The U.S. Navy turns 243

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.

Navy 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

  1. Which of the following are true?
    1. The ditty bag used to be called a “ditto bag” because there were two of everything in it.
    2. The flaps on crackerjacks were designed to keep hair grease off the back of the uniform.
    3. Navy logs are named for the timber from which the paper was created.
    4. Boatswain’s Pipes originated in ancient galleys. One whistle meant “row.”
    5. “Chits” are named after Hindu slips of paper used in lieu of silver and gold.
    6. Uniform stars have “two points up”, instead of one (like you see in the flag) to symbolize the Navy’s defense of both coasts.
    7. Broadside is a large sheet of paper.
    8. “Cup of Joe” (coffee) comes from “the cup of Jonas.”
    9. A tattoo of a pig on one leg of a sailor and a rooster on the other is a charm against drowning.
    10. 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.
    11. The only time 12 bells is sounded is at midnight on the Navy’s Birthday and on New Year’s Eve.
    12. S.O.S. stands for “Save Our Ship.”
    13. The P in P-Coat stands for Pilot.

Answers

  1. True
  2. 2. True
  3. False
  4. True
  5. True (“citthi”)
  6. False (the custom has no known origin)
  7. True
  8. False (named after Josephus Daniels – he’s the Secretary of the Navy who abolished alcohol on Navy ships in 1913.)
  9. True
  10. False (early hospital ships were called “immunes”, but the term “bay” comes from the round shape of ship sterns, resembling a bay.)
  11. False (only on New Year’s Eve)
  12. False (it doesn’t stand for anything)
  13. 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
  • Rope:Deckhand
  • 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
  • Helm:Quartermaster
  • 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

When these States were United

statue-of-liberty-tear-swscan04051
from  envisioningtheamericandream.com

There were three sucker punches the United States of America suffered – within her borders – in history.  August 24, 1814, when the British burned the White House during the War of 1812.   The attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941.  And within the lifetime of most Americans now living,  New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the thwarted attack, probably destined for the White House, on September 11, 2001.

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. Abraham Lincoln
brainyquote.com

Out of World War II, one-time enemies became friends and Allies.  From the early Nineteenth Century, the world entered the Modern Era, mostly due to the inventiveness and creativity of people coming to these United States.  From turbines and cotton gins, to aircraft and space exploration,  ideas germinated here or were improved on and flourished, the gift of immigrants who were united in pride for this nation.

Blood has been shed defending a free people.  Ideas that flourished here have gone out into the rest of the world.  From medicine to Microsoft,  a melting -pot in America fostered new ideas and directions in the world.   Freedoms that had not been prevalent to societies in the Old World worked here.

But in the late 1940s and continuing through today, three forces have gathered in opposition to Americanism.   Socialism, atheism, and equivocation.    A failed idea of mid-19th century European intellectuals that the Industrial Revolution created oppression was embraced first by Russia, China, and imposed or embraced by nations in Europe, Asia, and some Latin American states.  It resulted in a mediocre existence, little pride in workmanship, and ironically, a small elite oppressing a majority.   It continues today due to control of information, education, and government services by an elite over a majority.  Atheism, fostered by the same socialist elites, highlights the weaknesses of mankind as being the result of and not a remedy through the Christian faith.  All the other religious orders are unopposed, generally,  by the elites – for whom, power is religion- to confound and isolate people into manageable groups.

And  from dictionary. com,

equivocation: “the use of ambiguous language to conceal the truth or to avoid committing oneself; prevarication.”

Leaders formerly stood upon principles,   Washington,  Jefferson,  Lincoln;  Martin Luther King,  Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela.    Today,  masses follow sound bites,  imagery, and shed blood based on half-truths,  lies and backroom deals.  And in the U.S.,  most politicians have only one purpose – to gain and remain in power.

On this 16th anniversary of the murder of 3,000 people, at the hands of fanatics -propelled by a  religion where the very mention of their prophet’s name can instigate murder – I pray for everyone here to embrace unity, discourse,  freedom, and respect for law and for the Constitution.

A house divided cannot stand.

this land (and sea)

In pre-war (WWII) Northern Ireland, the businesses that my grandfather inherited and ran made a sufficient income to have a generally comfortable middle class living;  in the post-war economy, those businesses collapsed and they were forced to emigrate, with little option but to start over.  My grandfather found work selling insurance and wanted his daughters to work as bookkeepers or in such work.   Mom applied, was accepted, and ultimately graduated at the top of her nursing class at Mount Sinai Hospital.

My father, son of a Polish immigrant, was born and grew up in the Bronx;  he excelled in school and ultimately pursued aerospace and mechanical engineering at college.  His, too, was an act of desperation.  My grandfather was a shipfitter at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during WWII.  He and my grandmother ran a small bakery for a time.  When my grandmother passed away relatively young – my grandfather was a restaurant -equipment repairman.   My dad had to excel in a profession to make his way.

 

Life was always complicated in America.  It went through successive struggles of growth, industrial expansion, war, and immigration open to the world.  Through the centuries, Dutch, English, German, Irish, Italian, and eastern Europeans (Slavs) arrived from the East.  Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, and all over came via the West.   They came as Protestant, Catholic, Jew.  The came as indentured servants, slaves and refugees.  African-Americans after the Civil War spread out from the South to the  urban Mid-West and Northeast.  Before the influx of immigrants from the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia, life was quite complicated,  and particularly so after a World War.  The Cold War, Viet Nam and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have colored the last 75 years of the American psyche.

It was no less complicated since the 1960s.  In my lifetime, I have personally practiced in elementary school for impending nuclear attack.  I heard the unusual reports of someone in high school bringing a firearm.   Metal detectors and drug-sniffing dogs in schools and public places.  School mass-shootings.   A President in office while an Islamist revolution held American diplomats hostage for more than a year.  The first World Trade Center bombing.  September 11, 2001, in which a mentor and friend was murdered by terrorists using a commercial aircraft as a weapon.

The late Woodie Guthrie, folk singer, wrote a song that we sang as schoolchildren in California in the 1960s.

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.
As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.
I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me.
When the sun came shining, and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
A voice was chanting, As the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

Born in the USA

On the 241st anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Americans are set to commemorate the day with barbecues, parades,  pool parties, and  family gatherings.  And fireworks.  (And hopefully, neither the Emergency Rooms nor the firefighters and paramedics across the nation will be overtaxed today by injured or sunstroke-suffering revelers.)

 

When I began writing, I wanted to comment on the state of America’s unique history to unite diverse people into an economic power that changed the world in the last half of the Twentieth Century.   Continue reading