“Anchors Aweigh” is one of the most recognizable melodies in the world. The unofficial song of the U.S. Navy celebrated its centennial in 2006, and the coin pictured below was issued to commemorate the milestone. The music for "Anchors Aweigh" was composed by Charles A. Zimmermann, Naval Academy Bandmaster and Music Director, with lyrics by Midshipman Alfred H. Miles.
Charles A. Zimmermann, a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, served as director of the U.S. Naval Academy Band from 1887 until his death in 1916. Zimmermann’s association with the Naval Academy began at his birth in 1861 in Newport, Rhode Island. His father, Charles Z. Zimmermann, was a Naval Academy bandsman during the Academy’s temporary Civil War relocation to Newport. On July 1, 1882, Zimmermann became a member of the band as a third cornetist. He relieved Peter Schoff as bandmaster in 1887, making him, at age 26, the youngest ever to assume leadership of the Naval Academy Band.
When Grover Cleveland became President in 1893, Zimmermann gained national recognition by conducting an orchestra of 120 musicians during the inaugural ball. Four years later, when Sousa's successor as Marine Band leader, Francesco Fanciulli, was discharged from that position, Zimmermann was offered the appointment. He declined the prestigious post so that he could continue composing and guest-conducting without having the excessive pressures associated with the Washington-based Marine Band.
Prof. Zimmermann (at the piano) and his orchestra in Mahan Hall with the
Midshipman theatre group "Masqueraders." This group is still active today.
At the time of composition, Alfred H. Miles was a Midshipman First Class with the class of 1907. Miles also had strong ties to the Navy. His father, Charles C. Miles, had been a Naval Officer serving during the Haitian campaign in 1915. Alfred Miles went on to have a distinguished career as a Surface Warfare Officer. He held many important posts and commands including Executive Officer at the Naval Submarine Base in Norfolk and Commanding Officer of the Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and served as the first Commanding Officer of the Little Creek Amphibious Base before retiring from the Navy at the rank of Captain.
Beginning early in his long career, Zimmermann composed a march nearly every year, dedicating it to the graduating class. Midshipman Miles approached Zimmermann with his class’s request for a new march, saying that his classmates “were eager to have a piece of music that would be inspiring, one with a swing to it so that it could be used as a football marching song, and one that would live forever.” As the legend goes, the two men sat at the chapel organ, Zimmermann composing the tune and Miles setting the title and writing two stanzas of words. The title, "Anchors Aweigh," came from an expression meaning the ship's hoisted anchor has just cleared the sea's bottom and, by implication, the voyage is underway. This march, "Anchors Aweigh", was subsequently dedicated to the Academy Class of 1907.
To fill vacant officer billets in the fleet, the Class of 1907 graduated in three sections, with the first graduation held in February 1906. This placed the Class Supper in October 1905 and as was the tradition at Naval Academy Class Suppers, it is possible that the Class March, “Anchors Aweigh” was performed that night, however there is no record of this. The first mention of a performance of “Anchors Aweigh” was at the 1906 Farewell Ball, held on February 12, 1906. "Anchors Aweigh" received its first public performance at Franklin Field in Philadelphia for the 1906 Army-Navy football game, and for the first time since 1900, Navy emerged victorious with a 10-0 defeat of the Cadets!
February 12, 1906 Dance Card listing Zimmerman's Anchors Aweigh at #14.
Zimmermann was later promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps by an act of congress on April 12, 1910 that established the band as a regular Navy unit of forty members with a leader, who was authorized the same pay as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps, as well as an assistant leader. "Zimmy" as he was affectionately known by the Midshipmen, continued to serve as Naval Academy Band director until he became ill and died suddenly on Sunday morning, January 16, 1916, of a brain hemorrhage. Second Lieutenant Zimmermann was given a full military funeral, with midshipmen serving as pall bearers, and classes were suspended so that the entire regiment might attend when he was buried in St. Mary's Cemetery on January 19, 1916. Subsequently, Zimmermann's body was exhumed and transferred to the Naval Academy cemetery where a handsome granite monument, as a gift from the classes of 1916 and 1917, was erected in his honor. The inscription at the base of the cross states, "Erected by His Midshipmen Friends."
The first commercial recording of "Anchors Aweigh" was released on June 9, 1920. The record was produced by Columbia Gramophone Company and contained Zimmermann's "Anchors' Aweigh" and Adolph Torovsky's "March of the Middies." (Torovsky served as Zimmerman's Assistant Director prior to becoming Director of the Naval Academy Band following Zimmerman's death in 1916.)
Midshipman Royal Lovell, Class of 1926, wrote a third stanza and later, George D. Lottman wrote the popular verses that were widely used until 1997 when the Master Chief of the Navy, John Hagen, slightly revised these verses to be more inclusive of all naval personnel.
No original manuscript of “Anchors Aweigh” has been found. The oldest known manuscript is a full band arrangement by First Lieutenant Adolf Torovsky, USMC dated 1926. It is currently held in the U.S. Naval Academy Archives.
Original Lyrics by Midshipman Alfred H. Miles (1906)
Stand Navy down the field
Sails set to the sky
We'll never change our course
So Army you steer shy-y-y-y
Roll up the score, Navy
Sail Navy down the field
And sink the Army, sink the Army grey!
Get under way, Navy
Decks cleared for the fray
We'll hoist true Navy Blue
So Army down your grey-y-y-y
Full speed ahead, Navy
Army heave to
Furl Black and Grey and Gold
And hoist the Navy, hoist the Navy Blue!
Verse 3 added by George D. Lottman (1926)
Anchors Aweigh, my boys, Anchors Aweigh.
Farewell to college joys, we sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay.
Through our last night on shore, drink to the foam,
Until we meet once more:
Here's wishing you a happy voyage home.
Revised Lyrics of 1997 by MCPON John Hagen, USN (Ret)
Stand Navy out to sea,
Fight our battle cry;
We'll never change our course,
So vicious foe steer shy-y-y-y.
Roll out the TNT,
Sail on to victory
And sink their bones to Davy Jones, hooray!
Anchors Aweigh, my boys,
Farewell to foreign shores,
We sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay.
Through our last night ashore,
Drink to the foam,
Until we meet once more.
Here's wishing you a happy voyage home.
Blue of the mighty deep:
Gold of God's great sun.
Let these our colors be
Till all of time be done, done, done, done.
On seven seas we learn
Navy's stern call:
Faith, courage, service true,
With honor, over honor, over all.