Like many families, mine has a history of men and women serving in the armed forces. My dad and several great uncles served in the Army, another uncle was in the Air Force, a second cousin served as a Marine, and some first cousins were in the Navy. In fact, one of my cousins is currently serving in the USN and is stationed in San Diego. If I would have been allowed to serve in the services, my choice was the US Navy, too.
One of my former coworkers, who passed away three years ago, was a Petty Officer, Third Class on board the famous USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier, the second American ship by that name. During coffee break time, Craig told us about life on the ship during the last years of the Vietnam war. His responsibilities included support work during nighttime sorties. He was one of the mechanics who worked on A-7 Corsair jet fighters.
Craig was very humble about his stint as a sailor. He claimed he was just an ordinary sailor doing what he was ordered to do. He said his life was never in dire, hazardous danger. Craig attributed his time in the Navy as helping him grow up and expand his world-view. It was the first time in his life that he had been in close quarters with whites and had
actually befriended many.
He said he felt left out of the social revolution of the 1960s and early 70s. The Kitty Hawk was at sea during the “Summer of Love” in California. A part of him deeply wanted to be a hippie like Jimi Hendrix. In the end, he was glad to be a part of the Navy’s ship culture. He and his shipmates were quite naive. Everyone was a close-knit family. They learned to work together and many had to invent solutions to problems that come in wartime.
Craig affirmed the legends about drinking and cursing sailors. He said Vietnam era sailors prided themselves in their rowdy, hard-drinking behavior. He said, he was just a scared kid, in a terrible situation. The bad behavior was just a way of letting off steam. Craig never regretted his Navy service, but he certainly didn’t brag about it, either. As the years ticked by, the Kitty Hawk stint seemed more like a “summer job”. He wanted to live in the present, not the past.
A US Defense Department memo says that Navy Day was established on October 27, 1922 by the “Navy League”. The date was suggested by the league to recognize Theodore Roosevelt’s birthday. TR was a former Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He supported a strong Naval force, as well as the idea of a special Navy Day. Along with that, the date is the anniversary of the October 27, 1775 report authored by a special committee of the Continental Congress that advocated the purchase of
merchant ships to form the foundation of an American Navy.
The last federal celebration of Navy Day occurred in 1949. After that, Secretary of Defense, Louis Johnson directed that the US Navy’s celebration should coincide with Armed Forces Day in May. That is not to say that the traditional Navy Day is not celebrated. The Navy League continues to keep the traditional holiday alive.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes USN (chaplain) Lieutenant Howell Forgy. He is reputed to have said this while serving aboard the USS New Orleans during the attack on Pearl Harbor. “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.” The chaplain said this to the sailors as a way to provide moral support to them.