from The Water's Edge

Happy 239th Birthday to the U.S. Navy!

Navy Birthday

October 13, 2014

Navy Birthday
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Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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TWE has noted the birthdays of the U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Marine Corps. But it hasn’t noted the birthday of the U.S. Navy. My research associate, Rachael Kauss, and my intern, Corey Cooper, volunteered to remedy that oversight. Here’s what they learned.

The U.S. Navy turns 239 years-old today. The navy has been around since October 13, 1775, when the American colonies were just beginning the Revolutionary War against naval superpower Great Britain. The Continental Congress, after some debate, commissioned two ships “for intercepting such transports as may be laden with warlike stores and other supplies for our enemies.” Each ship had eighty sailors. By the end of the war, the Continental Navy had expanded to about fifty ships. The navy’s future solidified in 1789 when the U.S. Constitution gave Congress the power to maintain a navy.

George Washington once said that “as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive—and with it, everything honorable and glorious.” He would be pleased to know, then, that more than two centuries later, the U.S. Navy remains decisive. Today it has 289 deployable ships, more than 3,700 operational aircraft, and 325,143 active duty personnel. It also has 107,524 reserve personnel and more than 200,000 civilian employees.

Six U.S. presidents (John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush) have served in the navy. Several baseball hall-of-famers, including Yogi Berra and Stan Musial, are navy veterans. Other well-known navy veterans include former Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, comedian Bill Cosby, actor Humphrey Bogart, and astronaut Neil Armstrong.

We asked Captain Robert A. Newson, a naval officer spending a year as a visiting military fellow in CFR’s David Rockefeller Studies Program, what reading he would recommend for those wanting to learn more about the navy and its history. Here are his suggestions:

Captain Newson also had some recommendations for films about the navy. They might not be true stories, but they make for great viewing:

  • Battleship (2012). Captain Newson calls Battleship “perhaps the best navy versus alien movie ever made.”
  • The Caine Mutiny (1954). Humphrey Bogart stars in this World War II film, which tells the story officers who are charged with mutiny for taking over their ship from their mentally unstable captain.
  • The Fighting Seabees (1944). This fictional film tells the story of the members of a naval construction battalion during World War II who find themselves in the thick of the fight.
  • Mister Roberts (1955). In this comedy, a sailor who desperately wants to be in the heart of the action during World War II ends up stationed on quiet cargo ship on the Pacific Front.

If that’s not enough naval information for you, you can learn more about the U.S. Navy online through the U.S. Naval Institute website.

A tip of the TWE cap to all the men and women who have worn the uniform of the U.S. Navy. Anchors Aweigh!

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