The Navy is steeped in tradition, from wog day to honor, courage and commitment. There are the dress whites and the dress blues, but before any Sailor can tie the square knot on a neckerchief they have to learn a few things, and one of them is “Anchors Aweigh.”
Beginning in boot camp, every enlisted Sailor walks through a tunnel and sings in their loudest, if not best voice: “Roll out the TNT!”
“Every time I hear “Anchors Aweigh,” I think about boot camp, and that was twenty years ago,” said Senior Chief Fire Controlman (SW/AW) Jonas Carter, LCPO of Training Department.
Boot camp may have changed over the years, it may have consolidated into one location and updated its battle stations evolution, but the tradition of recruits singing “Anchors Aweigh” has been a constant.
“At first I was nervous and worried about trying to get the words right,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuels) 3rd Class James Hiatt, who works in Air Department’s V-4 division. “But then it became a competition between the divisions to see who could sing better and louder. We all had fun doing it. It was good for team-building. At first I didn’t pay attention to the words, but after I had it memorized, it helped give me an idea of what it was like to be a Sailor back in the day.”
“Anchors Aweigh,” a time honored tradition in the Navy, was composed in 1906 by Lt. Charles Zimmerman, and the lyrics were written by Midshipman First Class Alfred Hart Miles.
The song was introduced on Dec. 1, 1906, during an Army-Navy football game that the Navy won 10-0. It was played that day as a “football march,” or what is today known as a “fight song.”
“The song means that you are part of something better than yourself,” said Ensign Matthew Nechak, a former defensive end for the Navy football team, who now works in Supply Department’s S-6 division. “We sang the original first verse after every game we won. It explains our number one goal for the football season: beat Army.”
“Anchors Aweigh” is still used as a fight song for the Navy football team, but it has also come to represent the entire Navy, because its lyrics have evolved.
What was once “Stand Navy down the field,” has become “Stand Navy out to sea.” Instead of “Army you steer shy-y-y-y,” we now sing “Vicious foe steer shy-y-y-y.”
The reason for the evolution of the lyrics was to make them more applicable to the Navy as a whole. By 1950 an updated version was published by George D. Lottman and Domenico Savino. Lottman worked on making the lyrics a bit more broad, while Savino tweaked the melody.
Lines like “Farewell to college joys,” became “Farewell to foreign shores.” That update was one of many that brought on the song the Navy sings today. It wasn’t immediate.
“Keeping traditions alive in our changing Navy is a necessity, because it’s our heritage, it’s where we have evolved from,” said Carter. “The traditions of the men and women who came before us tie our Sailors to them. I couldn’t imagine today’s Navy without them. They’re what we’re based off of.”
Like many of the traditions in the Navy, “Anchors Aweigh” has been modified to fit the Navy of the modern world. It may sound a little different now than when Sailors of old sang it, but the sentiment remains.