Pleb’s become Midshipmen in annual Herndon Monument climb (Photos)

| May 23, 2017

While you were at work yesterday, the future leaders of our nation’s Navy and Marine Corps participated in the 67th Herndon Monument Climb. The Class of 2020 successfully completed the Naval Academy’s grueling task that requires teamwork and endurance, of climbing the Herndon Monument and finally ending their first year at the Academy.

Photos by Glenn A. Miller Photography for Eye On Annapolis

 

Named for Commander William Lewis Herndon who went down with his ship the SS Central America, in 1857, the 21ft tall monument is covered with 50 lbs. of lard for the event. A plebe cover, which is a white Dixie Cup hat, taped and glued to the top. The story goes that the plebe who successfully places their companies cover on the top of the statue will be the first in their class to reach the rank of admiral. Although so far that has never been the case.

This year’s honors went to Joe McGraw, as he and the class of 2020 accomplished the task in 2 hours, 21 minutes, and 21 seconds. While that is about the average time for the climb, it’s nowhere close to the fastest. In 1969, the class of 72’s Larry Fanning reached the top in a time of 1 minute and 30 seconds. This year’s class was also far from the slowest time. That record is held by the class of 98, who took 4 hours, 5 minutes, and 17 seconds to accomplish their goal. There is some speculation that the class of 97’ used industrial grade adhesive and tape to ensure the Dixie Cup hat was properly secured to the monument, but never the less, the record stands.

Like so many of the Navy’s practices, this event is rife with tradition and rich with history. The Academy says that the Plebe Recognition Ceremony or Herndon Monument Climb is really all about love. Plebes, or freshmen, were not permitted to date or fraternize with women. Among the locations inside the academy grounds where midshipmen could spend time with women was a walkway in the central part of the yard which is known as “Love Lane.” The walk was likely created after the return of the Naval Academy to Annapolis from its Civil War home in Newport, Rhode Island. Midshipmen were prohibited from walking on “Love Lane” during their plebe year.

While the tradition is about celebrating the accomplishments of the most recent freshmen class at the Naval Academy, the school also takes the time to give back to the community that supports them. On the day of the Herndon Climb, plebes are required to remove their shoes prior to starting the event. Over the last decade, the Midshipman Action Group has donated thousands of athletic shoes through this collection.

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About the Author ()

Kevin Chaney was born and raised in Pasadena, MD. He enlisted in the United States Navy in 2007 and served on board the USS Nimitz until 2012. He is now attending the University of Maryland. Follow him on his blog at http://kchaneyreporting.wixsite.com/sports