Armed Forces

The United States Navy: A History of Sea Power and Service

The United States Navy (USN) is one of the largest and most powerful naval forces in the world. It has a proud history of defending the nation’s interests at sea, supporting other branches of the military, and contributing to global peace and security. In this article, we will explore some of the key facts and events that shaped the USN’s past, present, and future.

The Navy in the Revolutionary Era

The USN traces its origins to the Continental Navy, which was established by the Second Continental Congress on October 13, 1775, during the American Revolution. The Continental Navy consisted of a few ships and crews that were tasked with disrupting British trade and supply lines. Some of the notable naval heroes of this period include John Paul Jones, John Barry, and Esek Hopkins.

Jones is famous for his daring raid on the British coast and his victory over the HMS Serapis, during which he uttered the legendary words: “I have not yet begun to fight!” Barry is considered the “Father of the Navy” for his leadership and training of many young officers who later rose to prominence. Hopkins was the first commander-in-chief of the Continental Navy and led several successful expeditions against the British in the Caribbean and the Bahamas.

The Navy in the 19th Century

After the Revolution, the Continental Navy was disbanded and the USN was formally established by an act of Congress in 1794. The USN faced many challenges and conflicts in the 19th century, such as the Quasi-War with France, the Barbary Wars with the North African states, the War of 1812 with Britain, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War. The USN also participated in various explorations, expeditions, and humanitarian missions around the world.

Some of the notable naval figures of this era include Stephen Decatur, Oliver Hazard Perry, David Farragut, Matthew Perry, and George Dewey. Decatur was a hero of the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812, known for his bravery and skill in combat. Perry was the victor of the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813, where he famously declared: “We have met the enemy and they are ours.” Farragut was the first admiral of the USN and the leader of the Union naval forces during the Civil War, where he uttered the famous order: “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” Matthew Perry was the commander of the expedition that opened Japan to trade and diplomacy with the West in 1854. Dewey was the hero of the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898, where he destroyed the Spanish fleet and said: “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.”

The Navy in the 20th Century

The 20th century saw the USN emerge as a global superpower and face two world wars, the Cold War, and numerous regional conflicts. The USN also underwent significant technological and organizational changes, such as the development of aircraft carriers, submarines, nuclear propulsion, missiles, and satellites. Some of the notable naval figures of this era include William Sims, Chester Nimitz, Raymond Spruance, Hyman Rickover, and John McCain.

Sims was the president of the Naval War College and the commander of the US naval forces in Europe during World War I, where he introduced many innovations and reforms. Nimitz was the commander-in-chief of the US Pacific Fleet during World War II, where he led the USN to victory over Japan. Spruance was the commander of the US Fifth Fleet and the victor of the battles of Midway and the Philippine Sea, where he displayed superb tactical and strategic acumen. Rickover was the father of the nuclear navy and the director of the Naval Reactors program, where he oversaw the development and operation of nuclear-powered ships and submarines. McCain was a naval aviator and a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, where he endured torture and refused early release. He later became a senator and a presidential candidate.

The Navy in the 21st Century

The 21st century has presented the USN with new challenges and opportunities, such as the war on terror, the rise of China, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the protection of the global commons. The USN has also continued to innovate and modernize, such as the introduction of stealth, cyber, and unmanned technologies.

Some of the notable naval figures of this era include James Stavridis, Michelle Howard, Michael Gilday, and Lisa Franchetti. Stavridis was the commander of the US Southern Command, the US European Command, and the NATO Supreme Allied Commander, where he fostered cooperation and partnership with allies and partners. Howard was the first female four-star admiral and the first female vice chief of naval operations, where she led the USN’s response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2014 kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls. Gilday is the current chief of naval operations and the leader of the USN’s efforts to implement the National Defense Strategy and the Navy’s Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority. Franchetti is the current commander of the US Naval Forces Europe-Africa and the US Sixth Fleet, where she oversees the USN’s operations and engagements in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.


The USN has a rich and diverse history of service and excellence. It has played a vital role in the nation’s defense, security, and prosperity. It has also contributed to the advancement of science, technology, and culture. The USN’s motto is “Semper Fortis”, which means “Always Courageous”. The USN’s mission is “to maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.”

The USN’s vision is “to be ready to fight and win today, while building the ability to win tomorrow.” The USN’s core values are “Honor, Courage, and Commitment”. The USN’s core attributes are “Integrity, Accountability, Initiative, and Toughness”. The USN’s sailors and officers are the backbone of the USN and the embodiment of its spirit. They are the USN’s greatest asset and its most enduring legacy.

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