Webmaster Note - January 2002

I have seen this essay passed around on the net for a year or more. It has been posted on many military bulletin boards and exchanged endlessly via e-mails among shipmates. The original authorship was never made clear. Sometimes It was attributed to "author unknown" and in other cases it showed up as a part of someone's speech or included in some patriotic paper about our Navy.

My take on this, having observed how these things go on the internet , is that most old sailors who read this fine piece were struck in a genuine and emotional level by it. Surely most, as I did, very likely thought "yeah, that's how I feel too". The words and the mood sounded such a chord of familiarity of our own experiences and it seemed to fit so perfectly that everyone wanted to share it.. And as the authorship at the time was listed as "unknown" - it gradually, and naturally, over time, became integrated into various speeches here and there or written up in some patriotic paper.

But now as Paul Harvey would say, we have the "rest of the story".  We have the author.

Master Chief Hughes has recently stepped forward and claimed credit for the original authorship.

Below are his comments about the essay.

If you wish to discuss this further with him,
drop him an e-mail at

Sid Harrison

How "Once I was a Navyman" came about.

By E.A. Hughes FTCM(SS) USN(Ret)

I am a retired Master Chief Fire Control Technician, Submarine Qualified. I was searching for Navy ship sites when I came across " Once I Was A Navyman". When I saw the title and started reading this piece, I immediately recognized it as a work that I had generated back in 1957-58 while attending Denver University, as an English 102 assignment. This was after my first hitch in the Navy.

Within a year I was back in the Navy. After returning to the Navy and serving another 20 years. I found it necessary to say something more about my experiences in the Navy. I found a copy of my original " Once I was A Navyman" and updated it to reflect my experiences of 20 more years Navy service. This included many of the ships that I served on and Navymen that I had known. Even though my original version of "Once I Was A Navyman" was considered very good my updated version was judged by many folks to be much better and more feeling than my original.

The mystery of "Once I Was A Navyman", was how it got on the internet to begin with. I certainly did not submit it for consideration in its original form. And I never once considered applying for a copyright. The internet or even the PC did not exist in 1958. I have to assume that someone from Denver University submitted this work at some time or another, and not wanting to claim it as their own work gave credit to "anonymous" That was indeed nice of them but now there are at least 20 versions of "Once I Was A Navyman" in various places on the internet.

It is not my intention to alter the way that our shipmates conduct communications, even if some might consider taking a wee bit of literary license. I personally think that there are still many Navymen, from E1 to O8, who will look at these words and pass them on to others after changing ships' names and other things that meet their fancy.

I can only say that I am proud to have generated a work that other Navymen feel good enough about to want to maintain the original thoughts and still want to change it enough to reflect some of their own individuality.

January 2002

E.A. Hughes