U.S. Navy Birthday Celebration

This October we send a special shout out to our Navy service members and veterans as the Navy celebrates its 245th birthday. The Navy traces its roots back to October 13, 1775 when a resolution of the Continental Congress established what is now the United States Navy with “a swift sailing vessel, to carry ten carriage guns, and a proportionable number of swivels, with eighty men, be fitted, with all possible dispatch, for a cruise of three months….”

The creation of this fleet met with controversy and was hotly debated for 11 days in the Continental Congress. According to the US Navy official website, some in that debate were convinced that having a standing navy was “the maddest idea in the world.” With the Declaration of Independence nine months in the future, many of the delegates still hoped for a resolution of differences with Great Britain. They believed the creation of a navy did not assist with that goal. Navies were viewed as expensive, and to some the Royal Navy, with its great power and offensive reach, was the face of the tyranny that had driven the colonists to rebellion. In the end, the debates were won in favor of adding a naval fleet as another branch of defense in addition to the already-created Continental Army which had been authorized in June of 1775.

The Continental Congress later purchased and constructed a fleet of small ships which sailed independently or in pairs, hunting British commerce ships and transports. This early Continental navy was designed to work with privateers to wage tactical raids against the ships that supplied British forces in the colonies. Two years after the end of the war, the Continental Congress sold off the last ship of the Continental navy, the frigate Alliance due to financial reasons.

During the 1790’s, trade and shipping were expanding in the new United States and the possibility of attacks by European powers and pirates increased. In March 1794, Congress responded by calling for the construction of a half-dozen frigates under the Naval Act of 1794 and used this authority to establish the Department of the Navy on April 30, 1798.

It wasn’t until 1972 when Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, declared an official recognition of this holiday, where it was intended to honor all who served in a Navy uniform, past and present. This October 13, 2020 will mark the Navy’s 245th Birthday. The central theme of this year’s birthday and heritage week will be “Victory at Sea” which encompasses the Navy’s efforts in battle during World War II in the Pacific Theater.