To honor the United States Navy’s 240th birthday, an “Eight Bell” ceremony was held Tuesday at all land stations and aboard all ships.
Article I of the United States Constitution directs Congress to raise an army as needed – but to maintain and provide for a navy. On October 13, 1775 the Continental Congress voted to outfit two sailing vessels – the Andrew Doria and the Cabot. Their mission: intercept transports of munitions and stores meant for the British army in the Colonies.
Part of the 30-minute ceremony outside NAS Pensacola headquarters was a birthday greeting from Admiral J. M. Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations, as read by the event’s narrator.
“Our ships, submarines and aircraft form the muscle and bones of the Navy, but the heart and the soul of our Navy is you, our people,” Richardson’s greeting read. “Every day around the world, our people can be found on, under, and over the sea. You are smart, resourceful, and committed Americans, who want to be part of something special.”
The featured speaker was Capt. Keith Hoskins, NAS Pensacola’s Commanding Officer. He told the gathering that whenever America has called, the Navy has answered, starting with the Barbary War and War of 1812, and onward.
“One hundred fifty years ago Admiral Farragut sailed up Mobile Bay during the Civil War,” said Hoskins. “One hundred years ago, as the First World War began, we prepared a convoy of operations and anti-submarine missions. Seventy years ago, sailors and Marines fought their way across the Pacific, heading towards Japan.”
Hoskins provided some numbers, to back up the argument that the need for naval power has never been greater. About half of the world’s population lives 60 miles or less from a shoreline. Ninety percent of global trade is on the sea, and 95% of online transactions travel through underwater lines.
“America’s Navy is the primary protector of this international system,” said Hoskins. “We keep the sea lanes open, we keep freedom of navigation open for anybody who is engaged in peaceful and legitimate trade.”
And Hoskins says in the years to come, look for a larger U. S. Navy presence around the globe – a forward presence of about 120 ships by 2020, up from an average of 97 last year. In Europe, advance radar sites in Rumania and Poland are aimed at protecting against potential missile threats within the region.
The tradition of bell ringing to mark time in the Navy dates before the invention of the chronometer. The bell is struck once at the end of the first 30 minutes of a four-hour watch, twice after the first hour, and so forth. The ninth bell traditionally signals the start of a new watch. In this case, it’s the start of a new year.
Two hundred-40 years after the Andrew Doria and the Cabot, the U. S. Navy has a fleet of 271 ships, about 4,000 aircraft, 328,000 active sailors, a 110,000 member reserve, and nearly 200,000 civilian employees.