Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In Honor of the Navy: A Short History

Founded as the Continental Navy on October 13th 1775, the navy of the United States actually predates the United States itself. After the Rhode Island General Assembly and George Washington began to amass naval might, the Continental Congress passed the resolution for the creation of a navy which would intercept and seize British arms and supplies. While the quick mobilization of the previously unruly colonies and the creation of the navy were impressive, America’s few ships paled in comparison to Britain’s royal fleet.

There were moments of glory for the small navy during the Revolution, however, a number of which came from the nation’s first naval hero, John Paul Jones. Originally hailing from Scotland and a close friend of Benjamin Franklin, Jones transplanted himself to the new world shortly before the Revolutionary war. With important men to vouch for his prolific nautical experience on merchants, brigs, and for a short time slavers, although he despised them and quit in the middle of the Caribbean, Jones was quickly placed at a high rank in the navy. Of his achievements, he took the British sloop of war, Drake, off the coast of Ireland and most famously captured the HMS Serapis. When locked in battle, the HMS Serapis’ captain questioned Jones, asking him if he was ready to surrender, or strike his colors, to which Jones merely quipped, legendly replying, “I have not begun to fight yet!”

Jones and others like him fought heroically for the budding United States and, despite the exact numbers of wins and losses, proved to the downtrodden colonies that the British were not invincible and that was enough for the morale of the people.

After the Revolutionary War the size and even existence of the navy fluctuated over the years with the vicissitudes of need and money, but by the War of 1812 the navy was more formally established and ingrained into the seams of American society. By 1845 the United States Naval Academy was formed, where Jones is currently interred. In the following years the navy continued to expand through the Civil War and especially under the guidance of the later President Theodore Roosevelt, who firmly believed in the importance of the navy to the protection of the nation. The navy increased, decreased, and increased again through the World Wars and ultimately the Cold War. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States became the uncontested naval superpower in the world.

Recently the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard, have realized the adverse link between crises and the economy and are working with each other and international powers to prevent tragedies from occurring.

On this coming anniversary of the United States Navy’s creation, let us bear in mind all those who have gone before us and will come after us.

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