The Herndon Climb

A History of the United States Naval Academy's Greatest Tradition

  • Subject: U.S. Navy | U.S. Naval Academy
  • Format:
  • Pages:
  • Illustrations:
    25 b/w photos
  • Published:
    September 1, 2020
  • ISBN-10:
  • ISBN-13:
  • Product Dimensions:
    8 × 5 × 1 in
  • Product Weight:
    9 oz
Softcover $23.95
Member Price $19.16 Save 20%
Book: Cover Type


The Herndon Climb is an important and meaningful ritual in Naval Academy culture. Scaling the heavily greased, 21-foot tall Herndon Monument as a group at the very end of the year for "plebes," or freshmen, the Climb marks a major turning point in the lives of all Midshipmen, who are relieved of their low status at the moment they complete the task. The book is culled from interviews with more than fifty subjects, including participants in Climbs over the past six decades, with personal observations from the 2019 and 2018 events. Co-author James McNeal recalls the joyful pride of participating in the Climb as a plebe in 1983, and his experience helps bring vivid detail to the memories and reflections of his fellow Midshipmen.  


The book also includes a discussion of the career of William Lewis Herndon, whose heroic sacrifice at sea inspired the monument, and also traces the history and development of the modern Climb to its roots in the earliest plebe celebrations.

About the Author

Editorial Reviews

“’What has love got to do with it?’ This is the fascinating story of a college graduation tradition unique to the U.S. Naval Academy that began with a forbidden sidewalk named Love Lane.” —Jim Cheevers, Senior Curator, Retired, U.S. Naval Academy Museum
“Not only the history of a famous monument, but a chronicle of the midshipman experience at USNA. Throughout the decades, Herndon has marked the 'period' at the end of a long and grueling sentence called plebe year. This is an exhilarating story of valor and victory, the Naval Academy way.” —Susan Weisberg, author of Chester Midshipmouse
The Herndon Climb is the first comprehensive book to tell the full story about the history and legacy of the ultimate USNA Class event. In my five years as Superintendent, every Herndon climb was a unique and lasting memory to celebrate 'Plebes No More!'” —Vice Adm. Ted Carter, U.S. Navy (Ret.), Superintendent, USNA 2014 -2019; President, University of Nebraska
“Naval Academy alumni, young and old alike, are united by one word: Herndon. No graduate forgets their epic struggle to conquer this iconic monument and proclaim 'Plebe No More!' Authors McNeal and Tomasheski have superbly captured the rich history of this unparalleled tradition, the Herndon Monument Climb. An enjoyable read!” —Capt. Wendy Lawrence, USN (Ret.), Naval Academy Class of 1981 and Alumni Association Distinguished Graduate
“This fascinating, ground-level look at one of America’s oldest institutions depicts how generations of future naval leaders used courage, resourcefulness, strength, imagination, and teamwork to achieve a difficult but inconsequential task. In so doing they honed and refined the skills indispensable to the most difficult and critical of tasks.” —Glenn Sacks, columnist and media commentator
The Herndon Climb is about the ethical ways in which Navies exist – their codes of conduct and rules of engagement.... Rear Admiral James R. McNeal and Scott Tomasheski have done us a great service, the more so in their afterword discussion where they talk about their own times and experiences as friends and colleagues looking back over careers well run. A great read ... but also, a book to build upon as our navies 'to glory steer', against the tyrants who would steel our freedoms.” —The NAVY
The Herndon Climb is filled with rich history of the tradition and of the Navy, as well as literary references. The authors write of John McCain, ‘Moby Dick,’ Mark Twain, Matthew Fontaine Maury, and James H. Webb, Jr. We read poignant accounts of shipmates Chris Bianchi, Barbara Ives, Josh Williams, Brian Weaver, Karen Halverson, Michael Germand, and Kristen 'Dink' Dickmann. The book has great photos and a wonderful first-person feel throughout.” —Navy Reads
“A must-read for fans of military and maritime history, The Herndon Climb: A History of the United States Naval Academy’s Greatest Tradition, provides a fascinating history and firsthand account of a tradition that surprisingly tracks historical social and political changes at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis.” —Bay Times & Record Observer