U.S. Naval Academy
Flashing swords, brass buttons and drum rolls of a spring parade are just some of the many traditions that have marked over 150 years at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. Strains of "Anchors Aweigh" and similar numbers played by the Naval Academy's Midshipmen Drum and Bugle Corps set the cadence for the 4100-man Brigade of Midshipmen now, as they have fairly consistently since 1914.
History of this organization dates from 1914 when the first appearance of the all-midshipman Drum and Bugle Corps was made. Midshipman R.W. Cary led his 16 members through a baseball game performance between St. John's College of Annapolis and the Naval Academy. The midshipmen quickly took to the idea of a D & B Corps as evidenced by the fact that the next year and for seven years thereafter, a Corps of approximately 50 men functioned to the delight of all hands.
The organization went out of existence in January, 1922, when then Superintendent Henry B. Wilson deemed the Drum and Bugle Corps a "luxury not a necessity" and abolished the "Bugle squad." The Corps remained defunct until early 1926 when two midshipmen persuaded Admiral Louis M. Nulton and Captain Sinclair Gannon, then Superintendent and Commandant, to allow them and whatever volunteers they could muster to drum the midshipmen Drum and Bugle Corps back into shape. Reorganized with 45 men, "30 of them being buglers and 15 of them being drummers," the Corps was a success and formally re-established in April, 1926.
The succeeding years brought forth bigger and better Corps, each trying to outdo the one before. In the late '30s, according to one report, "it was an impressive sight to see the Drum and Bugle Corps, then known affectionately as 'The Hell Cats,' swinging out on the field in full dress with the white cross-belts shining out against the blue of their uniforms, their precision marching and music providing the lift and rhythm to the tired feet of the regiment." And they were a cocky outfit, snappy on the field, comrades off it, and ever proud of their organization.
As the rumblings of war grew loud in 1941, Admiral Wilson Brown, then Superintendent, decided that "the seriousness of the future life of midshipmen should be impressed upon the regiment." In keeping with his "strip-for-action bill," the Drum and Bugle Corps was jettisoned, and, with it, the splendor of dress parades. The byword was no longer pomp, and the Drum and Bugle Corps was retired with such other extras as dressing for dinner, five-day weeks, and new cars. By September, 1945, the D & B Corps, never a group to be down for long, was again in the process of being organized, and ordered 25 tenor bugles, five baritones, 10 field drums, and two scotch drums.
The D & B Corps was effectively reinstated at the Naval Academy and was officially incorporated as a unit of the Brigade organization on March 16, 1946. In a brigade order announcing this event, the executive officer stated that the Corps' duties were to "participate in Brigade functions" which were to "play the Brigade into Bancroft Hall at noon and evening meal formations and to supplement the Naval Academy Band in the following respects: in playing marching music for the Brigade prior to Chapel, in furnishing music for the Brigade parades and in furnishing music for the line of march when the Brigade is functioning as a unit away from the Naval Academy."
The renovated Corps was composed of some 40 members, all experienced players - many of whom were war veterans, and was acclaimed for the fine martial music they provided for midshipmen activities. The Naval Academy Midshipmen Drum and Bugle Corps has continued to grow - both in popularity and in size. The present Corps boasts a membership of over 100 midshipmen musicians and performs over 200 times a year at football games, festivals, shows, parades, and military functions across the nation.
The Naval Academy Drum and Bugle Corps competes annually with the Air Force Academy's Drum Corps, the "Flight of Sound". Biannually, the Coast Guard Drum Corps also competes (when the competition is held in Annapolis). The Competition traditionally takes place on the weekend of the Navy-Air Force football game.
When prospective freshmen (called "plebes") audition and are accepted into the Plebe Summer Corps, they are required to address the staff (current members of the Academic Year corps) as "sir" and "ma'am", as a component of military discipline. This requirement extends to the rest of the upperclass in the corps once they return from the summer. Upperclass are required to refer to plebes as "Mr./Mrs. Doe", where "Doe" is the last name of the plebe. At the conclusion of the field show during the Air Force competition, plebes are "spooned", where plebes and upperclass are allowed to refer to each other by first names, and the plebes are considered full members of the Corps.
United States Naval Academy Drum & Bugle Corps - official web site