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Army vs. Navy: A visit to the US Military Academies

In our series of articles on “Man-cation” Ideas:

The Battle of the Military Academies: Army vs. Navy

Besides being two of the premier war colleges in the world, Westpoint, NY (Home of the United States Military Academy at West Point) and Annapoilis, MD (Home of the United States Naval Academy) are fascinating places to visit! Both locations are steeped in American history and military tradition. We put together a primer for visiting both locations:

US Navy

US Naval Academy

U.S. Naval Academy (Founded: 1845)

Official Website 

“There’s a huge crop of astronauts, captains of industry, and prisoners of war. And, although not every Naval Academy grad will be a war hero or the president of the United States, every grad can aspire to embrace the values espoused by our Distinguished Graduate Award recipients.”~ George Watt

Motto: EX SCIENTIA TRIDENS-From Knowledge Seapower

Talk like a local: Students= “midshipmen”, campus= “the Yard”, the restroom = “the head”, drinking fountain = “scuttlebutt”.

Famous Grads: President Jimmy Carter, Sen. John McCain, Football star Roger Staubach, Basketball star David Robinson, 52 Astronauts

Mascot: Bill the Goat

2010 Football Record: 9 and 4

Cool Traditions: Herndon Climb  Cover Toss

Uniform: Midshipmen at the Academy wear service dress uniforms similar to those of U.S. Navy officers, with shoulder-board and sleeve insignia varying by school year or midshipmen officer rank. All wear gold anchor insignia on both lapel collars of the service dress blue jacket. Shoulder boards have a gold anchor and a number of slanted stripes indicating year, except for midshipman officers, whose shoulder boards have a small gold star and horizontal stripes indicating their rank. (Wikipedia)


United States Military Academy at West Point (Founded 1802)

Official website 

“Duty-Honor-County. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.”

General Douglas MacArthur – farewell address, 12 May 1962 to the Corps of Cadets

Motto: “Duty, Honor, Country”

Key terms: Student= “Cadet”, We found an entire Website of terms!

Famous Grads: US Presidents Grant and Eisenhower; President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis; Presidents of other counties: Anastasio Somoza Debayle of Nicaragua, Fidel V. Ramos of the Philippines, and José María Figueres of Costa Rica; Jim Kimsey, founder of AOL. Most importantly Gen. George McClellan (Mike’s ancestor that Lincoln fired)

Mascot: Mule

2010 Football Record: 7 and 6

Cool facts: Cullum Number  Spinning the spur   The West Point Military Reservation contains one of three U.S. Treasury’s gold mints.

Our visit to West Point:

We visited the campus on our recent trip to New York City. The academy sits on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River, 50 miles (80 km) north of New York City. It is a great side trip for those interested in American History and militaria. West Point is not open for self touring per se. Visitors may take a nominally priced guided tour of the Academy grounds departing from the West Point Visitors Center. A valid photo ID is required for all adults 16 and over, and children must be accompanied by an adult. Check the center’s website for details.

We began our tour in the morning after taking in the visitors center. We boarded our bus, we had a very competent guide to explained the many traditions of the academy. He also pointed out the form and function of the many buildings on campus. The tour ended at the river side of the parade grounds. There you can take in statues and cannons celebrating the storied history of the place. While we were sitting in the grandstands the cadets assembled for lunch.

The surroundings and vista of the river is breathtaking. What a great place to go to school! The entire campus really has a New England prep school feel to it. Tree lined lanes. Monuments on every corner. Lacross players. You get the picture.

A little history from the West Point Website: “West Point’s role in our nation’s history dates back to the Revolutionary War, when both sides realized the strategic importance of the commanding plateau on the west bank of the Hudson River. General George Washington considered West Point to be the most important strategic position in America. Washington personally selected Thaddeus Kosciuszko, one of the heroes of Saratoga, to design the fortifications for West Point in 1778, and Washington transferred his headquarters to West Point in 1779. Continental soldiers built forts, batteries and redoubts and extended a 150-ton iron chain across the Hudson to control river traffic. Fortress West Point was never captured by the British, despite Benedict Arnold’s treason. West Point is the oldest continuously occupied military post in America.”

Our Visit to the Naval Academy

Like the Army installation, visiting Navy is also a great side trip. The 338-acre campus is located on the former grounds of Fort Severn at the confluence of the Severn River and Chesapeake Bay, approximately 33 miles (53 km) east of Washington, D.C. and 26 miles (42 km) southeast of Baltimore, Maryland. Unlike the Army, visiting Navy is more of a self guided experience.

We began our tour at one of the many gates around the campus. Security is just as tight as West Point. Be prepared with IDs for anyone 16year+. We recommend starting your site seeing at the museum. Here you can pick up a self guided tour listing all of the buildings, ect. If you wish to take a guided tour: The U.S. Naval Academy Guide Service is housed in the Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center, conveniently located inside Gate 1 at the end of King George Street.

In the museum you can check out “The United States Navy Trophy Flag Collection”, begun by an Act of Congress in 1814 and given to the care of the Naval Academy in 1849, now totals more than 600 historic American and captured foreign flags. Included are the famous “Don’t Give Up the Ship” battle flag flown at the Battle of Lake Erie, the first American ensign flown in Japan (1853), and flags and banners which have been to the moon.

One of our favorites during our visit was seeing the Chapel. On January 26, 1913, the remains of John Paul Jones were interred in the crypt beneath the Chapel, inside a sarcophagus made of 21 short tons of Grand Pyrenees marble. In the deck around the crypt are inscribed the names of his ships: Bonhomme Richard, Alliance, Serapis, Ariel, Alfred, Providence, and Ranger. It is flat out amazing!

During our visit the midshipmen were marching around the grounds which made for some really great pictures.

Both of these locations are worthy of their respective side trips. Both could be done in a morning or afternoon. It is truly a moving site to see these young men and women who put their lives on the line for the United States.

So which is the best?  ARMY or NAVY?  Leave your selection below!

Have you visited the service academies in the states or abroad?  Leave a comment below and tell us about it!