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Navy Fliers: 1929

Navy Fliers: 1929

June 6, 1929. Annapolis, Md. "Graduation, U.S. Naval Academy." Midshipmen doing the traditional cap-toss. Harris & Ewing glass negative. View full size.


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Waldo, er, RAH not here

I'm told that Heinlein's biographer states that he had actually left for Kansas City three days earlier and is therefore not in the picture.

Hats Off!

Times have changed. Aside from the obvious, new ensigns tossing their "covers," nary a male personage in the audience has his head covered. In 1929 it was not socially acceptable for men to wear hats indoors.


The Navy refers to them as "covers," not "caps."

Anchor Man

For at least some of the history of the Naval Academy the Anchor Man received a dollar from each of his classmates in recognition of "There but for the grace of God go I." That adds up to quite a tidy sum, especially on an Ensign's pay. The magic number was a final grade point average of 2.5 (of 4.0); any lower and you bilged (failed) and didn't graduate. As graduation neared the handful of guys who were contenders for the honor of Anchor Man entered into their own competition. They would study for tests harder than ever so they could get exactly the grade they needed to try to make their GPA exactly 2.5 and edge out the others.

By the way, based on the number of times Roger Staubach's cap has been offered up on e-Bay, he must have tossed a few dozen at graduation.

P.S. Covers or caps. In the Mid store the label said "Combination Cap".

1929 yearbook online

The Academy's Yearbook is called The Lucky Bag. The 1929 volume is available online at Among the many notables in its biographical pages are Medal of Honor recipient Bruce Van Voorhis, page 309, and the pioneering science fiction writer Robert Heinlein, page 319.

Dahlgren Hall - Still there!

This photo was taking in Dahlgren Hall, on the campus of the Naval Academy. I had the chance to take my kids through this building not too long ago. A very cool building!

A century of tradition

The cap toss at Annapolis dates back to 1912, which was the first graduating class to get commissions as officers immediately without having to serve 2 more years as midshipmen. It was a gesture of throwing their midshipman caps away since they would be replaced by officer caps. Traditionally, the cap toss is instigated by the class "anchor man," the midshipman who graduates with the lowest 4-year grade average.

Wait until October 24

I always buy June 1929 school yearbooks when I see them because of the innocence and optimism of the teens and young adults who wrote in them.
These few graduates may be the lucky ones to have government jobs lined up four months before. But when I see the bright light on those white outfits in this picture, and all their proud parents celebrating in their finery, I can't help but think of all the futures dreamed of on that day, and all the dreams that got derailed.

What we know

This photo is a choice example of what makes Shorpy so poignant: In 12 years, a lot of these men are going to war. I look at this photo with tears in my eyes - my dad was naval aviation in WWII - and I wish them well. The future wishing the past well. Would that we could.


Someplace in there is SciFi author Robert A Heinlein and future Admiral James H Flatley.

Have cap, will command

Among these class of 1929 USNA grads tossing their caps is sci-fi author Robert Heinlein.

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