Navy celebrates its 242nd birthday

A photo illustration of the USS Freedom and the USS Constitution.

A photo illustration of the USS Freedom and the USS Constitution. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Russell Stewart/Released)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- From ships of wood, canvas and cannons to the modern steel, gas turbine, hybrid engines and Tomahawk missiles, our Navy has risen, fallen and risen again. It has reached all corners of the globe on the backs of 242 years of dedicated Patriot Sailors.

In late December 1781, after eight years of bloody rebellion and the ultimate defeat of the British Royal Crown, George Washington wrote to La Fayette, “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.”

Though the vast majority of the notable battles of the War of Independence were fought on land, General Washington’s remarkable foresight and understanding of the multiple dimensions of war led him to create and lead a maritime force that could constrict the British resupply while keeping the Colonies’ harbors open for commerce and support from France.

In July 1775 the original 13 Colonies were still owned by the British Royal Crown. The Continental Congress, foreseeing the emerging crisis and fearing the force that the mother country would use to keep their colonies intact and under their sovereign rule passed a historic resolution urging that each colony outfit ships for its individual defense. August 26th, the Rhode Island General Assembly convened and felt that the Continental Congress’s urging was severely inadequate. They created the first public resolution for an American fleet. It was recorded that the Rhode Island Resolution stated that, “amongst other measure for obtaining this most desirable purpose, this Assembly is persuaded, that the building and equipping of an American fleet, as soon as possible, would greatly and essentially conduce to the preservation of the lives, liberties and property of the good people of these Colonies and therefore instruct their delegates to use their whole influence at the ensuing congress for the building at the Continental expense, a fleet of sufficient force, for the protection of these Colonies.” However, two days before the Rhode Island Resolution was delivered to Congress, George Washington, at his own expense, had already begun this task in Marblehead, Massachusetts with the employment of the 78 ton schooner Hannah for the Service of the United States with the addition of four 4 pound cannons and multiple swivel guns mounted on the rails of the ship.

October 13th, 1775 Congress, in its first official act for a maritime force, ordered the commissioning of two ships to be built and by the end of the month that number was doubled. This marked the official birthdate of what would later become the United States Navy. In November the frigate Alfred was commissioned as the first ship of the Continental Navy. The Alfred was 120 feet in length, had 20 9 pound cannons and could carry 50 thousand gallons of wine. After the Alfred came the frigate Columbus, the brigantines Doria and Cabot, then the schooners Hornet, Wasp and the Fly. Though the Continental Navy had achieved no major individual battles, it had managed to disrupt the British fleet and their commerce shipping and contributed immensely to eventual defeat of the Royal Crown.

From a fledgling Continental naval force fighting for the survival of a country trying to rid itself of tyranny to becoming the premier global maritime force, the United States Navy stands proudly to protect our nation’s interests and promote its security. Since its earliest days, the U.S. Navy has deployed forward to deter our adversaries and to fight and win in the event deterrence fails. In today’s increasingly complex global security environment, the Navy continues to provide forward presence in areas where our nation’s interests are being challenged, including the Arabian Gulf, South and East China Seas, Red Sea, North Atlantic and beyond. Approximately 90% of world trade is conducted on the seas. The Navy continues to uphold freedom of the seas, in order to provide for the unimpeded exchange of goods and to promote our values of freedom and liberty. In addition to this year marking the Navy’s 242nd birthday, it also marks several other historic milestones for the Navy, including the 100th anniversary of our entry into World War I and the 75th anniversaries of the Battle of Midway, the WAVES and the Navy Seabees. Happy Birthday to the United States Navy and the Sailors of Navy Detachment, Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas.