When it comes to the history of the U.S. Navy, there are two distinct time periods. There is the “Old Navy,” which covers a small group of sailing ships that were innovatively notable during the American Civil War, and there is the “New Navy,” which came into being because of a modernization effort that started in the 1880s and resulted in the largest navy in the world by the time the twenties rolled around.
October 13, 1775, is the day cited by the U.S. Navy as its date of official establishment, the result of the Second Continental Congress passing a resolution to create what was then called the Continental Navy. After the American Revolution, this branch was officially disbanded. Pirate threats to American merchant ships in the Mediterranean led President John Adams to create the Naval Act of 1794, which created what we now know as the U.S Navy.
The United States Navy claims 13 October 1775 as the date of its official establishment, when the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution creating the Continental Navy. With the end of the American Revolutionary War, the Continental Navy was disbanded. Under President John Adams threats to American merchant shipping by pirates in the Mediterranean led to the Naval Act of 1794, which created a permanent standing U.S. Navy.
In the 20 years that followed, there were a number of situations that called for the Navy. The U.S. Navy fought the French Navy in the Quasi-War during 1798 and 1799, Barbary states in the First and Second Barbary Wars, and the British in the War of 1812. Subsequent to the War of 1812, the U.S. Navy continued to fight piracy and the slave trade, but otherwise remained at peace until the Mexican-American war in 1846. Another notable date is 1845, when the Naval Academy was founded.
By the time the American Civil War started in 1861, the U.S. Navy battled the small Confederate Navy with both sailing and ironclad ships while forming a blockade that shut down the Confederacy’s civilian shipping. After the Civil War, most navy ships were in reserve. There were 6,000 members of the U.S. Navy in 1878.
In the latter part of the nineteenth century, it was clear that many Navy ships were outdated, so Congress approved building multiple modern armored cruisers and battleships. World status of the Navy in terms of number of ships moved the force from twelfth to fifth place. After winning two major battles during the Spanish-American War, new ships continued to be build. The enlisted numbers were up as well, with more men (and women at this point) making up the U.S. Navy than were in the Royal Navy.
The U.S. Navy participated little in World War I, concentrating on German U-Boats. Those in command actually hesitated to bring in the navy, which ultimately meant that it was late 1917 before naval forces contributed. The strength of the U.S. Navy grew eventually under an ambitious ship-building program that was done in tangent with the Naval Act of 1916.
During the 1920s and 1930s, aircraft carriers and battleships were built, and by the time the Navy was drawn into World War II, they were more prepared to deal with the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor. The Pearl Harbor attack was brutal on the number of U.S Navy battleships in the water at that time, however. What this mean was that retaliation against the Japanese had to be done on a smaller number of aircraft carriers. Many historic battles ensued, including the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Battle of Midway, a number of naval battles during the Guadalcanal Campaign, and what became the largest naval battle in history, the Battle of Leyte Gulf. After the Japanese surrender, a large flotilla sailed into the Tokyo Bay to observe the formal ceremony conducted on the battleship Missouri, on which officials from the Japanese government signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender. By the end of the war, the Navy’s numbers surged to more than 1,600 warships.
By the end of the war, there was shift in thinking. Previously, the U.S. Navy had followed along with operations in Great Britain and Germany, which depended on battleships as a main offensive when it came to naval weapons. The development of the aircraft carrier and the way it was used to such devastation by the Japanese against the United States at Pearl Harbor, however, caused a major sea change.
In addition to the post-World War II Cold War, the U.S Navy participated in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, and the Iraq War. Once the Soviet Union collapsed and its own naval forces fell apart, the U.S. Navy was without a doubt the world superpower when it came to naval power.
The U.S Navy was a critical component of the Vietnam War, and that along with its blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis meant that it became essential to the U.S. nuclear strategic deterrence policy. The Navy also conducted various combat operations in the Persian Gulf against Iran in 1987 and 1988, one of the most notable being Operation Praying Mantis. The U.S. Navy was deeply involved in other operations as well, including: Operation Urgent Fury, Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Deliberate Force, Operation Allied Force, Operation Desert Fox, Operation Southern Watch, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In addition to military involvement, the U.S. Navy has participated in search and rescue/search and salvage operations, often in cooperation with vessels of other countries as well as with U.S. Coast Guard ships. The 1966 Palomares B-52 crash incident and search for the nuclear bombs, and the 1983 Task Force 71 of the Seventh Fleet operation in search for Korean Air Lines Flight 007 shot down by the Soviets are two that come to mind.
New technology–primarily nuclear power and ballistic missiles–meant new ship propulsion and weapon systems. In 1978, President Ronald Reagan instituted a program that would ensure the Navy was equipped with modern ships, as many vessels had been in operation since World War II. Today, the U.S. Navy is a force to be reckoned with all over the world.
More Recent U.S. Navy History
The U.S. Navy continues to be a major support to U.S. interests in the 21st century; however, there are differences today in how that is to be carried out.
In 2007, the U.S. Navy, along with the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Coast Guard, moved to adopting a new maritime strategy known as a Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower. This strategy brings to the forefront the idea of war prevention as a philosophical idea, much as the conduct of war is. The strategy was presented jointly by the Chief of Naval Operations, and the Commandants of both the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S, Coast Guard at the International Sea Power Symposium in Newport, Rhode Island, on October 17, 2007.
One of the main points of the strategy is the recognition of how the global economy is linked and how regional crises, whether manmade or natural, can adversely impact not only the economies of the countries involved, but it can have a significant negative effect on quality of life. The idea behind this new strategy is to pave the way for the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Coast Guard to work together along with international partners to prevent negative impacts, particularly on the United States. This more than likely also stems from the fact that because the U.S. Navy fleet has shrunk and budgets continue to get smaller, the U.S. Navy must rely more on international partnerships than ever before.
In 2013, because of budgets, the U.S. Navy put its focus on keeping all 11 of its big deck carriers. This was done, however, at the expense of reducing the numbers of smaller ships. But the following, the U.S. Navy found it didn’t have the budget to maintain these carriers. Hence the movement toward outcome led to resource led planning.
Personnel in the U.S. Navy
There are about a half-million personnel making up the U.S. Navy, with a quarter of those who are in the ready reserve. More than 80 percent of those on active duty are enlisted sailors, with about 15 percent being commissioned officers. Midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy and midshipmen of the Naval Reserve Office Training Corps at more than 180 universities all over the country and officer candidates at the U.S. Navy’s Officer Candidate School make up the rest .
Personnel Qualification Standards (PQS) tasks and examinations are required for sailors, who must prove they have mastered skills and earned responsibilities by completing. One of the most important skills is the “warfare qualification,” which designates a journeyman level of capability in any of the following:
• Surface Warfare
• Aviation Warfare
• Information Dominance Warfare
• Naval Aircrew
• Special Warfare
• Seabee Warfare
• Submarine Warfare
• Expeditionary Warfare
Sailors of Note–Past and Present
There are my American historical figures who have served in the U.S. Navy. Among notable officers are:
• John Paul Jones
• John Barry (Continental Navy officer and first flag officer of the United States Navy)
• Edward Preble
• James Lawrence (whose last words “don’t give up the ship” are memorialized in Bancroft Hallat the U.S. Naval Academy)
• Stephen Decatur, Jr.
• David Farragut
• David Dixon Porter
• Oliver Hazard Perry
• Commodore Matthew Perry (whose Black Ships forced the opening of Japan)
• George Dewey (the only person in the history of the United States to have attained the rank of Admiral of the Navy)
• The officers who attained the rank of Fleet Admiral during World War II, including William D. Leahy, Ernest J. King, Chester W. Nimitz, and William F. Halsey, Jr.John F. Kennedy was the first American president who served in the U.S. Navy; he commanded the famous PT-109. Others included Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H. W. Bush. Both Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt were the assistant secretary of the U.S. Navy before their presidencies. Many members of Congress served in the Navy, most notably U.S. Senators Bob Kerrey, John McCain, and John Kerry. Other notable former members of the U.S. Navy include authors, athletes, entertainers, and astronauts.
For more information on the U.S. Navy, visit the official website: http://www.navy.mil/.