The United States Navy was established, and celebrates its birthday, on October 13, 1775. Just as with the Marines and Army, the Navy was created to fortify the United States during the Revolutionary War against
Origins of the United States Navy
The Navy was created on October 13, 1775, but was the Continental Navy at the time, ordered by the Second Continental Congress to fight during the Revolutionary War. The Continental Congress statement said:
“Resolved, That a swift sailing vessel, to carry ten carriage guns, and a proportional number of swivels, with 80 men, be fitted, with all possible despatch, for a cruise of three months, and that the commander be instructed to cruize eastward, for intercepting such transports as may be laden with warlike stores and other supplies for our enemies, and for such other purposes as the Congress shall direct. That a Committee of three be appointed to prepare an estimate of the expense, and lay the same before the Congress, and to contract with proper persons to fit out the vessel. Resolved, that another vessel be fitted out for the same purposes, and that the said committee report their opinion of a proper vessel, and also an estimate of the expense.”
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After the creation of the Continental Navy, on October 30th, Congress authorized two more armed vessels, one would carry 20 guns and the other carried 36 guns. By November 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress organized the Marine Corps in an effort to assist with maritime efforts. The Continental Navy was responsible for patrolling the waters to seek out ships who were supplying weapons and ammunition to the British Army during the American Revolutionary War. The goal of this small naval force was to ideally offset British sea power and attack British commerce.
After the war ended, the Continental Navy was disbanded just as the Army and Marine Corps were, and the money-poor Congress sold off their ships. As trade and shipping increased in the 1790s, George Washington quickly re-established a permanent United States Navy with the Naval Act of 1794 in response to pirates and other threats to American merchant ships.
The “old” Navy was a small yet respected force of ships known for their innovation with its use of ironclads during the American Civil War. The “new” Navy came about with the modernization efforts that occurred during the 1880s. The first Naval Academy was established in 1845 in Annapolis, Michigan and the American Civil War began in 1861. The U.S. Navy fought the Confederate States Navy by use of those ironclad ships and creating a blockade that blocked that shut down coastal shipping for the Confederacy’s civilians.
Modernization Efforts of the Navy
In 1882, the U.S. Navy had many outdated ships. With modernization efforts, they began to build new ships, steel-hulled armor cruisers and battleships that would help them win two major battles during the Spanish-American War in 1898. The Navy continued to build ships, moving from twelfth place in 1870 to fifth place during the Spanish-American War. By the end of World War I, the United States Navy had more Navy soldiers than the British Royal Navy. The Navy continued to grow, matching the power of the British Royal Navy with the number of ships, and they created aircraft carriers and more battleships.
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The United States was pulled into World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, where 2,403 people were killed, 2008 of them being Navy personnel. Over the next four years of war, the Navy would fight many successful battles across the world, and by the end of the war, the United States Navy had over 1,600 warships.
After the Soviet Red Navy fell apart following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 and 1991, the United States became the world’s undisputed naval superpower.
The Navy Today
“When a crisis confronts the nation, the first question often asked by policymakers is: ‘What naval forces are available and how fast can they be on station?’”
— Admiral Carlisle A. H. Trost
After the end of the Cold War, the United States Navy did experience a decline but compared to the rest of the war, the U.S. Navy dwarfs the naval powers of other nations. The overall strategy of the Navy during the 1990s was to build a Navy that could fight two simultaneous limited wars along separate fronts.
The mission of the United States Navy is “to recruit, train, equip, and organize to deliver combat-ready Naval forces to win conflicts and wars while maintaining security and deterrence through sustained forward presence.” The Navy is a high-tech organization that is mobilized around the world, ready to respond to any crisis on the sea and in the air.
Currently, the U.S. Navy has over 338,000 active-duty soldiers, over 103,000 ready reserve soldiers, over 3000 reserves currently mobilized, and over 274,000 civilian employees. Even though the United States Naval Fleet is already quite large, the Department of Defense wants to increase its naval fleet size over a 30-year period.
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Right now there are roughly 295 deployable battle force ships. 88 of those are deployed battle force ships across the fleet including forward-deployed submarines. 58 of the deployed ships are underway. 30 of the ships are underway for local operations. Aircraft carriers underway include USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) in the West Pacific, the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in the 5th Fleet, and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) in the West Atlantic. Amphibious assault ships that are underway are the USS Essex (LHD 2) in the East Pacific, the USS America (LHA 6) in the West Pacific, the USS Bataan (LHD 5) in the 5th fleet, the USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) in the West Atlantic, and the USS Makin Island (LHD 8) in the East Pacific.
United States Navy Birthday Celebration
In 1972, the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt authorized that the U.S. Navy celebrates its birthday on October 13th. Since then, the current CNOs have encouraged birthday celebrations as a way to honor and recognize the heritage of the U.S. Navy, as well as encourage unity, professionalism, and a positive moral and influence towards pride and professionalism in the naval service.
The Navy’s Birthday is celebrated in a variety of different ways across Navy bases and stations across the world. Many of these celebrations include a Navy Birthday Ball. At military balls, Dress Blues are required, more of a black-tie type of event where those who have been in the service the longest are celebrated, as well as newcomers to the Navy. Some of the festivities that occur at the Navy Birthday Ball include a cake cutting ceremony, bell ringing, reading the Chief of Naval Operations birthday message, singing Anchors Away, among many other ways to commemorate this special day.
There are plenty of other ways to celebrate the United States Navy’s birthday, which might include performances by the Navy Band, parades, and tours of Navy installations. Although the Navy’s birthday isn’t recognized as a federal holiday, it is a celebration and date recognized by the Department of Defense that acknowledges the sacrifices, innovation, and hard work of all Navy personnel, past and present. The Navy is the second-oldest fighting force under the command of the President of the United States, and commemorating and remembering the rich heritage of the Navy is an important part of recognizing its birthday each year.