13 pictures that perfectly capture Navy life in the 1980s

Every generation has a slightly different experience of military service. Here are 13 things that no longer exist but you’ll remember if you served in the US Navy in the 1980s.

1. You could have a beard

13 pictures that perfectly capture Navy life in the 1980s

Remember when you just couldn’t wait to make E-4 so you could have one of those great big bushy Navy beards? Too bad you couldn’t wear an OBA to breathe in a fire with that big old beard…

2. Beer machines in the barracks


Nothing better than getting off work, coming back to an open barracks room with 75 other guys in it,  going into the TV lounge to watch the same show everybody else wants to see and dropping  $.75 into a cold drink machine to enjoy a nice lukewarm can of brew.

3. Snail mail that took months to reach you


Getting your Christmas cards for Easter is always fun.

4. Cinderella liberty


Get back to the ship  by midnight or you will turn into a pumpkin (or at least pull some extra duty)!

5. Life before urinalysis


Gave new meaning to “The smoking lamp is lit.”

6. Watching the same movie 72 times on deployment because there was no satellite

Top Gun Movie Poster

Reciting the lines by memory added to the fun. For a treat they would show it topside on the side of the superstructure.

7. Enlisted and officers partying together


Nothing better than drinking all night with your division officer and showing up for the next day’s morning muster while he is nowhere to be found.

8. Liberty cards, request chits, and green “memorandum” books


No liberty until the chief handed out the liberty cards; chits filled out in triplicate were required for everything; and you knew you made it when you carried a little green memo book in your pocket (to write stuff down with your Skilcraft pen).

9. Having a “discussion” with the chief in the fan room

chief discipline navy recruiting command

Photo: USN

A little attitude adjustment never hurt anybody. The next day you were best buds, and you never told a soul where you got that black eye.

10. Getting paid in cash


Nothing better than armed guards standing by for payday on the mess decks and having a pocket full of $20s every 2 weeks.

11. Our only enemy was the Reds

Soviet navy enlisted personnel stand at attention.

Ivans and Oscars and Bears, Oh My!

12. Communicating with flags


Just what are those guys waving around semaphore flags saying to each other?

13. Navigation before GPS

Quartermaster get a sextant and tell me where we are!