Your United States Navy: A Brief History

Two hundred and forty-six years ago, on October 13, 1775, the Second Continental Congress set aside funds to purchase two ships to stand against the power of the British Navy as the colonies prepared to declare their independence from English power and oppression. The oldest commissioned ship in the world is the USS Constitution, which you will see at the beginning of this video. That was the beginning of the United States Navy’s long history.

After the Revolutionary War, the nation was in debt to allies and could not afford to maintain a standing Navy. But on March 27, 1794, the Continental Congress, working on the Constitution and the establishment of a government, established the Naval Act and provided monies to build six ships which became the first ships of a full-time Navy.

Photo: YouTube/Naval History and Heritage

The Navy’s history was only beginning, and it would begin writing new pages and chapters for the rest of our country’s history. The Navy would be brought to battle in the War of 1812 against Britain’s mighty Navy again and would help in the efforts to deny Britain’s attempt to retake what they still considered their colonies.

During the Civil War, the U.S. Navy would have as many as 600 ships to bring to bear against the Confederate rebellion. They would provide effective blockades on the Eastern and Gulf coasts and support the Army with naval gunpower and supply abilities along the major waterways of the South.

Photo: YouTube/Naval History and Heritage

The battleship, with its immense firepower and speed, would bring a new element of power to the U.S. Navy in 1880 and would be instrumental in the American victory over Spain during the Spanish American War, during which the U.S. became recognized as a world power for the first time.

In 1907, then-President Theodore Roosevelt sent 16 fleets of battleships on a 14-month circumnavigation of the globe to show the world the power and the reach of the U.S. Navy. It was called the Great White Fleet.

In WWI, the Navy participated in battling the German U-boats and in transporting troops to the battlefields of France. This war introduced a lot of modern, technologically advanced weapons like the tank, the heavy machine gun, and air power. The Navy also introduced naval aviation into its repertoire of weapons. It even took women into the service for the first time.

Photo: YouTube/Naval History and Heritage

The U.S. Navy saw its greatest historical moments during WWII. It fought subs in the Atlantic that were threatening the shipment of war supplies to the European Theater, and it took part in the landings at Normandy and Anzio and others. In the Pacific Theater, the greatest naval battles in history were fought and won by the U.S. Navy against the Japanese Navy at places like Midway, the Philippine Sea, and the Coral Sea. Here, both ships and naval aviation were used to their utmost capabilities. By the end of WWII, the U.S. Navy had some 6,768 ships and over 3.4 million sailors.

The Navy brought its firepower and its air power to very important effects in both the Korean and the Vietnam Wars. In Vietnam, they provided offshore support fire with everything from the USS Jew Jersey battleship to the air power of their Navy and Marine Corps pilots off of aircraft carriers to the swift boats that patrolled the rivers of the Mekong Delta interdicting VC and NVA supply lines and troop movements. The Navy also had SEALS in action there.

Photo: YouTube/Naval History and Heritage

The Post 9/11 wars have seen the importance and the reach of the United States Navy as well and continue to do so. At present, the U.S. Navy has some 300 deployed ships around the world, some 3,000 aircraft, and 300,000 active-duty personnel, matched by an equal amount of Naval Reserve personnel.

The Veterans Site sends its appreciation, respect, and thanks to the United States Navy, all who are presently serving, and those who have served over the long history of this honored service. We wish you “Fair Winds and Following Seas” in all that you are doing and in all that lies ahead.

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