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History and Heritage

Forged by the Sea

243 Years of Excellence

“It follows then as certain as night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious.”
—President George Washington, November 15, 1781



Created by the Continental Congress in 1775 to protect America's coasts against British ships, the Navy has upheld a legacy of excellence at sea for 243 years. From those days of revolution to the present day, it has navigated trials and triumphs through its ability to thrive within a changing maritime environment.

Although the young Navy was temporarily disbanded at the end of the Revolutionary War, in March 1794, President George Washington signed the Naval Armament Act into law, ordering construction of six frigates for the newly re-established fleet. The Department of the Navy was established by Congress "to provide and maintain a navy" in April 1798.

The Navy affirmed its importance through decisive victories during the Barbary Wars. Its might was further cemented during the undeclared Quasi War against the French, the War of 1812, and the Spanish-American War, which helped American ships establish command of the sea while protecting the nation's interests and shipping lanes from foreign rivals. The nation's defender has been forged by the sea ever since, adjusting and adapting from the days of sail to coal to nuclear energy, learning from and triumphing over Barbary pirates, the British, the Spanish, the Germans, the Japanese and the Soviets.

Today, the United States Navy has evolved and grown more capable and lethal than any naval force in the world. Its warfighters stand watch across the globe, ensuring Sailors are forged into more capable versions of themselves through naval service.

Sources: U.S. Navy and Naval History and Heritage Command.