U.S. Military History: U.S. Navy Flag, Seal, and Song

Ross Dunfee

Flag—What do you think of by reading the following list: Fluked, Admiralty, Stockless, Grapnel, Herreshoff, Northill, CQR, Delta, Danforth, and Bruce? If your answer was “various kinds of anchors,” you are correct. The first (unofficial) flag of the Continental Navy, called the Infantry Battalion Flag, was adopted December 1864. It consisted of a dark blue Admiralty style fouled (cable wrapped around the stock or flutes) anchor on a white diamond with a dark blue background.

Seal—The Navy Seal went out of use after the Continental Navy was disbanded following the Revolutionary War, but a new seal was developed in 1798 for the U.S. Navy bearing the sea, a ship under sail, an eagle, and an anchor. That seal was in use until 1849. The 1850 seal underwent multiple design modifications until approved by President Eisenhower’s Executive Order 10736 on Oct. 23, 1957. That seal is the centerpiece of the U.S. Navy flag that was adopted by President Eisenhower on April 24, 1959.

Song—First, let us define some terms for “Anchors Aweigh.” “Anchors” is plural, meaning all ship anchors and not “anchor’s” (singular), a conjunctive meaning “the anchor is.” Second, “Aweigh” is an archaic Dutch/Flemish sailor term that means the anchors are clear of the sea bottom and the ship is officially underway and not “away,” meaning to leave.

There’s nothing like a little competition to bring out the best in people; especially an Army/Navy sports event. The year was 1906 when Midshipman First Class Alfred Miles, then enrolled in the U.S. Naval Academy, asked the Academy Bandmaster Lieutenant Charles Zimmermann to help compose a song for the class of 1907. The song was to be used at an Army/Navy football match Dec. 1, 1906. In front of a 30,000 strong cheering crowd, Navy won 10-0, GO NAVY! Because the song was specific for the Academy, lyrics and music of today’s popular version was later modified for the whole Navy.

Stand Navy out to sea, fight our battle cry!

We’ll never change our course so vicious foes steer shy-y-y-y!

Roll out the TNT, anchors aweigh!

Sail on to victory, and sink their bones to Davy Jones, hooray!

Anchors Aweigh, my boys, Anchors Aweigh!

Farewell to foreign shores, we sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay;

Through our last night ashore, drink to the foam,

Until we meet once more, here’s wishing you a happy voyage home!

In 1943, Elizabeth Ender and Betty St. Claire of the Women’s Naval Reserve (better known as the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) wrote “WAVES of the Navy” to harmonize with “Anchors Aweigh.”

There’s a ship sailing down the bay

And she won’t slip into port again

Until that Victory Day

Carry on for that gallant ship

And for every hero brave

Who will find ashore, his man-sized chore

Was done by a Navy WAVE

There are more verses to both songs. Ask a sailor to sing them to you.

SOT-AZ (Support Our Troops – Arizona) proudly places USA flags along the principal roadways in Robson Ranch on designated days to honor our military men and women who have sacrificed for our freedom. Visit supportourtroopsaz.org to learn more about SOT-AZ.