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Navy Day on October 27 may be “unofficial” at headquarters, but it remains relevant to loyal Navy supporters who enthusiastically celebrate the day year after year. Navy Day appears on the calendar exactly two weeks after the United States Navy celebrates its officially observed birthday on October 13. With two days hailing the men and women of the U.S. Navy, the month of October is a big deal for members of the armed forces who serve in the naval warfare branch of the U.S. military.
History of Navy Day
Navy Day was first celebrated in 1922 by the Navy League of the United States, a civilian nonprofit organization, as a day to pay tribute to the men and women we call sailors. At the time, October 27 was considered by many to be the birthday of the United States Navy, based on a document presented to the Continent Congress on this date in 1775 that supported the purchase of a fleet of merchant ships to form an American colonial navy. October 27 also happens to be the birthday of one of the Navy’s most ardent supporters, President Theodore Roosevelt, who once served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy and had supported a Navy Day.
Navy Day was traditionally celebrated with pomp and circumstance between 1922 and 1949. The U.S. Navy participated each year by dispatching ships to various U.S. ports where public celebrations were held. The 1945 celebration was particularly grand and memorable when sitting President Harry S. Truman arrived to review the fleet in New York Harbor.
Navy Day was last officially observed in 1949 when the first Secretary of Defense, Louis A. Johnson, announced that Armed Forces Day would officially replace Navy Day commencing the following year. Johnson designated the third Saturday in May as Armed Forces Day, a joint celebration recognizing all six traditional branches of the U.S. military: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy, and now the newly created Space Force. As a civilian organization, the Navy League was not affected by Johnson’s directive. They continued to organize events celebrating the original Navy Day on October 27, well attended by both civilians and Navy personnel.
Naval historians conducting research in 1970 determined the authentic birth date of the United States Navy was October 13, 1775. Consequently, the Navy’s birthday was officially changed that year from October 27 to October 13. Despite the official change, Navy Day continues to be widely celebrated on October 27, after being deeply entrenched into Navy tradition for more than a quarter–century.
Navy Day FAQs
Does the Navy have two birthdays?
The official birthday of the Navy has been determined to be October 13, 1775, and is celebrated on that day. October 27, 1775, was once considered the Navy’s birthday and is still celebrated unofficially by many Navy supporters as a Navy tradition.
Who is the Navy League of the United States?
The Navy League of the United States is a nonprofit civilian organization founded in 1902 with the support of President Theodore Roosevelt. The Navy League is known for its support of America’s four sea military warfare services: the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and U.S Merchant Marine.
When is Navy Day?
How to Observe Navy Day
Thank a sailor for their service
Smile and say “thank you for your service” to the men and women you see in uniform throughout the day. If you know a family with a loved one who is deployed, take time to thank them for their sacrifice while their loved one is serving our country away from home.
Visit a battleship memorial park or museum
We usually think of two well-known decommissioned battleships, the USS Midway in San Diego or the USS Intrepid in New York City, when we hear “battleship museums.” We were surprised to discover there are battleship museums or memorial parks in 30 of the United States. Today would be a swell day to learn more about or plan a visit to one of these permanently anchored retired vessels.
Oops! We meant to say, “talk nautical.” We are not suggesting you cuss like a pirate. Try weaving some cool Navy lingo into the family dialog on Navy Day and see what happens. Kids especially enjoy talking nautical, and it gives parents an opportunity to teach youngsters about this fascinating branch of the U.S. military. Here are a few to try: Ahoy — call for attention All hands — the entire ship’s company Bridge — room from which a ship is commanded Davy Jones’ locker — bottom of the sea Helm — steering the wheel of the ship Jacob’s ladder — portable rope Muster — roll call Scuttlebutt — drinking fountain; rumor
Five Nautical Terms Landlubbers Use
This term comes from a pirate tactic used to lure unsuspecting vessels to approach the pirate ship under the pretense of commerce opportunities. The pirate captain and several of the crew would masquerade as honest merchantmen, while the rest of the crew hid below the boards behind the bulwark, waiting for the signal to overtake their victims by surprise and seize their vessel. Today we describe someone who is honest and forthright as “above board.”
May Day comes from the French word “m’aidez” which translates to English as “help me.” Although first used in 1923, “Mayday” was adopted in 1948 as the international voice radio distress signal for ships and people in serious jeopardy at sea and in the air.
Today we say things are “hunky-dori” when everything is okay. The term comes from a street named “Honki-Dori” in Yokohama, Japan that was popular with sailors. The tenants on Honki-Dori street catered to the lustful pleasures of sailors. The street’s name eventually became synonymous with “pleasurable” or at least “satisfactory.”
Cup of Joe
A cup of Joe is a Naval idiom for coffee. After being appointed Secretary of the Navy in 1913, Josephus Daniels made sweeping changes, including abolishing ship officers’ wine mess, which meant coffee became the strongest drink aboard Navy ships. Over the years a cup of coffee became known as “a cup of Joe.”
Scuttlebutt is nautical jargon for rumors or gossip. Scuttlebutt refers to the place where rumors would often begin on a voyage – around the water cask, called scuttlebutt – which was the equivalent of a drinking fountain in the days of wooden ships. Rumors heard around the scuttlebutt became known as simply “scuttlebutt.”
Why We Love Navy Day
Another opportunity to say thank you
If you missed the opportunity to say thank you or do something special for our sailors or their families on the Navy’s official birthday two weeks ago, Navy Day is your chance for a do-over.
An excuse to get tattooed
Sailors have been getting tattooed for centuries, ever since Captain James Cook's exploration of the Pacific islands exposed seafaring men to Polynesia body art. The Navy tattoo tradition was originally about commemorating historic battles along with military insignia, and of course the names of sweethearts. If you’ve been waiting for a reason to get inked, Navy Day is your best excuse ever. But only if you choose a patriotic tattoo, in the spirit of those early seafaring souls.
Reminds us freedom is not free
We take a lot for granted nowadays. Conflicts between nations or enemy threats rarely touch our nation’s soil or splash our shores. We feel secure when we turn out the light to retire at the end of the day. Navy Day is a gentle reminder to be thankful for the sacrifices of the men and women of all of America’s armed forces for answering the call of duty as they work together to protect and serve our great nation on land, at sea, and by air.
Navy Day dates