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U.S. Navy Turns 239: Pass the Cake

The U.S. Navy was founded on Oct. 13, 1775 by an act of the Continental Congress which resolved, “that a swift sailing vessel, to carry ten carriage guns, and a proportionable number of swivels, with eighty men, be fitted, with all possible despatch,” read the act.

From its modest beginnings, the Navy has grown into the world’s largest maritime fighting force.

As the Navy has grown, it’s created its own traditions, including one around its birthday.

At celebrations from ships to shore, the Navy’s birthday cake is cut by the most senior and the most junior sailor at the same time. The tradition is said to represent passing knowledge and experience from one generation to the next.

The following is a photo gallery of the Navy’s cake ceremony over the years.

Sailors aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) celebrate the Navy's 202nd birthday in 1977. US Naval Institute Archives

Sailors aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) celebrate the Navy’s 202nd birthday in 1977. US Naval Institute Archives

Unspecified US Navy birthday celebration. US Navy History and Heritage Command Photo

Unspecified US Navy birthday celebration. US Navy History and Heritage Command Photo

Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus, left, Yeoman 2nd Class Kritzia Pontier and Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) Adm. Mark Ferguson, cut a cake to celebrate the 238th birthday of the Navy. US Navy Photo

Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus, left, Yeoman 2nd Class Kritzia Pontier and Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) Adm. Mark Ferguson, cut a cake to celebrate the 238th birthday of the Navy. US Navy Photo

Navy SEAL Lt. Jason Redman, country music singer Mark Wills, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the two youngest Sailors in attendance and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike Stevens cut a birthday cake together at the U.S. Navy Birthday Ball in Washington, DC in 2013. US Navy Photo

Navy SEAL Lt. Jason Redman, country music singer Mark Wills, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the two youngest Sailors in attendance and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike Stevens cut a birthday cake together at the U.S. Navy Birthday Ball in Washington, DC in 2013. US Navy Photo

CWO Edwin Carpio hands out a piece of cake during a Navy birthday cake-cutting ceremony aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD-4) in 2013.

CWO Edwin Carpio hands out a piece of cake during a Navy birthday cake-cutting ceremony aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD-4) in 2013.

USS Carl Vinson’s (CVN 70) commanding officer Capt. Kent Whalen address the crew during a cake cutting celebrating the Navy’s 238th birthday. US Navy Photo

USS Carl Vinson’s (CVN 70) commanding officer Capt. Kent Whalen address the crew during a cake cutting celebrating the Navy’s 238th birthday. US Navy Photo

Commander, Fleet Air Forward Officer in Charge Chief Warrant Officer 5 Luis Quiroga cuts the cake with Personnel Specialist Seaman Apprentice Sarah Garson (Center) and Personnel Specialist Seaman Jamal Etrata, both from Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi's Personnel Support Detachment, representing the oldest and youngest members present during the base's annual Navy Ball at the Atsugi Convention Center in 2013. US Navy Photo

Commander, Fleet Air Forward Officer in Charge Chief Warrant Officer 5 Luis Quiroga cuts the cake with Personnel Specialist Seaman Apprentice Sarah Garson (Center) and Personnel Specialist Seaman Jamal Etrata, both from Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi’s Personnel Support Detachment, representing the oldest and youngest members present during the base’s annual Navy Ball at the Atsugi Convention Center in 2013. US Navy Photo

Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Ruel Jacob, from Grover Beach, Calif., decorates a cake for crew members in 2014. US Navy Photo

Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Ruel Jacob, from Grover Beach, Calif., decorates a cake for crew members in 2014. US Navy Photo


  • Ctrot

    So am I to understand, judging by the pictures, that the modern “tradition” is to have the most senior sailor and the two most junior sailors, one male / one female, cut the cake?

  • ChiChiChiba

    Special occasion cakes. A navy tradition.