On October 13, 1775, the Continental Congress established a naval force, hoping that a small fleet of privateers could attack British commerce and offset British sea power., the original Continental Navy was formed, disbanded, and then reestablished nearly 10 years later. Today it’s the largest and most capable navy in the world, with the highest combined battle fleet tonnage. The Navy also boasts the world’s largest aircraft carrier fleet, over 300,000 active personnel, and nearly 100,000 in the Ready Reserve.
Here are five facts to get to know the US Navy and mark its birthday.
Image Credit: https://www.navy.mil/
It is the country’s second naval fleet. The Continental Congress established the Continental Navy at the beginning of the American Revolution. Its main purpose was to disrupt British supply ships. On October 13, 1775, the Continental Congress purchased two armed vessels to attack British ships and prevent them from reaching soldiers in the colonies. Congress passed a resolution creating a committee to oversee the purchase and manage the small, but growing, fleet. After the US won its independence in 1783, the Continental Navy was disbanded and its remaining ships were sold. Its officers and sailors returned to civilian life. Before long, the young country began facing threats from pirates and others wishing to disrupt its seaborne commerce. To defend its interests, Congress moved to reestablish a naval fleet. President George Washington signed the Naval Act of 1794 creating a permanent standing US Navy. The Navy was run by the Department of War until Congress established the Department of the Navy in 1798.
Ships are named for states and National heroes. In 1819, Congress gave the duty and responsibility of naming ships to the Secretary of the Navy. It’s not as easy as just picking a name. There’s a long list of rules and regulations that must be followed. All first-class battleships, those armed with 40 guns or more, must be named for the states, and not for any city, place or person until the names of states have been exhausted, according to Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC). The Navy, however, no longer has any battleships in its ship inventory. Fortunately, the secretary can rely on others for help. Each year, NHCC compiles a list of possible names. The recommendations are based on research and suggestions from military personnel and the public. It’s a huge honor for a ship to be named after a person. The tribute is usually reserved for naval leaders and national figures who are considered heroes of war or made extraordinary achievements in peace. The Navy’s newest ship, the latest model of destroyer, is the USS Zumwalt, named after that admiral that designated its birthday.
USS Zumwalt // U.S. Navy photo courtesy of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works/Released
The Navy SEALS are not named for the semi-aquatic marine animal. While the Navy’s special ops forces are adept at navigating seas they aren’t actually named for the animal they share a name with. SEAL stands for Sea, Air and Land — all the places the elite force carries out missions. According to the Navy, each year approximately 1000 candidates attempt the rigorous training program to become part of the SEALS yet only 200 to 250 complete the course.
NCIS is more than a TV show. It’s an actual law enforcement agency. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is the civilian federal law enforcement agency that investigates crimes, prevents terrorism and protects secrets for the Navy and Marine Corps. The service consists of about 2,000 personnel and operates in 191 locations in more than 41 countries, according to NCIS. Special agents deploy aboard Navy vessels and conduct security assessments ahead of US Navy ships docking in foreign ports. While its activities aren’t always as dramatic as the TV show presents them, NCIS solves and prevents crimes “ashore, afloat, and in cyberspace.”
It is the largest navy in the world. Boasting more than 330,000 active-duty personnel, and an additional 100,000 on ready reserve, according to the US Navy. The Navy hosts an impressive fleet of 290 battle force ships. Its fleet consists of aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, cruisers, littoral combat ships, destroyers and submarines. The Navy describes its submarines as “one of the most lethal weapons in the nation’s arsenal” and says they navigate the world’s seas unseen carrying out secret missions.
“Firsts” in Naval History:
First use of submarines: While the Navy’s first commissioned designs for a submarine were handed over in 1875, it wasn’t until 1898 that the first Holland submarine launched successfully.
First use of modern battleships: While America had battleships before the 1908 South Carolina class dreadnought, which started with the USS Michigan and was based on British ships, these were the first in the new era of battleships.
First use of Naval aircraft: In 1911, the U.S. Navy bought its first airplane, the Curtiss A-1 Triad.
Curtiss A-1 Triad Image courtesy of http://www.wings-aviation.ch/
First aircraft carrier: The first flight from the deck of a U.S. Navy cruiser in 1910 led to the 1927 Lexington-class aircraft carriers, the first operational aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy.
First use of Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat: Introduced in 1992, these rubber boats were originally meant for lifeboats in the 1960s, but the Navy now uses them for SEALs due to their lightweight, high speed, all-weather specifications.