Sailor Tattoos By the Ages


“The universality of tattooing is a curious topic for hypothesis….” Captain James Prepare dinner recorded in his journal throughout his third Pacific journey from 1776 to 1780. Whereas the observe of tattooing had been ongoing in indigenous cultures for 1000’s of years, Prepare dinner and Royal Navy sailors who noticed the Polynesian physique artwork have been among the many first to carry the observe of tattooing again to Europe and America.

Bored sailors turned newbie tattoo artists started to dabble in placing ink to flesh, the most typical being army insignias and the names of sweethearts again residence — naturally the mark of an ideal, lasting relationship.

The observe shortly unfold throughout the fleets.

Based on the Naval History and Heritage Command, “by the late 18th century, round a 3rd of British and a fifth of American sailors had no less than one tattoo.”

Since Prepare dinner’s journeys, shellback turtles, swallows, ships, anchors, daggers piercing a coronary heart, and extra proceed to “memorialize particular recollections or profession milestones at sea, resembling crossing the equator or eclipsing 5,000 nautical miles for the primary time,” writes J.D. Simkins of Military Times.

Regardless of tattoos being a well-established Navy custom, sailors adorned with tattoos have been nonetheless thought-about fringe or “unsavory” members of society till the mid-Twentieth century.

Throughout World Warfare I sailors have been extremely inspired to cowl up any risqué physique artwork since any perceived “ethical” failings would possibly disqualify them from service, states the NHHC.

The onset of World Warfare II, nevertheless, and the huge enlargement of Naval personnel ushered in a brand new period of the tatted custom, thanks largely to artist Norman Keith Collins — also called Sailor Jerry.

Since then, the Navy has been essentially the most lenient among the many different army branches in regard to its tattoo coverage.

In a bid to recruit extra sailors, the Navy eased its coverage even additional in 2016, permitting women and men to “have neck tattoos, sleeves and even markings behind their ears,” writes Mark Faram of Navy Times.

So, whereas the Post Malone look is out for sailors, most physique artwork is honest recreation.

  • A U.S. sailor displaying his tattoos whereas on Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands, 1947. (Fritz Goro/The LIFE Image Assortment/Getty Photographs)

  • A sailor sporting the “new” Lambertson Respiratory Unit throughout demonstrations of UDT tools at a Nationwide Analysis Council Symposium, Coronado, California, December 17, 1951. The person’s diver tattoo, a rendition of the Navy qualification insignia in use on the time, is on full show. (Naval Historical past and Heritage Command)

  • A U.S. sailor proudly displaying his tattoos. (Carl Mydans/The LIFE Image Assortment/Getty Photographs)

  • Shipfitter Second Class Steven J Kusial, engaged on a Seabee street building crew on Guam, 1944. (Naval Historical past and Heritage Command)

  • Simply a number of the tattoos of C. A. Lushbaugh. Lushbaugh served within the Navy within the Nineteen Twenties, with no less than one tour on board USS Arizona. (Naval Historical past and Heritage Command)

  • USS Alaska Seaman Third Class Floyd H. Scharp (proper) and Signalman Third Class Teddy Chalupski (left) , circa February 1945. Scharp’s “crossing the road” tattoo signifies that he has crossed the equator. (Naval Historical past and Heritage Command)

  • Pearl Harbor survivor, Thomas Michenovich, exhibits off his wartime tattoos earlier than the beginning of a 2004 ceremony honoring survivors of the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor. (Marco Garcia/Getty Photographs)

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