The Navy’s Birthday is a holiday celebrated in the United States by those who currently serve, are related to someone who serves, or have once served in the United States Navy. This day falls on October 13th and commemorates the establishment of this branch in 1775.
History of the Navy’s Birthday
At the start of the Revolutionary War, the United States did not have a full-time navy. The defense of America’s coastlines was mainly left to the Navy of Massachusetts. However, the Continental Congress decided that establishing a national navy was worth investigating, and congressmen began to take sides on the issue.
Proponents of establishing a navy felt that a national navy would do a better job of protecting shipping and defending the coast. Opponents believed that it would be impossible to create a navy that could compete with the British Royal Navy.
The matter was eventually decided when George Washington commissioned the schooner USS Hannah on October 13th, 1775. The effect of the Continental Navy was somewhat mixed. While it was occasionally successful at intercepting and raiding British merchant vessels, it also lost as many of its own ships as it captured from the enemy.
By the end of the war, the Continental Navy was a mere shadow of its former self and was eventually disbanded. It would be another ten years before the United States would reestablish the navy. Not having a standing navy left the United States vulnerable to attacks by Barbary pirates. While the U.S. did have the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service (USRCS) during the 1790s, which was the predecessor to today’s Coast Guard, it was not sufficient to defend the coast against these pirates. Fortunately, The Naval Act was established in October of 1797, and this would become the navy as we know it today.
By 1800, three ships had been commissioned and pressed into service: the USS Constitution, the USS United States, and the USS Constellation.
The Navy’s Birthday was established as an official holiday when Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt authorized the recognition of October 13th as the official birthday of the United States Navy in 1972. It was designated as an internal holiday for current naval members, former naval members, and dependents of both active service and retired members.
Navy’s Birthday Customs & Traditions
Today, the Navy’s Birthday is celebrated by the U.S. Navy by hosting a Naval Ball. During this ball, participants dress in their Navy uniforms, dance, listen to music, and at the end of the night, cut an enormous birthday cake. Members of the U.S. Navy may also celebrate this holiday with smaller balls for servicemen serving all over the world.