One thing is consistent on the USO blog: You guys love military trivia. So we put together a greatest hits list of sorts from the service branch birthday facts blog posts we published recently, along with a few new pieces of trivia. And if you want to see all the originals, you can still find the Marine Corps facts, Navy facts, Air Force facts and Coast Guard facts on our blog.
1. Thirty-one of the 43 men who’ve served as President of the United States have served in the military. One received the Medal of Honor: Theodore Roosevelt. And only one – James Buchanan – never became an officer.
2. From 1942-1944, the Coast Guard had a championship hockey team called the Cutters that played in the Eastern Amateur Hockey League, considered to be one of the most competitive leagues of its time.
3. A “roof stomp” is an Air Force tradition where airmen welcome new commander or celebrate a special occasion by climbing up on the commander’s roof and make noise while others are bang on the windows and doors. The commander then opens the door to welcome in the group for refreshments. (In recent years, some airmen have modified the tradition to a “porch stomp.”)
4. Johnny Cash, Morgan Freeman and James Stewert are just a handful of the celebrities who have served as airmen. Stewart – who won an Oscar for “Philadelphia Story” before flying on missions in World War II and Vietnam – rose to the rank of brigadier general in the Air Force Reserve.
5. Each March, some airmen participate in a Mustache March, a tradition where airmen grow mustaches to honor Air Force legend and triple ace Brig. Gen. Robin Olds.
6. Fewer than 100 people have received the title of honorary Marine, a title that can only be bestowed by the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Here are a few of their names and ranks in order of seniority:
- Chuck Norris (rank unknown but also unneeded)
- Brig. Gen. Bob Hope
- Master Sgt. Bugs Bunny
- Cpl. Jim Nabors, star of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
- Gary Sinise
7. Only female Marines are authorized to carry umbrellas in uniform.
8. Tossing a Dixie Cover under the Bridge: For many a short-timer, crossing under the Coronado Bridge (or any other bridge near home port) marks a moment of reflection. Should the sailor stay in or get out? Because sailors are often superstitious, many leave the decision up to the sea, tossing their cover into the deep. If it floats, the sea is asking them to stay. If it sinks, it’s time to move on.
9. Marines often pin their next promotable rank onto their uniforms as a motivator. They usually hide it in their cover or under a pocket flap.
10. Before World War II, the Army’s 45th Infantry Division wore a swastika patch on their left shoulders in honor of Native Americans. They changed it to a thunderbird in the late 1930s for obvious reasons.
11. Anthony Christy was the oldest active serving Coast Guard member. The keeper of the Christiana Lighthouse in Delaware, Christy died on duty in September 1862 at the age of 105.
12. The Legend of Bill the Goat: Bill the Goat has been the Naval Academy mascot since the early 1900s. Legend has it that a Navy ship once had a goat for a pet, and on the way home to port the goat died. Two ensigns were entrusted to have the goat stuffed, but got distracted by a Naval Academy football game. One of the ensigns allegedly dressed up in the goatskin and pranced around at halftime. The crowd loved it and Navy won the game.
13. Because MCRD Parris Island was the first of the two depots, Marines who attend MCRD San Diego are often called “Hollywood Marines” by Parris Island Marines. Hollywood Marines don’t have a name for Parris Island Marines because they feel bad about the sand fleas.
14. Before the Air Force became its own branch of the military, it was a part of the Army. On Aug. 1, 1907, the U.S. Army Signal Corps formed the Aeronautical Division, which later evolved into the Air Force.
15. Two U.S. presidents — Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush — served as airmen. Reagan’s service came when the branch was still the Army Air Forces. Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard before transferring to the Air Force Reserve.
16. The Marines have won four out of five Warrior Games competitions. This year marks their first loss to the Army.
17. The Army was in tasked with mapping America. That includes the Lewis and Clark expedition. Army officers were some of the first American citizens to see Pike’s Peak and the Grand Canyon.
18. The license plate of the Commandant of the Marine Corps reads “1775.”
19. Marines in uniform are not authorized to put their hands in their pockets.
20. Walt Disney created a special logo for the Coast Guard’s Corsair Fleet during World War II, featuring Donald Duck.
21. The Marine Corps mascot is an English bulldog named Chesty, after Marine Lt. Gen. Louis B. “Chesty” Puller, the only Marine to earn five Navy Crosses.
22. Marine Corps Col. John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth.
23. In the Navy there are no windows, walls or bathrooms: The Navy has rich diction, but don’t get it mixed up. Ships don’t have walls; they have bulkheads. They don’t have windows; they have portholes. Your left side is your port side and the right side is starboard. The mess deck is where you eat and the deck is where you walk. Above your head is an overhead, not a ceiling or roof. If you need a toilet, you will find that in the head, and the rack is where you sleep.
24. Ever since Vietnam, Marine amtrac crews will not eat apricots, as they’re considered bad luck.
25. While many animals have served as mascots aboard Coast Guard vessels, Sinbad, a dog, is one of the service’s most famous. He served on board the cutter Campbell during World War II, keeping troops company during their voyages.
26. The Army was the last service branch to adopt an official song. On Veterans Day 1956, “The Army Goes Rolling Along” was declared as the branch’s official tune
27. Marines also think it’s unlucky to eat the CHARMS that used to come in packs of meals ready to eat.
28. The oldest Coast Guard boat station is in Sandy Hook, New Jersey.
29. The Marines’ first land battle on foreign soil was in Libya, where 600 Marines stormed the city of Derna to rescue the crew of the USS Philadelphia from pirates.
30. In 1967, the Coast Guard icebreaker Eastwind became the first cutter to ever sail around Antarctica. Eastwind was also the first ship to circumnavigate Antarctica since 1843.
31. In 1947, then-Air Force Capt. Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in his Bell X-1 rocket-powered aircraft, beginning a new era of aeronautics in America.
32. The Coast Guard refers to a vessel as a “cutter” if it’s over 65-feet long.
33. Though tattoos are discouraged in today’s Navy, sailors for hundreds of years tattooed themselves as souvenirs to show where they’d been and what they’d gone through. Here is a short (and far from comprehensive) list we collected from sources around the Web of imagery you may encounter among saltier sailors, along with what each item means.
- Swallows: Home (each denotes 5,000 miles at sea)
- Compass/Nautical Star: Never losing one’s way (each denotes 10,000 miles at sea)
- Trident: Special warfare
- Rose: A significant other left at home
- Twin screws or props on one’s backside: Propels one forward through life
- Rope: Deckhand
- Octopus: Navy diver
- Dolphin: Wards off sharks
- Sharks: Rescue swimmer
- Polar bear: Sailed the Arctic Circle
- Dragon: Sailed the Pacific
- Fouled anchor: Sailed the Atlantic
- Turtle: Crossed the equator
- Gold dragon: Crossed the International Dateline
- Gold turtle: Crossed the International Dateline and the Equator where they intersect
- Emerald fouled anchor: Crossed the Prime Meridian
- Emerald turtle: Crossed the Prime Meridian and the Equator where they intersect
- Full-rigged ship: Sailed around Cape Horn
- Helm: Quartermaster
- Pin-up girls: Company at sea/port call
- Hula girls: Sailed to or ported in Hawaii
- Dagger through a swallow: Signifies a lost comrade
- Pig and chicken: Superstition to keep from drowning
- The words “HOLD FAST”: Signifies a deckhand’s tight grip on the lines