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 World War 1 at Sea



Commanding Officer and Officers of USS Panaman, naval transport 1918-19 (US Naval Historical Center, click to enlarge)






Commissioned Officers - Enlisted Rates - Enlisted Branches and Definitions - Enlisted Rank abbreviations - Yeoman (F)

Note: US Coast Guard - "Uniforms of officers and men are similar to those of U.S. Navy, but commissioned officers wear a gold shield on the sleeve instead of a star. ...... Men of the Coast Guard wear a shield on the sleeve" .(Jane's Fighting Ships)






Admiral William S Benson, Chief of Naval Operations 1915-19
Admiral Benson with Commander Charles Belknap Jr and Commander Worral R Carter, September 1918
Ensign Chester Nimitz, c 1907,
(Fleet Admiral Chester W Nimitz)
Boatswain Merrill Greenleaf USNRF on board USS Cigarette, SP-1234, summer 1917 (George K Beach)




Line Officers

(sleeve stripes in gold braid with star above)


Staff Officers

(sleeve stripes in gold braid, no star, coloured backing to stripes) 

(w/r/o – with rank of, equivalent line officer)


Medical Corps

(dark maroon,

 Reserve, crimson) and Dental Corps (orange)

Pay Corps




Chaplain Corps

 (stripes on black mohair braid)


Construction Corps

 (dark violet)



Professors of Mathematics

(olive green)


Civil Engineer Corps

 (light blue)



Admiral of the Navy


(no equivalent staff officers)



(no equivalent staff officers)

Vice Admiral


(no equivalent staff officers)

Rear Admiral


Medical Director w/r/o

(Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery and Surgeon General of the Navy)

Pay Director w/r/o

(Chief of the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts and Paymaster General of the Navy)


 (no equivalent) 


Naval Constructor w/r/o

(Chief of the Bureau of Construction and Repair and Chief Constructor of the Navy) 

 (no equivalent) 

Civil Engineer w/r/o

(Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks)




Medical Director w/r/o

Pay Director w/r/o

Chaplain w/r/o

Naval Constructor w/r/o


Professor of Mathematics w/r/o

Civil Engineer w/r/o



Medical Inspector w/r/o

Pay Inspector w/r/o

Chaplain w/r/o

Naval Constructor w/r/o


Professor of Mathematics w/r/o

Civil Engineer w/r/o

Lieutenant Commander


Surgeon or Passed Assistant Surgeon w/r/o

Paymaster or Passed Assistant Paymaster w/r/o

Chaplain w/r/o

Naval Constructor w/r/o


Professor of Mathematics w/r/o

Civil Engineer w/r/o



Passed Assistant Surgeon or Assistant Surgeon w/r/o

Passed Assistant Paymaster w/r/o

Chaplain w/r/o

Naval Constructor or Assistant Naval Constructor w/r/o

Professor of Mathematics w/r/o

Civil Engineer or Assistant Civil Engineer w/r/o

Lieutenant, junior grade


Assistant Surgeon w/r/o, Dental Surgeon w/r/o

Passed Assistant Paymaster or Assistant Paymaster w/r/o

Chaplain w/r/o, Chaplain (Jewish) w/r/o

Assistant Naval Constructor with rank

 (no equivalent) 

Assistant Civil Engineer w/r/o



 (no equivalent) 

Assistant Paymaster w/r/o

 (no equivalent) 

 (no equivalent) 

 (no equivalent) 

Assistant Civil Engineer w/r/o


Commissioned Warrant Officers - "with but after" Ensigns

(single gold sleeve stripe with blue silk at intervals)

Chief Boatswain

Chief Gunner

Chief Machinist


Chief Pharmacist





Chief Pay Clerk






Chief Carpenter

Chief Sailmaker







Appointed Officers

Midshipman 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Class

(3, 2 and 1 thin diagonal gold sleeve stripes respectively, none for 4th class)



Warrant Officers








Pay Clerk












Mates - last ones appointed in 1890's

Mate (20 years in rank)

Mate (under 20 years in rank)







Storekeeper 2nd class Howard Himmelwright, lost in sinking of USS President Lincoln 31 May 1918 (Rear Admiral Percy W. Foote)

"Old Salt" and young sailor passing recruiting poster, about 1920
Watertender Jack ("Pop") Dalton, on board USS Margaret, SP-527, c 1917-18
Fireman 1st class William Owens (seated), lost in sinking of USS President Lincoln 31 May 1918 (Rear Admiral Percy W. Foote)


Branch badges are in brackets, but are not repeated for the same branch title




Seaman Branch


Artificer Branch


Special Branch



(sleeve badge – eagle, reversed chevron, branch badge, three chevrons)

 e.g. Chief Boatswain's Mate

Chief Boatswain's Mate (crossed anchors)

Chief Gunner's Mate (crossed guns)

Chief Master-at-Arms (star)

Chief Quartermaster (ship's wheel
Chief Turret Captain (turret)




Chief Carpenter's Mate (crossed axes)

Chief Electrician (globe)

Chief Machinist's Mate (propeller)

Chief Printer (open book)

Chief Special Mechanic (propeller)

Chief Storekeeper (crossed keys)

Chief Water Tender (propeller)


Chief Carpenter's Mate, Aviation (winged crossed axes)

Chief Machinist's Mate, Aviation (winged aircraft propeller)

Chief Quartermaster, Aviation (winged ship's wheel)


Bandmaster (lyre)

Chief Commissary Steward (two keys and quill pen)

Chief Pharmacist's Mate (red cross)

Chief Yeoman (crossed quill pens)


(sleeve badge – eagle, branch badge, three chevrons)

e.g. Carpenter's Mate 1st Class



Boatswain's Mate 1st Class

Gunner's Mate 1st Class

Master-at-Arms 1st Class

Quartermaster 1st Class

Turret Captain 1st Class

Blacksmith 1st Class (crossed chipping hammer)

Boilermaker (propeller)

Carpenter's Mate 1st Class

Coppersmith 1st Class (propeller)

Electrician 1st Class

Engineman 1st Class (propeller)

Machinist's Mate 1st Class

Molder 1st Class (crossed chipping hammer)

Painter 1st Class (crossed axes)

Patternmaker 1st Class (crossed axes)

Plumber and Fitter (crossed axes)

Printer 1st Class

Sailmaker's Mate (possibly sailmakers' palm)

Shipfitter 1st Class (crossed chipping hammer)

Special Mechanic 1st Class

Storekeeper 1st Class

Water Tender


Carpenter's Mate 1st Class, Aviation

Machinist's Mate 1st Class, Aviation

Quartermaster 1st Class, Aviation


Baker 1st Class (reversed C or crescent)

Commissary Steward 1st Class

First Musician (lyre)

Pharmacist's Mate, 1st Class

Ship's Cook 1st Class (reversed C or crescent)

Yeoman 1st Class


(sleeve badge – eagle, branch badge, two chevrons)

e.g. Machinist's Mate 2nd Class




Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class

Gunner's Mate 2nd Class

Master-at-Arms 2nd Class

Quartermaster 2nd Class


Blacksmith 2nd Class

Carpenter's Mate 2nd Class

Coppersmith 2nd Class

Electrician 2nd Class

Engineman 2nd Class

Machinist's Mate 2nd Class

Molder 2nd Class

Oiler (propeller)

Painter 2nd Class

Patternmaker 2nd Class

Printer 2nd Class

Shipfitter 2nd Class

Storekeeper 2nd Class


Carpenter's Mate 2nd Class, Aviation

Machinist's Mate 2nd Class, Aviation

Quartermaster 2nd Class, Aviation


Pharmacist's Mate 2nd Class

Ship's Cook 2nd Class

Yeoman 2nd Class





(sleeve badge – eagle, branch badge, one chevron)

e.g. Gunner's Mate 3rd Class


Coxswain (crossed anchors)

Gunner's Mate 3rd Class

Master-at-Arms 3rd Class

Quartermaster 3rd Class


Carpenter's Mate 3rd Class

Electrician 3rd Class

Painter 3rd Class

Storekeeper 3rd Class


Pharmacist's Mate 3rd Class

Yeoman 3rd Class




(three cuff stripes, some with branch marks on upper sleeve)


Seaman 1st Class (braid sewn into shoulder seam



Seaman Gunner (grenade)

Fireman 1st Class (braid sewn into shoulder seam)



Shipwright (crossed axes)

Baker 2nd Class

Hospital Apprentice 1st Class (red cross)

Musician 1st Class

Ship's Cook 3rd Class

(all with branch marks)



(two cuff stripes, some with branch marks on upper sleeve)



Seaman 2nd Class (as Seaman 1st Class)


Fireman 2nd Class (as Fireman 1st Class)


Bugler (bugle)

Hospital Apprentice 2nd Class

Musician 2nd Class

Ship's Cook 4th Class

(all with branch marks)




(one cuff stripe)



Apprentice Seaman (as Seaman 1st Class)


Fireman 3rd Class (as Fireman 1st Class)

Landsman (no branch mark)


Landsman (no branch mark)








These are not official US Navy, but broad dictionary definitions of some of the less obvious jobs in the Navy of World War 1

Baker -

Bandmaster – leader and conductor of band

Blacksmith – forges and shapes iron with hammer and anvil

Boatswain (bosun, bos'un) - in charge of ship's rigging, anchors, cables, deck crew

Boilermaker - makes and repairs boilers and similar fabrications

Bugler -

Carpenter -

Commissary Steward – in charge of purchasing and preparation of food, care of stores etc.

Cook -

Coppersmith – makes and repairs copper objects, especially utensils.

Coxswain – ship's helmsman, steers ship's boat and in charge of its crew.

Electrician -

Engineman – operates, maintains and repairs engines, including refrigeration and auxiliary machinery

Fireman – stoker, tends boilers

Gunner -

Hospital Apprentice – medical staff, first aid, nursing etc

Landsman – preliminary rank for new recruits

Machinist's Mate – operates and maintains machinery

Machinist's Mate, Aviation – maintains engines

Master-at-Arms – responsible for ship's discipline

Mess Attendant – serves food to officers and crew

Molder – makes foundry molds and casts metal

Musician -

Oiler – lubricates engines and machinery

Painter -

Patternmaker – makes wooden wooden patterns for metal casting

Pharmacist's Mate – medical staff, first aid, nursing etc

Plumber and Fitter – installs and maintains ship's fittings

Printer -

Quartermaster - petty officer responsible for steering the ship.

Seaman – sailor, above seaman apprentice and below petty officer in rank

Sailmaker – makes and repairs sails

Shipfitter – maintains metal fittings, also lays out and fabricates metal plates etc. for ship hulls

Shipwright – carpenter who builds and repairs vessels

Special Mechanic -

Storekeeper -

Turret Captain – maintains, instructs and takes charge of assigned gun turret

Water Tender - in charge of a fireroom, "tends" water to the boilers, sees that fires are properly cleaned and stoked, etc

Yeoman – performs secretarial and clerical duties





(A) - Aviation

(F) - Female

(G) - General

(R) - Radio





Yeoman 1st class (F) Joy Bright, USNRF, February 1918, serving in Office of the Naval Superintendent of Construction, New York; later Captain Joy Bright Hancock, USN (Captain Joy Bright Hancock, USN)
Yeomen (F) being inspected by Rear Admiral Victor Blue (left), Chief of Bureau of Navigation, in Washington D.C., 1918


Following The Naval Reserve Act of 1916, which did not mention gender, a number of women begin to enlist from mid-March 1917 and by the end of April 1917, nearly 600 Yeomen (Female) were on duty. This number grew to over 11,000 in December 1918. Yeomen (F), or "Yeomanettes" as they were often referred to, mainly served in secretarial and clerical positions, though some were "translators, draftsmen, fingerprint experts, ship camouflage designers and recruiting agents. Five went to France with Naval hospital units and a modest number of others were stationed in Puerto Rico, Guam, Hawaii and the Panama Canal Zone. However, the great majority were assigned duties at Naval installations in the Continental United States, frequently near their homes, processing the great volume of paperwork generated by the war effort." By July 1919, numbers were down to under 4,000, when they were all released. Some Yeomen (F) continued until the end of their four-year enlistments on inactive reserve status. Thereafter, apart from Navy Nurses, women did not appear in the uniformed Navy until 1942. (Source: US Naval Historical Center)



Rank and Insignia tables were based on the excellent Naval-Reference.Net site, which sadly, no longer seems to be available online.


Rank Illustrations - "Uniforms & Insignia of the Navies of World War II" compiled by US Naval Intelligence during the war (only insignia that did not change between the two wars have been used)


Photographs - all courtesy US Naval Historical Center (individual named contributors in brackets)




see also, all World War 1:

United States Navy

  US Navy and Coast Guard Casualties

Awards of the Medal of Honor 1915-18, including Marine Corps

On the Coast of France: U.S. Naval Forces in French Waters by Joseph Husband, Ensign, USNRF



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revised  18/7/12