Some might be surprised to learn that the official birthday of the United States Navy is October 13, 1775. Back then, it was known as the Continental Navy and consisted of a small fleet of ships patrolling to intercept ships sent to resupply British Army troops at or near the colonies.
The U.S. Navy will next celebrate it’s birthday on Wednesday, October 13th, 2021.
The creation of this fleet was not without controversy. In fact, it was hotly debated for 11 days in the Continental Congress. According to the official website of the U.S. Navy, some in that debate were convinced that having a standing navy was “the maddest idea in the world.”
In the end, the debates were won by “navalists” who were in favor of adding a naval fleet as another branch of defense in addition to the already-created Continental Army which was authorized in June of 1775.
The Navy Birthday: Not To Be Confused With Navy Day
The U.S. Navy birthday should not be confused with Navy Day, which was created in 1922 to recognize the service of all Navy members. Believe it or not, Navy Day pre-dates official recognition of the Navy Birthday. Navy Day is observed on October 27. That date was chosen, so the story goes, in honor of President Teddy Roosevelt whose birthday is also on the 27th.
How the U.S. Navy Birthday is Celebrated
The Navy Birthday is celebrated every year in many different ways throughout the U.S. and the world including the U.S. Navy Birthday Ball. Core elements of the Navy Birthday include:
- Bell Ringing
- Cake Cutting
- Reading of the CNO Birthday Message
- Reading of the SECNAV Birthday Message
- Singing of Anchors Aweigh
Other ways to recognize the Navy Birthday include:
- Fitness Events
- Navy Band Performances
- Navy Birthday Balls
- Navy Color Guard
- Navy Heritage Celebrations
- Social Media Engagement
- Tours of Navy Installations
Making It Official: Who Established The U.S Navy Birthday As A Service Holiday?
It wasn’t until 1972 when Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo Zumwalt declared an official recognition of the holiday, intended to honor all who served in a Navy uniform, past and present.
While considered an “internal” celebration recognized by the Department of Defense rather than a national holiday, the U.S. Navy birthday is an important acknowledgement of the service and accomplishments of the second-oldest fighting force under the command of the President of the United States.
The Navy And Privateers
The earliest days of the U.S. Navy (When it was still known as the Continental Navy) had the fleet working with privately-held vessels to interdict the British fleet. Attitudes and military capabilities were far different in that era with regard to working with “privateers” in the context of combat or exercising the will of the United States against an enemy-something generally not done in the era of the modern United States Navy.
The End Of The Continental Navy
The Continental Navy was disbanded two years after the American Revolution, and a fleet of ships wouldn’t be deemed necessary again until 1794 when the U.S. Government recognized the need to protect American interests against piracy and rival powers in the western hemisphere.
The reason this milestone is significant is that in spite of the timeline of the original Continental Navy and the “reboot” of an American sea power, the date the Continental Navy came into existence is the officially recognized “birth of the U.S. Navy.”
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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