The Military Writers 2009 Book of the Year.

Once a Marine: An Iraq War Tank Commander's Inspirational Memoir of Combat, Courage, and Recovery
Nick Popaditch  More Info

Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy
Ian Toll  More Info

Navy: An Illustrated History: The U.S. Navy from 1775 to the 21st Century (Illustrated History (Zenith Press))
Chester G. Hearn  More Info

American Naval History: An Illustrated Chronology of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, 1775-Present
Jack Sweetman  More Info

A Sailor's History of the U.S. Navy
Thomas J. Cutler  More Info

Navy Seals: A History: Post-Vietnam to the Present
Kevin Dockery  More Info

The U.S. Navy: A History
Nathan Miller  More Info

To Shining Sea: A History of the United States Navy, 1775-1998
Stephen Howarth  More Info

The Oxford Illustrated History of the Royal Navy (Oxford Illustrated Histories)
Oxford University Press, USA  More Info

Navy Medicine in Vietnam: Oral Histories from Dien Bien Phu to the Fall of Saigon
Jan K. Herman  More Info

Technological Change and the United States Navy, 1865-1945 (Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology)
William M. McBride  More Info

The Royal Navy: A History from the Earliest Times to the Present
William Laird Clowes  More Info

The U.S. Navy in the Vietnam War: An Illustrated History
Edward J. Marolda  More Info

Wars of the Barbary Pirates: To the shores of Tripoli: the birth of the US Navy and Marines (Essential Histories)
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History of the Navy of the United States of America
James Fenimore Cooper  More Info

The Fleet Submarine in the United States Navy: A Design and Construction History
John D. Alden  More Info


American Steel Navy: A Photographic History of the U.S. Navy from the Introduction of the Steel Hull in 1883 to the Cruise of the Great White Fleet,
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The Two-Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War
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The History of Our Navy From its Origin to the Present Day 1775 to 1897 V4
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United States Navy History

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United States Navy

The United States Navy (USN) is the branch of the United States armed forces responsible for conducting naval operations around the globe. For almost the entire existence of the United States, the U.S. Navy has protected American interests and supported American policies through the use of sea power. Its stated mission is "to maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas."[1] The U.S. Navy currently numbers nearly 500,000 men and women on active or ready reserve duty and consists of 281 ships and over 4,000 operational aircraft.


The United States Navy can trace its origins to the Continental Navy, which was established during the American Revolutionary War, but was disbanded not long afterwards in the year 1790. The 1789 ratification of the United States Constitution supported the existence of a standing navy by giving Congress the right "to provide and maintain a navy." Following conflict with Barbary Coast corsairs, Congress enacted this right in 1794 by ordering the construction and manning of six frigates, thus establishing a permanent U.S. navy. The U.S. Navy came into international prominence in the 20th century, especially during World War II. The navy was a part of the conflict from the very beginning of American involvement to the very end of the war, and proved to be a vital element in the success of the Allies. It was also heavily involved in the subsequent Cold War, in which the U.S. Navy participated in Vietnam War operations and roamed the seas with carrier battle groups, minesweeping patrol squadrons and submarines in support of allies.


The 21st century United States Navy maintains its presence in the world as an instrument of American policy. Its ability to project force anywhere on the globe is a key asset for U.S. leaders. Despite decreases in the number of ships and personnel following the Cold War, the U.S. Navy remains the worlds largest navy with a tonnage greater than 17 of the next largest world navies combined.[2] In addition, the decrease in size has been negated by the Navy's focus on advanced technological capabilities and a high degree of spending relative to other nations.



Flag of the U.S. Navy

In the early stages of the American Revolutionary War, the establishment of an official navy was heavily discussed among the members of the Continental Congress. Supporters argued that a navy would protect shipping, defend the coast, and make it easier to seek out support from foreign countries. Detractors countered that challenging the Royal Navy, then the world's preeminent naval power, was a foolish undertaking. Furthermore, they stated that a true break from Britain was not yet certain; the existence of a navy implied independence and would work against any future attempts at reconciliation. Two events would ultimately end the debate in favor of a navy. The first occurred on October 5, 1775, when Congress received word that two unarmed British supply ships were heading towards Quebec from England without escort. Plans were made to intercept the ships, but the armed vessels to be used were owned by individual colonies and not the Continental Congress. Of greater significance, then, was an additional plan for the equipping of two ships that would be the first to operate under the authority of Congress and whose mission would be to attack British shipping far from the shore. The plan was not carried out until a second key event on October 13, 1775. On this day, Congress received correspondence from George Washington, who announced that he had established three armed schooners under Continental authority to intercept any British supply ships near Massachusetts. With three armed ships already under Continental control, the decision to add two more was made easier for the Continental Congress delegates and the plan was ratified. Thus, the Continental Navy was officially established that day in Philadelphia.[3] The legislation also established a three-member Naval Committee to supervise the work. The Continental Navy operated some 50 ships over the course of the war, primarily in an anti-shipping and raiding role. American ships were not meant to do battle with opposing British men-of-war and such engagements were avoided as much as possible. After the war, as attention turned towards securing the western border of the new United States, a standing navy was deemed less important and within a span of two years, a cash-strapped Congress sold the surviving ships and released the seamen and officers


The United States would be without a navy for over a decade and the impetus to reestablish one came about not because of a threat from a sovereign country, but from pirates. In response to attacks on American shipping by corsairs from the Barbary Coast, Congress ordered the construction and manning of six frigates on March 27, 1794. Three years later the first three were welcomed into service: USS United States, USS Constellation and USS Constitution. The U.S. Navy would perform admirably in the War of 1812, where it defeated rival British frigates on more than one occasion and emerged victorious in battles at Lake Champlain and Lake Erie. However, the U.S. Navy was not strong enough to prevent the British from blockading American ports and landing troops at will.


USS Constitution battles HMS Guerriere in the War of 1812.

Naval power had a significant role during the American Civil War, where the Union had a distinct advantage over the Confederacy on the seas. A Union blockade on shipping handicapped the Southern effort throughout the entire conflict. The two American navies would help usher in a new era in world naval history by putting ironclad warships into combat for the first time. The Battle of Hampton Roads in 1862, which pitted USS Monitor against CSS Virginia, became the first engagement between two steam-powered ironclads. After the war, however, the U.S. Navy slipped into obsolescence. A modernization program beginning in the 1880s brought the U.S. into the first rank of the world's navies by the beginning of the 20th century.


The Navy saw little action during World War I, but grew into a formidable force in the years before World War II. Japan unsuccessfully attempted to allay this strategic threat with a late-1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Following American entry into the war, the U.S. Navy grew tremendously as the United States was faced with a two-front war on the seas. It achieved notable acclaim in the Pacific Theater in particular, where it was instrumental in the Allies' successful "island hopping" campaign. Some famous World War II battles in which the US Navy participated are the Battle of Midway, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf. By war's end in 1945, the United States Navy had added hundreds of new ships, including 18 aircraft carriers and 8 battleships.


With the potential for armed conflict with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the U.S. Navy continued to advance technologically by developing new weapons systems, ships, and aircraft. United States naval strategy changed to that of forward deployment in support of U.S. allies with an emphasis on carrier battle groups. The Navy heavily participated in the Vietnam War and, through the use of ballistic missile submarines, became an important aspect of the United States' nuclear strategic deterrence policy. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 predictably led to budget cuts, but the U.S. Navy stayed committed to establishing and maintaining technologic superiority.


The United States Navy in the 21st century continues to progress as it supports the United States-led War on Terrorism. The focus has shifted from a large-scale naval conflict with the Soviet Union to special operations and strike missions in support of regional conflicts. The Navy participated in Operation Enduring Freedom and the Iraq War largely in this capacity. Development continues on new ships and weapons, including the CVN-21 aircraft carrier and the Littoral combat ship. Due to its size, weapons technology, and ability to project force far from American shores, the current U.S. Navy remains one of the most potent assets for the United States Commander-in-Chief.



The Navy is administered by the Department of the Navy, led by the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV). The senior naval officer, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), is the four-star admiral immediately under the Secretary of the Navy. At the same time, the Chief of Naval Operations is one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which is the second-highest deliberatory body of the armed forces after the National Security Council, although it only plays an advisory role to the President and does not nominally form part of the chain of command. The Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations are responsible for organizing, recruiting, training, and equipping the Navy so the Navy is ready for operation under the command of the Unified Combatant Commanders.



The names of commissioned ships of the U.S. Navy start with USS, meaning 'United States Ship'. Non-commissioned, civilian-manned vessels of the U.S. Navy have names that begin with USNS, standing for 'United States Naval Ship'. Additionally, each ship is given a letter-based hull classification symbol (for example CVN and DDG) to designate a vessel's type and a hull number. The names of ships are officially selected by the Secretary of the Navy and are usually those of U.S. states, cities, towns, important people, famous battles, fish, and ideals. All ships in the U.S. Navy inventory are placed in the Naval Vessel Register, which tracks data such as the current status of a ship, the date of its commissioning, and the date of its decommissioning. Vessels that are removed from the register prior to disposal are said to be stricken from the register.


The U.S. Navy pioneered the use of nuclear reactors aboard naval vessels. Today, nuclear energy powers most U.S. aircraft carriers and submarines. In the case of a Nimitz-class carrier, two naval reactors give it almost unlimited range and provide enough electrical energy to power a city of 100,000 people.[13] The U.S. Navy previously operated nuclear-powered cruisers and destroyers as well, but all have since been decommissioned.


The U.S. Navy began to research the use of aircraft at sea in the 1910s and commissioned the very first aircraft carrier, USS Langley, in 1922.[21] United States naval aviation fully came of age in World War II, when it became clear following the Attack on Pearl Harbor, the Battle of the Coral Sea, and the Battle of Midway that aircraft carriers and the planes that they carried had replaced the battleship as the greatest weapon on the seas. Navy aircraft also played a significant role in conflicts during the following Cold War years, with the F-4 Phantom II and the F-14 Tomcat becoming military icons of the era. The Navy's current primary fighter and attack airplanes are the multi-mission F/A-18 Hornet and its newer cousin the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.


Weapons systems

Shipboard systems

Current U.S. Navy shipboard weapons systems are almost entirely focused on missiles, both as a weapon and as a threat. In an offensive role, missiles are intended to strike targets at long distances with accuracy and precision. As unmanned objects, missiles also allow for attacks on heavily defended targets without risk to human pilots. Land and sea strikes are the domain of the BGM-109 Tomahawk, which was first deployed in the 1980s and is continually being updated to increase its capabilities. While the Tomahawk can be used in an anti-ship capacity, the Navy's dedicated missile for this role is the AGM-84 Harpoon. To defend against enemy missile attack, the Navy operates a number of systems that are all coordinated by the Aegis combat system. Medium-long range defense is provided by the Standard Missile 2, which has been deployed since the 1980s. The Standard missile doubles as the primary shipboard anti-aircraft weapon and is also being developed as a component for theater ballistic missile defense. Short range defense against missiles is provided by the Phalanx CIWS and the more recently developed RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile. In addition to missiles, the Navy also employs various types of torpedoes and mines.


Aircraft systems

The primary offensive aircraft of the U.S. Navy are the F/A-18C/D Hornet and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. They employ much of the same weapons as the United States Air Force for both air-to-air and air-to-surface combat. Air engagements are handled by the heat-seeking Sidewinder and the radar guided AMRAAM missiles along with the M61 Vulcan for close range dogfighting. For surface strikes, Navy aircraft utilize a combination of missiles, smart bombs, and dumb bombs. On the list of available missiles are the Maverick, SLAM-ER, and JSOW. Smart bombs include the GPS-guided JDAM and the laser-guided Paveway series. Unguided munitions such as dumb bombs and cluster bombs round out the rest of the aircraft deployed weapons.


Nuclear weapons

The U.S. Navy is capable of deploying nuclear weapons through two means: ballistic missile submarines and aircraft. The Ohio-class submarine carries the latest iteration of the Trident missile, a three stage, underwater launched, nuclear ICBM with MIRV capability. The current Trident II (D5) version is expected to be in service past 2020.[22] The Navys other nuclear weapon is the aircraft-deployed B61 nuclear bomb. The B61 is a thermonuclear device that can be dropped by strike aircraft such as the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet at high speed from a large range of altitudes. They can be released through free-fall or parachute and can be set to detonate in the air or on the ground.


Special warfare


Navy SEALs undergo Vessel Boarding Search and Seizure training.

The major players in U.S. Navy special operations are Navy SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCCs, pronounced swicks). The SEALs take their name from the environments in and from which they can operate: SEa, Air, and Land. As befitting their title, the SEALs are a flexible group of elite warriors who are trained to conduct clandestine warfare in any setting, most often in small-unit actions. What sets them apart from other special warfare units in the United States military is their expertise in maritime operations striking from and returning to the sea.[23] Working in conjunction with the SEALs are the SWCCs, who are the elite small ship and watercraft operators in the Navy. Organized into Special Boat Teams, SWCCs specialize in the insertion and extraction of SEALs in hostile territory, coastal patrol and surveillance, and the boarding and searching of vessels.


Navy special operations fall under the jurisdiction of Naval Special Warfare Command, the Navy branch of United States Special Operations Command. Within Naval Special Warfare Command are six operational entities: four Special Warfare Groups, the Special Warfare Development Group, and the Special Warfare Center.


Coastal warfare

Protection of naval assets and coastal and harbor defense are placed under the jurisdiction of two Naval Coastal Warfare Groups: one for the Pacific Fleet and one for the Atlantic Fleet. Within these groups are Mobile Security Squadrons and Naval Coastal Warfare Squadrons. MSSs deploy Mobile Security Detachments that protect high value naval targets from terrorist attacks in ports and harbors where U.S. shore infrastructure is limited or does not exist. Naval Coastal Warfare Squadrons provide surveillance and security in harbors, coasts, and inshore areas. They are comprised of Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Units (MIUWUs) and Inshore Boat Units (IBUs). MIUWUs are charged with security, observation, and communications support for commanders operating in an inshore/coast environment, including anchorages and harbors. In the same operating environment, IBUs manage security and surveillance water craft for interdiction and surveillance.


Commissioned officers belong to one of the following communities:


Unrestricted line: Surface Warfare, Aviation Warfare, Submarine Warfare, Special Warfare, Nuclear


Restricted line: Engineering Duty, Aerospace Engineering Duty, Aerospace Maintenance Duty, Cryptologic, Naval Intelligence, Public Affairs, Meteorology and Oceanography, Information Professional, Human Resource


Staff corps: Several staff corps are maintained which augment the line community and whose personnel are assigned to both line and staff commands. Members of the Staff Corps are specialists in fields that are themselves professional careers and not exclusive to the military, for example physicians and lawyers. Staff Corps officers wear distinct insignia on their uniforms to indicate their specialty.

Navy Dental Corps

Navy Chaplain Corps

Navy Civil Engineer Corps (includes the Seabees)

Navy Judge Advocate General (also known as JAG)

Navy Medical Corps

Navy Medical Service Corps

Navy Nurse Corps

Navy Supply Corps

The term "line" officer means someone who may command a warship or an aviation unit. It is a carryover from the 18th-century British tactic of employing warships in a "line" to take advantage of cannons on each side of the ship. The captains of such vessels commanded "ships of the line." Today, all Navy line officers wear a star on the sleeves of uniforms near the cuff braid that denotes rank. Staff officers wear different insignias. Note: Marine Corps officers, also part of the Department of the Navy, are all considered "line" officers because they are qualified as troop commanders in addition to their specialties.


Commissioned officers originate from the United States Naval Academy, Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC), Officer Candidate School (OCS), direct commission, and other commissioning programs (such as Seaman to Admiral-21 and Limited Duty Officer programs).



Enlisted members of the Navy have paygrades from E-1 to E-9. Enlisted members with superior performance may be advanced in paygrade. Two notably significant advancements are Seaman to Petty Officer Third Class (E-3 to E-4) and Petty Officer First Class to Chief Petty Officer (E-6 to E-7). Advancement to Chief Petty Officer is especially significant, marked by a special initiation ceremony.


All new active-duty enlisted members receive basic training ("boot camp") at the Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois. Those who have a contract for a specific rating continue onto "A" schools for training in the rating. Those who don't have a specific rating go into the fleet to learn on the job and later strike for a rating. Some members may go to additonal training in a "C" school either before a tour of duty, or after a tour of duty. A "C" school assigns a member a Navy Enlisted Classification code, or NEC, which shows that a sailor is able to perform a specific task requiring that NEC, such as NEC 2780 - Network Security Vulnerablity Technician.


Enlisted members of paygrades E-4 and above are said to be "rated" and have a rating: an occupational specialty. As of June 2005, there are more than 50 ratings, including Boatswain's Mate, Quartermaster, Engineman, Damage Controlman, Electronics Technician, Information Systems Technician, Air Traffic Controller, Fire Control Technician, Gunner's Mate, Sonar Technician, Construction Mechanic, Hospital Corpsman, Yeoman, Disbursing Clerk, Culinary Specialist, Photographer's Mate, Musician, Master-at-Arms, Aviation Electronics Technician, and Cryptologic Technician. Some ratings have subspecialties acquired either through an initial "A" school for training (such as Cryptologic Technician Technical and Cryptologic Technician Collection) or through a separate "C" school (such as Aviation Electronics Technician Organizational and Aviation Electronics Technician Intermediate.)



Sailors prove they have mastered skills and deserve responsibilities by completing Personnel Qualification Standards (PQS) tasks and examinations. Among the most important is the "warfare qualification," which denotes a journeyman level of capability in Aviation Warfare, Special Warfare, Surface Warfare, or Submarine Warfare. Many qualifications are denoted on a sailor's uniform with U.S. Navy badges and insignia.


Sea Warrior

Launched in 2003 as part of the Navy's Sea Power 21 transformation plan, Sea Warrior is intended to link the fleet's personnel processes (recruiting, training, and assigning) with acquisition processes (buying ships, aircraft, etc.) in a way that also improves each individual sailor's ability to guide his or her own career in a satisfying direction. The aim is to more efficiently muster the right number of sailors with the right skills and seniority at each ship, squadron, and duty station.


Sea Warrior is led by the Chief of Naval Personnel, and the commander of the Naval Education and Training Command.



The uniforms of the United States Navy are designed to combine professionalism and naval heritage with versatility, safety, and comfort.[36] The Navy currently incorporates many different styles that are specific for a variety of uses and occasions. In most cases, distinctions are made to distinguish officers and enlisted men in their uniformed appearance. U.S. Navy uniforms can generally be divided into three categories: dress uniforms, service uniforms, and working uniforms.


Dress uniforms are worn during military-related formal occasions, such as ceremonies and other official functions. Many types of dress uniforms are used in the Navy with the full range of formal requirements represented. Service dress is the least formal dress uniform, full dress is one step higher in formality, and mess dress is the most formal dress available.  Service uniforms are designed for daily wear and are most often worn in office or classroom-type settings, as well as other occasions in which physical activity is at a minimum.[37] The most visible distinction between officers and enlisted personnel are the color of the service uniform. Only officers and chief petty officers are authorized to wear service khaki; all other personnel must wear winter blue or summer white.

Working uniforms prioritize comfort and safety first and thus are the least attractive of the Navy uniforms. They are intended for use in underway ships and in occasions that involve dirty, physical labor. Many working uniforms are variations of the service uniforms except with less formal requirements. This category includes Navy coveralls, which are authorized to be worn by members of all ranks.

Naval culture


First and Current U.S. Naval Jack


Former U.S. Naval Jack

Navy sailors are trained in the core values of Honor, Courage and Commitment.[38] Sailors cope with boredom on long cruises of six months to a year, and cherish their time in their home ports, as well as liberty at ports overseas.


Naval jack

The current naval jack of the United States is the First Navy Jack, which was first used during the American Revolutionary War. On May 31, 2002, Secretary of the Navy Gordon England directed all U.S. naval ships to fly the First Navy Jack for the duration of the War on Terrorism. Many ships chose to shift colors later that year on the first anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The previous naval jack was a blue field with 50 white stars, identical to the canton of the ensign (the Flag of the United States) both in appearance and size. A jack of similar design was used in 1794, though with 13 stars arranged in a 32323 pattern. When a ship is moored or anchored, the jack is flown from the bow of the ship while the ensign is flown from the stern. When underway, the ensign is raised on the main mast.


Naval jargon

A distinct jargon has developed among sailors over the course of the last four centuries. Naval jargon is spoken by American sailors as a normal part of their daily speech.


There are three distinct components of Naval jargon:


Words that are unique to sailing and have no use in standard English, such as yardarm, bow, and stern.  Archaic English that remains common in naval jargon, such as "aye" (the common English word for "Yes" until the 16th century), "Fo'c'sle" (from Fore Castle), and Bo'sun (from "Boat Swain", swain being Middle English for a young man or a servant).

Modern jargon, such as "Bird" to refer to missiles, or 1MC

Notable U.S. Navy people


John Paul Jones, America's first well-known navy hero.


Main article: List of United States Navy people

Many past and present United States historical figures have served in the Navy. Notable officers include Commodore Matthew Perry, who fully opened Tokugawa-era Japan to the West, and Chester Nimitz, Admiral of the Pacific Fleet in World War II. A number of former Presidents were in the Navy as well, including John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush. Some members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives, for example John McCain and John Kerry, have also seen Navy service. Other notable former members of the U.S. Navy include astronauts, entertainers, authors, and professional athletes.



Official U.S. Navy Website

Department of the Navy Website

Navy Knowledge Online

Sea Warrior

Naval Open Source Intelligence (NOSI) a digital library of world naval operational news, curated from open source intelligence, and intended to serve as a source of continuing education on naval and military affairs

U.S. Navy in WW II a web site devoted to the U.S. navy in the Pacific theater during World War II Navy section

See also

United States Naval Academy

Badges of the United States Navy

Military awards of the United States Department of the Navy

Eternal Father Strong to Save (the U.S. Navy hymn)

Seabees (U.S. Navy Construction Battalions)

Navy Band

Navy Hospital Corpsmen

Navy Reserve


List of active Navy ships, sorted by homeport

List of escort aircraft carriers of the United States Navy

List of units of the United States Navy

List of United States Navy ratings

Fleet week

Limited Duty Officer

Restricted Line Officer

Unrestricted Line Officer

External links

NavSource Naval History - Photographic History Of The U.S. Navy a source of thousands of photographs of U.S. Navy ships.

Maritimequest U.S. Battleship photo gallery

The Official Chronology of the U.S. Navy In World War II

Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports regarding the U.S. Navy


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