History of the Class of 1963
The Class of 1963 was inducted on 7 July 1959, numbering 1,205 young men comprised of appointees from 48 States (no member from North Dakota), the Territory of Hawaii (not yet a state), the District of Columbia, the Canal Zone, and six foreign countries. We were the only class inducted under a 49-star U.S. flag, Alaska having been admitted to the Union in January of that year, while Hawaii was not added until August.
Our class was the first at Navy to take the SATs as part of the admissions process. Previously, candidates were given a special entrance examination prepared by the Naval Academy. We were also the first class since 1931 not to receive Plebe Summer flight training in the two-seat N-3N seaplane (the “Yellow Peril”), a fleet of which was still maintained across the Severn River. These antique bi-planes, which were almost 30 years old by 1959, had just been declared un-airworthy, to our great disappointment. We were the first class to participate all four years in the then-new majors program, and 106 of us received major-credits on our diplomas. We were the last class to wear detachable collars with our white dress shirts; the last to have our names stenciled across our white works uniforms; the last to wear cloth cap covers and cape-style “rain gear”; and the last class to go through all four years using the old Navy 4.0 numerical grading system, where 4.0 was a perfect score and 2.5 was the minimum passing grade. By the end of our Youngster Year, the growing variety of academic courses had eroded the universal curriculum and, as a result, we no longer marched to and from classes.
We beat Army in football all four years. This string of victories continued with a fifth consecutive win the November after we graduated. We were the first class never to lose in football to either Army or Air Force, although we played Air Force only once, beating them 35-3 in the first encounter between the two teams. Evidencing strong, early spirit, members of the class painted “ 63 sez Beat Army” on the freshly refinished laundry smokestack at the beginning of Youngster Year. (The large laundry building stood at the present site of Rickover Hall and the tall smokestack was a prominent feature in The Yard.) The feat was accomplished in a deft, night time climb and the encouraging words remained until we graduated.
The inaugural game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium was played in September 1959, against William & Mary. (Navy won 29-2.) The occasion was made memorable by the personal appearance of President Dwight Eisenhower, who flew in from the White House by Marine helicopter and officially dedicated the new facility.
We were the last class to enjoy “Exchange Weekend” with West Point, where all 2/c Midshipmen, in successive small groups, spent several days at The Point, stepping into the life and academic schedule of a counterpart cadet while cadets did the same in our places at Navy. This was a unique experience in seeing “how the other half lives” and strengthened the close relationships that exist between Navy and Army.
At our commencement on 5 June 1963, Vice President Lyndon Johnson presented diplomas and commissions to a class whose ranks numbered 876. The great majority of the graduates accepted Navy commissions. The largest number, 324, went into the surface line; 209 chose naval aviation, and 138 entered the nuclear power program. The remaining 54 new Ensigns were spread among the Supply Corps, the Civil Engineering Corps, and Engineering Duty Officers. Only 66 entered the Marine Corps, reflecting the limits on commissions into that service. Almost as many -- 60 graduates -- were commissioned in the Air Force. (The USNA and USMA classes of 1963 were the last allowed to send significant numbers of graduates to the Air Force, a vestige of the days before the Air Force had its own academy.) In addition, 20 new officers chose Army commissions. Five graduates were found not physically qualified for commissioning. Foreign students from Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Philippines, and Peru returned to service in their own countries.
Subsequent to graduation, members of the Class served with distinction in all the services. Thirteen graduates were lost in Vietnam and two were held as POWs. Another 15 died in the line of duty over the years; among these were three men lost in the sinking of SCORPION and one who perished in the LIBERTY incident. Classmates serving in combat were awarded three Navy Crosses, one Army Distinguished Service Cross, and 15 Silver Stars. One Navy warship was named after a heroic classmate lost in Vietnam – the USS FITZGERALD (DDG 62).
Twenty 1963 graduates achieved flag rank, 19 in the United States Navy and one in the Peruvian Navy. Four of the U.S. flag officers attained the rank of Vice Admiral. Class members not serving a career in the military achieved notable success as physicians, actors, dentists, writers, artists, educators, jurists, clergymen, scientists, lawyers, and leading business executives. Class members also served widely in both elected and appointed governmental office at the national, state, and local levels.
In 1974, the Class established a Foundation to perpetuate the history and memories of the Academy and the Class of 1963, and to assist the growth and development of the Academy. Over the ensuing 30 years, the Foundation has provided nearly $900,000 in scholarship aid to more than 90 children of our deceased classmates while also contributing substantial funds to other efforts, especially the Class of 1963 Center for Academic Excellence at the Academy.
Our class motto is Quality – ’63, reflecting a shared dedication to excellence in the performance of our service to the nation and our fellow citizens. We sustain that high standard, though many years have passed since our time “by the Bay where Severn joins the tide.”
It is an established fact that the Class of 1963 had the last true Plebe Year.