Armed Forces Day: "The Navy has Both a Tradition and a Future"

2011: Sailors assigned to amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) practice for the San Diego Padres' opening day flag ceremony.

By MarEx 2016-05-20 18:41:24

The U.S. armed services will be honored on Saturday for serving both domestically and overseas as a part of Armed Forces Day. Former President Harry S. Truman, who served during World War One, helped create the day to celebrate and thank all branches: the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy. 

A Celebration of Famous Navy Quotes (Credit: Naval History and Heritage Command)

"...without a Respectable Navy, Alas America!" - Captain John Paul Jones, October 17, 1776, in a letter to Robert Morris. [Morgan, William James ed. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. vol. 6.]

"I have not yet begun to fight!" - Captain John Paul Jones said this during the famous battle between Bonhomme Richard and Serapis on September 23, 1779. It seems that some of Jones' men cried for surrender, but not John Paul Jones. Captain Richard Pearson of Serapis asked Jones if he had surrendered. Jones uttered the immortal words: "I have not yet begun to fight!" So, at least, Lt. Richard Dale later recalled.

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." - President George Washington, 15 November 1781, to Marquis de Lafayette. 

"Don't give up the ship!" - Tradition has it that Captain James Lawrence said these heroic words after being mortally wounded in the engagement between his ship, the U.S. frigate Chesapeake and HMS Shannon on June 1, 1813. As the wounded Lawrence was carried below, he ordered "Tell the men to fire faster! Don't give up the ship!"

Although Chesapeake was forced to surrender, Captain Lawrence's words lived on as a rallying cry during the war. Oliver Hazard Perry honored his dead friend Lawrence when he had the motto sewn onto the private battle flag flown during the Battle of Lake Erie, September 10, 1813.

"Damn the torpedoes, Full speed ahead!" - Admiral David Glasgow Farragut (1801-1870). Aboard Hartford, Farragut entered Mobile Bay, Alabama, August 5, 1864, in two columns, with armored monitors leading and a fleet of wooden ships following. When the lead monitor Tecumseh was demolished by a mine, the wooden ship Brooklyn stopped, and the line drifted in confusion toward Fort Morgan. As disaster seemed imminent, Farragut gave the orders embodied by these famous words. He swung his own ship clear and headed across the mines, which failed to explode. The fleet followed and anchored above the forts, which, now isolated, surrendered one by one. The torpedoes to which Farragut and his contemporaries referred would today be described as tethered mines.

"You may fire when you are ready Gridley." - Commodore George Dewey, May 1, 1898, at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War. The American squadron entered Manila Bay and took fire from the Spanish fleet, anchored under the guns of Cavite, for half an hour until in the position Dewey wanted. Then Dewey addressed his order to Charles Gridley, captain of Dewey's flagship Olympia.

"A good Navy is not a provocation to war. It is the surest guaranty of peace." - President Theodore Roosevelt, 2 December 1902, second annual message to Congress.

"Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!" - Lieutenant Howell Maurice Forgy, USN (ChC), serving in the heavy cruiser USS New Orleans (CA-32) during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, is credited with coining the phrase. Lieutenant Forgy saw the men of an ammunition party tiring as they labored to bring shells to the antiaircraft guns. Barred by his non-combatant status from actively participating in keeping the guns firing, Lieutenant Forgy decided that he could add his moral support to the ammunition bearers through words of encouragement, and so patted the men on the back and said, "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!"

"Take her down!" - Commander Howard Walter Gilmore, desperately wounded and unable to climb back into his submarine, USS Growler (SS-215), in the face of an approaching Japanese gunboat 7 February 1943.

"The Navy has both a tradition and a future--and we look with pride and confidence in both directions." - Admiral George Anderson, CNO, August 1, 1961.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.