U.S. Navy Takes the Cake for the 242nd Time

By Justin Hall, National Museum of the American Sailor Contract Curator

October 13, 2017 marks the 242nd birthday of the United States Navy. First celebrated by the Navy in 1972, then Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt authorized the event to commemorate the significance of the date. Since then, each CNO has encouraged a Navy-wide celebration of this occasion “to enhance a greater appreciation of our Navy heritage, and to provide a positive influence toward pride and professionalism in the naval service.” The “birth” of the U.S. Navy traces its origins to America’s colonial era, when Continental Congress established a Continental Navy on October 13, 1775 and authorized ships to be armed and manned.

Cutting the cake on the 200th Navy Birthday in 1975.

Navy Bicentennial Birthday Cake cutting ceremony. Captain R.A. Miller gives a hand to the oldest and youngest sailors on board USS Coronado (LPD 11) in Bremerhaven, Germany.

During this era, most of the thirteen colonies had their own individual Navies or permitted privateers to operate in their interests, but the Continental Congress’ actions were an early indicator of a new national unity.

Navy Birthday is a celebration which is reserved to and upheld by active sailors, reserves, and retired sailors in appreciation of their Naval Heritage and their pride of duty. The primary features of Navy Birthday commemorations include ceremonial bell ringing, reading SECNAV and CNO birthday messages, singing Anchors Aweigh, and perhaps everyone’s favorite part, a ceremonial cake-cutting. Navy Birthday celebrations also frequently include Navy Band performances, Navy Color Guard appearances, Navy Birthday Balls, and Navy heritage celebrations.

242nd-Navy-Birthday-Poster---Fleet, created by NHHC.

242nd Navy Birthday Poster “Fleet,” created by Naval History and Heritage Command, 2017.

With the theme of “Sea Power to Protect and Promote,” this year’s Navy birthday celebrations honor “the brave men and women who conduct a wide range of combat, training, humanitarian, rescue and other missions worldwide, protecting our interests, promoting our security, and helping to shape our nation’s history and culture.” In 2017, events like the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway and the Navy’s Birthday signify an honorable celebration promoting a strong commitment to heritage.

It was naval victories during World War II that positioned the U.S. Navy as a global presence and those in service should be honored to protect and promote democracy, freedom, and trade.

Inspired by the same attributes as “The Greatest Generation,” today’s Sailors and civilians carry on a two-century tradition of warfighting excellence, adaptation and resilience.

If you’d like to learn more about the U.S. Navy’s Birthday visit the NHHC’s Navy Birthday webpage. For more information on the National Museum of the American Sailor visit our website.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s