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Encyclopedia > U.S. Naval Academy
Teamwork: Fourth Class Midshipmen lock arms and use ropes made from uniform items as they brace themselves climbing the Herndon Monument

The United States Naval Academy, or USNA, is an institution for the undergraduate education of officers of the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps. Its campus is located in Annapolis, Maryland, on the banks of the Severn River. Students at the Naval Academy are referred to by their military rank, Midshipman and never as "cadets." Upon graduation, Naval Academy Midshipmen are commissioned as Ensigns in the U.S. Navy or Second Lieutenants in the Marine Corps, and must serve a minimum of five years after their commissioning.

The Academy is often referred to simply as "Annapolis" although naval officers normally refer to it in conversation as "the Academy" or "the Boat School," while Midshipmen at the Academy often refer to the town of Annapolis as "Crab Town." U.S. sports media refer to the Academy as Navy, and this usage is officially endorsed. ROTC and Officer Candidate School graduates as well as cadets from the Air Force Academy and the Military Academy at West Point (USNA's traditional rivals) often refer to the Naval Academy as "Canoe U."

There is no graduate school directly associated with the Naval Academy. Instead, the Navy operates the Naval Postgraduate School and the Naval War College separately. The Naval Academy Preparatory School is the official prep school for the Navy and Coast Guard Academies.



Interior of the Naval Academy chapel
Interior of the Naval Academy chapel

It has grown from a 40,000 mē (10-acre) Army post named Fort Severn in 1845 to a 137 kmē (338-acre) campus in the 21st century. Its principal buildings are:

  • the Nimitz library (housing the departments of Language Studies and Political Science, as well as the library collection itself);
  • Rickover Hall (housing the departments of Mechanical Engineering, Naval Ocean Engineering, Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering);
  • Maury Hall (housing the departments of Weapons and Systems Engineering as well as Electrical Engineering);
  • Michelson Hall (housing the departments of Computer Science and Chemistry);
  • Chauvenet Hall (normally housing the departments of Physics and Mathematics, but closed for renovations beginning the summer of 2004);
  • Sampson Hall (housing the departments of English and History);
  • Mahan Hall (containing a theater along with the old library, which has now been converted into a lounge and meeting room);
  • the chapel;
  • Alumni Hall (capable of holding the entire Brigade of Midshipmen and hosting various sporting events, such as basketball);
  • Bancroft Hall (the Midshipmen's quarters & the world's largest dormitory);
  • the Officers' and Faculty Club; and officers' quarters spread around the Yard.

Supervision of the Academy

The academy was placed in 1850 the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography, but was transferred to the Bureau of Navigation when that organization was established in 1862. The academy was placed under the direct care of the Navy Department in 1867, but for many years the Bureau of Navigation provided administrative routine and financial management.

As of 2004, the Superintendent of the Naval Academy reports directly to the Chief of Naval Operations.


The faculty is roughly evenly divided between civilian professors and military instructors. The civilian professors nearly all have a Ph.D. and can be awarded tenure, usually upon promotion from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor. Very few of the military instructors have a Ph.D. but nearly all have a Master's degree. Most of them are assigned to the Academy for two or three years only.

Permanent Military Professors (PMP)

A small number of military instructors are designated as Permanent Military Professors (PMP) and all of these have a Ph.D. The PMPs remain at the Academy until statutory retirement. Most of them are commanders in the Navy; a few are captains. Like civilian professors, they seek academic promotion to the rank of Associate Professor and Professor. However, they are not eligible for tenure. Additionally, there are Adjunct Professors, hired to fill temporary shortages in various disciplines. The Adjunct Professors are not eligible for tenure.

Midshipmen activities

The Naval Academy's sports teams are called the Midshipmen, or Mids for short. They are NEVER referred to as "Middies," as Midshipmen find this term to be highly derogatory. They participate in the NCAA's Division I-A as an independent in football, and in the Patriot League in many other sports. The mascot is a goat named 'Bill'. Participation in athletics is mandatory at the Naval Academy, and Midshipmen not on an intercollegiate team all must participate actively in intramural sports. Midshipmen also have the opportunity to participate in a broad range of extracurricular activities including performing musical groups (Drum & Bugle Corps, Men's Glee Club, Women's Glee Club, Gospel Choir, and even a bagpipe band, the Pipes & Drums), religious organizations, academic honor societies, Campus Girl Scouts, the National Eagle Scout Association, a radio station, Navy and Marine Corps professional activities (diving, flying, seamanship, and the Semper Fidelis Society for future Marines), and a broad range of non-NCAA club sports including rugby, hockey and even a completely unofficial (but previous National Champion) croquet team.


The institution was founded as the Naval School in 1845 by Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft. The campus was established at Annapolis on the grounds of the former U.S. Army post Fort Severn. The school opened on October 10 with 50 Midshipmen students and seven professors.

Originally a course of study for five years was prescribed, but only the first and last were spent at the school, the other three being passed at sea. The present name was adopted when the school was reorganized in 1850, being placed under the supervision of the chief of the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography, and under the immediate charge of the superintendent, and the course of study was extended to seven years; the first two and the last two to be spent at the school, the intervening three years to be passed at sea. The four years of study were made consecutive in 1851, and the practice cruises were substituted for the three consecutive years at sea. The first class of Naval Academy students graduated on June 10, 1854.

The Civil War years

At the outbreak of the American Civil War the three upper classes were detached and were ordered to sea, and the academy was removed to Fort Adams, Newport, Rhode Island in May 1861, but it was brought back to Annapolis in the summer of 1865.

From the Civil War to World War I

The Spanish-American War greatly emphasized the academy's importance, and the campus was almost wholly rebuilt and much enlarged in 1899-1906.

Notable Graduates

During the latter half of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th, the Naval Academy was the primary source of U.S. Naval officers. Naval Academy alumni thus represent many of the U.S. Navy's most famous names.

Pre-Civil War

Civil War to 1900

1900 to World War II

1945 to Present

  • Vice Admiral James Stockdale, (1923- ), Class of 1946 - Vietnam-era Naval Aviator & POW; Medal of Honor recipient; Vice-presidential candidate (Reform Party, 1992)
  • President James Earl Carter, Jr., (1924- ), Class of 1946 - Post-WW II submariner; Governor of Georgia; 39th President of the United States, 1977-1981
  • Admiral William J. Crowe, (1925- ), Class of 1947 - Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff 1985-1989, Ambassador to the United Kingdom 1994-1997.
  • Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), (1936- ), Class of 1958 - Vietnam-era Naval Aviator & POW; U.S. Senator
  • Lt. Col. Oliver North (1943- ), Class of 1968 - U.S. Marine and Vietnam veteran, White House aide (famous for his role in the Iran-Contra affair), author, host of FOX News' "War Stories," and talk-radio host
  • James H. Webb, Jr., (1946- ), Class of 1968 - U.S. Marine and Vietnam veteran; Assistant Secretary of Defense; Secretary of the Navy 1987-88; noted American novelist

Graduates famous outside of the Navy

Appointment Process

By an Act of Congress passed in 1903, two appointments as Midshipmen (as the students have been called since 1902; "naval cadets" and "cadet Midshipmen" were term used at various times in the latter half of the 19th century) were allowed for each senator, representative, and delegate in Congress, two for the District of Columbia, and five each year at large. Currently each member of Congress and the Vice President can have five appointees attending the Naval Academy at any time. When any appointee graduates or otherwise leaves the academy, a vacancy is created. Candidates are nominated by their senator, representative, or delegate in Congress, and those appointed at large are nominated by the Vice President. The process is not political and applicants do not have to know their Congressman to be nominated. Congressman generally nominate ten people per vacancy. They can nominate people in a competitive manner, or they can have a principal nomination. In a competitive nomination, all ten applicants are reviewed by the academy, to see who is the most qualified. If the congressman appoints a principal nominee, then as long as that candidate is physically, medically, and academically found qualified by the academy, he will be admitted, even if there are more qualified applicants.

Additional sources of appointment are open to sons and daughters of career military personnel (100 per year); 170 appointments per year are for active duty Navy and Marine Corps enlisted personnel; 20 appointments per year are provided for Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Midshipmen; and 65 appointments are available to sons and daughters of military members who were killed in action, or were rendered 100% disabled due to injuries received in action, or are currently prisoners of war or missing in action. Typically five to ten candidates are nominated for each appointment, which are normally awarded competetively; candidates who do not receive the appointment they are competing for may still be admitted to the Academy as a qualified alternate. If a candidate is considered qualified but not picked up, they may receive an indirect admission to either a Naval Academy Foundation prep school or the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport; the following year, these candidates receive direct appointment to the Academy.

Additionally, sons or daughters of Medal of Honor winners do not need an appointment but only need to qualify for admission. To be admitted, candidates must be an American citizen between seventeen and twenty-three years of age upon entrance, unmarried with no children, and of good moral character. The current process includes a university application, personality testing, standardized testing, and personal references.


Congress authorized the Naval Academy to begin awarding Bachelor of Science degrees in 1933. The Academy later replaced a fixed curriculum taken by all midshipmen with the present core curriculum plus 20 major fields of study, a wide variety of elective courses and advanced study and research opportunities. Information Technology was added in 2001 as the newest major.

Women at the Naval Academy

The Naval Academy first accepted women as Midshipmen in 1976, when Congress authorized the admission of women to all of the service academies. Women comprise about 20 percent of entering plebes—or freshmen—and they pursue the same academic and professional training as do their male classmates.

Items of Interest at the Academy

  • Japanese Bell. This was brought back to the United States by Commodore Matthew Perry following his famous mission to Japan in 1851. The bell is placed in front of Bancroft Hall and rung whenever the Navy football team beats Army (West Point).
  • Tecumseh Statue. This statue of the 19th century Indian chief Tecumseh was formerly a warship's figurehead. It is a good-luck "mascot" for the midshipmen, who throw pennies at it whenever they want a 'favor', such as a sports win over West Point, or spiritual help for examinations.
  • Battle ensigns. Famous flags of the U.S. Navy and captured flags from enemy ships are diplayed throughout the academy.
  • Herndon Monument. Every year as part of the year end festivities, this monument with covered with lard and "Plebe" students attempt to climb the monument and put a hat on top. This symbolizes the successful completion of their first year.


External links

  • The United States Naval Academy's official Web site (http://www.usna.edu/)
  • Naval Academy Links from Homeport: the United States Naval Academy Alumni Online Community (http://homeport.usnaweb.org/sailingdirections.html)

Patriot League
  Bucknell | Colgate | Holy Cross | Lafayette | Lehigh   
  Non-football members: American | Army | Navy   
Football-only members: Fordham | Georgetown
  Women's Lacrosse-only member: Villanova
Image:PatriotLeague 100.png

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