. Basically, the center stores all current and classified material, while records of purely historical interest are supposed to go to the National Archives. But National Archives officials say they have had considerable diffulty getting the center to disgorge certain items that date back to World War II and earlier.