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USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) Mission Accomplished

Sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln man the rails during her return to port after participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom

Manning the rail is a method of saluting or rendering honors used by naval vessels. The custom evolved from that of manning the yards, which dates from the days of sail. On sailing ships, men stood evenly spaced on all the yards (the spars holding the sails) and gave three cheers to honor distinguished persons. Today the crew are stationed along the rails and superstructure of a ship when honors are rendered.

The United States Navy prescribes manning the rail as a possible honor to render to the President of the United States and for the heads of state of foreign nations. A similar but less formal ceremony is to have the crew "at quarters" when the ship is entering or leaving port.[1]

Manning the rail is also the traditional way to honor the USS Arizona Memorial when it is passed by all U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and U.S. Merchant Marine vessels. More recently, as foreign military vessels are entering Pearl Harbor for joint military exercises, foreign troops have participated in the traditional manning the rails. Other notable instances occurred on July 24, 1997 when the guided missile destroyer Ramage and frigate Halyburton rendered honors to the Constitution during her 200th Birthday celebration, and on September 14, 2001, when the crew of the German destroyer Lütjens manned the rails as they approached the destroyer USS Winston Churchill and displayed an American flag and a banner reading "We Stand By You".


  1. United States Navy (February 2002). "Chapter 9 Customs and Courtesies" (PDF). Basic Military Requirements NAVEDTRA 14325. Naval Education and Training Professional Development And Technology Center. pp. 9–9–9–10. NAVSUP Logistics Tracking Number 0504-LP-101-1377. Retrieved 2006-12-16. 

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