October 13 marks the official birthday of the U.S. Navy. The Continental Congress established the naval force on October 13, 1775, as a small fleet to contest the sea power of the British during the American Revolutionary War. After the war, the fleet was dissolved and the remaining ships were sold, but the Navy still tracks its origin back to this date. In 1972, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt authorized recognition of October 13 as the Navy’s birthday. Each CNO has since encouraged a Navy-wide celebration of this day to appreciate Navy heritage and promote pride in the naval service. This year, the U.S. Navy celebrates its 242nd birthday.
After its initial dissolution, the Navy was revived when Congress authorized the building of six warships in 1794, after American merchant ships came under attack and sailors were taken prisoner by the Barbary pirates of North Africa in 1785 and again in 1793. Soon after, Congress established the Department of the Navy in 1798 to meet the need for an executive department responsible solely for naval affairs. Prior to this establishment, naval affairs were handled by the Department of War.
Since its creation, the Navy has fought in more than 10 major wars and countless battles to protect the United States and its allies. One of the most unique aspects of this branch of the military is that it has so many different components. The Navy includes its operating forces, surface fleet, submarine fleet, aviation wing and the shore establishment, which provides repairs, communications, training and meteorological support. Navy personnel are able to expertly operate and maintain everything from humvees to aircraft carriers. All of these components work in tandem to keep naval forces combat-ready, capable of winning war and protecting our nation.
During World War II, the Navy produced six future presidents, including John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, who all served in the Navy in various capacities. Perhaps the Navy’s most notable victory came in the largest maritime battle ever, in regard to the total ship tonnage involved in the fight, during World War II. The U.S. Navy brought 32 aircraft carriers, 12 battleships, 24 cruisers, more than 140 destroyers and approximately 1,500 planes to the Battle of Leyte Gulf in combat against four Japanese aircraft carriers, nine battleships, 19 cruisers, approximately 36 destroyers and hundreds of planes. By pushing back the Japanese forces and winning the battle, the Navy gained command of the Pacific Ocean for the remainder of the war.
With two oceans bordering the United States, the modern-day Navy patrols the oceans to keep our country safe, and more than 270 ships stand at the ready all around the world. The Navy is in a constant state of deployment, which typically involves several ships, submarines and naval aircraft. One of the purposes of deployment is to support our nation’s allies. This support can take the form of a show of power toward an enemy or to assist in training an ally’s navy. Also, each of the Navy’s fleets has a designated section of the world’s oceans to patrol.