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The History of the United States Naval Academy

While The United States Military Academy has the distinct position of being the oldest service academy in the country, the United States Naval Academy isn’t too far behind.

The Naval Academy Sets Sail

Established in 1845 by George Bancroft, the then-Secretary of the U.S. Navy, the Naval Academy has resided in Annapolis, Maryland for nearly 175 years.

Located away from the hustle and bustle of Baltimore, Bancroft strategically chose Annapolis to seclude midshipmen (the Naval equivalent of cadets) from the temptations of sinful city life.

In its first years, the school (referred to then as The Naval School) didn’t receive any Congressional funding. The first class had only 50 midshipmen, seven professors, and a basic academic curriculum.

In 1850, however, the school officially became the United States Naval Academy and received federal funding. Class sizes increased, curriculum became more sophisticated, and wooden buildings became granite.

After 130 years as an all-male institution, the Naval Academy began to admit women in 1975. This means that the class of 1980 was the first to graduate female midshipmen and commission them as naval officers.

The Naval Academy Experience

Unlike most civilian schools, midshipmen at the Naval Academy aren’t referred to as seniors, juniors, etc. Instead, they are considered fourth class (plebes), third class, second class, and first class (seniors).

As a whole, the student body makes up the Brigade of Midshipmen, as opposed to the student body.

One of the all-time favorite traditions at the Naval Academy involves climbing a pole covered in greasy lard. As a right of passage for plebes to become third-class midshipmen, the youngest class must race to the top of the monument and swap out a dixie cup for a traditional cover. Referred to as the Herndon Monument Climb, this tradition requires teamwork and a lot of fortitude.

Steam tunnels also characterize the Naval Academy, as these underground tunnels are the location of many student-body pranks. Also known as the Ho Chi Minh trail, the steam tunnels see a lot of action leading up to the Army-Navy game.

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