Starfleet Historical Database

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Welcome to the Starfleet Historical Database. Below are historical details of specific elements of Starfleet protocol and organization.

Contents

Ranks

The following information is transcribed from "Naval Ceremonies, Customs, and Traditions" by Vice Admiral William P. Mack, USN (ret) and Lieutenant Commander Royal W. Connell, USN.

Midshipman

Men or boys originally stationed amidships to carry messages, to bring up ammunition, and to relay messages from aft to the gundecks. It was a ship's rating in the British Navy until the end of the Napoleonic wars. A midshipman could be disrated at any time by the captain.

In 1740, admirals and captains were permitted a certain number of followers; in some cases a flag officer was permitted fifty. They were rated midshipmen, tailors, barbers, fiddlers, footmen, and stewards. It was in 1815 that midshipmen became a naval rank in the British service. The midshipman's time on the books counted towards promotion as a lieutenant, for two years of the six years' service required at seas had to be served as a midshipman or mate. Often midshipmen were entered on the books a year or so before actual service. It was a British personnel problem in 1755 how to bring up officers and gentlemen who should be able seamen, skilled to manage a ship and maintain a sea fight judiciously, be of discretion and courage, and able to speak to the seamen in their own language. "Middy" is a term disliked by midshipmen and used most frequently by elderly ladies, some land-going writers of sea stories, and a few Annapolitans.

Until the advent of steam, the life of the midshipman was often most disagreeable. The food was bad; the quarters cramped and located below the waterline; and the duties were onerous and manifold. Without the full status of an officer and still not a member of the crew, his position aboard ship was quite indefinite until regulations became more specific. The United States Naval Regulations (1818) state: "The commanding officers will consider the midshipmen as a class of officers, meriting in an especial degree their fostering care." From all accounts this "fostering care" was capable of wide interpretation. Although a midshipman is an officer in a very qualified sense, it will forever stand as a record that Samuel Barron was appointed and given a midshipman's warrant on April 11, 1812, when he was three years and four months old. He was "on duty" at half pay (midshipman's pay $19 per month) and a few cents in place of his grog ration. At the age of eight, in 1816, he reported for active duty at the Norfolk Navy Yard, and went to sea in the USS Columbus in 1820. Farragut was a midshipman at none and one half, and Louis M. Goldsborough, who became a distinguished Civil War officer, received his warrant at the age of seven years and ten months. In the British Navy, there is record of babies being entered on the rolls at age one. In most cases the captain collefect all pay and allowances and the original five pounds of "bounty money."

The old title "passed midshipmen" in the United States Navy meant originally a midshipman who had passed his exmination, entitling him to promotion to a lieutenant. When the title of ensign was introduced into the American Navy, those awaiting promotion were called midshipman while undergraduates were called cadet midshipmen. In 1819 a board, of which Commander Bainbridge was senior member, met in New York to give the first examinations that had ever been given midshipman in that Navy for promotion.

Note: In Starfleet, a midshipman is an Academy student in their senior or junior year. A cadet is a freshman or sophomore Academy student. The term 'trainee' is applied to cadets or midshipman who're serving aboard vessels on training cruises.

Ensign

Ensign Bearer, shortened to Ensign, was the rank, at an early date, of a young officer in the French Army and was afterward introduced into the French Navy as a naval rank. After the British in 1861 adopted the rank of sub-lieutenant to supplant the rank of mate, the American Navy in 1862 adopted the rank of Ensign. The rank existed in the American Revolutionary Army and eventually used in the British Army for the color bearers. It was also used by some of the old, honorary state and city military organizations in the United States.

Note: See Starfleet Officers for contemporary information on the rank of Ensign.

Lieutenant

A word derived from the French, meaning "holding in lieu of" or "one who replaces." The introduction of this rank into the British Navy in 1580 was for the purpose of providing the captain with an assistant and qualified relief if necessary. The first lieutenant was for years, both in the British and American services, the executive officer of the ship. In smaller British ships, the title First Lieutenant obtained, and was referred to as Number One.

Lieutenant Commander

This title was introduced in the United States Navy in 1962 with the reorganization of the service. Previous to this time, all lieutenants in command of smaller men-of-war were called "lieutenants commanding." For example, in the roster of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron in 1862 once reads:

(USS) Valley City, Lieut. Commanding S. C. Chaplin, bearing the
flag of Flag Officer Goldsborough; also (USS) Commander Perry,
Lieutenant Commander C. W. Flusser.

The title lieutenant commander was derived from the term "lieut. commanding."

Commander

As explained under "captain", the lower grades of captains were originally styled "master and commander" and commanded small ships of war. The title was introduced in England by William III and was originally "commanduer." The British Navy in 1827 first appointed commanders as second in command on large ships. The title was introduced in the US Navy in 1838 when the law read that "master commandants" should be known as "commander." The pay bill approved March 3, 1835, recognized the new title. A commander was originally supposed "to command vessels of the third and fourth classes (rates); may be employed as chief of staff to a commodore, or duty under a bureau; or as aide to a flag officer of either grade on shore stations."

Captain

From Latin, capitaneus, the head or chief. The evolution of the commanding officer of ships derives from the batsuen (boatswain) or the rector in the eleventh century; about 1300, the rank of captain came into general use. The master, although he sailed the ship, was of lower rank than the captain. In a British order in council in 1748, the relative rank was settled with the Army by dividing Navy captains into three grades. It was deemed at that time that any officer in command was entitled to the title of captain while in command, regardless of actual rank. All captains not eligible on the list for promotion to rear admiral were originally called "masters and commanders" and had "C" after their names. The rank was shortened to "commander" in 1794. The term "cdr." in the British Navy was used after the names of commanders in 1826. "Post captain," a term used in the Royal Navy and once used in the American Navy, distinguished captains commanding frigates from master commanders or commanders next in rank. There never was a commission of "post captain." In 1747, the rank of captain was first clearly defined in the British Navy. Captains who commanded post ships took rank, if of three years standing, with colonels in the Army. Until the year 1824, the Royal Navy list classed such captains as post captains. Until 1862, captain was the highest commissioned officer in the US Navy, and according to his duty, ranks with lieutenant colonel, colonel, or brigadier general.

Note: In Starfleet, any officer who commands a starship is referred to as "Captain" regardless of actual rank.

Commodore

This title came from Holland. In the Dutch Wars of 1652, there were not sufficient admirals and the Dutch desired to create others without calling them Admirals. There title was brought to England by William III. The broad command pennant or burgee was used by the Dutch at the same time. The rank was officially recognized by the British in 1806. The American Navy used the rank as an honorary title in the Revolution - "Commodore" John Paul Jones; "Commodore" Esek Hopkins, appointed as "commander in chief". Until 1861, all captains in the US Navy, commanding or having commanded squadrons, were recognized as commodores, though never commissioned as such. They wore a broad pennant distinctive of that rank. In 1862, it was established as a fixed rank, as in July of that year, eighteen were commisioned on the active list and seventeen on the retired list. The grade was abolished in 1899. During World War II, the temporary grade of commodore was given to some officers both of the line and of the staff corps. President Franklin D. Roosevelt made the original suggestion that the old title be revived. A captain in the US Navy who commands a flotilla or squadron of destroyers is called a 'commodore' by courtesy. The British Admiralty continued to make appointments of a small number of commodores. The broad stripe of rank is worn by those appointed.

Note: In Starfleet, a Commodore is a Senior Captain who is undergoing a probationary period of flag rank. Typically, all Commodores are being reviewed by the Admiralty for promotion to Junior Admiral. The probationary period usually lasts no more than two years, but may not be shorter than six months.

Rear Admiral

In order that the natural son of Charles II, Henry (Duke of Grafton), could at tender years hold the title Vice Admiral of England, Admiral Arthur Herbert was made the first "Rear Admiral of England." The office was effective until 1895, but not filled until 1901, when it was revived as was that of Vice Admiral of the United Kingdom by Edward VII. The Act of July 16, 1862, to a marked degree reorganized the American Navy, authorized the commisioning of not more than nine rear admirals on the active list and nine on the reserve or retired list. The first rear admirals were slected for distinguished service. Afterwards vacancies were filled by regular promotion, by a rigorous system of selection.

Vice Admiral

The early office in the British Navy may be traced to the vice admiral of the United Kingdom which was the evolution of the ancient title lieutenant admiral or lieutenant of the Admiralty. It later became Vice Admiral of England in 1672; then became Vice Admiral of Great Britain in 1707; and finally Vice Admiral of the United Kingdom in 1801. In 1876, the officer was not hold and remained vacant until 1901 when King Edward VII revived it. On December 21, 1864, the grade of vice admiral was introduced into the American Navy. David Glasgow Farragut was the first vice admiral. When Farragut was promoted to Admiral in July 1866, Rear Admiral David D. Porter was then made a vice admiral. When Farragut died in Auguest 1870, Porter was made an admiral, and Stephen C. Rowan was made a vice admiral. After the deaths of Porter and Rowan, the grade of 'four-star admiral' became extinct until the Act of March 3, 1915.

Admiral

The title may be traced to the Arabic Amir-al-Bahr or admiral (commander) of the seas. Bahr was dropped and the Romans called the admirals "Sarraccenorum Admirati" introducing the "d" into the Latin form. It was a title of great dignity. Ther term was introduced into Europe during the Crusades. There is record of its use first by the Sicilians and then by the Genoese.

The first English admiral appointed was William de Leyburn with title of "Admiral of the Sea of the King of England." This appointment was made by Edward I in 1297. The wide powers of this office gradually merged into the title of Lord High Admiral of England. In the time of Edward II, we find that the Latinized term admiralius has been Anglicized as admyrall. There is record of the first extant Royal Commission to a British Naval Officer. It was dated 1302 when Gervase Aland was appointed "Captain and Admiral." Authorities are of the opinion that the title of "captain" delegated executive command, while that of "admiral" delegated legal powers.

On May 28, 1493, Christopher Colombus officially received the title of of Admiral of the Open Sea. The latter's patent of Ferdinand and Isabella appointed D. Cristobal Colon "neustro Almirante del Mar Oceano"; also, "Capitan General be al Armada."

At the beginning of the Crusades, the Sicilians and Genoese conferred the honor of admiral on the commander of a squadron of ships. Queen Anne acted once as Lord High Admiral of England upon the death of her consort who had held that title. It is said that the Earl of Berkeley is the only officer not of royal blood to win the flag of Lord High Admiral.

From the beginning of the US Navy, the need of higher naval commissions was urged. John Paul Jones wrote to Robert Morris, in 1776: "I am convinced that the parity in rank between sea and land or maine officers is of more consequence to the harmony of the service than has generally been imagined... Were that regulation to take place in our Navy, it would prevent numberless disputes and duellings that otherwise would be unavoidable." Admiral wasn't a commissioned rank until 1841 (until then Captain was considered the highest rank), when Secetary of the Navy Upshur wrote, "The rank of admiral is known in all the navies of the world except our own; it has existed through a long course of past ages; and has been fully tested in the experience of all nations. It still exists and is still approved... Our naval officers are often subjected to serious difficulties and embarrassments in the interchange of civilities with those of other countries or foreign stations..." Repeated attempted were made by the Secretaries of the Navy and by the press, but the opinion prevailed in Congress that the title of admiral had a monarchical connotation. Congress did not create the grade until July 16, 1862. The Secretary of the Navy repeatedly recommended the establishment of the grades vice admiral, rear admiral, and commodore.

The Act of July 16, 1862 provided for nine grades of commissioned officers and carried the authority to appoint nine rear admirals. Farragut and Porter were the only active officers who ever held the permanent grade of admiral (four stars). George Dewey was the only officer who ever held the title of "Admiral of the Navy," and he retired in that rank with full pay. The titles Admiral of the Navy and General of the Armies were honorary offices which were specifically create for Admiral Dewey and General Pershing. Both offices were abolished upon their respective deaths and had never been revived.

In 1944, Congress established the ranks of Fleet Admiral and General of the Army, stipulating that there is no higher rank in the respective services. Leahy, King, Nimitz, and Halsey were the only officr who ever held the title of Fleet Admiral with the provision made that they remain on active duty for life with full pay and allowances.

Note: In Starfleet, the Grand Admiral is the equivalent of Fleet Admiral.

Terms

Abbreviations

  • Bridge - The location on board ship from which the ship is helmed.
  • Bull ensign - Senior ensign in command.
  • Captain's Mast - Nonjudicial disciplinary procedure (see: NJP).
  • CDO - Command Duty Officer (see: OOD).
  • Cheng - Chief engineer.
  • CMC - Command/Master Chief. Most senior enlisted aboard ship.
  • CO - Commanding Officer. The captain of a vessel.
  • DC - Damage Control.
  • First Lieutenant - Division officer/department head.
  • FITREP - Fitness report. Performance assessment issued to officers.
  • Flag Officer - Commodores and above.
  • George - Slang term for the most junior ensign.
  • GQ - General Quarters.
  • Hack - Informal confinement to quarters or to the ship.
  • Head - Bathroom.
  • Liberty - Authorized absense from an enlisted's duty station.
  • Mess - A space where meals are served.
  • Mustang - Officer who started out as an enlisted.
  • NJP - Nonjudicial punishment (Article 15 of the UCMJ).
  • Oh dark thirty - Slang term: "middle of the night."
  • OOD - Officer of the Deck (ship) || Officer of the Day (base).
  • Paygrade - Alphanumerical designation corresponding to the relative seniority of a member of the service.
    • O designates an officer.
    • E designates an enlisted.
  • Rack - Slang term for a bunk (bed).
  • Rating - Enlisted's area of speciality.
  • Scuttle - Intentional destruction of a ship to avoid capture, usually.
  • Shore leave - Authorized absence from an officer's duty station.
  • UA - Unauthorized Absence.
  • UNREP - Underway replenishment (refuel/restock).
  • Wardroom - Officer's mess, also the reference to the officer compliment.
  • XO - Executive officer (second in command).

See Also

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