Many of the hymns and prayers adopted by the academies became a vital part of the tradition of the larger armed services as well. A case in point was “Eternal Father,” chosen by the United States Navel Academy at Annapolis as its official hymn and in turn adopted by the U.S. Navy.
The words had been written by William Whiting, an Englishman, for a young man about to embark for America on the eve of the Civil War. With a tune composed by the Reverend John Bacchus Dykes, a prolific composer and Anglican pastor from Cambridge University, “Eternal Father” is one of the most hauntingly beautiful hymns ever written:
Eternal Father, Strong to Save
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bid’st the mighty Ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea.
O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe’er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee,
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.
“Eternal Father” was played at the funerals of President Franklin Roosevelt, a former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and President John F. Kennedy who had been in the Navy in World War II.