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Chapter 14

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Annapolis

by
W. D. Puleston


published by
D. Appleton-Century Company, Inc.
New York • London
1942

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Epilogue
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p192 
How to Enter and Graduate

There are five ways of obtaining appointments to the Naval Academy. Five appointees in the Academy are allowed each Senator, Representative, Delegate in Congress, and the Vice-President. These appointees form the bulk of the midshipmen, and the surest way for the average American lad to get an appointment is through his Senator or Representative, who awards appointments either outright or after a competitive examination. The President is allowed five appointees for the District of Colombia, who are usually chosen after competitive examinations, and twenty-five appointees from the nation at large, usually selected after competitive examination, open only to sons of officers and men of the regular Army and Navy. One hundred appointees annually are authorized from the enlisted men of the Navy, one hundred from the enlisted men of the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve, and twenty from the honor graduates of "honor schools" — the president of each institution with a Naval R. O. T. C. Unit can nominate three students to enter the competitive examination for these twenty appointments. The Department provides special instruction for enlisted men, regular and reserve, seeking to enter the Academy. In 1941 there were about four hundred and fifty former enlisted men, regular and reserve, in the Regiment, and there were eighty-seven of them in the class of 1941, which graduated in December, 1941. The system now in effect makes it possible for any  p193  enlisted man who can pass the required examinations to enter the Academy and prepare himself to become an admiral.

The Governor of the Panama Canal Zone is allowed one appointee from the American civilian employees of the Zone. Puerto Rico is allowed five appointees, and the Philippines four, but Filipinos are not eligible for commissions in the Navy. Twenty appointees from South American republics are authorized to attend the Academy.

As many as three alternates may be nominated with the principal candidate and all may take the same entrance examination; if the principal fails, the first, second, or third alternate may be admitted, provided he passes and those ahead of him fail. If one is unable to secure a principal appointment, alternate appointments should be accepted. Many officers in the Navy to‑day entered on an alternate appointment. All appointees, except those from foreign countries, must be citizens of the United States; they must be not less than seventeen years of age nor more than twenty‑one years of age on April 1st of the calendar year in which they enter the Academy. They must be unmarried, and must never have been married. These are basic requirements, but Congress may change them at any time. A prospective candidate should write the Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department, Washington, D. C., for the circular giving the latest "Regulations Governing the Admission of Candidates into the United States Naval Academy as Midshipmen, and Sample Examination Papers."

The following is based upon the circular of June, 1940. All candidates must pass a physical and mental examination before entering. They must be physically sound, well formed, and of robust constitution. There are many specific  p194 defects that automatically disqualify a candidate, and none of these will be waived. There are numerous cities in the United States where a preliminary physical examination will be given prospective candidates by Naval surgeons, which vary in number from two in Delaware to thirty‑one in Texas. An appointee should go at once to the nearest station for examinations, for if he is physically defective he should not waste time and money attempting to enter the Academy; some minor defects may be removed by operations, but any major defect is an insuperable barrier.

Having satisfied himself that he can pass the physical examination, the candidate should next consider whether he is eligible to enter upon a certificate, a certificate with substantiating examinations in English and mathematics, or by examination in the six subjects: English, United States history, physics, chemistry, algebra, and plane and solid geometry. The Examining Board facilitates the entrance of physically qualified appointees and welcomes those who can reasonably be expected to complete the four years' course. The Board will accept without examination a candidate that is or has been a regularly enrolled student in good standing in a university, college, or technical school accredited by the Academy, provided: (1) The entrance requirements of the course pursued in college include the fifteen secondary school units — or that, failing this, extra college credits are presented in these subjects. (2) At the time of entrance, the candidate shall have satisfactorily completed a year's work in the university, college, or technical school, with a minimum of twenty-four semester-hours' credit in English, natural science, social science, or languages, at least six of which shall be in college English, or history, and six in college mathematics.

If the college certificate shows low or barely passing  p195 grades, or if the candidate has been out of college a year, he must qualify by mental examination.

A candidate presenting a certificate showing he has graduated from an accredited secondary school with marks above the school's minimum for passing will be accepted if he can pass substantiating examinations in mathematics through quadratics and beyond, including the binomial theorem, and arithmetic and geometric progressions, and one unit of plane geometry; and in English if the candidate has had three or more years of English composition and literature. The majority of candidates enter after presenting a certificate and taking the substantiating examinations.

All candidates from purely competitive sources, such as Presidential appointees, etc., must take mental examinations, as follows:

Time Subject
First Day
30 minutes Fill out declaration sheet (9:30 to 10 A.M.)
2 hours 1. United States History (10 A.M. to 12 M.)
2 hours 2. Physics (2 to 4 P.M.)
Second Day
3 hours 3. Algebra (9 A.M. to 12 M.)
2 hours 4. English (1 to 3 P.M.)
Third Day
3 hours 5. Plane and Solid Geometry (9 A.M. to 12 M.)
2 hours 6. Chemistry (1 to 3 P.M.)

Whether proposing to enter by the certificate, the certificate plus substantiating examinations, or by straight examinations, a candidate should write the Academic Board, stating his qualifications and the credits he can offer. The Board will advise him carefully, even giving him an informal opinion on the prospects of acceptance of his  p196 certificate. A candidate should regard the Board as his counselor who will explain in detail how to enter, or will warn him if his previous preparation or educational record indicates he can not meet the requirements.

The examinations are not tricky but they are thorough and searching and must be finished expeditiously; two hours each are allowed for history, physics, English, and chemistry; three hours each for algebra and geometry. Some candidates unaccustomed to time limits on examinations have failed, although with some experience in this form of examination, they could probably have entered. Any candidate should train himself to answer sample questions in the time limit prescribed. The fact that year after year five hundred to one thousand young Americans enter the Naval Academy is proof that it can be done without a herculean effort. No ambitious young American should be appalled at the prospect of the examination, but should apply himself diligently to the subjects required; he must know them thoroughly and must be able to express himself clearly enough to convince the Academic Board that he is well prepared in the required subjects.

After passing his mental and physical examinations and making a deposit of $100, to which the United States adds $250, to cover his immediate purchases from the Midshipmen's Store, the successful candidate with a group of his new classmates will be assembled to be sworn into the Navy. This impressive ceremony usually takes place in Memorial Hall in front of Perry's flag, "Don't Give Up the Ship," and surrounded by portraits, busts, mementos and almost sacred naval relics which remind the aspirants that if they live up to the best of their predecessors their memories will be cherished by their successors and they will be welcomed in the naval Valhalla. American youths are not given to heroics, and probably most of them are  p197 not as impressed as the officer who administers the oath, who realizes better than the candidates that they are taking a very solemn obligation, to uphold the Constitution and to defend it from all enemies whomsoever. Later, when a midshipman has had more time to reflect, he will recognize that at that particular moment he laid aside some of his privileges as an American citizen and accepted the obligations of an officer in the United States Navy. He also acquired privileges: he can not be punished except in accordance with the laws and customs of the Navy, and he will be treated with the respect accorded an officer and gentleman. He is no longer a young civilian, but a midshipman in the Navy, and hereafter he must remember that his conduct reflects upon the Navy as well as upon himself.

One of the early decisions is the choice of a room-mate. Some late comers have to take each other on faith, but those hasty combinations are likely to be as lasting as some of the violent friendships made during preparatory school days. With many similar interests, unless midshipmen are absolutely incompatible, they can live two, three, or even four in a room with little friction and frequently with increasing pleasure as the days go by. Friendships made at Annapolis usually endure; room-mates and cronies at the Academy grow old together in the service, and those going into civil life, though separated from those in the Navy for years, immediately resume their intimacy with them when their paths cross.

Other problems press upon the plebe: he has a credit established at the Midshipmen's Store, and he must obtain a hundred odd things, to begin housekeeping and equip himself with his Navy clothes. Every article from his undershirt and socks to his snappy blue uniform is regulation. He obtains most of them the first day — except for the blue uniform, which is made to measure — from that store which  p198 carries everything the well-dressed midshipman wears and needs.

A Second Classmate will assist in the first shopping expedition. First the plebe gets two enormous clothes bags, into which he drops most of the odds and ends; he must have at least ten suits of whites, four white hats, two pairs of shoes, four pairs of leggings, and one suit of rain clothes. He is furnished a stencil and ink, and the first task after obtaining his outfit is to mark the whites with black ink, the rain clothes with white paint. A Second Classmate will give him some much needed coaching. For shirts, collars, underclothes, and pajamas there are stencils for indelible ink markings, and minute directions in just what spot the mark must be placed. At the end of three days all possessions must be marked. A plebe who is not deft will daub as much indelible ink on himself as on his new clothes. If clothes are not properly marked, they will not be promptly returned from the laundry. Unmarked clothes are separated from the others, and when they eventually find their way back to the owner they bring demerits for clothes improperly marked.

The plebe must try on his garments to see how closely the storekeeper estimated his sizes; some are probably too large, some too small; but he can get consolation by looking at his classmates, for they have fared the same. He next struggles to stow these clothes in the shelves in his locker. There is ample room for everything if he follows instructions carefully and keeps everything folded properly, for the cubic space in those lockers has been accurately calculated. Only toward the end of the week, when the clothes bag begins to bulge with soiled clothes, should he have any trouble in closing the locker door. If the plebe has never made a bed, he enjoys a unique experience; he must quickly learn to spread the sheets in the right position  p199  with the middle seam along the middle of the bed, and have the ends at the head and foot come out even. Those midshipmen with deft hands and the natural gifts that later in life constitute the handy man around the house learn quicker than others.

A plebe becoming a good housemaid avoids a dozen small reports such as bed not properly made, floor not neatly swept, and many unwanted demerits. If the extra shoes, neatly polished, are not in the customary place under the end of the end, he will have to explain why. But he would never have been able to pass to entrance examinations if he had not been able to do things, and in a surprisingly short time the room is straightened out and the locker stowed according to the regulation plan, and he is beginning to remember on what shelf his ties, neckerchiefs, and kerchiefs are placed.

Before he has solved his domestic problems he is struggling with infantry and boat drill; and unless he is exceptionally big and strong he finds those oars in the navy cutters long and heavy. When he first tosses his regulation oar and tries to hold it in a fore and aft line with the others and at the exact height, he usually has trouble, particularly if he came from the interior and obtained his ideas of oars from those used in rowboats at summer camps. "Tossing" is tough, but keeping stroke is almost impossible during the first few drills, for when by some miracle Midshipman Smith gets the cadence he is certain to be out of stroke with his neighbor, Midshipman Jones, who involves them both in a tragic union and they can an unwanted "crab." But everybody is doing it, except perhaps some college oarsman or some Navy junior whose father taught him to pull, and those tired muscles rest up overnight and in a few days the oars begin to look more like tooth-picks.

More plebes have had infantry than boat drill. Even the  p200 first day they manage not to do too badly, and in a few days they emerge from the recruit school including the proper posture of attention, the correct salute, and the marchings when they learn to keep step and turn on a moving or fixed pivot — all elementary but essential. After the school of the squad and recruit, they are given rifles and promoted to the school of the company where they learn the manual of arms and company movements. No exercise yet invented has the immediate disciplinary effect of infantry drill; nothing else so quickly accustoms a young civilian with the habit of asking "Why?" to obey first and ask the reason afterwards. As midshipmen are educated and trained, tasks are not as specific or as simple as the manual of arms and orders not as detailed as for shouldering arms. They are given more initiative, but they must learn to obey with alacrity and loyalty before they can be extended any discretion.

After they have been given preliminary instruction with their rifles, the midshipmen march to the rifle range and begin the marksman course. American gunboats are still called upon to supply landing parties to protect American citizens abroad, and the company officers are ensigns and lieutenants. Midshipmen learn how to shoot a rifle in order to train the seamen in the landing force. It is generally true that a marksman or sharpshooter with a rifle makes an excellent gun‑pointer at one of the big guns, and, in selecting gun‑pointers in ships' batteries, men who have shown their skill with a rifle are given preference. From the moment he enters the Academy a midshipman is trained for his future duties as a junior officer of the Navy: he is taught to pull an oar, march, execute the manual of arms, and fire a rifle. All these things he must in turn teach the sailors.

Midshipmen enter in the summer, after June Week. A candidate should report as soon as possible after passing  p201  the examinations. Every day in the Academy before the academic work begins in October accustoms him to the régime and will assist him with academics later. Annapolis is warm in the summer, but the climate is pleasant, the trees and lawns are green, the sea breezes from the Severn and the Chesapeake are refreshing, and the white uniforms are cool and comfortable. The appetite is enormous, the fare is substantial and generally inviting. Those iron bedsteads have comfortable inner-spring mattresses, and slumber comes unsought in those first weeks at the Academy, in spite of the poisonous vaccines the surgeon has injected in the pulsing veins.

In addition to the drills and exercises, the plebes have a lecture and reading course under the Department of English during the summer, and in September they commence their academic work in order to familiarize themselves with the Academy methods of recitation and study. No marks are assigned for September except for mathematics. The whole period between entrance and the beginning of the academic year, usually the first Monday in October, is utilized to prepare the Fourth Classmen to stay in the Academy. They have been brought to a fine condition of health, and have been gradually accustomed to naval discipline and the routine of the Academy life. Uncle Sam wants to keep as many as can qualify, but he can't afford to keep any one who does not meet his standards. The Academy authorities will do all they can to see that this Fourth Class graduates as large a proportion as possible of its members.

In October, Fourth Classmen begin the real test. A few simply can't meet the mental requirements. Some do not get accustomed to the place. Others spend too much time trying for a freshman team or devote too much energy to extracurricular activity. They may skylark too much, or  p202 perhaps they can not settle down to the system of regular study and daily recitations. Others stand well in some subjects but neglect or can not manage others. There are no optional courses, and all midshipmen must complete successfully all the prescribed courses. This is too much for some who are accustomed to optional courses at high school or college.

The first essential for a Fourth Classman is to pass the term examinations and stay in the Academy. The average plebe can do this comfortably if he secures around a 3.0 in his daily marks. Unless he is unusually brilliant, a Fourth Classman should apply himself diligently for the first year and strive mightily for at least a 3.0. The best approach is the steady study method; application during the three daylight and the two evening hours set apart for study should enable any plebe to prepare himself for the daily recitations. It is astonishing how much can be absorbed by a solid hour's application; the habit of study can be acquired, and information gained regularly and continuously is enduring and useful. The midshipman should stow his information away in an orderly manner so that it can be easily drawn upon; his mind should be neatly and completely furnished like his locker. If he studies regularly twelve hours a week, he can master algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and need have no fears of differential calculus. He can devote that remaining hour at night to whichever gives the most trouble — modern languages, English, or chemistry, or he can split it and still have a solid hour before each recitation. The proper use of time becomes a fixed habit and not only will help a plebe at the Academy but will enable him to undertake more difficult tasks after graduation.

There is a knack to examinations; midshipmen learn to scan an examination paper closely and note the questions  p203 and parts of questions which can be answered rapidly and with assurance; they answer those first. Then they answer the remaining in reverse order of their length and difficulty. The following is an extreme case but it has happened to beginners: the first question was a puzzler on which a plebe expended over half the period allotted; the succeeding four questions could have been readily answered, insuring about 80 per cent or a 3.2. Selection of the order of answering is perfectly legitimate, for each examination question has the same standing and importance.

In justice to himself, his family, and finally to the Government, the plebe should make sure he survives the first term, and to that end he should subordinate every outside activity. He can get ample recreation in the hours reserved for drills and recreation. He will have some welcome breaks in the steady routine. Many of his recreation hours will be spent at "pep" meeting where he learns the Navy songs and cheers preparatory to the Army-Navy game at Philadelphia. These will not interfere with his studies. He may also get a trip to Baltimore or Princeton to witness one of the off‑campus football games. On crisp fall afternoons he will have ample opportunity to develop his lungs and a quarter-deck voice for giving orders in a tone that will fairly lift his men along. Christmas is joyous even for plebes, and if the Navy has been defeated by the Army (which heaven forbid!), the gloom that descends on the Severn and lasts through early December will begin to lift as the Regiment contemplates the revenge it will get the following November.

Many little unpleasant things will happen to the plebe before the violets bloom in the spring: he will be reported for minor infractions which he had no intention of committing; he may confront difficult problems of loyalty to an imaginary boyish code which he will have to fight out  p204 for himself. He should talk over problems with his company commander, who will give him big‑brotherly advice, and if they are very important ask to see the commissioned officer. He may have to take the blame for something he was not entirely responsible for; exact justice is not on this earth, even in the Naval Academy.

With his determination to stay in the Academy, the plebe should resolve to conform at once to naval customs, to be amenable to regulations, to accommodate his habits and customs to the Academy routine. He should familiarize himself with naval nomenclature and use the correct nautical terminology, and should avoid like poison the word "gadget"; it limits the vocabulary. Orders must be given to sailor‑men in language they understand. A sailor's vocabulary will help the plebe think like a sailor. He should always give the cheerful "Aye, aye, Sir!" to a senior instead of the familiar "All Right" or that vulgar new‑comer, "O. K." While conforming to customs and discipline of the Navy, the plebe should not attempt to engratiate himself with officers, instructors, or, above all, upperclassmen. There is an ugly word, "greasing," applied to such practice. Officers, instructors, and upperclassmen are used to such wiles, and are not to be taken in except by modern Talleyrands who do such a smooth job of "slushing" that only their disgusted classmates are aware of it. The plebe must not be "against the Government," for he is a later a part of Uncle Sam's armed forces and must obey loyally, not perfunctorily. The natural instinct of a red‑blooded American lad will suggest the mean between "greasing" and being a non‑conformist. A midshipman will make no mistake in regarding himself as an embryo officer from the moment he enters and will not go wrong when he acts as an officer would in a difficult situation.

 p205  It isn't always the dull midshipmen who graduate at the bottom of the class; reading novels during study hours is one of the best ways ever developed at the Academy to lose numbers: just a peek after recitation to see how the heroine escaped, who killed the fifth columnist, or how many redskins bit the dust has often resulted in the consumption of an hour in reading which should have been devoted to a less interesting chemistry or math lesson. Give up the favorite authors for at least a couple of years and secure that diploma; there will be plenty of time for fiction later.

Others stand at the bottom of the class because of devotion to extracurricular activities which invariably cost numbers; others from bravado, to see how near they can come to bilging; and, finally, there are some at or near the bottom who are slow to develop mentally, but who are determined to become naval officers; by sheer grit they fight their way through and frequently become outstanding officers.

There are many brave souls among those who can't quite make the grade, who have worked harder than many who passed, who yearned for a naval career, but had to resign. The course at the Academy is the best system yet devised for testing the fitness of young Americans to become officers in the Navy; but every class loses two or three midshipmen who would have made better officers than some who remained. The ability to learn the theory of the professional subjects can not guarantee the possession of the intangible qualifications which are necessary for a naval officer; nor does the failure to get through Annapolis invariably imply their absence.

After the first term the plebe has a good measure of the resistance he has to overcome; he can relax a little, but he should, first, last and all the time, keep a safe margin  p206 above the essential 2.5 which he has to have to graduate. In the spring he should look about him for the sport and extracurricular activity which will give him the most pleasure, for he need not become a "grind." The great majority of midshipmen who pass the first term with a fair margin can graduate, so far as recitations and examinations are concerned, and can take a large part in the life of the Academy provided they systematically study during study hours and make graduation their primary concern. The course is formidable, and it is difficult to say which year is the hardest, or which subjects the toughest, but the knowledge that other Americans have completed the course will sustain the courage of a doubtful midshipman.

Only the utilization of every precious minute of the sixteen waking hours will enable midshipmen to take part in the extracurricular activities without detriment to their academic work. Time passes rapidly; before plebes realize it they have become Third Classmen, have rushed Lover's Lane, have embarked on their first practice cruise, and have discovered that the lockers on the Arkansas are about half the size of the ones in Bancroft Hall which they considered too small. Disturbed conditions in Europe sometimes compel the Department to cruise midshipmen along the Atlantic coast; but wherever they cruise, they scrub the decks, fire the boilers, steer the ship, and operate the engines; and they are given practical instruction in gunnery, navigation, seamanship, electrical engineering, marine engineering, and radio. On the cruise they will also be given occasional lectures to help them through the maze of professional subjects. Not even the "savoir" of the class can absorb all the professional information that is fairly hurled at them during that three months' cruise, but a remarkable amount sticks, for many of their recitations and  p207 drill during the academic year have been preparatory to just such a heavy program.

September comes; and rushing to pack up for leave, the average Third Classman will manage to forget two or three essential items — but not the souvenirs purchased for his friends at home. That first breath-taking leave passes like a dream — and he is back at Annapolis.

With the Army-Navy game, the Thanksgiving Hop, the first editions of the Log, and Christmas, the first half-year goes very rapidly. The Third Class strive for a 2.8 to 3.2 in calculus, mechanics, physics, mechanisms, languages, and naval history, for they know the second term is going to be tough. It includes turbines, reciprocating engines, auxiliary machinery, and boilers. Marine engineering has four hours a week, but mathematics is still king, although reduced from six to five hours. Electrical engineering now takes three and one half hours a week instead of two. It is harder to study in the spring when the bees are droning outside the window and the chatter of the lawn-mower turns into a soporific rhythm. Preparing for that last afternoon recitation requires extra will power in April and May. A little margin collected during the fall and winter may help a lot in the spring. Toward the end of the academic year, the Lucky Bag Committee begins work, and perhaps the Ring Committee, and nine out of ten of the Third Class will probably be trying to make one of the athletic teams; there is plenty to do. Time flies. The calendar can not be trusted; it reports another June Week, which passes too quickly, like its predecessor.

One‑third of the Second Class starts on a month's cruise on destroyers. They are the senior midshipmen aboard and are treated as junior officers. The atmosphere in destroyers is not as formal as in the old "battlewagon Arky." After  p208 paying their respects to Neptune all over again, the midshipmen get accustomed to the unexpectedly rapid motion as their destroyer rises just in time to escape taking the whole Atlantic Ocean aboard; she sidesteps so many green combers that she is forgiven when she fairly wallows her forecastle into one, as if wanting to show how deep she can dive before rising to free herself and resume the sidestepping game. In any decent weather she will do her thirty-five to forty knots, and make the sedate twelve knots of "battlewagons" seem like going backwards. After graduation and a year at sea, midshipmen are eligible for a watch and division on a destroyer. Many future destroyer officers are recruited on these Second Class cruises. Back to Annapolis, and the second section of the class takes to the destroyers while the first and third sections keep on with the practical instruction in aviation, engineering, navigation, and seamanship.

Second Classmen have considerable dignity. They are not as important as First Classmen but are gentlemen of some consequence. They have a tough year in academics, with thermodynamics, electricity, hydrographic surveying, interior ballistics, and navigation — not a subject except languages and English that does not require a higher or lower form of mathematics, and English includes modern thought, which is not easy. In addition, they are more active in extracurriculars and athletics. In the spring the lawn-mowers commence their sweet refrain, and spring fever is again epidemic, but ordnance offers a menu of torpedoes and mines, steam insists upon teaching all there is to know about heat transfer, and English gives American foreign policy.

June Week comes again, and the First Class goes aboard the old Ark feeling like "plank owners." They know their way about her. They bring up the Third Class as  p209 they were brought up, act as junior officers of the deck, carry out the daily routine, inspect to see that boats are called away on time and the decks swept down. With an occasional suggestion from the commissioned officer of the deck, a First Classman makes all necessary preparations and gets the Ark under way. With the stadimeter he measures her distance from the flagship as she takes station. The regular officer of the deck has to be convinced that the First Classman can measure the distance correctly; now and again he takes the stadimeter for a check, but during the second hour the ship steadies down and it is rarely necessary to change the revolutions. Then the First Classman is told to keep the Arkansas in station. There are two or three extra heart-beats, but he manages an "Aye, aye, Sir!" and taking a few revolutions off or putting on a few, finds he can keep her in position. Just when he thinks he has the situation in hand she suddenly gains on the flagship. That is a bad moment, but the officer of the deck restores the situation, explains to the captain, who looks up on the bridge, that it was a sudden sheer on the part of the flagship. Doing a day's work in navigation, standing watch on deck and in the engine-room, keeping order on the forecastle, and acting as mate of the gun and berth deck, he gets the final preparations for his duties as ensign.

First Class year at the Academy is a formative period in an officer's career. First Classmen are treated as junior officers by the officers and instructors. To the lowly plebes, they loom larger than the Superintendent. First Classmen are encouraged to direct the activities of the Academy. "Extracurricular" demands more and more time, but they have all found their approximate places in their class standing,  p210  and none of them grudge a few numbers to produce a better Lucky Bag, Trident, or Log.

The course becomes more and more professional. There is evident reason for studying seamanship, navigation, fire control, and exterior ballistics. First Classmen must also learn about internal-combustion engines and alternating currents, though some of them may have made up their minds to be line officers and nothing else. They must concentrate on gunnery instructions, naval regulations, fleet operations, tactics, signals, and official correspondence, and make sure of the "2.5" in everything. As the weeks go by, First Classmen give orders with more poise, feel more at home in front of battalions, companies, and sections. And they begin to understand why navy regulations are necessary. Unconsciously, they are changing from midshipmen into officers.

The long-anticipated graduation day brings a variety of emotions, but most graduates are too eager to take their places in the fleets to have much regret at leaving Annapolis. The fleets have been the goal of four years of hard work. Also, there are far‑off ports that many of them look forward to seeing. And there is the satisfaction of having successfully completed a difficult undertaking. They have met the Navy's requirements for a commission. Whatever the future holds, they have not been found wanting in those basic qualities of an officer and gentleman. The past four years are secure.

The graduating address, the cheerful crowd, the cap‑throwing, the cheers for those left behind, impinge on already surcharged minds. A day or two later comes the full realization that they are now Uncle Sam's commissioned officers, with added responsibilities which they can not divest themselves of, afloat or ashore. Wherever they go,  p211  whatever they do, they must live up to the traditions of the Navy — those high standards of conduct which were formed in four naval wars by officers of our Navy who never had the benefit of the Naval Academy.


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