Happy Birthday, U.S. Navy
Six Things You Might Not Have Known
October 13, 2015 by Jake Butler
Today marks the 240th birthday of the United States Navy. Its roots go back all the way to the Continental Navy, which was established on October 13, 1775, to aid in the American Revolutionary War. Although it was essentially disbanded shortly after America won its independence from the British, it was later reestablished with the Naval Act of 1794, thanks to President John Adams, who saw the need to address the rampant piracy that threatened America’s most important merchant ships.
Though it launched with only six frigates, its original fleet was powerful enough to silence threats from the French, British, and Barbary pirates, and fast enough to evade most other war ships of the era. From those humble yet imposing beginnings, the Navy engaged in just about every important conflict you could think of in American history; taking charge in numerous wars, combating piracy in the Mediterranean, and even fighting the slave trade.
Today it’s widely considered the largest and most powerful navy in the world, with close to 325,000 personnel on active duty and another 107,000 in the Navy Reserve. It features 272 deployable combat ships, including the world’s largest aircraft carrier fleet, which supports its 2,600 active aircraft. To celebrate its birthday, we’ve got six interesting facts you might not have known about the U.S. Navy.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Navy’s Birthplace Remains in Dispute
In Massachusetts, the towns of Beverly and Marblehead might never come to an agreement on where the Navy first began. Each place claims to be homeport of the schooner Hannah, the first armed American vessel of the Revolutionary War. Hannah was owned by John Glover’s in-laws in Marblehead and named after his wife. The crewmembers mostly originated in Marblehead. However, the dispute comes in because the ship was harbored in Beverly and first set sail from its harbor when General George Washington commissioned it to fight the British on September 2, 1775. The Navy has made no effort to end the squabble as it has never claimed an official birthplace.
USNA Mascot History
Bill XXXIII – better known as Bill the Goat – is the official mascot of the United States Naval Academy. For centuries, ships sailed with livestock to provide Sailors with fresh food (and to eat their garbage). Legend has it, a Navy ship once sailed with a pet goat, which died somewhere along the journey home. The officers wanted to have it preserved and mounted when they returned, so they entrusted two young ensigns with the skin, who decided to stop at the Naval Academy’s football game on the way to the taxidermist. In order to get the crowd fired up, one ensign put the skin on like a suit and started to dance around to amuse the crowd. Navy won the game, and the legend of Bill the Goat was born.
The 21-Gun Salute Originates from Peaceful Encounters
Not to be confused with a three-volley salute, which is the ceremony often performed at military funerals, the Navy’s 21-gun salute is performed with cannons. Way back when ships were made of wood and had broadside cannons, reloading the battery took quite a long time. Firing a volley out of the cannons meant the ship was essentially powerless to defend itself for upwards of 20 minutes. So if an approaching ship did fire the cannons, it signaled to everyone in the vicinity that it meant no harm and was safe to approach. In time it grew to be a sign of respect, and to this day it’s used to celebrate various holidays like Washinton’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, and so on.
Oldest Military Decoration
The Navy’s Medal of Honor was first authorized on December 21, 1861, and it remains the oldest continuously used military award in the Armed Forces. It was originally named the Medal of Valor but adopted the name Medal of Honor from the Army version, which was established a year later. The Navy version is also awarded to members of the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard.
TOPGUN Tactical Advantages
The United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program is a bit of a mouthful, but its impact on the military cannot be understated. TOPGUN not only made for an awesome ‘80s movie, but the program was created for a very important reason. In 1968, the Navy published the Ault Report, which detailed the inaccuracy of missiles shot by Navy fighter jets, concluding their struggles stemmed from a lack of training. The program was created to better train fighters in air combat maneuvering in lifelike dogfighting exercises, and it worked with great success. The Navy’s kill-to-loss ratio went from 3.7:1 to 13:1. Goodness gracious, great balls of fire!
Stop. Hammer Time.
Before he was MC Hammer, he was AK3 Stanley Burrell, which stands for Petty Officer Third Class Aviation Storekeeper. He served for three years out of VP-47 of NAS Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif. He credits his time in the Navy as a way to stay off the streets and out of trouble.
That’s all the fun facts we have for now. Happy birthday to the U.S. Navy! If you’re still thirsty for Navy knowledge, check out our Navy infographic or our Navy board on Pinterest.