Annapolis: Shrine of Naval History

Article excerpt

We take a look at the revered school on the Servern River where Naval Academy midshipmen learn what it takes to become fledgling Naval officers

The United States Naval Academy Museum is an educational and inspirational resource for the Naval Academy Brigade of Midshipmen, other students of American Naval history, and thousands of visitors each year.

Founded as the Naval School in 1845, the USNA today is a 4-yr service academy that prepares midshipmen morally, mentally, and physically to be professional officers in the Naval service. The Academy itself is located on 338-acres of land between the south bank of the Severn River and historic downtown Annapolis, the State capital of Maryland. Annapolis is 33-mi east of Washington, DC, and 30-mi southeast of the port of Baltimore, home of Fort McHenry.

The Yard - as the beautiful campus is called - features tree-lined brick walks, French Renaissance and contemporary architecture, and scenic vistas of the Chesapeake Bay. The Bancroft Hall dormitory complex, the Cathedral of the Navy, and other decades-old buildings make the Academy a National Historic Site. Other facilities, such as the multi-purpose Alumni Hall, Nimitz Library with more than half a million volumes, Rickover Hall engineering complex, and Hendrix Oceanography Laboratory, give the Academy state-of-the-art educational resources.

Bancroft Hall - named after former Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft - is home for the entire Brigade of 4000 midshipmen, and contains about 1700 rooms, nearly 5-mi of corridors and nearly 33-acres of floor space, making it one of the largest single dormitories in the United States. All of the basic facilities midshipmen need for daily living are found in the Hall.

Although the living areas of Bancroft Hall are off limits to visitors, several other areas are open. These include the vast Rotunda and Memorial Hall, I dedicated to alumni killed in action.

History is literally everywhere on the campus at the USNA. Great moments and heroes in American Naval and Marine history are represented throughout Yard in statues and paintings, ships models, plaques, and buildings.

The Marine Corps provides the honor guard for the Superintendent, and guards as well the Tomb of John Paul Jones - the venerable "Father of the Navy" - and all Academy gates, as seen in the film version of the Tom Clancy novel Patriot Games.

The statue of the Indian warrior Tecumseh is located in front of Bancroft Hall in TCourt. As "lord of football games" and "god of 2.0," Tecumseh is bedecked in full war paint before all football games and the traditional game against Army. Before exams and football games, pennies and left-handed salutes are thrown his way for good luck.

The 600-member Naval Academy faculty is an integrated group of military and civilian instructors in approximately equally numbers. The student-faculty ratio is low, with most class sizes ranging from ten to 22 students.

Midshipmen study subjects such as small arms, drill, seamanship and navigation, tactics, Naval engineering, Naval weapons, leadership, ethics, and military law during the four-year program. In addition, midshipmen train at US Naval bases and on ships in the fleet during part of each summer.

Upon graduation, Bachelor of Science degrees specifying a major field are awarded to midshipmen in the Navy. They receive Reserve commissions as ensigns in the US Navy or second lieutenants in the US Marine Corps, and serve at least 5-yrs in exciting and rewarding careers as officers.

Initially, when Secretary Bancroft established the Naval School at thenFt. Severn in 1845, there were but 50 midshipmen taught by four officers and a trio of civilian professors. In 1850, the Naval School became the United States Naval Academy, the undergraduate college of the US Navy. The current curriculum of four consecutive years was also adopted in 1850.

During the American Civil War, the Academy moved to Newport, Rhode Island, and after the Union victory of 1865 returned to Annapolis. …