Sea Change at Annapolis

The United States Naval Academy, 1949-2000

By H. Michael Gelfand

Foreword by Senator John McCain

416 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 13 illus., 8 tables, 1 map, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-1467-0
    Published: March 2014
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8116-8
    Published: September 2009
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-7747-0
    Published: September 2009

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Since 1845, the United States Naval Academy has prepared professional military leaders at its Annapolis, Maryland, campus. Although it remains steeped in a culture of tradition and discipline, the Academy is not impervious to change. Dispelling the myth that the Academy is a bastion of tradition unmarked by progress, H. Michael Gelfand examines challenges to the Naval Academy's culture from both inside and outside the Academy's walls between 1949 and 2000, an era of dramatic social change in American history.

Drawing on more than two hundred oral histories, extensive archival research, and his own participatory observation at the Academy, Gelfand demonstrates that events at Annapolis reflect the transformation of American culture and society at large in the Cold War and post-Cold War periods. In eight chapters, he discusses recruiting and minority midshipmen, the end of mandatory attendance at religious services, women's experiences as they sought and achieved admission and later served as midshipmen, and the responses of multiple generations of midshipmen to societal changes, particularly during the Vietnam War era. This cultural history not only sheds light on events at the Naval Academy but also offers a novel perspective on democratic ideals in the United States.

About the Author

H. Michael Gelfand is assistant professor of history at James Madison University.
For more information about H. Michael Gelfand, visit the Author Page.


"Displays mastery not only of the Academy's history . . . but also of the evolution of its bureaucracy and curriculum. . . . Politically explosive."--American Historical Review

"This book provides a much-needed study of how the values of the federal service academies compare to those of broader American society and the obstacles that potentially separate them from national, social and ethical mores."--Military Review

"Extremely well written and exhaustively researched."--Journal of Southern History


"Institutional histories can be dry and dull, but this carefully researched and documented history of the Naval Academy does not fall into that category. The author is fair, yet critical."--International Journal of Maritime History

“Brilliant. . . . An honest, well-documented, and often eye-opening account of [the Academy’s] cultural transformation.”--Proceedings