Dr. W.D Thompson Collection, photo S-064-A(1).01. Sailors play a variety of sports on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, circa World War II. Download image.
From “rigging races” of the early 1800s to Captain Carl T. Osburn’s Olympic marksmanship medals to U.S. Naval Academy athletics today, sports have long been a part of Navy life.
Sports in the Navy: 1775 to 1963
In this 1963 All Hands article, JO2 Jim Lewis discusses the history of sports in the Navy through 1963. More than simply fun and games, sports served to boost physical conditioning and morale. In fact, as JO2 Lewis writes, the Navy Department realized by 1921 that “the same ships that habitually won top sports honors usually carried off the prizes in gunnery, engineering and navigation, too.”
Army-Navy Football Game
The first Army-Navy football game was held in 1890 at West Point and resulted in a 24-0 Navy victory. View the scores of previous games, or check out the U.S. Naval Academy’s athletic website for recent updates.
1912 U.S. Olympic Rifle Team. The team won the gold medal in the International Mens Team Rifle Competition (also known as the Military Rifle Competition) at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden. Download image (40 KB).
Before Mark Spitz broke the record in 1972, Captain Carl T. Osburn held the record for most medals won by an American in Olympic competition. NHHC holds a collection of his papers as well as some of his Olympic medals and Olympic commemorative items. Learn more about Captain Osburn and the Olympic tradition.
Captain Osburn’s teammates on the U.S. Olympic marksmanship team included Admiral Harris Laning (namesake of Laning [DE-159]) in the 1912 Olympics and Vice Admiral Willis A. Lee in the 1920 Olympics.
Through the years, a number of other Naval Academy graduates have competed in the Olympics. One example is Rear Admiral William J. Galbraith, who won silver in the rope climb in 1932; the Navy Department Library holds a collection of his papers.
“Batter Up, Sailor!” Learn about baseball’s role in Navy traditions in this blog post, which provides an overview of the 2016 exhibit at Puget Sound Navy Museum, When Baseball Went to War. More than 500 major league players joined the military during World War II, including Yogi Berra, who served in the Navy as a gunner’s mate.
Lynn McCarthy Collection, UA 559.08. USS Wright (AZ-1) Fleet Baseball Champions 1930–1931. Download image.
Commander Navy Installations Command Fitness, Sports and Deployed Forces Support