United States Navy

The U.S. Navy recognizes October 13, 1775 as its official date of establishment. From the very start, the Navy played an active and important role in the Revolutionary War.  Yet soon after the war ended, the ships were sold and the Navy disbanded.  It wasn’t until eleven years later, when conflicts between American merchant ships and the Barbary Pirates in the Mediterranean Sea occurred, that the Naval Act of 1794 was passed creating the United States Navy.  The Navy fought the French Navy during the First and Second Barbary Wars and the British Navy in the War of 1812.

The Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland was founded in 1845 to provide a corps of well trained officers capable of leading the Navy in future conflicts.  The U.S. Navy was active during the Civil War creating blockades to prevent the South from getting help or trading with European countries, such as the Great Britain.  There were also naval battles between the southern and northern forces along the Mississippi River, the Gulf Coast, and the Atlantic Coast.  Yet after the conflict, the Navy forces were reduced to only 6,000 men.

In 1882, Congress began to approve the building of multiple modern armed cruisers and battleships.  The U.S. Navy was fifth in terms of numbers of ships by the early 1900’s.  After winning battles during the Spanish-American War the Navy continued to expand and by the end of World War I had more men and women in uniform than the British Navy.

World War II began for the United States on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and destroyed much of the Pacific Fleet which was stationed there.  War was immediately declared on the Japanese and then the European Axis, Germany and Italy.  The United States reached an agreement with the Allies whose strategy was to seek an early defeat of Germany and Italy before attacking the Japanese.  Our Merchant Marine convoys were essential to this strategy, and the Navy worked with them to protect men, ships and cargo which crossed the North Atlantic bringing supplies to both American and Allied troops.

When the United States began its first counteroffensive against Japan, with the invasion of Guadalcanal, the Navy became involved in a series of battles directly with the Japanese.  When the Japanese surrendered, a large flotilla entered Tokyo Bay to witness the ceremony conducted on board the battleship, USS Missouri, which was named for the home state of President Harry Truman.  By the end of the war the United States Navy had over 1600 warships.

When the peace treaties were signed the act of scrapping and mothballing ships started again.  Due to tension with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Korean War, it eventually became evident that a large peacetime fleet was needed.  They were stationed around the world in strategic areas and their maneuverings were a standard part of the response to times of crisis.

The Navy developed a nuclear based technology as was represented by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, Father of the Nuclear Navy, and the development of missiles and jet aircraft for naval use.  The USS Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, commissioned on November 25, 1961, brought in a new era of nuclear powered vessels.  Nuclear power also made submarines ever more deadly and quiet.

Despite naval activity in Vietnam both Presidents Johnson and Nixon cut spending on the Navy and by 1978 the fleet had dwindled to 217 surface ships and 119 submarines.  This changed during the Reagan years.  He set a goal of having a 600 ship Navy which included the reactivation of the battleships USS Missouri, USS New Jersey and USS Iowa.

The number of ships as of 2005 was less than 300 but that statistic can not be used in comparison to those fleets of the past.  These modern ships are larger and carry more firepower.  Due to its size, weaponry, technology and ability to project force far from American shores, the new Navy is a potent force made up of 324,239 personnel in 2011.  Currently 119,307 Navy Reservists stand by to join the fleet when needed as active parts of the largest and most powerful naval force in the world.  Elite groups such as the SEALS and Navy Divers receive specialized training for advanced warfare situations. The United States Navy is the world’s undisputed sea power and can engage in two simultaneous limited wars along separate fronts.