U.S. Navy Birthday

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U.S. Navy Birthday

Navy Birthday - 13 October 1775

The United States Navy traces its origins to the Continental Navy, which the Continental Congress established on 13 October 1775, by authorizing the procurement, fitting out, manning, and dispatch of two armed vessels to cruise in search of munitions ships supplying the British Army in America. The legislation also established a Naval Committee to supervise the work. All together, the Continental Navy numbered some fifty ships over the course of the war, with approximately twenty warships active at its maximum strength.

After the American War for Independence, Congress sold the surviving ships of the Continental Navy and released the seamen and officers. The Constitution of the United States, ratified in 1789, empowered Congress "to provide and maintain a navy." Acting on this authority, Congress ordered the construction and manning of six frigates in 1794, and the War Department administered naval affairs from that year until Congress established the Department of the Navy on 30 April 1798.

Not to be confused with the Navy Birthday or the founding of the Navy Department is Navy Day. The Navy League sponsored the first national observance of Navy Day in 1922 designed to give recognition to the naval service. The Navy League of New York proposed that the official observance be on 27 October in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt, who had been born on that day.

In 1972, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt authorized recognition of 13 October as the Navy’s birthday. In contrast to Navy Day, the Navy Birthday is intended as an internal activity for members of the active forces and reserves, as well as retirees, and dependents. Since 1972 each CNO has encouraged a Navy-wide celebration of this occasion "to enhance a greater appreciation of our Navy heritage, and to provide a positive influence toward pride and professionalism in the naval service."

Source: DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER, WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

Recommended Reading: Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy. From Publishers Weekly: Starred Review. Toll, a former financial analyst and political speechwriter, makes an auspicious debut with this rousing, exhaustively researched history of the founding of the U.S. Navy. The author chronicles the late 18th- and early 19th-century process of building a fleet that could project American power beyond her shores. The ragtag Continental Navy created during the Revolution was promptly dismantled after the war, and it wasn't until 1794—in the face of threats to U.S. shipping from England, France and the Barbary states of North Africa—that Congress authorized the construction of six frigates and laid the foundation for a permanent navy. Continued below…

A cabinet-level Department of the Navy followed in 1798. The fledgling navy quickly proved its worth in the Quasi War against France in the Caribbean, the Tripolitan War with Tripoli and the War of 1812 against the English. In holding its own against the British, the U.S. fleet broke the British navy's "sacred spell of invincibility," sparked a "new enthusiasm for naval power" in the U.S. and marked the maturation of the American navy. Toll provides perspective by seamlessly incorporating the era's political and diplomatic history into his superlative single-volume narrative—a must-read for fans of naval history and the early American Republic.

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Recommended Reading: George Washington's Secret Navy (Hardcover). Description: In July 1775, in his first inspection of the American encampment on the outskirts of Boston, the Continental Army's newly arrived commander-in-chief noted its haphazard design and shabby construction--clearly the work of men unprepared to face the world's most powerful fighting force. George Washington had inherited not only an army of woefully untrained and ill-equipped soldiers, but a daunting military prospect as well. To the east he could see the enemy's heavily fortified positions on Bunker Hill and a formidable naval presence on the river beyond. British-occupied Boston was defended by impressive redoubts that would easily repel any American assault, and Boston Harbor bristled with the masts of merchant ships delivering food, clothing, arms, ammunition, and other necessities to the British. Washington knew that the king's troops had all the arms and gunpowder they could want, whereas his own army lacked enough powder for even one hour of major combat. The Americans were in danger of losing a war before it had truly begun. Continued below…

Despite his complete lack of naval experience, Washington recognized that harassing British merchant ships was his only means of carrying the fight to the enemy and sustaining an otherwise unsustainable stalemate. But he also knew that many in Congress still hoped for reconciliation with England, and in that climate Congressional approval for naval action was out of the question. So, without notifying Congress and with no real authority to do so, the general began arming small merchant schooners and sending them to sea to hunt down British transports “in the Service of the ministerial Army.” In George Washington's Secret Navy, award-winning author James L. Nelson tells the fascinating tale of how America's first commander-in-chief launched America's first navy. Nelson introduces us to another side of a general known for his unprecedented respect for civilian authority. Here we meet a man whose singular act of independence helped keep the Revolution alive in 1775.

"James Nelson is not the first historian to reveal this little-known albeit incredibly important aspect of our Revolution, but no one has done it more thoroughly or with greater literary grace." --William M. Fowler, author of Empires at War

 

Recommended Reading: If By Sea: The Forging of the American Navy-From the Revolution to the War of 1812. From Publishers Weekly: Daughan brings a long academic career and solid command of his sources to this provocative history of the origins of the U.S. Navy. Conventional wisdom has the navy beginning in the 1790s. Daughan instead traces its roots to the Revolution. The fleet established by the Continental Congress had a relatively undistinguished career, but Daughan demonstrates that the Americans gained technical experience, produced talented officers, trained seamen and developed a basic understanding of how a navy should be employed. Continued below…

The question then was whether a navy would concentrate too much authority in the central government and risk embroiling the new country in foreign quarrels. By contrast, a coastal defense force of small ships threatened nobody, foreign or domestic. Daughan traces the debate through four administrations, smoothly integrating political with external influences like the Quasi-War with France (1798–1800) and the campaign against the Barbary pirates. Not until the War of 1812, when the navy proved critical, did a national consensus emerge that preparing for war was the best way of avoiding one—a lesson that remains worth remembering.

 

Recommended Reading: John Paul Jones: Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy. Description: Evan Thomas’s John Paul Jones: Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy grounds itself on the facts of Jones’s life and accomplishments to bolster his place among the pantheon of Revolutionary heroes while also working to deflate the myths that have circulated about his name. Jones, we learn, was confronted throughout his life with controversy and was crippled by ambition. But Thomas lauds Jones for early innovations as an American self-made man who rose from Scottish servitude. Continued below…

Jones, despite his too brisk manner, was a true success, if not genius, as a naval captain. Early in the Revolutionary War, he captured a shipload of winter uniforms destined for General Burgoyne’s army in Canada, which instead warmed General Washington’s troops as they swept across the Delaware to defeat British at Princeton and Trenton. Later, Jones helped formulate the Navy’s plan of psychological warfare on British citizens. And Jones’s strategy to cut off the British fleet via the French Navy was arguably the most decisive strategic decision of the War. In the end, Thomas makes a good case for a renewed appreciated for Jones’s role in the broader revolution, citing his many connections to the Founding Fathers and his contributions to the broader war effort. While it may be that the John Paul Jones who proclaimed "I have not yet begun to fight" never existed, the real man behind the textbook legend is every bit as compelling a figure in Thomas’s hands. This temperate biography situates Jones in what will likely prove durable fashion among portraits of Adams, Franklin, Washington, and Jefferson.

 

Recommended Reading: John Paul Jones: America's First Sea Warrior (Hardcover). Description: This fresh look at America’s first sea warrior avoids both the hero worship of the past and the recent, inaccurate deconstructionist views of John Paul Jones’s astonishing life. The author goes beyond a narrow naval context to establish Jones as a key player in the American Revolution, something not done by previous biographers, and explains what drove him to his achievements. At the same time, Admiral Joseph Callo fully examines Jones’s dramatic military achievements—including his improbable victory off Flamborough Head in the Continental ship Bonhomme Richard—but in the context of the times rather than as stand-alone events. Continued below…

The book also looks at some interesting but lesser-known aspects of Jones’s naval career, including his relationships with such civilian leaders as Benjamin Franklin. How Jones handled those often-difficult dealings, Callo maintains, contributed to the nation’s concept of civilian control of the military. Suggesting that Jones might well be the first U.S. apostle of sea power, the author also focuses on the fact that Jones was the first serving American naval officer who emphasized the role naval power would play in the rise of the United States as a global power. Another neglected aspect of Jones’s career that gets attention and analysis is his brief tour in the Russian navy, a revealing chapter of his life that has been underreported in the two hundred years since Jones’s death. Rather than looking at Jones in a rearview mirror, Callo illuminates how this unique naval hero is linked to the nation’s present and future. As a result, he gives us a sea saga that tells much about our own lives and times. About the Author: Rear Admiral Joseph Callo, USNR (Ret.), Naval History magazine’s 1998 Author of the Year, has written three books about Admiral Lord Nelson, including Nelson Speaks: Admiral Lord Nelson in His Own Words and Nelson in the Caribbean: The Hero Emerges, was the U.S. editor for Who’s Who in Naval History, and regularly writes on maritime subjects for magazines and newspapers
 

Recommended Reading: John Paul Jones: A Sailor's Biography (Bluejacket Books). Description: America's greatest naval historian, Samuel Eliot Morison, writes about America's greatest naval hero in this Pulitzer Prize-winning biography. The Scottish-born John Paul Jones struck several severe blows to English morale during the American Revolution, as he fearlessly ravaged the king's ships within sight of British shores. With tactical brilliance and almost reckless courage, Jones eagerly attacked larger foes and soundly beat them. During one famous engagement, his opposing commander called out and offered Jones the opportunity to surrender. Jones's immortal response: "I have not yet begun to fight!" This marvelous book is a fitting tribute to a controversial yet romantic figure, who now lies buried at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

 

Recommended Reading: The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy's Finest Hour. From Publishers Weekly: One of the finest WWII naval action narratives in recent years, this book follows in the footsteps of Flags of Our Fathers, creating a microcosm of the war's American Navy destroyers. Hornfischer, a writer and literary agent in Austin, Tex., covers the battle off Samar, the Philippines, in October 1944, in which a force of American escort carriers and destroyers fought off a Japanese force many times its strength, and the larger battle of Leyte Gulf, the opening of the American liberation of the Philippines, which might have suffered a major setback if the Japanese had attacked the transports. Continued below…

He presents the men who crewed the destroyer Taffy 3, most of whom had never seen salt water before the war but who fought, flew, kept the crippled ship afloat, and doomed ships fighting almost literally to the last shell. Finally, Hornfischer provides a perspective on the Japanese approach to the battle, somewhat (and justifiably) modifying the traditional view of the Japanese Admiral Kurita as a fumbler or even a coward-while exalting American sailors and pilots as they richly deserve. (American admirals don't get off so easily.) Not entirely free of glitches in research, the book still reads like a very good action novel, indicated by its selection as a dual split main selection of the BOMC and History Book Club alternate.

 

Recommended Viewing: America at War Megaset (History Channel) (Number of discs: 14) (Run Time: 1948 minutes). Description: From the first musket shots at Lexington and Concord to the precision-guided munitions in modern-day Baghdad. America's history has been forged in the heat of battle. AMERICA AT WAR presents twenty-five documentaries from THE HISTORY CHANNEL charting U.S. military conflict over two centuries. This "fourteen disc set" explores key moments of the American Revolution, the Alamo, Mexican American War, the Civil War, Spanish American War, World Wars I and II as well as the conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, and Iraq.

The chronological collection draws upon the expertise of noted historians, military authorities, engineers, and war correspondents to convey the personal side of conflict not often found in history books. A trove of archival footage and documents brings viewers closer than ever to the heated heart of combat. This is truly a one-of-a-kind collector's set!

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