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The history of the U.S. Navy


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The 1700's


June 12th 1775:  The first American Navy, Rhode Island Navy, is commissioned by the Rhode Island assembly. The armed ships are among the first to actively fight back against the British.


October 13th 1775:  Understanding a need for ships to fight British seapower, the Continental Congress establishes the Continental Navy. The US Navy to this day recognizes this as the official birthdate of its long, proud history of service and traditions.


September 23rd 1779:  At the Battle of Flamborough Head, in the North Sea, John Paul Jones, commander of the Bonhomme Richard, becomes tangled with the warship HMS Serapis. When asked to surrender, Jones famously replies, "I have not yet begun to fight." Bonhomme Richard wins the engagement, a victory far from American shores.


1780 to 1783:  While plucky and brave, the Continental Navy – comprised mainly of Citizen Sailors (the basis of today's Navy Reserve) – is no match for the powerful and professional British Navy by itself. Aided by our new French allies, the Revolutionaries began breaking the blockades, sinking British ships and achieving timely naval victories.


1783:  The Treaty of Paris ends the Revolutionary War, and a nation is born. However, seeing no need for a standing Navy, it is disbanded. The last ship to go offline is a frigate, The Alliance.


March 27th 1794:  Piracy, aggression by other nations, and the need for a stronger national defense leads to the Naval Act of 1794 by Congress. Six ships in all are constructed, including "Old Ironsides" herself, the USS Constitution.


1798 to 1800:  The Quasi-War. Tensions between the US and France began to mount. An undeclared war breaks out, mainly on the high seas against France.


April 30th 1798:  Concerns over how the Department of War managed the Navy during the Quasi-War leads to the creation of the Department of The Navy.


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The 1800's


1801 to 1805:  Rogue states from the North African Coast become the scourge of the Mediterranean. Not to be intimidated by pirates, President Jefferson sends the Navy. Engaging directly with the pirates and landing Marines, the US re-opens safe shipping lanes.


June 22nd 1807:  Tensions that would one day lead to the war of 1812 begin when the HMS Leopard boards and captures the USS Chesapeake looking for British Navy deserters. Chesapeake is returns later to fight again in the War of 1812.


1812 to 1815:  When the War of 1812 breaks out, the Royal Navy outnumbers the US Navy nearly 50-1. American ships accounted for themselves well, winning many important battles. US ships harass British ships and commerce as far away as the South Pacific.


August 19th 1812:  The USS Constitution engages the HMS Guerriere in a 35-minute battle. British cannonball are seen bouncing off the hull of the Constitution, earning her the nickname of "Old Ironsides." Constitution is oldest commissioned vessel still afloat, assigned to active, special duty as a historical museum.


June 1st 1813:  The USS Chesapeake, captained by James Lawrence, captures the HMS Shannon. Captain Lawrence – mortally wounded in the battle – never sees his victory. His last words become part of Naval lore, "Don't give up the ship."


September 10th 1813:  One of the most important US Naval victories doesn't happen on the seas – it happens on Lake Erie. Of utmost strategic importance, this victory plus the Battle of Lake Champlain a year later, forces the British to cede control of Detroit and the Great Lakes back to the US following the War of 1812. Of other major historic significance, about one-quarter of the personnel in the American naval squadrons during the Battle of Lake Eire were African American. Unlike other branches of the US military at the time, there were no laws prohibiting African Americans from enlisting.


May 20th to July 3rd 1815:  With the US tied up with the British in the War of 1812, the Barbary pirates begin raiding the Mediterranean again. The US Navy dispatches two squadrons of ships, who fight the pirates until they surrender all captives and re-pay all ransoms taken.


1825 to 1829:  Following political breakdowns after the Greek Civil War, the Mediterranean became dangerous again. Now the pirates were coming from the Aegean Sea, operating Greek naval vessels. President Monroe sent Commander John Rogers to restore order and keep commerce safe.


February 6th to the 9th 1832:  After Sumatran pirates board the merchant ship Friendship and murder her crew, President Andrew Jackson sends the Navy on a mission to stop piracy and protect trade. It's the first of two missions the Navy will launch against piracy in this region.


1846 to 1848:  The Mexican-American War is primarily a ground war. However, the US Navy is instrumental in victory, forming an effective blockade of Mexico and helping with the capture of California.


March 9th to 29th 1847:  The Battle of Veracruz sees the US Navy land 12,000 troops on this Mexican beachhead, a US victory that ultimately leads to the capture of Mexico City.


1853 to 1854:  Commodore Oliver Hazzard Perry's squadron sails to Japan. There he signs the Treaty of Kanagawa with the Japanese Shogunate, opening up trade and relations to the U.S. This effectively begins the modernization period in Japan.


May 7th 1861:  Battle of Gloucester Point is the first naval engagement of the Civil War, with the USS Yankee firing on a fixed Confederate shore battery.


March 8th 1862:  The first-ever clash of ironclad ships happens in the Battle of Hampton Roads. The USS Monitor fights the CSS Virginia to a standstill. The battle is considered a draw, and both ships would later sink in non-combat situations. The Monitor's wreck is later found and salvaged in 1973.


April 16th to 28th 1862:  The Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip turn into a decisive Union naval victory, leading to the capture of New Orleans. A critical port for the Confederacy, it could not be taken unless those two forts are neutralized. This is a career making victory for a Navy legend, David Farragut.


February 17th 1864:  American submarine warfare is born outside of Charleston, SC. Although it was not a Union ship, it's the CSS Hunley, using a torpedo to sink the USS Housatonic


August 5th 1864:  Another American naval innovation was the mine. A Confederate innovation, it was first used at Battle of Mobile Bay, concluding with a Confederate loss. Rear Admiral Farragut led his fleet to the Unions largest naval victory. He is remembered in this battle for the quote " Get underway! In the offing knoweth ye that hand over fist I will fight hard & fast! So batten down the hatches because between the devil and the deep blue sea I will deliver more than a shot across the bow! (You big dummy) the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"


January 13th to 15th 1865:  Although the Confederates had early success running the Union "Anaconda" blockades, the Union strategy eventually wins out. With the second Battle of Fort Fisher, the last viable Confederate port is closed and the blockade helps finish the rebellion.


1861 to 1865:  The Civil War marks important moments in US Naval history. The Confederates introduce the torpedo. while steamships come into prominence as war vessels. The War sees an end to timberclad vessels in warfare, the last American usage of privateers in warfare, and the then-largest use of a full naval blockade by the US Navy (also known as the Anaconda Plan).


1865 to 1892:  Following the Civil War, the Navy goes into decline, both in ships and Sailors. It's not until 1882 that there is a call to strengthen the US fleet by building modern warships.


June 1st to 3rd 1871:  Seeking apologies for the murder of shipwrecked sailors off the coast of Korea, a Navy detachment under Captain John Rogers lands an amphibious assault near Seoul. Although the conflict is neither resolved nor continued, three Sailors and nine Marines are awarded the Medal of Honor.


February 15th  1898:  The call for a stronger Navy increases dramatically with the explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor. This event starts the Spanish-American War, a global conflict fought from Cuba to the Philippines.


May 1st 1898:  The first naval engagement with the Spanish in the Battle of Manila Bay ends with a decisive US victory.


June 6th to 10th 1898:  Guantanamo Bay is captured with a large-scale amphibious landing. It's the first truly coordinated landing for the Navy, with Marines landing amidst artillery support from ships.


July 3rd 1898:  Battle of Santiago de Cuba becomes the largest and most decisive battle of the war as the US destroys the entire Spanish Caribbean fleet.

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The 1900's


October 12th 1900:  The USS Holland becomes the first commissioned submarine in the US Navy.


1907:  President Teddy Roosevelt adds 16 battleships to the US Navy to create his "Great White Fleet." The fleet is sent to circumnavigate the globe in a show of US pride and power.


March 3rd 1915:  The Navy Reserve is created, thanks to a dedicated campaign by Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels and his assistant (future president Franklin D. Roosevelt).


July 21st 1916:  Congress passes "the big Navy Act" – the US Naval Act of 1916, an ambitious plan to make the US Navy larger than the British Royal Navy.


August 29th 1916:  The Navy Reserve Force is formally organized. The first official U.S. Navy Reservists in World War I hunt enemy U-boats from the cockpits of biplanes.


November 17th 1917:  The USS Fanning and USS Nicholson score the first US Naval victory of World War I and sink German U-boat U-58.


May 8th 1918:  The final engagement of WWI for the Navy ends like the first – with the sinking of a U-Boat –this time off the coast of Algiers.


February 1922:  The Washington Naval Conference and subsequent international treaties end the expansion of the Naval Act of 1916, restricting the number of battleships and cruisers each of the world's navies could have. It creates navies of equal size between the US and the UK.


March 10th 1922:  However, no restriction is put on the number of aircraft carriers and as a result, the Navy turns unfinished battleships and cruisers into carriers. The first of its kind, the USS Langley, is commissioned, remaining in service until it's damaged and scuttled in 1942.


November 5th 1930:  The Naval Research Laboratory hires Albert H. Taylor and Leo C. Young for a project titled "Detection of Enemy Vessels and Aircraft by Radio." Their continuous work through the 1930s eventually leads to the first practical, modern RADAR systems


March 31st 1931:  The US sends the USS Lexington to Nicaragua for humanitarian relief following a devastating earthquake. It marks the first time carrier aircraft is used to deliver medical personnel, supplies and provisions in relief operations.


July 21st 1936: Lt. Commander Delmer Fahrney is tasked by the Naval Research Laboratory to develop radio controlled aircraft for target practice. Fahrney concludes that not only can the target planes be built, but recognizes the potential of this technology for radio-guided missiles.


June 13th 1939:  The carrier USS Saratoga and the tanker USS Kanawha complete a successful 2-day underway refueling test. Fueling ships at sea becomes a strategic and tactical advantage for the Navy during World War II.


Early 1941:  While World War II is happening in Europe, Asia and Africa, the US has yet to enter. However, with tensions mounting, nearly all Navy Reservists are on active duty, eventually comprising most of the Navy during WWII. Among the Reservists are five future US Presidents: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush.



April 9th 1941:  Prior to Pearl Harbor, US and Axis forces did have armed conflict. While rescuing Dutch survivors, the commander of the USS Niblack becomes irritated with German U-boats interrupting his rescue attempts and he orders depth charges dropped on them. No casualties are reported by either side.


December 7th 1941:  The day that will live in infamy. Americans are left in a state of shock as two waves of carrier-launched air raids bomb and torpedo Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Many ships are damaged and a few are lost for good. Including the USS Arizona, which is still leaking oil from its permanent shrine at the bottom of the harbor to this day.


April 18th 1942:  The US Army and Navy join forces to launch an ambitious strike on the Japanese home islands. A squadron of 16 Army B-25 medium bombers launch from the USS Wasp. While the raid doesn't provide a tactical victory, it's a morale booster on the home front and for US forces.


May 4th-8th 1942:  The Battle of the Coral Sea is the first major engagement of aircraft carrier forces in history. Some historians labele the battle a draw since the US loses more ships. However, it turns out to be a strategic victory because it forces the Japanese back and allows the Navy to build up its Pacific forces.


June 4th to 7th 1942:  Under the command excellence of the legendary Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the US Navy "breaks the back" of the Imperial Japanese Navy, sinking four fleet carriers and many lesser warships in four days. While US carriers take damage, only the USS Yorktown is lost. The Japanese had tried to trap the Navy at Midway, but US Naval Intelligence had previously broken the Japanese JBN-25 Code. The US Navy knows many of their next moves, and this intel proves every bit as important as the bravery of Navy Sailors and Fliers in victory.


June 6th 1944:  The Navy primarily fought in the Pacific Ocean in WWII but they did have a presence in the Atlantic, mainly with destroyers and cruisers supplying escort and anti-submarine duty to vital transport ships. On D-Day, US ships participated with other Allied forces in the largest amphibious landing in the history of the world. This invasion eventually led to the surrender of Nazi Germany.


June 19th to 20th 1944:  Midway proves a decisive win, but the Battle of the Philippine Sea becomes such an overwhelming display of US Naval power, Sailors and Airmen begin referring to it as "The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot". Japan loses ships to both carrier planes and submarines. The loss is so devastating, the Japanese never mount another serious carrier attack.


September 2nd 1945:  Leyte Gulf was the last major naval battle in the Pacific. The Navy spends the much of its time landing and providing support to Army and Marine units on Japanese-held islands. However, the last act of the Navy in the war is significant. The US takes Japan's surrender on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri.


October 23rd to 26th 1944:  Referred to as the "Pacific Battle of the Bulge", the Battle of Leyte Gulf is the Imperial Navy's last-ditch attempt to retake the advantage. Nearly out of carriers, the Japanese resort to using battleships and cruisers as their main strike force. With their few remaining planes, they introduce the infamous "Kamikaze" attacks. At first, their desperate tactics succeed, including a ploy to lead away the main power of the Third Fleet. However, with the courage and stubbornness of a small battle group of escort carriers and destroyers, Rear Admiral Thomas Sprague holds the line. His counterattack is so vicious, the Imperial Navy believes this is the main force and withdraws.


September 9th 1945:  The Navy coins the term "bug" in computers during a test of the Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator at Harvard University. A moth became trapped inside a relay panel. After removing the moth, the moth is taped to the computer log (where it remains at the Naval Surface Warfare Computer Museum) and the term "debugging" is born.


April 26th 1949:  Jesse L. Brown becomes the first African-American commissioned flight officer in the Navy. He serves until his death in 1950, shot down at the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War.


June 1950 to July 1953:  The US is drawn into the Korean War. The Koreans do not possess a strong Navy. Most Navy engagements with the enemy happen in the skies, from carrier-launched sorties.


July 2nd 1950:  The closest thing to a major naval battle in the Korean War is the Battle of Chumonchin Chan. The US Navy, along with two British ships, fight off and destroy a small flotilla of Korean torpedo boats.


September 30th 1954:  After the Korean War, the Cold War between the US and the USSR leads to military build-ups. In response to the Soviets' launch of a nuclear submarine, the US launches the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear sub in the US Navy. It sets the tone for the all nuclear-powered submarine fleet of the present-day US Navy.


November 25th 1961:  Nuclear power works great in subs, but it's even more of a boon for aircraft carriers. The USS Enterprise is commissioned as the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in the world. Nuclear power allows for larger, faster, more efficient carriers – leading to the supercarriers of today's Navy.


1963:  The civil war in Vietnam heats up and the US keeps sending more troops in "advisor roles," including the Navy SEALs. In Vietnam, the SEALs build a reputation as some of the best (if not the best) special operators in the world. From 1963 to 1972, the SEALs collectively earn two Navy Crosses, 42 Silver stars, 402 Bronze Stars, two Legions of Merit, 352 Commendation Medals, three Presidential Unit Citations and three Medals of Honor.


August 2nd 1964:  The destroyer USS Maddox engages North Vietnamese torpedo boats. Based on these hostilities, Congress grants President Johnson the power to use US forces without a declaration of war in Vietnam. Once again, the Navy and Navy Reserve are called into action.


April 19th 1972:  Much like the Korean War, the Navy does more surface support and air missions than actual naval combat. The Battle of Dong Hoi changes this. Three North Vietnamese MiG-17F fighter-bombers, several torpedo boats and shore batteries assault US ships in the first air raid the Navy has faced since WWII. The Navy repulses the attack, shooting down one MiG, then three more over the next few days.


1972 to 1981:  A relatively quiet period for the Navy, marked by modernization, improving technology, training and expansion. During this time, both the Navy and the Navy Reserve expand, with a greater emphasis placed on the interoperability of Active and Reserve forces. This serves as a blueprint for integrating both quickly and seamlessly in subsequent conflicts, such as in both Gulf Wars and Afghanistan.


August 19th 1981:  The quiet period ends with the invasion of Gulf of Sidra incident. Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi declares the Gulf sovereign Libyan territory. Seeing a threat to shipping safety in the region, President Ronald Reagan orders the Navy to "violate" Gaddafi's claims. An aerial conflict ensues in the Gulf, where two Navy F-14 Tomcats shoot down two Libyan Su-22 Fitters.


October 25th to December 15th 1983:  Triggered by a bloody military coup, the US Navy helps special forces – including SEALs – to land on the Island of Grenada. US forces help evacuate and secure US citizens living there and restore the constitutional government of Grenada.


March 1986:  Libyan dictator Gaddafi once again claims ownership of the Gulf of Sidra, claiming hostilities if anyone crosses his "Line of Death." Once again, US forces move across this line, showing their right to operate in areas more than 12 miles outside of the shore. Although there is no air combat this time, a Libyan ship comes too close to the USS Yorktown and is ordered sunk.


April 15h 1986:  Suspecting Gaddafi is behind the Berlin discotheque bombing, the US orders a retaliatory strike against Libya. The attack consisted of Air Force F-111s and Navy A-6 Intruders. The raid is deemed a success, despite the loss of two Air Force pilots.


April 18th 1988:  While operating in the Persian Gulf escorting Kuwaiti tankers, the USS Samuel B. Roberts strikes an Iranian mine on April 14th. Four days later, a US battle group embarks on Operation Praying Mantis. Navy ships and aircraft, along with SEALs and Marines, engage armed Iranian oil platforms and ships in the largest US naval battle since WWII and the first use of ship-to-ship missiles in combat.


August 1990 to February 1991:  In response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the US and other nations coordinate an invasion of Iraq. The US Navy's role is mainly air support and transport, but its Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), Grumman E-2 Hawkeyes, and satellite communication systems prove invaluable. With these capabilities, Coalition forces are able to absolutely dominate the air.


September 10th 1995:  In an effort to convince Bosnian Serb forces to cease hostilities, the US Navy launches a coordinated strike that includes Tomahawk missiles from the USS Normandy and F/A-18 fighter-bombers against key strategic targets in Banja Luka.


March 24th to June 10th 1999:  The US Navy participates in several attack sorties along with NATO forces in a bombing of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War, seeking to end the campaign of "ethnic cleansing."

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The 2000's


September 14th 2001:  The hospital ship USNS Comfort is activated and sent to Pier 92 in Manhattan to help with the medical needs following the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center.


March 2003 to December 2011:  The Navy is also participates in the US Invasion of Iraq. Much like other engagements in the region, the Navy is not as threatened by the enemy on the sea. However, Navy pilots, AWACS, amphibious forces and SEALs play key roles in the rapid toppling of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship.


January 5th 2005:  The hospital ship USNS Mercy departs for the tsunami-devastated regions of South East Asia. There she provides medical care to the victims of the disaster as part of Operation Unified Assistance.


September 2nd 2005:  USNS Comfort needs only two days of preparation, rapidly responding to the Gulf Coast for Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.


April 14th 2008:  USNS Mercy heads out to sea for the "Pacific Partnership 2008," a 4-month humanitarian and civic deployment in Southeast Asia and Oceania.


April 7th to 9th 2009:  On April 7, Somali pirates seized the container ship MV Maersk Alabama and it’s American Captain, Richard Phillips. During a tense stand-off between the pirates and the Navy, SEAL snipers are authorized to use deadly force. In pitching seas, the snipers make three kill shots with no civilian casualties. The Navy still maintains a presence off the coast of Africa to deal with piracy.


January 16th 2009:  Following the devastating earthquakes, the USNS Comfort is dispatched Haiti on a humanitarian mission.


March 11th 2011:  The Navy sends the Carrier Group for USS Ronald Reagan along with several hospital ships to earthquake and tsunami-struck Japan as part of Operation Tomodachi (Japanese for "Friend").


March to October 2011:  Beginning with Operation Odyssey Dawn on March 19, US forces combined with NATO forces to assist rebels to the regime of Libyan dictator Gaddafi. This gave the rebels enough cover and support to overthrow the dictator, who is eventually captured and killed late October.


May 2nd 2011:  After US Intelligence pinpoints a safe house in Abbottabad, Pakistan, as the likely hiding place for Osama Bin Laden, the SEALs are the choice to go in and get him. Months of planning lead to a dangerous nighttime raid. SEALs infiltrate the secret compound and kill the man responsible for the 9/11 attacks without US casualties.


October 2011:  In response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the US launches Operation Enduring Freedom and invades Afghanistan. First ground troops in are the elite of US Special forces - the Navy SEALs.


November 2013:  Following the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, USNS Mercy is sent to the Philippines for humanitarian relief.



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  • 2 months later...

I'm loving it!! I wonder how many of the soon-to-be selectees have browsed through these boards? Lots of great knowledge in here!

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I'm loving it!! I wonder how many of the soon-to-be selectees have browsed through these boards? Lots of great knowledge in here!

Shhhhhh..... LoL

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