Skip to main content

The Navy Department Library

Related Content
Document Type
Wars & Conflicts
File Formats
Location of Archival Materials



"Evolution of Cap Device." Washington, D.C.: Historical Research Branch, Naval Historical Center, 1978.

"Famed CO Once Offered Hat as Incentive to Reenlistment." All Hands 388 (June 1949): 52.

"Garrison Cap Authorized for All Wave Personnel." All Hands 333 (December 1944): 77.

"Garrison Caps Made Optional: Elimination of Braid on Caps, Half-Sleeve Stripes Ordered." All Hands311 (February 1943): 33.

Hensgen, Marke A. "To Cap It All Off …A Fond Look at a Navy Trademark: Uses (and Abuses) of the 'Dixie Cup.'" All Hands 860 (November 1988): 33-35.

Jones, Mel. "New Cap Devices Okayed." Navy Times 18 (22 January 1969): 1, 50.

Letter from Stanley Kalkus, Navy Department Library, dated 3 June 1983. [Copy of letter located in Navy Department Library's "Uniforms" vertical file.]

Lindquist, E.H. "Distinctive White Hat Tops Sailors Uniforms." All Hands 934 (Feb 1995): 15.

"Notes on the Introduction of Gold-Embroidered Cap Visors." Navy Dept. Library, Dec. 1982.

United States. Bureau of Naval Personnel. BUPERSNOTE 1020, dated 19 December 1983. [copy located in the Navy Department Library's "Uniform" vertical file]

United States. Department of the Navy. Bureau of Supplies and Accounts. Permanent Naval Uniform Board. "Cap Ribbons; Historical Information on." Memorandum. 10 April 1953.

Evolution of Cap Device

There seem to have been three phases in the evolution of the present hat-band device design. The eagle and anchor emblem was adopted in the uniform regulations of 1797 to be used on uniform buttons. From then until 1866, the device was used without much consistency on petty officer uniform rating badges, officer sword-hilts and sword-belts, captains' epaulettes and finally on officer caps. According to James C. Tily, The Uniforms of the United States Navy (1963), left-facing eagles were used on the uniform buttons of captains (No. 1 button), while right-facing eagles were designated for masters commandant and lieutenants (No. 2 button), in the regulations of 1820. This practice ended in 1830 when all officers were ordered to wear the "No. 1" button.

In the uniform regulations of 1841, petty officers were ordered to wear the eagle and anchor device on either the right or left sleeve, according to rate. This eagle was to have faced left, but examples have been found with that eagle facing right. The eagle in the medallion of the officer's sword-hilt of 1852 faces to the right, but the sword belt buckle medallion shows an eagle facing left. The eagle on a captain's shoulder epaulette of 1852 faces to the right.

The uniform regulations of 1866 prescribed, for the first time, an eagle-anchor device to be worn on a visored cap, with the eagle facing left. But the enclosed illustration from Tily captioned "Cap Ornament," [not included] which was introduced in 1869, shows the eagle facing right. In general, though, the eagles in decorative use from the 1860's through 1940 faced to the left. You will find enclosed [not included] a copy of a memorandum from the Director of Naval History to Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe of 13 December 1963. It contains an explanation of the change in uniform regulations that occurred in 1941, which prescribed the right-facing eagle that has been used since that year. The shift of the eagle's aspect to right-facing from left-facing is logical from the perspective of heraldic tradition, since the right side (dexter) is the honor side of the shield and the left side (sinester) indicates dishonor or illegitimacy.

We find no indication in the historical record that the officer cap device was ever in any way related to the Great Seal of the United States either in periods of war or peace. Early variations may have been mere accidents of design-makers or the personal whim of the officers when ordering uniforms.

Source: "Evolution of Cap Device." Washington, D.C.: Historical Research Branch, Naval Historical Center, 1978.


Famed CO Once Offered Hat as Incentive to Reenlistment

A Navy man could puff out his chest with pride in 1797 if he could claim a beaver hat as part of his uniform.

As an incentive to reenlistment, Captain Thomas Truxton of the USS Constellation offered his men "a beaver hat and a black silk handkerchief, two month's advance pay and two week's liberty ashore" if they would sign over for another year.

Whether it was the beaver hat that did the trick we don't know, but the ship's carpenter records in his diary that the "greater part" of the crew shipped over.

Source: "Famed CO Once Offered Hat as Incentive to Reenlistment." All Hands 388 (June 1949): 52.


Garrison Cap Authorized for All Wave Personnel

A specially designed garrison cap for officers and enlisted personnel in the Women's Reserve has been authorized by the SecNav to be worn at such time as it is officially incorporated intoUniform Regulations by notification from BuPers.

Grey seersucker caps and navy blue serge caps will be made up to be worn with the appropriate uniforms as an optional cap either on or off station.

Current regulations which authorize, when prescribed by the CO, the wearing of the male officer's garrison caps by Wave officers and CPOs while on the station will remain in effect until such time as the newly designed caps become available in the stores and authority to wear them is officially included in Uniforms Regs.

Source: "Garrison Cap Authorized for All Wave Personnel."All Hands 333 (December 1944): 77.


Garrison Caps Made Optional: Elimination of Braid on Caps, Half-Sleeve Stripes Ordered

Changes in Navy uniform regulations provide for garrison caps as optional equipment for all commissioned, warrant, and chief petty officers, for the elimination of braid on officers' caps except for formal wear, and for stripes of rank only half way around the cuffs of officers' sleeves on blue service uniforms. The order permitting the use of garrison caps is effective immediately, while the elimination of braid on officers' caps and the half stripe regulation will become effective on January 1, 1944.

Garrison caps, which may be worn in place of the regulation visor cap, will be blue, white, khaki or green material to match the uniform. Commissioned officers, except aviators, will wear the insignia of rank on the right side of the cap. A miniature device - the Navy shield worn on officers' visored caps - will be worn on the left side. Both devices will be placed two inches from the front edge of the cap. Aviators, for whom the garrison cap is already optional equipment, will continue to wear the miniature wings on the left side of the cap with insignia of rank on the right.

Warrant officers will wear the corps device on each side of the cap; and chief petty officers will wear the regular C.P.O. device on the left side of the cap.

Effective January 1, 1944, all officers will wear caps with polished black visors and black chin straps, or the new garrison caps. For formal wear, caps with embroidered visors and gold lace chin straps may be worn by officers of the rank of commander and above. Officers of the rank of lieutenant commander and below substitute a gold lace chin strap for the black braid chin strap on formal occasions.

The regulation providing for stripes of ranks to be worn half way around the cuffs of officers' sleeves is as follows: "Sleeve stripes on the blue service coat shall extend on the outside of the sleeve from seam to seam only."

Source: "Garrison Caps Made Optional: Elimination of Braid on Caps, Half-Sleeve Stripes Ordered." All Hands311 (February 1943): 33.


To Cap It All Off… A Fond Look at a Navy Trademark: Uses (and Abuses) of the "Dixie Cup"

It can be squared, rolled, crushed, fitted with "gull wings" or simply worn as it comes from small stores. It can be used as a flotation device or a sun shield or even, some claim, as a dog food dish. With its many shapes and uses, it may be the most versatile article of clothing a Navy enlisted man wears.

According to Naval Historian John Reilly, "The 'dixie cup'-style hat has appeared and reappeared in the Navy as part of the uniform since it was first written into the uniform regulations of 1886."

That year, the white canvas hat became the replacement for the straw hat previously worn during the warm weather months. The Navy needed a practical summer hat that was easy to clean and stow, cheap to manufacture and comfortable to wear. During the winter, sailors continued to wear a flat, black hat.

Current Navy uniform regulations say the hat must be worn "with the lower front edge approximately one-half inch above the eyebrows and not crushed or bent in the middle." That leaves a lot of possibilities.

By reshaping the white hat or "dixie cup" to suit their personal style, enlisted sailors have been able, for more than 100 years, to express some measure of individuality in a uniform world.

Uniform regulations may technically forbid such stylistic reshaping, but few sailors can resist.

"When I first put the white hat on, it felt like a bowl sitting on top of my head," said Data Processor 1st Class Eddie Hawes of Navy Headquarters Information Center, Washington, D.C. "I thought, 'There must be something I could do to change it.' The way I put crimps in it made it different from anyone else's."

The tradition of personalizing the white hat hasn't changed much in more than 25 years, according to Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, Avionics Technician Master Chief (AW) Duane R. Bushey. "The white hat is like putty - you can mold different characters out of it," he said. "I wanted my hat to be completely round. I wanted it to droop a bit, so I'd roll it down halfway to loosen it up."

Master Chief Hospital Corpsman Jerry Robinson, Command Master Chief at Bethesda Naval Medical Center, recalled how he wore his white hat. "I rolled the top quarter edge. It would flare out and have a flat edge to it. It took a lot of time and care to keep it that way."

Most sailors usually find it hard work to get their white hats just exactly the way they like them.

"Although I have six hats, I only wear the one I've been working on," said Yeoman 2nd Class Jerry Bradley, a Vice Chief of Naval Operations staff yeoman in Washington, D.C. "It's softened up and fits better," he said. "I get attached to one hat at a time."

There may be many different ways to wear a white hat, but there are just as many different nicknames - "squid lid," "dog dish" and "Mason jar top" - these and many other terms have been handed down over the decades. Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Apprentice Doug Paige of Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., remembers why his white hat was called a "dog dish."

"When I was in 'A' school, every time I went to the EM [Enlisted Men's] club I had to watch out for Marines. They would steal any sailor's hat - said they used it as a dish to feed their mascot," said Paige. "I had to buy nine hats while I was there!"

But despite the unflattering nicknames and occasional abuse, the white hat has gained high status over the generations - it has become a symbol of the Navy. The dixie cup is so recognizable that Hollywood uses it as a prop in movie scenes shot in train stations, bus stations and airports.

"The Navy's white hat is much more easily identified than other military uniforms," said CAPT Michael Sherman, Director of Navy Office of Information, Los Angeles, noting that sailors are synonymous with travel and white hats are synonymous with sailors. "People expect to see them in areas of transit," he said.

The dixie cup has been so reliable that it was phased out only once this century. July 1, 1973, marked the beginning in of some major Navy uniform changes. The results of a Navy-wide study, begun in December 1970, indicated that most sailors wanted a change in their uniforms. The white hat was given up for lost when it was replaced by a CPO [Chief Petty Officer] type hat known as a "combination cover."

But the combination hat was never completely accepted by personnel E-6 and below. Yeoman 1st Class Pete Martinez, currently assigned to the Assistant Secretary for Organizational Matters and Administrative Services, Washington, D.C., remembers when he joined the Navy in 1975 and the mixed feelings he had about not wearing the white hat.

"I had always pictured the typical sailor looking like the poster than had the old 'salty' sailor on it. The white hat looked sharp," said Martinez. "I didn't like it when I was issued the combo cover."

The MCPON [Master Chief Petty officer of the Navy] remembers that ambiguity. "Most sailors wanted a uniform change," added Bushey, "and I felt that way too, but I also felt awkward wearing the combination cover as an E-6. The novelty of it wore off in two or three months - I missed my white hat."

Everybody missed it. According to Robinson, "The public probably had a harder time accepting the change than the sailors. They were used to seeing the sailor on a 'Cracker Jack' box."

There was another problem. Ships weren't prepared to provide enough storage space for the combination covers. "The only extra space the Navy added for the new uniforms were a few peacoat lockers they installed on board ships," said Robinson. "One of the 'gifts' sailors E-6 and below had was the extra space they had when they were wearing white hats and 'cracker jack' uniforms. I could probably store half a dozen or so white hats to every one combination cover."

Bushey agreed, "It's much harder to store a combination cover than it is to store the white hat. The combination cover gets crunched or flattened out," he said, "but the white hat never loses its shape."

There are public relations advantages to the dixie cups, too. "After the white hats were phased back in," recalled Bushey, who was a chief at the time, "I was standing in the San Francisco airport, in uniform. A civilian approached me and said, 'I just want to tell you how sharp the sailors look today.' He had watched the transition from the white hats to the combination covers and back again and was glad to see a sailor 'look like a sailor, again.'"

Everyone agrees that white hats look sharp; the question - today, as it has been for decades - is how to keep them that way.

Keeping the white hat white is important to sailors. The tricks sailors use to clean their dixie cups are as individual and varied as the shape of the hat.

"If my hats get minor stains," said Bradley, "I soak them in bleach and run a toothbrush over the spots. You're supposed to brush with the grain so the hat doesn't fray. Then I throw them in the washing machine with my whites and put them in the dryer."

It wasn't always that easy to clean the white hat. Sailors in boot camp in the '60s learned a different technique to keep their dixie cups in "sat" condition for inspection.

Bushey recalled, "I went to boot camp in San Diego in 1962. We would really scrub hard with a scrub brush, a toothbrush and Wisk to get the ring out of the inside. Then, we would attach a 'tie-tie' to the tag. Once attached, we would dip the hats in the toilet and flush." (A tie-tie is a piece of cord with metal tabs on each end that the Navy issued to sailors to hang their laundry).

But if cleaning efforts required by the white hats are high, at least replacement costs are low. If a captain's hat and a sailor's white hat are both blown overboard, the captain has to pay over $40 to replace his hat, while the sailor is back in business for $2.60.

Approximately 140,000 white hats are made each month for the Defense Personnel Support Center. The hats are then stored in defense depots in Mechanicsburg, Pa.; Memphis, Tenn.; Ogden, Utah and Tracy, Calif. The hats remain in the depots until DPSC [Defense Personnel Support Center] distributes them to uniform shops throughout the Navy.

It may surprise some to learn that such an American symbol as the Navy white hat isn't made in the United States. Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, is the home of Propper International, Inc., the company that has been making white hats for the DPSC for the last 10 years.

Seventy-five rows of stitching keep the brim of the dixie cup stiff. The brims are made on an automatic brim stitcher and the crown is put together on a sewing machine. When the two parts are completed they are stitched together using the sewing machine. The three-part operation takes about seven and a half minutes.

Something assembled so quickly nonetheless has proven to be very durable in popularity.

The white hat has remained a popular item with the civilian public. "I constantly get requests for white hats because they are unique to the U.S. Navy," said Bradley. "Some people even steal them out of my car."

"Traditionally, the white hat means a lot," said Bushey. "When the ship left the pier, we used to roll our hats and throw them to our girlfriends or wives. It was our way of leaving a part of ourselves behind."

Whether squared, rolled or worn with a stiff brim, the white hat gives American sailors their special individuality worldwide. "To me," Bradley said, "the white hat is a symbol of the Navy and it's always going to be."

Source: Hensgen, Marke A. "To Cap It All Off …A Fond Look at a Navy Trademark: Uses (and Abuses) of the 'Dixie Cup.'" All Hands 860 (November 1988): 33-35.


New Cap Devices Okayed

By Mel Jones

WASHINGTON-The Navy's senior and master chiefs will soon be wearing stars on their hard hats and overseas caps, while all other petty officers will have grade insignia pins for their working caps.

Those were two of four types of insignia approved by the latest meeting of the Uniform Board and okayed by the CNO. The new insignia devices are shown below, with those for the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, master chief and senior chief at left, and the working-cap device for petty officers at right. The latter is shown for a first class petty officer; the others will be similar with fewer rockers below the crow.

Other changes okayed were:

1. An identifying design for explosive ordnance disposal warrant officers.

2. Academic achievement starts for notably proficient collegians enrolled in various officer candidate programs.

Faced with a spiraling number of requests for new insignia, particularly breast pin-ons, the board also agreed on a set of guidelines it will follow in okaying uniform devices. Details of this new policy will be in next week's issue.

The new super-CPO cap grading is a composite of existing collar and hat devices. Retained is the present size and design of the cap insignia, but to it will be added stars arranged like the collar pin-on. Senior CPOs will have a silver star centered in the stock of the anchor and master CPOs two stars, atop the stock.

The Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy will have three stars crowning the anchor, for as long as he holds office.

Board officials predict the new cap devices will be available in exchanges "as soon as managers start ordering them."

Other petty officers will have their own cap chevrons and for the same reason super-CPOs got theirs - to be able to distinguish rank when coats or jackets are worn.

There's a lesser reason, but you won't find it printed in directives. Petty officers have worn "port-call-made" cap insignia wherever and whenever commanders have condoned them. The new device merely standardizes the practice.

A silver replica of the sleeve chevron, the pin-on will be optional with the present dungarees and required when the new work cap comes into being.

Source: Jones, Mel. "New Cap Devices Okayed."Navy Times 18 (22 January 1969): 1, 50.


Ser LY/4601
3 June 1983

Dear Sergeant:

In response to your recent inquiry, the ornamentation of cap visors for naval officers of the rank of commander and above was first authorized on 20 November 1878. Before the directive could be implemented, however, it was cancelled without explanation. It was not until 12 June 1897 that an order was issued finally bringing the change into effect. Gold-embroidered oak-leaves and acorns had first been adopted by the American Navy in 1830 as an embellishment for other features of officers' uniforms; it is not surprising, therefore, that the same design elements were extended to the visors once the decision had been made to decorate them. The fact that the British Navy had sanctioned gold oak-leaf embroidery for the visors of caps of executive officers of the rank of commander and above as early as 1860 may also have been a determining factor. The oak-leaf and acorn were used prior to the nineteenth century in decorating British and other European military uniforms, and can be traced to heraldic devices of an early period.

As to why a decision was made to decorate the visor, we can probably best quote from Rear Admiral A.S. Crowinshield, USN, Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, who made the following statement in recommending other embellishments of the naval officer's uniform in 1897: "One of the main objects of the uniform is lost if the rank of the person wearing it can not be readily distinguished. Discipline in the military and naval service depends largely upon respect obtained for the officers in such service and nothing conduces to a more proper observance of such respect than instant recognition of the rank of the officer."

I trust the foregoing information will prove useful to you.


Stanley Kalkus
Navy Department Library

Orig: B. Lynch
Typed by C. Tillery

*see US Naval Institute Proceedings, April 1932, p. 526 [handwritten on the bottom of the page]

Source: Letter from Stanley Kalkus, Navy Department Library, dated 3 June 1983. [Copy of letter located in Navy Department Library's "Uniforms" vertical file.]


Distinctive White Hat Tops Sailors Uniforms

The Navy white hat has been a world-renowned symbol of U.S. Sailors for generations. According to Naval Historian, John Reilly, "The 'dixie-cup' style hat has appeared and reappeared in the Navy as part of the uniform since it was first written into the uniform regulations of 1886."

The hats are worn with pride on the high seas all over the world. Bud did you know that Navy white hats are made far from any ocean?

ORC Industries of La Crosse, Wis., makes about 3,400 Navy white hats a day. While the cover looks like a simple item, it's difficult to make, according to Randy Stout of ORC.

"Even simple uniform articles must be made to exact specifications," said Stout. "The assembly instructions and specifications for the 'hat, service (white),' are spelled out in a 29-page document."

The Navy Uniform Program provides the patterns and specifications. White hats come in nine sizes from 6 ½ to 8 ½. There are 11 parts including the brim; right, left and center crown; sweatband; and two or more pieces of interlining. Even the material used is specific - ORC starts with white cotton twill (shade 3035) weighing 7.2 ounces per square yard with a breaking strength of 95 pounds. And that's just to get started.

Some of the equipment used to make white hats is very sophisticated, like the computerized machines that make 70 to 75 continuous rows of stitching on the brim.

What's amazing is that this item, with all the work that ORC puts into it, costs only $4.85 at the Navy Uniform Shop.

"All Navy uniforms are made to last, from the heaviest coats and working uniforms or the fanciest dress ensembles to the white hat," said Becky Adkins, the Navy Uniform Program Manager.

Not only does ORC Industries make great Navy white hats, but approximately 75 percent of its employees are handicapped or otherwise disadvantaged. "These people make Navy hats with a lot of pride," said Barbara Barnard, ORC's president.

Source: Lindquist, E.H. "Distinctive White Hat Tops Sailors Uniforms." All Hands 934 (Feb 1995): 15.


Notes on the Introduction of Gold-Embroidered Cap Visors

The gold-embroidered cap visor for officers of the grades of Commander and above was introduced by Navy Department Circular No. 79 of June 12, 1897. The change was incorporated in the 1897 edition of Navy Uniform Regulations. In his unpublished manuscript on uniforms of the sea services, Commander William S. Edwards, USN, discusses the regulation and explains that "the idea of ornamenting the cap visors of these officers was actually approved and promulgated by the Department on 20 November 1878 but, for some unknown reason, was almost immediately cancelled." ContemporaryArmy and Navy Journal articles discuss both circulars, with comments on the "gorgeous" cap and other provisions of the changes; copies are attached herewith [not included]. Official records providing background on the formulation and issuance of the circulars may be in the custody of the National Archives.

In examining the British record, which so often has significance for the study of American naval tradition, it is interesting to note that the 1856 and 1860 uniform regulations, which introduced gold-embroidered peaks (or visors) for British naval officers of the grades of Commander and above, predate the official establishment of the rank of Lieutenant-Commander in the British Navy, which was deferred until March 1914. The grade of Lieutenant-Commander in the United States Navy was established by an Act of Congress on July 16, 1862, thirty-five years before the 1897 visor ornamentation circular was issued. A copy of the 1862 law, together with extracts from published sources tracing the evolution of the rank of Lieutenant-Commander in both navies, is attached [not included]. The deliberations which led to the introduction and passage of the bill may be recorded in official records held by the National Archives.

Source: "Notes on the Introduction of Gold-Embroidered Cap Visors." Navy Dept. Library, Dec. 1982.


BUPERSNOTE 1020 of 19 DEC 1983


On 1 Oct 1983, the combination cap was deleted from the E1-E6 men's clothing allowance and white hats were required for all uniforms. Authority was extended at the option of prescribing authority to authorize the combination cap with Summer White, Winter Blue and Winter Working Blue uniforms. Effective 1 May 1984, combination cap will no longer be authorized for wear for E1-E6 men. The white hat will be required for all E1-E6 uniforms.

Source: United States. Bureau of Naval Personnel. BUPERSNOTE 1020, dated 19 December 1983. [copy located in the Navy Department Library's "Uniform" vertical file]


Department of the Navy
Bureau of Supplies and Accounts
Washington 25, D.C.

In reply refer to
10 Apr 1953


From: Recorder, Permanent Naval Uniform Board
To: Secretary, Permanent Naval Uniform Board

Subj: Cap ribbons; historical information on

1. The history of cap ribbons in the Navy has been researched from BuSandA and BuPers files and records. All pertinent findings are listed in chronological sequence below.

The first record of a cap ribbon appears to be in 1808, when an unnamed Naval surgeon wrote his observations on uniforms. He proposed a hat as follows:

"A small round hat, varnished to make it waterproof, with the name of the ship to which the sailor belongs printed on the front or the letters N.U.S. on a band, which may be shifted when a man is turned over a ship."

The first record of a cap ribbon being required on the enlisted men's caps is in 1866, when according to W.M. Schoonmaker's article on the history of the Naval uniform, the cap ribbons were prescribed to be a black ribbon with the ship's name in gold letters.

The publication, Uniform for the United States Navy, 1869, described the cap ribbon as follows:

"The lettering is to be of gilt or yellow color and must be the same in character and size for the whole ship's company."

U.S. Navy Uniform Regulations, 1886, describes cap ribbon to have "The name of the vessel to which the wearer is attached, in plain block letters one-half inch in height, preceded by the letters U.S.S., will be woven in gilt thread through the center of the ribbon."

U.S. Navy Uniform Regulations, 1899, and 1905 have the same description as above for cap ribbons.

BuNav CL NO. 13-18 published on 14 January 1918 on the subject of cap ribbons is quoted below:

"New cap ribbons of the following designations: 'U.S. NAVY' and 'U.S. NAVAL RESERVE' have been adopted. All men serving on regular Naval vessels including those in the Fleet, Train, and Transport Force, and at regular shore stations should wear ribbons giving the name of the ship or station, as at present.

"All men serving on shore in foreign service, and on board special War Department ships or other small ships taken over temporarily, shall wear 'U.S. Navy' ribbons.

"All reservists doing duty on shore in the various Naval Districts and on small craft in the districts should wear the 'U.S. Naval Reserve' ribbons. Men under instructions in special schools established for this present emergency or at rifle ranges shall wear 'U.S. Navy' or 'U.S. Naval Reserve' ribbons according to their status.

"The 'U.S. Naval Reserve Force' ribbons may be worn until the present supply is exhausted. Men doing armed guard duty will continue to wear the special ribbons already assigned to them."

BuNav CL NO. 179-18 published on 30 September 1918 prescribed that the cap ribbons bear the legend "U.S. Navy." It is quoted below:

"The instructions contained in reference (a) are here by rescinded, and hereafter cap ribbons bearing the legend 'U.S. Navy' shall be worn by all enlisted personnel of the Navy and Naval Reserve Force - this to take effect when the supply of ribbons, as at present authorized is exhausted." (Ref: (a) BuNav. Circular Letter No. 13-18, N6KN dated Jan 14, 1918.)

Cap ribbons with ships' names were again authorized for wear by General Order No. 515 of 15 January 1920. At this time, personnel ashore apparently continued to wear the cap ribbons with "U.S. Navy" inscribed thereon.

BuNav CL No. 49-25 published on 8 October 1925 inaugurated cap ribbons with the following designations for enlisted men attached to shore stations:


The following additional designations for cap ribbons were added later:


Cap ribbons inscribed "U.S. Naval Reserve" were apparently issued to reserve enlisted personnel continuously until 1937 when a BuNav letter of 4 March 1937 issued instructions to issue "U.S. Navy" inscribed ribbons to Naval reserve enlisted personnel when stocks of the "U.S. Naval Reserve" inscribed ribbons were exhausted.

The recommendation to eliminate individual activity names on cap ribbons was made in a letter by LCDR J.B. McVey from the U.S. Naval Training Center, Newport, R.I. on 6 March 1940. The reasons set forth were:

"Prescribe cap ribbons worn by all men to read 'U.S. Navy' or 'U.S. Naval Reserve (U.S. Coast Guard).'

"Change of station now entails the expense and inconvenience of changing cap ribbons. The traditions of wearing the ship's name is not followed with the white hat. It is undesirable to follow it when trying to restrict knowledge of ship's movements."

By the first endorsement to LCDR McVey's letter the Commanding Officer, NTS, Newport stated:

"I believe this change should be effected. The wearing of the correct ship's name on the cap ribbon is not enforced by a large number of ships, particularly the smaller type ships."

In May 1940 this item was referred to the Fleet Board on Uniforms where approval was recommended of cap ribbons to read "U.S. Navy," and "U.S. Naval Reserve" as appropriate.

In January 1941 the Navy Department Permanent Board acted on the recommendation on cap ribbons as follows:

"A change in the present practice of wearing the name of the vessel or station on cap ribbons appears to be a matter of Navy Department policy. It is suggested, however, that since names of ships are used, information as to the location and movement of the ship can be obtained, which is undesirable in time of war. The large number of changes occasion frequent purchases of cap ribbons and the Uniform Board therefore recommends all cap ribbons to be 'U.S. Navy' or 'U.S. Naval Reserve.'"

This change was published in the original edition of the U.S. Navy Uniform Regulations, 1941.

U.S. Navy Uniform Regulations, 1941 and 1947 provided for the "U.S. Naval Reserve" inscribed ribbons for enlisted Naval reserve personnel on inactive duty. Change 6 to U.S. Navy Uniform Regulations, 1947 dated 8 November 1949 deleted the "U.S. Naval Reserve" inscribed ribbon, which left only the "U.S. Navy" inscribed ribbon for all enlisted Naval personnel except for chief petty officers.

Source: United States. Department of the Navy. Bureau of Supplies and Accounts. Permanent Naval Uniform Board. "Cap Ribbons; Historical Information on." Memorandum. 10 April 1953.

Published: Thu Jan 12 07:14:24 EST 2017