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Celebrating
242 Years on
October 13!

Happy Birthday to the
United States Navy

In an effort to curb British Sea Control, the Continental Congress established the Continental Navy, which later, on October 13, 1775, became the United States Navy. When the infant Navy was first formed, it consisted of just two armed vessels – tasked with disrupting munition ships supplying the British Army in America. Yet over the past nearly two and one-half centuries, our Navy has grown to become the largest, most advanced, and most lethal fighting force the world has ever known.

In 1972, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, designated October 13 as the Navy’s offical birthday, and directed that it be commemorated so as to “enhance [the] appreciation of our Navy heritage” and reinforce “pride and professionalism in the Naval Service.”

In addition to this year marking the Navy’s 242nd birthday, it also marks several other historic milestones for the Navy, including the 100th anniversary of our entry into World War I and the 75th anniversaries of the Battle of Midway, of the WAVES, and of the Navy Seabees.

Sea Power:
to Protect and Promote

The theme for the Navy’s 242nd Birthday is “Sea Power to Protect and Promote.” Our commemoration of the Navy’s birthday offers us an opportunity to honor the brave men and women who conduct a wide range of combat, training, humanitarian, rescue, and other missions worldwide, protecting the nation’s interests, promoting its security, and helping to shape our history and culture.

Since its earliest days, the U.S. Navy has deployed forward to deter our adversaries and to fight and win in the event deterrence fails. In today’s increasingly complex global security environment, the Navy continues to provide forward presence in areas where our nation’s interests are being challenged, including the Arabian Gulf, South and East China Seas, Red Sea, North Atlantic and beyond.

Roughly 90 percent of all world trade is conducted on the seas. With economic prosperity as the cornerstone of American security, the free flow of commerce on those seas is a critical component of our national defense. Deployed globally, the U.S. Navy has maintained and continues to uphold freedom of the seas, in order to provide for the unimpeded exchange of goods and to promote our values of freedom and liberty.

Finally, as our adversaries, both actual and potential, strive to match and outpace the capabilities of our fleet, it is imperative that our Navy continue to grow, develop, and innovate to maintain maritime superiority. A reflection on the Navy’s 242 years of sea power offers an ideal opportunity to strengthen our national resolve in that direction.

Timeline

Birth of the Navy

October 13, 1775

Establishment of the Continental Navy

The United States Navy traces its origins to the Continental Navy, which is established at the beginning of the American Revolution. On October 13, 1775, the Continental Congress decides to purchase two armed ships to attack British supply ships and keep their supplies from reaching British soldiers in the colonies. A second resolution passes the same day creating a naval committee to oversee the purchase of the ships and write a set of regulations for their management. Thus was born the Continental Navy, and October 13 remains the official birth date of the U.S. Navy.

Image of Continetal Navy Ship

February 17, 1776

Image of first overseas Expedition of the Continental Navy at the shore

First Overseas Expedition of the Continental Navy

Commodore Esek Hopkins, recently appointed “commander in chief of the fleet,” sails from the Delaware with a squadron of eight vessels, with orders to clear the Chesapeake Bay and the coasts of Virginia and the Carolinas of British raiders. Taking advantage of a flexible clause in his orders, Hopkins sets course for the Bahamas. On March 3, Hopkins lands a force of 300 sailors and marines, which storms Forts Nassau and Montagu and occupies New Providence Island. Some 73 cannons, mortars, and a large quantity of munitions are captured and loaded on board Hopkins’s ships to be carried back to the Continental Army.

March 27, 1794

Reestablishment of the U.S. Navy

After the United States won its independence in 1783, the remaining ships of the Continental Navy are sold and its officers and sailors return to civilian life. But the need to defend the nation’s seaborne commerce finally moves Congress to re-establish the Navy in the spring of 1794. Urged on by President George Washington, Congress authorizes the construction or purchase of six frigates to protect American shipping from Algerine corsairs. Three frigates are to mount 44 guns and three are to mount 36 guns, though Congress stipulates that their construction will be cancelled in the event that peace is made with Algiers before their completion.

George Washington aboard ship - an oil painting by Orlando S. Lagman, USN (1965)

June 28, 1794

Silas Talbot, a portrait by Ralph Earl, courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

First Officers

The first officers of the new navy are appointed. There are six captains: James Sever, John Barry, Richard Dale, Samuel Nicholson, Silas Talbot, and Thomas Truxtun. Each captain is assigned to oversee the construction of one of the six frigates. Construction proceeds slowly due to the difficulty of gathering supplies and the decision to build major structural components out of live oak, which must be harvested in southern forests.

April 20, 1796

Three Frigates

Despite the conclusion of peace with Algiers in 1795, Congress authorizes the completion of frigates Constitution (44 guns), United States (44 guns), and Constellation (36 guns). The other three frigates then under construction are postponed. The frigate United States is launched on May 10, 1797, while the frigates Constellation and Constitution are launched on September 7, 1797 and October 21, 1797, respectively. USS Constitution remains a commissioned warship today and is homeported in Boston, Massachusetts – the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat!

Image of Continetal Navy Ship

April 30, 1798

Image of John Adams

Establishment of the Navy Department

In early 1798 an overworked Secretary of War James McHenry complains to Congress about his responsibility for naval affairs. Naval administration had become a large portion of his department’s work, as it had for the Treasury Department, which oversaw all of the navy’s contracting and disbursing. The Department of War had also been criticized by Congress for the excessive cost of the naval construction program. Seeing the obvious need for an executive department responsible solely for naval affairs, Congress passes a bill establishing the Department of the Navy. President John Adams signs this historic act on April 30, 1798.

May 18, 1798

First Secretary of the Navy Appointed

Benjamin Stoddert is appointed as the nation’s first secretary of the navy, upon confirmation by the Senate. Stoddert, a prominent merchant who had served as secretary of the Continental Board of War during the American Revolution, had been nominated by President John Adams three days prior. When he becomes secretary in June 1798, only one American warship was deployed for operations in the undeclared Quasi-War with France. Before the Quasi-War ends in 1801, the Navy possesses almost 30 ships, with some 700 officers and 5,000 seamen.

Picture of Benjamin Stoddert as First Secretary of the Navy Appointed
RED SEA (Sept. 23, 2014) The guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) launches Tomahawk cruise missiles. Arleigh Burke is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.

September 23, 2014

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

photo of vertical replinishment on board USS America

May 1, 2011

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Man the Guns, Join the Navy

Man the Guns

Join the Navy

Navy is a key contributor to Operation Unified Response

January 12, 2010

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

photo of a single modified tactical Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) launches from the U.S. Navy AEGIS cruiser USS Lake Erie

February 20, 2008

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Sailors on the bridge plotting the course for USS America

October 7, 2001

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Photo of airforce taking off to provide protection for land based forces

January 16, 1991

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Old Navy poster Let’s Hit ’Em With Everything We've Got! Don't Wait

Let’s Hit ’Em

With Everything We've Got! Don't Wait

Photo of The Iranian frigate Is Sahand (74) burns after being attacked by aircraft of Carrier Air Wing 11

April 18, 1988

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Photo of sailors working together

December 17, 1970

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

242nd Navy Birthday Vintage poster 1

242nd Navy Birthday Poster 1

Seapower to Protect and Promote

Photo of sailors controlling fire and damage

July 29, 1967

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Vintage poster by James H Daugherty (1917)

Follow the Flag

Photo of 3.5 foot draft swift boats

March 11, 1965

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Photo of ready navy ships to protect during Cold War

October 22, 1962

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Photo of men discussing commission of USS George Washington

December 30, 1959

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Vintage poster by poster by Howard Chandler Christy (1916)

If You Want to Fight

Join the Marines

Photo of World’s first nuclear-powered submarie, USS Nauticlus

September 30, 1954

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Drawing of deployed troops on shore

September 15, 1950

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Painting of largest naval battle

October 23-26, 1944

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Painting of invasions of ships on beaches of Normandy

June 6, 1944

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Vintage poster poster by Hazel Roberts (1916)

Women Awake!

Painting of battle of Miday

June 4-7, 1942

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Painting of air force launching from USS Hornet

April 18, 1942

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Photo of the attack on U.S. Pacific Fleet by Japanese

December 7, 1941

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

242nd Navy Birthday Vintage poster 2

242nd Navy Birthday Poster 2

Seapower to Protect and Promote

Photo of fuel Ship USS Jupiter

March 20, 1922

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Vintage poster on canvas by James Montgomery Flagg (c1918)

The Navy Needs You!

Painting of Yeomen

March 1917

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Painting of Great White Fleet departing

December 16, 1907

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Painting of Spanish-American War Battle of Manila Bay

May 1, 1898

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Painting of ships battling

March 8, 1862

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Drawing of USS Fulton

October 29, 1814

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Painting of MacDonough’s Victory on Lake Champlain

September 11, 1814

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

242nd Navy Birthday Vintage poster 3

242nd Navy Birthday Poster 3

Seapower to Protect and Promote

Painting, Burning of the Philadelphia

February 16, 1804

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Painting of USS Constitution

October 21, 1797

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Drawing of Sgt. Ezra Lee

September 7, 1776

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

Painting of British army and ships

October 13, 1775

A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA’S NAVY

BEANS BULLETS AND BLACK OIL, Naval Logistics in the War Zone Film

Beans, Bullets and Black Oil

Naval Logistics in the War Zone

Footage of Country Current Navy Ball

US Navy Band

Country Current

US Navy Training Film

1943 US Navy Training Film

Don't Kill your Friends

Combat Fatique Irritability Film part 1

Gene Kelly

in Combat Fatigue Part 1

Film on History of U.S. Navy Supply Corps

History

U.S Navy Supply Corps

Footage of USS San Antonio returning home for christmas

Home for Christmas

How to Succeed with Brunettes 1967 US Navy Training Film

How to Succeed

with Brunettes

Film about Last Man on the Moon

Last man on the Moon

“Progress in the Navy” Film

Progress in the Navy

US Navy Training after the Cut Carrier Landings Film

US Navy Training

After the Cut Carrier Landings

US Navy Training, This Ship is Ours Film

US Navy Training

This Ship is Ours

Restoring the Legend Film

Restoring the Legend

Old Ironsides

Our Navy Happy 242th

Our Navy Happy 242th

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