CLOSE
Original image
Getty Images

11 Things You Might Not Know About the U.S. Navy

Original image
Getty Images

Founded on October 13, 1775, by an order of the Continental Congress, the U.S. Navy is the largest navy in the world, and it is steeped in lore and tradition. Presidents, astronauts, artists, and athletes have worn its uniform, and untold thousands have lived by the words engraved on the Naval Academy chapel door: “Non sibi, sed patriae,” or: ”Not for self, but for country.” Here are eleven things you might not know about the Navy.

1. The Navy’s birthplace is in dispute.

Beverly, Massachusetts, and Marblehead, Massachusetts, have long argued over which was the birthplace of the Navy. Each town claims to be homeport of the schooner Hannah, the first armed sea vessel of the American Revolution, and founding boat of the U.S. Navy. (It was so named for Hannah Glover, wife of General John Glover of the 21st Marblehead Regiment.) Marblehead provided the crew; Beverly outfitted the ship. (The men of Marblehead are notable for another action during the American Revolution—they rowed General George Washington across the Delaware River just before the Battle of Trenton.)

Other cities vying for recognition as the birthplace of the Navy include Philadelphia, PA; Whitehall, NY; and Providence, RI. The Navy takes no position on its place of origin.

2. All submariners are volunteers.

Most attack submarines in the U.S. Navy are 33-feet wide and about the length of a football field. Ballistic missile submarines are the length of the Washington Monument. Submarines stay submerged for months at a time. There are no windows, there is no night and day, you have fifteen square feet of living space and no privacy—and there’s a nuclear reactor right behind you. They don’t just let anyone in a submarine. All submariners are volunteers, and have passed rigorous psychological and physical tests. Claustrophobics need not apply. Those serving on submarines are among the most highly trained personnel in the military.

3. How does the Navy name its ships?

In 1819, the United States Congress placed the Secretary of the Navy in charge of naming ships—a power he or she still enjoys. Generally, names are compiled by the Naval Historical Center based on the suggestions from the public, sailors, and retirees, and from naval history. The Chief of Naval Operations formally signs and recommends the list to the Secretary. Ships named for individuals are christened by “the eldest living female descendent” of that individual. Commissioned ships are prefixed with USS, which stands for United States Ship. Though the convention had been in use since the late eighteenth century, it was not standardized or formalized until 1907, by Teddy Roosevelt.

4. The Navy SEAL Trident is sometimes called the “Budweiser.”

The trident worn on the uniforms of Navy SEALs is officially designated as the “Special Warfare Insignia,” but it is sometimes called the “Budweiser,” named in part for the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) course, the grueling twenty-five week special warfare school. The trident also has an uncanny resemblance to the Anheuser-Busch logo.

5. Why was TOPGUN founded?

The United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program—previously called the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School, but more popularly, “TOPGUN”—was founded during the Vietnam War. The Navy was concerned by the poor performance of its air-to-air missile attacks against the North Vietnamese and ordered an evaluation of its combat aviation program. Inadequate crew training was decided to be at fault, and TOPGUN was established, where pilots would engage in realistic dogfight training against aircraft comparable to the enemy of the day. By the 1970s, Navy kill-to-loss rates went from 3.7:1 to 13:1—a testament to the profound and radical success of the program. It later became the basis of a Tom Cruise movie and, not to spoil anything, but don’t get too attached to Goose.

6. You’ve heard of a few people who know the words to Anchors Aweigh.

• Neil Armstrong flew armed reconnaissance as a Naval aviator during the Korean War. In 1951, he landed on Korean soil after his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire and he had to eject. Eighteen years later, he landed on a more famous patch of ground.

• There’s a good argument to be made that Robert Heinlein’s literary universe was influenced by his time at the United States Naval Academy, from which he graduated, and his time on the USS Lexington and USS Roper.

• Humphrey Bogart enlisted in the Navy in 1918 and served on the USS Leviathan and USS Santa Olivia.

• Before he was MC Hammer, he was AK3 Stanley Burrell (short for Petty Officer Third Class Aviation Storekeeper).

• Bob Barker’s time as a Navy fighter pilot means he's familiar with more means of transportation than just a new car!

7. NCIS isn’t just a TV show.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is a federal law enforcement agency operating from 140 locations in the world. Special agents for the largely civilian organization are charged with criminal investigations (obviously), counterterrorism, and counter-intelligence. It was founded as the Office of Naval Intelligence, and at the time was responsible for gathering information on foreign vessels, passengers, bodies of water, and naval infrastructure. During World War I, its mission expanded to espionage and sabotage. Today, it’s a cash cow for CBS.

8. If not for the Navy, James T. Kirk would have been captain of the USS Yorktown.

In the original pitch for Star Trek, the ship we know as the USS Enterprise was called the USS Yorktown. Gene Roddenberry renamed it in part for the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier whose maiden voyage was in 1962. The seafaring Enterprise was (and remains) the longest vessel in the U.S. Navy. Roddenberry felt that the starship at the heart of his series would have had a similar standing as the aircraft carrier, and a new Enterprise was christened.

9. In the Navy, there are no walls or bathrooms.

The Navy has a rich lexicon established by millennia of naval tradition. Ships don’t have walls, they have bulkheads. The mess deck is where you eat food, the deck is where you walk. The head is where you’ll find a toilet. The rack is where you sleep. Birds take off from the bird farm or, rather, planes take off from an aircraft carrier.

10. SEAL Team Six has an outlaw past.

When Richard Marcinko founded SEAL Team Six (so named because there were only two other SEAL Teams, and he wanted the Soviets to think the number was much larger), he did so quickly and effectively. Because the unit was so cloaked in secrecy, the best decisions weren’t always made about spending and training. Marcinko, a combat hero and visionary, went on to found a unit called Red Cell (designed to test military units, tactics, and security) and would later spend time in federal prison for defrauding the government. The present name (that we know of) for SEAL Team Six is the Naval Special Warfare Development Group.

11. The first admiral in the Navy was David Farragut.

Even if you’ve never heard the name, you know his words, allegedly spoken at the Battle of Mobile Bay: “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” (It’s unknown whether he spoke those exact words—different accounts give slight variations.) He was commissioned into the U.S. Navy at age nine. His adoptive father, Captain David Porter, probably had some hand in this. At age twelve, Farragut fought in the War of 1812. Though he was born in Tennessee, he remained steadfastly loyal to the Union during the Civil War, and after he seized the city of New Orleans, was promoted to Rear Admiral—a rank created specially for him by Congress. President Lincoln later promoted him to Vice Admiral (Farragut would later be a pallbearer at Lincoln’s funeral). Following the war, he was made the first Admiral of the Navy.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Pop Culture
5 Bizarre Comic-Con News Stories from Years Past
Original image
iStock

At its best, Comic-Con is a friendly place where like-minded people can celebrate their pop culture obsessions, and each other. And no one can make fun of you, no matter how lazy your cosplaying might be. You might think that at its worst, it’s just a series of long lines of costumed fans and small stores crammed into a convention center. But sometimes, throwing together 100,000-plus people from around the world in what feels like a carnival-type atmosphere where anything goes can have less than stellar results. Here are some highlights from past Comic-Con-tastrophes.

1. MAN IN HARRY POTTER T-SHIRT STABS ANOTHER MAN IN THE FACE—WITH A PEN

In 2010, two men waiting for a Comic-Con screening of the Seth Rogen alien comedy Paul got into a very adult argument about whether one of them was sitting too close to the other. Unable to come to a satisfactory conclusion with words, one man stabbed the other in the face with a pen. According to CNN, the attacker was led away wearing handcuffs and a Harry Potter T-shirt. In the aftermath, some Comic-Con attendees dealt with the attack in an oddly fitting way: They cosplayed as the victim, with pens protruding from bloody eye sockets.

2. MEMORABILIA THIEVES INVADE NEW YORK

Since its founding in 2006, New York Comic Con has attracted a few sticky-fingered attendees. In 2010, a man stole several rare comics from vendor Matt Nelson, co-founder of Texas’ Worldwide Comics. Just one of those, Whiz Comics No. 1, was worth $11,000, according to the New York Post. A few years later, in 2014, someone stole a $2000 “Dunny” action figure, which artist Jon-Paul Kaiser had painted during the event for Clutter magazine. And those are just the incidents that involved police; lower-scale cases of toys and comics disappearing from booths are an increasingly frustrating epidemic, according to some. “Comic Con theft is an issue we all sort of ignore,” collector Tracy Isenhour wrote on the blog of his company, Needless Essentials, in 2015. “I am here to tell you no more. It’s time for this garbage to stop."

3. CATWOMAN SAVES THE DAY

John Sciulli/Getty Images for Xbox

Adrianne Curry, winner of the first cycle of America’s Next Top Model, has made a career of chasing viral fame. Ironically, it was at Comic-Con in 2014 that Curry did something truly worthy of attention—though there wasn’t a camera in sight. Dressed as Catwoman, she was posing with fans alongside her friend Alicia Marie, who was dressed as Tigra. According to a Facebook post Marie wrote at the time, a fan tried to shove his hands into her bikini bottoms. She screamed, the man ran off, and Curry jumped to action. She “literally took off after dude WITH her Catwoman whip and chased him down, beat his a**,” Marie wrote. “Punched him across the face with the butt of her whip—he had zombie blood on his face—got on her costume.”

4. MAN POSES AS FUGITIVE-SEEKING INVESTIGATOR TO GET INTO VIP ROOM

The lines at Comic-Con are legendary, so one Utah man came up with a novel way to try and skip them altogether. In 2015, Jonathon M. Wall tried to get into Salt Lake Comic Con’s exclusive VIP enclave (normally a $10,000 ticket) by claiming he was an agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and needed to get into the VIP room “to catch a fugitive,” according to The San Diego Union Tribune. Not only does that story not even come close to making sense, it also adds up to impersonating a federal agent, a crime to which Wall pleaded guilty in April of this year and which carried a sentence of up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In June, prosecutors announced that they were planning to reduce his crime from a felony to a misdemeanor.

5. MAN WALKS 645 MILES TO COMIC-CON, DRESSED AS A STORMTROOPER, TO HONOR HIS LATE WIFE

Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Disney

In 2015, Kevin Doyle walked 645 miles along the California coast to honor his late wife, Eileen. Doyle had met Eileen relatively late in life, when he was in his 50s, and they bonded over their shared love of Star Wars (he even proposed to her while dressed as Darth Vader). However, she died of cancer barely a year after they were married. Adrift and lonely, Doyle decided to honor her memory and their love of Star Wars by walking to Comic-Con—from San Francisco. “I feel like I’m so much better in the healing process than if I’d stayed home,” he told The San Diego Union Tribune.

Original image
iStock // Lucy Quintanilla
arrow
Words
10 Pieces of Lying Lingo from Across the United States
Original image
iStock // Lucy Quintanilla

Maligner. Fabricator. Fibber. Con artist. There are all sorts of ways you can say "liar," but in case you're running out, we’ve worked with the editors at the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) to come up with 10 more pieces of lying lingo to add to your storytelling stash.

1. HASSAYAMPA

This term for a liar originally referred to a gold-rusher in Arizona, according to DARE. It can also be used to describe an old-timer, especially one who likes to exaggerate. The word hassayampa (also hassayamper) comes from the Hassayampa River, which is located in the Grand Canyon State. According to the Dictionary of American Folklore, “There was a popular legend that anyone who drank of the Hassayampa River in Arizona would never again tell the truth.”

2. JACOB

“You’re a Jacob!” you might say to a deceiver in eastern Alabama or western Georgia. This word—meaning a liar, a lie, and to lie—might be based on the Bible story of twin brothers Jacob and Esau. Esau, the elder and firstborn, stood to inherit his parents' estate by law. At the behest of his mother, Jacob deceived their father, blinded in old age, into thinking he was Esau and persuaded him to bestow him Esau’s blessing.

3. LIZA

Liza or Liza Jane can mean a lie or a liar. Hence, to lizar means to lie. Like Jacob, Liza is an eastern Alabama and western Georgia term. However, where it comes from isn’t clear. But if we had to guess, we’d say it’s echoic of lies.

4. STORY

“What a story you are,” you might say to a prevaricator in Virginia, eastern Alabama, or western Georgia. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), story, meaning a liar, is mainly used in the phrase, “You story!” Story as a verb meaning “to give a false or malicious account, lie, tattle,” is an English dialect word, according to DARE, and is chiefly used in the South and South Midland states. “You storied to me about getting a drink,” you might tell someone who stood you up.

5. LOAD

To load or load up means to trick, mislead, or “deceive by yarns or windies,” according to cowboy lingo in northwest Texas. The term, which can also be a noun meaning a lie or liar, might also be heard in northwest Arkansas and the Ozarks.

6. YARN

To spin a yarn, or to tell a long tale, began as nautical slang, according to the OED, and comes from the idea of telling stories while doing seated work such as yarn-twisting. (The word yarn comes from the Old English gearn, meaning "spun fiber, spun wool.") By extension, a yarn is a sometimes marvelous or incredible story or tale, and to yarn means to tell a story or chat. In some parts of the U.S., such as Arkansas, Indiana, Maryland, and Tennessee, to yarn means to lie or tell a falsehood. “Don’t yarn to me!” you might say. Street yarn refers to gossip in New York, Kentucky, and parts of New England.

7. WINDY

Telling a windy in the West? You’re telling an “extravagantly exaggerated or boastful story,” a tall tale, or a lie, says DARE. Wind has meant “vain imagination or conceit” since the 15th century, says OED.

8. LIE

In addition to being a falsehood or tall tale, a lie in the South and South Midland states can refer to the liar himself.

9. STRETCH THE BLANKET

You’ve probably heard of stretching the truth. How about stretching the blanket? This phrase meaning to lie or exaggerate is especially used in the South Midland states. To split the blanket, by the way, is a term in the South, South Midland, and West meaning to get divorced, while being born on the wrong side of the blanket means being born out of wedlock, at least in Indiana and Ohio.

10. WHACK

In the South and South Midland, whack refers to a lie or the act of lying. It might come from the British English colloquial term whacker, meaning anything abnormally large, especially a “thumping lie” or “whopper,” according to the OED. In case you were wondering, wack, as in “crack is wack,” is probably a back-formation from wacky meaning crazy or odd, also according to the OED. Wacky comes from whack, a blow or hit, maybe from the idea of being hit in the head too many times.

SECTIONS

More from mental floss studios