Anchor’s Aweigh Coin Decides Toss at 2006 Army-Navy Game
In the pantheon of college sports rivalries, the annual tug-of-war between the Army and Navy football teams is unlike any other. In fact, no contest in the annals of American sports history is more steeped in tradition and charged with excitement than this late autumn classic.
From each team’s opening entrance until the game clock expires, every eye in the stadium is fixed firmly on the field of play, as thousands of West Point Cadets and Naval Academy Midshipman, attired in the formal dress of their respective military branches, scream cheers and slogans in unison, hoping to rattle the opposing side into coughing up a fumble or dropping a deep-yardage pass.
The lead-up to the yearly Army-Navy grudge match is characterized by the same competitive spirit. At the prompting of upperclassman, Midshipmen shout the phrase “Beat Army” with religious zeal, while their Cadet counterparts have the mantra “Beat Navy” drilled into them from Day One at West Point. And the rivalry extends well beyond campus life or the football stadium.
In fact, over the years, the feud has even reached the realm of outer space. During the first-ever rendezvous of two spacecraft in orbit, flight commander Wally Schirra of Gemini 6, an alumnus of the Naval Academy, held a placard up to the window of his craft that read “Beat Army,” a message obviously intended to raise the ire of Gemini 7 commander and West Point graduate Frank Borman. (Borman had the last laugh; when asked if he’d seen the sign, he said he’d only seen one that read, “Beat Navy.”)
Much more than a football game, the annual event is a symbol of the passionate sense of pride felt by the members of each academy for the armed forces branch they serve. Spilled out in sweat and tears on the gridiron, the rivalry rages on in service to country and in every task the graduates of these two academies undertake for the rest of their lives.
This year, as the designated captains from each team faced off at mid-field to participate in the pre-game coin toss ritual, a new commemorative coin was introduced to fans and followers of the game throughout the world.
The 1 ¾ -inch bronze coin flipped from the referee’s hand at the start of this year’s struggle featured a detailed tribute to the U.S. Navy’s traditional march, “Anchor’s Aweigh,” which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
Created by Northwest Territorial Mint, a full-service private mint located near Seattle, Washington, the coin’s obverse (heads) side features a rendering of the two men who collaborated to produce the popular anthem. The reverse bears the official emblem of the U.S. Navy. Both sides are accented with bold enamel highlights.
Northwest Territorial Mint was selected to design and strike the coin at the request of the U.S. Naval Academy Band, based on its reputation as the foremost manufacturer of specialty coins for all branches of the U.S. Military.
“Anchor’s Aweigh,” the title of which is at least familiar to most Americans (even if they can’t recall all the words to the song), was composed in 1906 by the bandmaster of the Naval Academy Band, Lieutenant Charles A. Zimmermann, and Midshipman First Class Alfred Hart Miles.
As the story goes, Zimmermann and Miles sat down together one cold November evening at the Naval Academy Chapel organ and hammered out the foundation for the famous song in a single session, with Miles adding additional lyrics a short time later.
The first large-scale performance of this spirited march at the Army-Navy game later that month coincided with a 10-0 Navy win, prompting many a Midshipman to give credit for the victory to the Navy’s new song.
Subsequently dedicated to the Naval Academy graduating class of 1907, “Anchor’s Aweigh” has echoed down through the decades and has been belted out with pride by generations of Navy sailors.
With its lively references to shipboard life and its celebration of membership in the world’s elite maritime force, it is revered by Navy men and women of every rank and rate. In fact, it has become an important component of the official induction ceremony for the Navy’s new Chief Petty Officers.
The title for the classic song, which is often incorrectly written as “Anchors Away,” actually derives from the nautical phrase “to weigh anchor,” which refers to the practice of hoisting the ship’s anchor from the bottom. When the anchor is cleared, the ship is again ready to move forward. In this context, the apostrophe in the title is correctly placed, indicating that the anchor has been lifted and that the ship is on its way.
This seemingly small detail is a point of pride for Navy personnel, underscoring the history and heritage of the world’s most powerful seagoing force and reminding every Navy sailor of the long-established maritime traditions to which he belongs.
This detail and all that it symbolizes are reflected in the beautifully-detailed bronze coin created by Northwest Territorial Mint to honor the “Anchor’s Aweigh” centennial. Since the coin is currently available at the company’s online store, active-duty, former, and retired Navy personnel, or anyone who follows the Army-Navy rivalry, can purchase it with ease now that it has officially become part of the history of one of America’s greatest sporting traditions.