Yes, there are two celebrations by the U.S. Navy in the month of October.
Happy Navy Day was established by the Navy League of the United States (NLUS), a national association with nearly 50,000 members who advocate for a strong, credible United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, United States Coast Guard,
and U.S. Merchant Marine. The civilian organization was founded in 1902 after suggestion was made by Theodore Roosevelt. It describes itself as an “organization dedicated to the education of our citizens, including our elected officials, and the support of the men and women of the sea services and their families.”
The NLUS established the first Navy Day on October 27 1922, because it was the birthday of President Theodore Roosevelt, who was responsible for the organization in the first place.
However, in the 1970s, the actual “birthday” of the Continental Navy was determined to be October 13, 1775. Shortly thereafter, Chief Naval Officer (CNO) Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt worked with the Navy League to allow October 13 to be the new date of Navy Day. Regardless, Navy Day is still largely recognized as October 27. Navy Day was last observed on Oct. 27, 1949. but October 13 is generally considered to be the birthday of the U.S. Navy.
There are a couple of key points in the history of the U.S. Navy. On October 13, 1775, the Continental Congress officially established a small naval force, to offset the uncontested exercise of British sea power by working with privateers to wage tactical raids against the transports that supplied British forces in North America. To accomplish this mission, the Continental Congress purchased, converted, and constructed a fleet of small ships: frigates, brigs, sloops and schooners. Then, during the War of Independence, the Continental Navy “took nearly 200 British vessels as prizes, some off the British Isles themselves, contributing to the demoralization of the enemy and forcing the British to divert warships to protect convoys and trade routes.” These successes contributed towards the end of the war and allowed the formation of our new nation.
Then came the USS Constitution, which is now the oldest ship afloat in the world today. During the Revolutionary War, President George Washington signed the Naval Armament Act on March 27, 1794 which called for the construction of six frigates. One of these ships was the 44-gun USS CONSTITUTION, which was launched on Oct. 21, 1797.
Although the USS Constitution had won all of its engagements in the “Quasi War with France (1798-1801) and the Barbary Wars (1801-1805)”, she truly gained its fame during the War of 1812.
During the war, the British were surprised with the ship’s heavier broadsides, its sailing ability and the fact that many of its bounced off harmlessly off its hull. During an engagement with the British ship HMS Guerrière, an American sailor reportedly exclaimed, “Huzzah! her sides are made of iron!” after which the USS Constitution soon acquired the nickname, “Old Ironsides”.
Although the USS Constitution “had no direct effect on the course of the war”, her successes brought “uplift American morale spectacularly and, in the process, end forever the myth that the Royal Navy was invincible.”
The bookends of the U.S. Navy started with its creation in October 13, 1775, and could considered to presently end with the generally unknown development of the unmanned underwater vehicle (UVV), also known as the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) or just plain underwater drone. Who knows what its next generation invention will be for the U.S. Navy.
We veterans salute the U.S. Navy on its celebration of its 293rd Birthday and its lesser known Happy Navy Day.
Note: a great research tool for those interested in the USS Constitution can be found here.