4. Midshipmen must not take their partners
arm under any circumstances.
5. Midshipmen will not leave the ballroom
floor until the dance has been completed
and all officers and their guests have left.
The Department of Discipline also strictly
regulated smoking. For many years, midshipmen
were not permitted to smoke in their rooms.
Later, first classmen were given the privilege of
keeping their smoking articles in Recreation Hall;
there they could gather after dinner to smoke and
talk. The custom gave Recreation Hall its more
popular name Smoke Hall.
A significant and colorful event in the life of
a midshipmanthe Ring Dancehad its origin
in the 1920s. For some time first classmen had
observed the custom of throwing second classmen
into Dewey Basin as soon as the latter had become
eligible to wear their class rings. (They became
eligible to wear their class rings after passing their
final exams for the year.) In 1924 this custom
resulted in the tragic drowning of a second
classman, so it was replaced by the Ring Dance.
The Ring Dance has several special features.
One is the Ring Dance Dinner, the only occasion
when midshipmen may entertain their ladies at
dinner in the mess hall. The most important
feature, however, is the presentation of the rings.
At the scene of the dance, on a carpeted dais,
stands a huge golden ring modeled after the class
ring. The ring is surmounted by a glowing globe
that simulates the jewel of the ring. As each
couple approaches the replica of the ring, the lady
dips the midshipmans ring, suspended from a
ribbon, into a compass binnacle. The binnacle
is filled with water from the Severn River
and the seven seas, symbolic of the midshipmans
present and future home. The couple then passes
through the replica where she places the ring
on his finger. It is a moment charged with
romance, especially if he presents her with a
miniature class ring, regarded as equivalent to an
engagement ring. They then kiss and seal the
In 1926 an exciting and historical Army-Navy
football game took place at Soldiers Field in
Chicago. The largest crowd ever to watch a foot-
ball game110,000 personssaw Navy come
from behind to tie Army 21-21. Midshipman
Tom Hamilton (now Rear Admiral Thomas J.
Hamilton, Ret.) was the Navys hero as he
kicked the tying point that gave Navy an
undefeated season and a claim to the national
In 1930 six midshipmen were awarded Rhodes
Scholarshipsa record number. In that same
year, the Association of American Universities
accredited the Academy as a member. Following
that, Congress passed a law in 1933 authorizing
the Academy to grant bachelor of science degrees
to all graduates, beginning with the class of 1931.
Subsequently, in 1939 Congress authorized the
award of the B.S. degree to all living graduates.
After the entry of the United States into World
War II, the Academy accelerated its course of
study. The class of 1942 graduated 6 months early
in December 1941, and the class of 1943 joined
them in the fleet the following June. Throughout
the war, the three remaining classes (plebes,
youngsters, and finishers) pursued a program that
placed greater emphasis on professional and
The brilliant role played by Academy
graduates in all theaters in World War II forms
an indelible page in the nations and Navys
The ending of World War II caused a minor
mishap to one noted landmark in the Academy
yardthe Japanese Bell. In 1845 the Regent of
Napha, Ryukyu Islands, presented this bell to
Commodore Matthew C. Perry during his
expedition to Japan. After his death, his widow
presented it to the Naval Academy (in 1859)
according to his wish. Traditionally, the bell is
rung only after a victory over Army in football.
An exception to this was made on V-J Day in 1945
when the bell was struck with such enthusiasm
that it cracked. Today a replica of the Japanese
Bell stands outside Bancroft Hall, the original
having been returned to Okinawa in 1987.
Today these traditions and many others
remain at the Naval Academy. Plebes still come
through the Academy gates in July and do not
leave the yard again until the end of August.
White-capped midshipmen in dress blue and brass
buttons still pass in review on Worden Field, and
drum rolls still thunder in the courtyard of
Bancroft Hall during meal formations.
Academy graduates continue to distinguish
themselves in military roles as well as in public
life. President Jimmy Carter (class of 1947) was
a successful businessman, a state governor, and
the first Academy graduate to hold the highest
office in the land.
Along with the continuing traditions at the
Naval Academy, exciting changes, academically
and physically, reflect the trends and needs
of the times. Midshipmen no longer march to
classes, just as they are no longer locked into