The United States Navy turns 243 on October 13th. And one of the nation’s most cherished – and still active – icons of naval heritage, the frigate USS CONSTITUTION is a little more than 220 years old.
To mark this occasion, as well as the other services on their annual birthday, my employer honors veterans in our workforce. This year, as a result of some unexpected events, I was offered the role of the “emcee” for the after-work celebration. Cake, some “refreshments”, sea stories, and naval lore and trivia for employees in attendance who had not served in the Navy.
And I entertained our friends with a little monologue and trivia.
Important dates in history
- OCT 13 1775 Continental Congress authorizes construction of a Naval force.
- April 1798 creation of the Department of the Navy
- 1797 USS Constitution launched
- 1803 -1805 Barbary war
- 1812 -1815 War of 1812 “Old Ironsides” defeated 3 British warships
Nautical and Naval lore
- Which of the following are true?
- The ditty bag used to be called a “ditto bag” because there were two of everything in it.
- The flaps on crackerjacks were designed to keep hair grease off the back of the uniform.
- Navy logs are named for the timber from which the paper was created.
- Boatswain’s Pipes originated in ancient galleys. One whistle meant “row.”
- “Chits” are named after Hindu slips of paper used in lieu of silver and gold.
- Uniform stars have “two points up”, instead of one (like you see in the flag) to symbolize the Navy’s defense of both coasts.
- Broadside is a large sheet of paper.
- “Cup of Joe” (coffee) comes from “the cup of Jonas.”
- A tattoo of a pig on one leg of a sailor and a rooster on the other is a charm against drowning.
- The term “sick bay” originated in ancient times, when hospital ships (called “immunes”) would accompany Caeser’s legions and were kept far from battle, normally in the calm waters of a bay.
- The only time 12 bells is sounded is at midnight on the Navy’s Birthday and on New Year’s Eve.
- S.O.S. stands for “Save Our Ship.”
- The P in P-Coat stands for Pilot.
- 2. True
- True (“citthi”)
- False (the custom has no known origin)
- False (named after Josephus Daniels – he’s the Secretary of the Navy who abolished alcohol on Navy ships in 1913.)
- False (early hospital ships were called “immunes”, but the term “bay” comes from the round shape of ship sterns, resembling a bay.)
- False (only on New Year’s Eve)
- False (it doesn’t stand for anything)
- True (Pilot cloth or P-cloth was the fabric from which they were made.)
This was compiled from the NavyTimes Broadsides blog (Jeff Bacon), from The Goat Locker, the Naval Historical Center, GlobalSecurity.org, and Wikipedia.
Fun facts: (USO.org)
- David Farragut, was the first admiral in the United States Navy. He coined, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”
- Bravo Zulu means “well done”
- Through World War II, sailors who did well were told “Tare Victor George,” which was code for “well done.” After the war, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed and it standardized communications. NATO created a system of B-flags for administrative communication. The last B-flag was BZ. The Allied Naval Signal Book created the phonetics for each letter and BZ became Bravo Zulu.
- The Chief Petty Officer rank was established on 1 APRIL 1893
- Depiction of fouled anchors, in decoration, in the Chief Petty Officer insignia and in body art:
If an anchor is fouled, it means the line or chain is wrapped around the shank and fluke arms. This indicates the anchor is no longer suitable for use. These retired anchors are usually displayed for decorative purposes on base or in Navy communities. The symbol is also part of the Chief Petty Officer rank insignia. When used in body art, the fouled anchor represents a tour across the Atlantic Ocean.
Before everyone today under the age of fifty started getting tattoos, the history of tattoos and the symbolism had a long nautical tradition. An article describes significant tattoos, along with what each item means.
- Swallows:Home (each denotes 5,000 miles at sea)
- Compass/Nautical Star:Never losing one’s way (each denotes 10,000 miles at sea)
- Trident:Special warfare
- Rose:A significant other left at home
- Twin screws or props on one’s backside:Propels one forward through life
- Octopus:Navy diver
- Dolphin:Wards off sharks
- Sharks:Rescue swimmer
- Polar bear:Sailed the Arctic Circle
- Dragon:Sailed the Pacific
- Fouled anchor:Sailed the Atlantic
- Turtle:Crossed the equator
- Gold dragon:Crossed the International Dateline
- Gold turtle:Crossed the International Dateline and the Equator where they intersect
- Emerald fouled anchor:Crossed the Prime Meridian
- Emerald turtle:Crossed the Prime Meridian and the Equator where they intersect
- Full-rigged ship:Sailed around Cape Horn
- Pin-up girls:Company at sea/port call
- Hula girls:Sailed to or ported in Hawaii
- Dagger through a swallow:Signifies a lost comrade
- Pig and chicken:Superstition to keep from drowning
- The words “HOLD FAST”:Signifies a deckhand’s tight grip on the lines