In 1930, Nebraska Gov. Charles Bryan decided to take a little vacation, and while he was gone, he left Lt. Gov. T.W. Metcalfe in charge of the state.
The power went straight to his head, and thus the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska was founded as a way for Metcalfe to appoint his friends as admirals. He did this even though — you might notice through the simple act of glancing at a map — Nebraska has absolutely no ocean access. In fact, it is the only state in the entire country that is triply landlocked.
Despite the lack of necessity for standing maritime security forces, the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska continues on, and it has become tradition for admiralships to be be bestowed on notable Nebraskans.
Ultimately, those who have the title of admiral in the Nebraska Navy conferred upon them have absolutely no military authority whatsoever. The title is purely symbolic, similar to the Kentucky Colonels and the Rhode Island Commodores.
An application for any Cornhusker seeking this, the most highfalutin of titles, is available on the Nebraska gubernatorial website stating, “Admirals in the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska are individuals who have contributed in some way to the state, promote the Good Life in Nebraska, and warrant recognition as determined by the Governor.”
One of the tenets of the organization includes continuing efforts to have U.S. Navy ships named after Nebraska, its people and places, of which there have been more than 40 so far.
When appointed, admirals are given a certificate from the governor that reads, “And I do strictly charge and require all officers, seamen, tadpoles and goldfish under your command to be obedient to your orders as Admiral — and you are to observe and follow, from time to time, such directions as you shall receive, according to the rules and discipline of the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska.”
According to the Nebraska Admirals Association’s web page, upwards of a hundred thousand admirals have been appointed since 1903. Some of its most esteemed members include Bill Murray, Bing Crosby, Bill Gates, and former Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh who seemingly slipped through vetting process.
It is believed, though record-keeping for Great Navy of the State of Nebraska has been inconsistent throughout its history, that 28-year-old Cody Uhing is the youngest Nebraskan to hold this admiralty.
Still, many have never heard of this illustrious cadre of midwestern men.
“Many Nebraskans and visitors to our state have not heard of our Navy,” the Nebraska Admirals Association wrote. “They have not heard of the waves of prairie schooners that at one time plied our plains under which lies our real wealth — Nebraska’s under-ground sea.”
Sounds corny, but what do you expect? It’s Nebraska.
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.