The US Navy's Birthday
annually on October 13th (since 1972)
Elmo Zumwalt in 1972
Military & Patriotic
The Continental Congress established the Continental Navy on October 13, 1775. It was at this time they decided to purchase two armed vessels, which were to disrupt ships supplying the British Army in America and safeguard American trade, which was being blockaded by the British. The Continental Congress also passed a resolution creating a naval committee, which oversaw the purchase of ships and wrote a set of regulations for their management.
In 1972, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo Zumwalt officially designated October 13 as the US Navy's Birthday. He directed it to be observed to enhance appreciation of the Navy's heritage and to reinforce pride and professionalism in the Naval Service. Each Chief of Naval Operations since has encouraged a celebration throughout the Navy. In recent years, there have been themes for the day. For example, in 2023 the theme was "Forged by the Sea." The US Navy's Birthday is a different holiday from Navy Day, which takes place later in the month and recognizes the service of Navy members.
The Navy's first overseas expedition took place in February 1776, when Commodore Esek Hopkins was sent with 8 vessels to remove British raiders on coastal waters. He headed all the way to the Bahamas and occupied New Providence Island. The Navy disbanded following the 1783 victory in the Revolutionary War. Continental Navy ships were sold and soldiers returned to civilian life.
However, the Navy was reestablished on March 27, 1794, when the need arose to defend the young country's maritime commerce. Congress authorized the construction or purchase of six frigates. The Navy's first captains, six in total, were appointed in June, and put in charge of overseeing construction of the frigates. Three of the ships set sail in 1797: the USS United States, USS Constitution, and USS Constellation. The Constitution still floats today, and is the world's oldest commissioned naval warship.
The Department of the Navy was created by Congress on April 30, 1798, and the first Secretary of the Navy, Benjamin Stoddert, was appointed the following month. In the next few years, the size of the Navy grew exponentially to almost 30 ships, 700 officers, and 5,000 seamen. Today the Navy has thousands of ships and aircraft stationed around the world.
How to Observe The US Navy's Birthday
- If you are part of the Navy, celebrate with fellow sailors. Common activities are the reading of birthday messages from the Chief of Naval Operations and Secretary of the Navy, bell ringing, cake cutting, and the singing of "Anchors Aweigh." Some other activities include attending luncheons, Navy band performances, Navy Birthday Balls, parades, and speeches.
- Explore resources for the commemoration and resources about the origin of the Navy from the Naval History and Heritage Command.
- Read a book about American Naval History, such as Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy.
- Read All Hands, the online magazine of the US Navy.
- Visit and tour the USS Constitution.
- Visit the National Museum of the US Navy.
- Join the US Navy.