Happy 238th Birthday Navy

23 Oct 2013 | Lance Cpl. Brendan Roethel

The mess halls aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island held a special meal to honor and celebrate the 238th Birthday of the U.S. Navy, Oct. 10.

“Although Marines may not know the details regarding the Navy’s history, celebrating alongside them is important because throughout the years both services developed together and were crucial components in the sustainment of this nation,” said Chief Amanda Hughes, the command historian for Naval Hospital Beaufort. “The history of our Navy is rich and something that all sailors from seamen to admirals will carry on from one generation of sailors to the next. Everything our sailors have done in the past and present made the Navy what it is today, the world’s best naval service.”

On Oct. 13, 1775, the Continental Congress authorized the dispatch of two armed vessels to stop British ships from bringing supplies to British forces in America. As a result of their decision, the Navy and Naval Committee was formed.

After winning the war, Congress sold the remaining ships and released the seamen and officers. In 1794, Congress authorized the purchase of six war ships to comprise the naval fleet. On Apr. 30, 1798, all responsibilities for naval affairs were moved to the newly created Department of the Navy. Since that moment, 238 years ago, the Navy has developed into the world’s most advanced naval service.

“It follows then, as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious,” said President George Washington.

During the American Civil War, the Union had an advantage over the Confederacy on the seas. A Union blockade on all major ports shut down exports and the coastal trade. During the Battle of Hampton Roads, ironclad warships were used by the Union in combat for the first time.

In the 1880s, the first steel hulled warships stimulated the American steel industry and made the “steel American Navy.” 

These ships brought the U.S. in line with countries such as Britain and Germany. In 1907, most of the Navy’s battleships and support vessels, dubbed the Great White Fleet, were showcased in a 14-month trip around the world to demonstrate the Navy’s capability to the world.

The Navy grew into a formidable force in the years leading up to World War II, with battleship production being restarted in 1937.

Though ultimately unsuccessful, Japan attempted to neutralize this strategic threat with the 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Following American entry into the war, the Navy grew tremendously as the U.S. was faced with a two-front war.

“We shall never forget that it was our submarines that held the lines against the enemy while our fleets replaced losses and repaired wounds,” said Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the commander in chief of Pacific Forces for the U.S. during World War II.

During World War II, the Navy participated in many significant battles including the Battle of Midway, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and the Battle of Okinawa. By the end of World War II the Navy had added hundreds of new ships, including 18 aircraft carriers and eight battleships.

In the years leading up to the Cold War, the potential for armed conflict with the Soviet Union pushed the Navy to continue its technological advancement by developing new weapon systems, ships, and aircraft.

Since the end of the Cold War, the Navy shifted its focus from preparations for large-scale war to special operations and strike missions. In recent years, the Navy participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and the War on Terror. The most notable mission of carried out by the Navy during this time is the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, the founder and leader of al-Qaeda, by Navy SEALs of SEAL Team Six, May 2, 2011.

The Navy has come a long way in 238 years, from starting with two vessels in 1775 to becoming the world’s best naval service. Throughout the years the Navy has developed through crucial periods of American history up until this point, developing a rich history that will be passed down to future sailors for years to come.

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