The United States Navy Line Crossing Ceremony
Since the American Revolution, our military has served to protect this great country of ours in thirteen wars including our present Iraq War. Today I am humbly reminded of my father. Roland Irving Bruning father entered the United States Navy on November 30, 1942 in New York. During his seventeen year long Navy career he served in World War II in the Atlantic Fleet and in the Korean War and acquired many ribbons and decorations. These include the Asiatic – Pacific Ribbon (4 stars), Philippine Liberations Ribbon (2 stars, European African Middle Eastern Area Ribbon (1 star), Good Conduct Medal, American Area Campaign Ribbon and the World War II Victory Medal. Of all these decorations my father prided himself upon his Realm of the Arctic Circle and Realm of the Golden Dragon Certificates.
No greater Naval tradition is there worldwide than a line crossing ceremony. According to Navel tradition, a pollywog is a sailor who has never crossed the equator line. On February 18, 1944 my father became a golden shellback (those who have crossed the Equator on the International Date Line) through a line crossing ceremony. Afterwards he received his Domain of the Golden Dragon certificate. Considered a rite of passage that tested upon the sailors ability to withstand a long ocean journey, many WWII sailors looked forward to their line ceremony. The day long began as a shellback dressed as King Neptune calls forth the pollywogs. The ceremony the king of the sea interrogates the pollywogs through many embarrassing obstacles such as being locked in a salt-water coffin, hair chopping, digging through rotting garbage, locked in the stocks while shellbacks throw mushy fruit at them, and other degrading behavior. After each event through the series of obstacles, the pollywog must declare their allegiance to King Neptune. All of the obstacles are meant to entertain the shellbacks while degrade the pollywog. The brutality of the obstacles a pollywog had to endure depends upon the era in which the sailor lived. Up into the 1980’s; beatings and severe brutality were so common in the ceremony many sailors found themselves in sickbay soon afterwards. Some sailors lost their lives. Even visiting dignitaries were not excluded from the line crossing ceremony. In November 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt endured the same harsh treatments when USS Indianapolis crossed the Equator while he was on board.
After a pollywog becomes a shellback, the sailor receives a certificate. There are several types of line crossing Naval Fraternities. My father had the Order of the Blue Nose and Order of the Golden Dragon. The Navy recognizes:
The Order of the Blue Nose for sailors who have crossed the Arctic Circle.
The Order of the Red Nose for sailors who have crossed the Antarctic Circle.
The Order of the Golden Dragon for sailors who have crossed the International Date Line.
The Order of the Ditch for sailors who have passed through the Panama Canal.
The Order of the Rock for sailors who have transited the Strait of Gibraltar.
The Safari to Suez for sailors who have passed through the Suez Canal.
The Golden Shellback for sailors who have crossed the point where the Equator crosses the International Date Line.
The Emerald Shellback or Royal Diamond Shellback for sailors who cross at 0 degrees off the coast of West Africa (where the Equator crosses the Prime Meridian)
The Realm of the Czars for sailors who crossed into the Black Sea.
The Order of Magellan for sailors who circumnavigated the earth.
The Order of the Lakes for sailors who have sailed on all five Great Lakes.