We’re right in between two very important dates for the U.S. Navy: October 13 is the Navy’s “birthday” and October 27 is Navy Day. They sound similar, but these two holidays (okay, technically birthday and former holiday) are conveniently and coincidentally spaced 14 days apart, allowing us two weeks of Navy commemoration and festivities.
Here’s a little history behind the two dates, and ways you can celebrate.
2+ centuries of blue and gold: the Navy’s birthday
It’s not common knowledge that the Navy is technically, as of 2017, 242 years old. The Navy claims October 13 as its birthday because that date in 1775 is when the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution creating the Continental Navy. Nevermind that the Continental Navy disbanded after the Revolutionary War and a permanent standing Navy wasn’t born until 1794.
George Washington was one of the biggest early proponents of a seafaring army and is often called the father of the U.S. Navy. In 1775, he wrote a letter convincing the Continental Congress to arm two ships with carriages and small cannons to block the transport of British supplies in what’s now considered the first instance of the U.S. Navy in action.
The birthday isn’t recognized as a national holiday, but it is celebrated by many to honor those who have served. Festivities surrounding the birthday usually include cake cutting, bell ringing and the singing of “Anchors Aweigh,” in addition to events in Annapolis like band performances, balls and parades.
A tradition that lives on: Navy Day
On October 27, 1775, a special committee of the Continental Congress issued a report to purchase merchant ships that would build up the fleet. The 27th is also the birthday of president Teddy Roosevelt, and the day in 1922 that the Navy League of the United States initially established Navy Day.
Like the Navy’s birthday, Navy Day was a popular holiday in the early 20th century to honor past and present Naval officers, though it also was not a national holiday. On the holiday, President Warren Harding once wrote,
“From our earliest national beginnings the Navy has always been, and deserved to be, an object of special pride to the American people. Its record is indeed one to inspire such sentiments, and I am very sure that such a commemoration as is planned will be a timely reminder.
“It is well for us to have in mind that under a program of lessening naval armaments there is a greater reason for maintaining the highest efficiency, fitness and morale in this branch of the national defensive service. I know how earnestly the Navy personnel are devoted to this idea and want you to be assured of my hearty concurrence.”
In 1949, Navy Day was more or less absorbed into Armed Forces Day, an encapsulating military holiday that we recognize today.
Armed Forces Day–and Navy Day, for those who choose to acknowledge it–is usually celebrated with parades and military air shows, and by flying the flag high and creating care packages for those who are currently serving overseas.
Regardless of what the commemorative holidays are called or what days they’re celebrated on, late October is a great time to visit Annapolis and get involved in all the Navy festivities. See a parade, watch a performance from the Navy Band or take a tour of the Naval Academy–there’s always something going on.