By Danielle DeSimone
October 13 marks the U.S. Navy’s 245th birthday! Originally established during the Revolutionary War in 1775, the Navy has played a central role throughout history and today, it continues its mission of maintaining the freedom of the seas. Here are seven reasons to cheer the Navy’s birthday!
1. It is the Largest Navy in the World
Cheers to the Navy for being the largest navy in the world! No other country’s navy has the global reach of the Navy, nor the sheer numbers in their fleets. The branch has more than 337,000 active-duty service members, nearly 300 deployable battle force ships and 11 active aircraft carriers, which dwarf other countries’ carriers in both size and capabilities. Whether cutting through the Pacific Ocean or navigating the Persian Gulf, the Navy is a force to be reckoned with.
2. The Navy has its Own Language
Every branch of the military is known for its own set of jargon or slang, but with the Navy, it’s especially important. In the Navy, there are no walls, there are bulkheads. You don’t eat at the cafeteria, you eat at the mess deck. The head is the bathroom, the deck is where you walk and the rack is where you sleep. When naval aviators they say they’ve seen a “bogey” they’re not talking about ghosts or boogers – that’s a term used to describe an unidentified and unfriendly plane.
And if you’ve ever been told to watch your manners with the phrase “mind your Ps and Qs,” that’s also from the Navy. This phrase was a way of keeping sailors in line at waterfront taverns. Barkeepers would keep bar tabs on each patron and would write a “P” for pint or “Q” for quart next to their name after every drink. “Minding your Ps and Qs” was essentially meant to remind sailors to pay their bar tab – and to make sure they stayed sober when out in the taverns.
3. It Has Paved the Way
The Navy was the first branch of the U.S. Armed Forces to graduate a female pilot. In February 1974, Lt. Cmdr. Barbara Allen Rainey became the first female pilot in the U.S. Armed Forces after earning her wings at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. She later became the first female Navy service member to qualify as a jet pilot.
Rainey’s accomplishments paved the way for many more female sailors and aviators in the Navy’s future, such as Adm. Michelle J. Howard, the first female four-star in the Navy and the first African-American woman in the U.S. military to wear four stars. Today, women can train for anything in the Navy, from SEAL training and Navy diving, to submarine duty and naval aviation.
4. A Presidential Service
The Navy has churned out six presidents throughout American history, including John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. Each of these presidents served during World War II, received medals for their service and, aside from Nixon, all have had ships named after them.
5. It’s Elite
There are a few units in the Navy that aren’t just challenging – they’re highly specialized parts of the Navy that are extremely difficult to be a part of.
Navy SEAL training, for example, is so grueling that about 75% of SEAL trainees drop out before finishing the program. The 2,450 active-duty SEALs make up less than 1% of all Navy personnel, but they are a crucial component of Navy special operations.
Meanwhile, the Navy’s flight exhibition team, the Blue Angels, only accepts 17 pilots to fly each year in its exclusive flight team.
6. When (Dogs) Fly
No, we’re not talking about “dogfights” between planes in World War II. Dogs – specifically the Belgian Malinois breed – are used in special operations undertaken by SEAL teams and undergo rigorous physical and mental training, just like their human counterparts.
These aren’t your average pups. Navy SEAL dogs are trained to scout ahead of their handlers, detect explosive materials or hiding humans in track-and-apprehend missions and parachute out of helicopters either with their handlers or solo.
7. It Won the Largest Naval Battle in the World
The Battle of Leyte Gulf took place October 23-26, 1944, in and around the Philippines and is generally considered to be not only the largest naval battle of World War II, but also the largest naval battle in history.
The Imperial Japanese Navy mobilized all major ships to expel the Allied forces of the United States and Australia, which had earlier invaded the island of Leyte. However, the U.S. Navy’s Third and Seventh Fleets repelled the Japanese forces and held the island of Leyte as part of a strategy to isolate Japan from other countries in the Pacific Theater of World War II following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Although there were significant losses on both sides, it was this battle that ultimately crippled the Japanese fleet for the rest of World War II.
-This story was originally published in 2019. It has been updated in 2020.
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