The U. To some it might seem curious, even quaint, that gunboats and naval bastions, once emblematic of the Victorian age, remain even remotely relevant in our own era of cyber-threats and space warfare.
Yet if you examine, even briefly, the central role that naval power has played and still plays in the fate of empires, the deadly serious nature of this new naval competition makes more sense. Viewed historically, naval bastions were invaluable when it came to the aspirations of any would-be hegemonic power, yet also surprisingly vulnerable to capture in times of conflict. Throughout the twentieth century and the first years of this one, military bases in the South China Sea in particular have been flashpoints for geopolitical change.
To provide resting-places for them… would be one of the first duties of a government proposing to itself the development of the power of the nation at sea. In a series of influential dictums, he also argued that a large fleet and overseas bases were essential to both the exercise of global power and national defense.
Although Mahan was read as gospel by everyone from American President Teddy Roosevelt to German Kaiser Wilhelm II, his observations do not explain the persistent geopolitical significance of such naval bases. Especially in periods between wars, these bastions seem to allow empires to project their power in crucial ways.
War Books: Cmdr. BJ Armstrong, US Navy
Naval bastions and the warships they serve can weave a web of dominion across an open sea, transforming an unbounded ocean into de facto territorial waters. As the U. Under the pressure of the imperial Japanese navy, Washington soon abandoned its plans for a major naval presence in the Western Pacific.
These ambitions were fully realized in when the newly independent republic signed the Military Bases Agreement granting the U. Simultaneously, during its postwar occupation of Japan, the U.
With its strategic location, the island of Okinawa had 32 active U. As the Cold War came to Asia in , Washington concluded mutual defense pacts with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Australia that made the Pacific littoral the eastern anchor for its strategic dominion over Eurasia. By , the early enclaves in Japan and the Philippines had been integrated into a global network of overseas bases aimed largely at containing the Sino-Soviet bloc behind an Iron Curtain that bisected the vast Eurasian continent.
During the later decades of the Cold War, moreover, the U. He fought in the Civil War, later served on the staff of Admiral J. Dahlgren, and progressed steadily in rank. In this book he argued for the paramount importance of sea power in national historical supremacy. The book, which came at a time of great technological improvement in warships, won immediate recognition abroad. In his second book, The Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution and Empire, — , Mahan stressed the interdependence of the military and commercial control of the sea and asserted that the control of seaborne commerce can determine the outcome of wars.
Both books were avidly read in Great Britain and Germany , where they greatly influenced the buildup of naval forces in the years prior to World War I. Mahan retired from the U. Navy in but was subsequently recalled to service. In The Interest of America in Sea Power, Present and Future , he sought to arouse his fellow Americans to a realization of their maritime responsibilities.
Mahan served as president of the American Historical Association in The Royal Navy continued to illegally press American sailors into the Royal Navy; an estimated 10, sailors between and Leopard severely damaged Chesapeake when she refused. The most violent of many such encounters, the affair further fueled the tensions and in June the U. Much of the war was expected to be fought at sea; and within an hour of the announcement of war, the diminutive American navy set forth to do battle with an opponent outnumbering it to The capture of the three British frigates led the British to deploy more vessels on the American seaboard to tighten the blockade.
Lawrence was mortally wounded and famously cried out, "Don't give up the ship! During the summer of , the British fought the Chesapeake Campaign , which was climaxed by amphibious assaults against Washington and Baltimore. The capital fell to the British almost without a fight, and several ships were burned at the Washington Navy Yard , including the gun frigate USS Columbia. At Baltimore, the bombardment by Fort McHenry inspired Francis Scott Key to write " The Star-Spangled Banner ", and the hulks blocking the channel prevented the fleet from entering the harbor; the army reembarked on the ships, ending the battle.
Navy until World War II. After the war, the Navy's accomplishments paid off in the form of better funding, and it embarked on the construction of many new ships.
However, the expense of the larger ships was prohibitive, and many of them stayed in shipyards half-completed, in readiness for another war, until the Age of Sail had almost completely passed. The main force of the Navy continued to be large sailing frigates with a number of smaller sloops during the three decades of peace. By the s, the Navy began to adopt steam power and shell guns, but they lagged behind the French and British in adopting the new technologies. Enlisted sailors during this time included many foreign-born men, and native-born Americans were usually social outcasts who had few other employment options or they were trying to escape punishment for crimes.
It was unlawful for black men to serve in the Navy, but the shortage of men was so acute this law was frequently ignored. Discipline followed the customs of the Royal Navy but punishment was much milder than typical in European navies. Sodomy was rarely prosecuted. The Army abolished flogging as a punishment in , but the Navy kept it until During the War of , the Barbary states took advantage of the weakness of the United States Navy to again capture American merchant ships and sailors.
After the Treaty of Ghent was signed, the United States looked at ending the piracy in the Mediterranean which had plagued American merchants for two decades. On March 3, , the U. Congress authorized deployment of naval power against Algiers, beginning the Second Barbary War. Two powerful squadrons under the command of Commodores Stephen Decatur, Jr. Shortly after departing Gibraltar en route to Algiers, Decatur's squadron encountered the Algerian flagship Meshuda , and, in the Action of 17 June , captured it.
By June, the squadrons had reached Algiers and peace was negotiated with the Dey, including a return of captured vessels and men, a guarantee of no further tributes and a right to trade in the region. Piracy in the Caribbean sea was also a major problem, and between and an estimated 3, ships were captured by pirates. In , Congress authorized President James Madison to deal with this threat, and since many of the pirates were privateers of the newly independent states of Latin America, he decided to embark on a strategy of diplomacy backed up by the guns of the Navy.
Another international problem was the slave trade, and the African squadron was formed in to deal with this threat. Politically, the suppression of the slave trade was unpopular, and the squadron was withdrawn in ostensibly to deal with piracy in the Caribbean, and did not return to the African coast until the passage of the Webster—Ashburton treaty with Britain in After the treaty was passed, the United States used fewer ships than the treaty required, ordered the ships based far from the coast of Africa, and used ships that were too large to operate close to shore.
Between and , the United States Navy captured only 10 slave vessels, while the British captured vessels carrying 27, captives. The poor quality of officer training in the U. He formed a council led by Commodore Perry to create a new system for training officers, and turned the old Fort Severn at Annapolis into a new institution in which would be designated as the United States Naval Academy by Congress in Naval forces participated in the effort to forcibly move the Seminole Indians from Florida to a reservation west of the Mississippi.
After a massacre of army soldiers near Tampa on December 28, , marines and sailors were added to the forces which fought the Second Seminole War from until A "mosquito fleet" was formed in the Everglades out of various small craft to transport a mixture of army and navy personnel to pursue the Seminoles into the swamps. About 1, soldiers were killed during the conflict, some Seminoles agreed to move but a small group of Seminoles remained in control of the Everglades and the area around Lake Okeechobee.
The Navy played a role in two major operations of the Mexican—American War — ; during the Battle of Veracruz , it transported the invasion force that captured Veracruz by landing 12, troops and their equipment in one day, leading eventually to the capture of Mexico City, and the end of the war. Its Pacific Squadron 's ships facilitated the capture of California.
In Commodore Matthew Perry led the Perry Expedition, a squadron of four ships which sailed to Japan to establish normal relations with Japan. Perry's two technologically advanced steam-powered ships and calm, firm diplomacy convinced Japan to end three centuries of isolation and sign Treaty of Kanagawa with the U. Nominally a treaty of friendship, the agreement soon paved the way for the opening of Japan and normal trade relations with the United States and Europe. Between the beginning of the war and the end of , commissioned officers, warrant officers, and midshipmen resigned or were dismissed from the United States Navy and went on to serve the Confederacy.
Winfield Scott , the commanding general of the U. Army at the beginning of the war, devised the Anaconda Plan to win the war with as little bloodshed as possible. His idea was that a Union blockade of the main ports would weaken the Confederate economy; then the capture of the Mississippi River would split the South. Lincoln adopted the plan in terms of a blockade to squeeze to death the Confederate economy, but overruled Scott's warnings that his new army was not ready for an offensive operation because public opinion demanded an immediate attack.
On March 8, , the Confederate Navy initiated the first combat between ironclads when Virginia successfully attacked the blockade. Their battle ended in a draw, and the Confederacy later lost Virginia when the ship was scuttled to prevent capture. Monitor was the prototype for the monitor warship and many more were built by the Union Navy. While the Confederacy built more ironclad ships during the war, they lacked the ability to build or purchase ships that could effectively counter the monitors.
Along with ironclad ships, the new technologies of naval mines , which were known as torpedoes after the torpedo eel , and submarine warfare were introduced during the war by the Confederacy. After Tecumseh sank, Admiral David G. Farragut famously said, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead! The Union ship was barely damaged and the resulting geyser of water put out the fires in the submarine's boiler, rendering the submarine immobile.
Hunley , was designed to dive and surface but ultimately did not work well and sank on five occasions during trials. When the Union Navy seized a blockade runner, the ship and cargo were sold and the proceeds given to the Navy sailors; the captured crewmen were mostly British and they were simply released. The blockade of the South caused the Southern economy to collapse during the war. Shortages of food and supplies were caused by the blockade, the failure of Southern railroads, the loss of control of the main rivers, and foraging by Union and Confederate armies.
The standard of living fell even as large-scale printing of paper money caused inflation and distrust of the currency. By the internal food distribution had broken down, leaving cities without enough food and causing food riots across the Confederacy. The Union victory at the Second Battle of Fort Fisher in January closed the last useful Southern port, virtually ending blockade running and hastening the end of the war. After the war, the Navy went into a period of decline. Navy the second largest in the world after the Royal Navy.
In , an expedition of five warships commanded by Rear Admiral John Rodgers was sent to Korea to obtain an apology for the murders of several shipwrecked American sailors and secure a treaty to protect shipwrecked foreigners in the future. After a small skirmish, Rodgers launched an amphibious assault of approximately men on the forts protecting Seoul. Despite the capture of the forts, the Koreans refused to negotiate, and the expedition was forced to leave before the start of typhoon season.
By the s most of the ironclads from the Civil War were laid up in reserve, leaving the United States virtually without an ironclad fleet. When the Virginius Affair first broke out in , a Spanish ironclad happened to be anchored in New York Harbor , leading to the uncomfortable realization on the part of the U. Navy that it had no ship capable of defeating such a vessel. The Navy hastily issued contracts for the construction of five new ironclads, and accelerated its existing repair program for several more.
All five vessels would later take part in the Spanish—American War of By the time the Garfield administration assumed office in , the Navy's condition had deteriorated still further. A review conducted on behalf of the new Secretary of the Navy, William H. Hunt , found that of vessels on the Navy's active list, only 52 were in an operational state, of which a mere 17 were iron-hulled ships, including 14 aging Civil War era ironclads.
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Hunt recognized the necessity of modernizing the Navy, and set up an informal advisory board to make recommendations. The limitations of the monitor type effectively prevented the United States from projecting power overseas, and until the s the United States would have come off badly in a conflict with even Spain or the Latin American powers.
In , on the recommendation of an advisory panel, the Navy Secretary William H. Hunt requested funds from Congress to construct modern ships. The ABCD ships proved to be excellent vessels, and the three cruisers were organized into the Squadron of Evolution , popularly known as the White Squadron because of the color of the hulls, which was used to train a generation of officers and men. Alfred Thayer Mahan 's book The Influence of Sea Power upon History, — , published in , was very influential in justifying the naval program to the civilian government and to the general public.
With the closing of the frontier, some Americans began to look outwards, to the Caribbean, to Hawaii and the Pacific, and with the doctrine of Manifest Destiny as philosophical justification, many saw the Navy as an essential part of realizing that doctrine beyond the limits of the American continent. Tracy to propose the United States start building no less than ships of all types, but Congress rejected the proposal. By around the start of the 20th century, two Kearsarge -class battleships and three Illinois -class battleships were completed or under construction, which brought the U.
Navy from twelfth place in  to fifth place among the world's navies. Battle tactics, especially long-range gunnery, became a central concern. The United States was interested in purchasing colonies from Spain, specifically Cuba, but Spain refused. Newspapers wrote stories, many which were fabricated, about atrocities committed in Spanish colonies which raised tensions between the two countries. The cause of the explosion was investigated by a board of inquiry, which in March came to the conclusion the explosion was caused by a sea mine, and there was pressure from the public to blame Spain for sinking the ship.
However, later investigations pointed to an internal explosion in one of the magazines caused by heat from a fire in the adjacent coal bunker. The Navy's experience in this war was encouraging in that it had won but also cautionary in that the enemy had one of the weakest of the world's modern fleets.
Also, the Manila Bay attack was extremely risky in which the American ships could have incurred severe damage or run out of supplies, as they were 7, miles from the nearest American harbor. That would have a profound effect on Navy strategy and American foreign policy for next several decades. Fortunately for the New Navy, its most ardent political supporter, Theodore Roosevelt , became President in Under his administration, the Navy went from the sixth largest in the world to second only to the Royal Navy.
At a speech in , Roosevelt said, "Speak softly and carry a big stick, you will go far", which was a cornerstone of diplomacy during his presidency. Roosevelt believed that a U. Navy, because it would significantly shorten travel times for ships between the two coasts. Roosevelt was able to reverse a decision in favor of a Nicaraguan Canal and instead moved to purchase the failed French effort across the Isthmus of Panama. After the Colombian Senate failed to ratify the treaty, Roosevelt implied to Panamanian rebels that if they revolted, the US Navy would assist their cause for independence.
The latest technological innovation of the time, submarines, were developed in the state of New Jersey by an Irish-American inventor, John Philip Holland. Navy service in the fall of At the end of Roosevelt had sixteen new battleships to make up his "Great White Fleet", which he sent on a cruise around the world. While nominally peaceful, and a valuable training exercise for the rapidly expanding Navy, it was also useful politically as a demonstration of United States power and capabilities; at every port, the politicians and naval officers of both potential allies and enemies were welcomed on board and given tours.
The cruise had the desired effect, and American power was subsequently taken more seriously. The voyage taught the Navy more fueling stations were needed around the world, and the strategic potential of the Panama Canal, which was completed in The Great White Fleet required almost 50 coaling ships, and during the cruise most of the fleet's coal was purchased from the British, who could deny access to fuel during a military crisis as they did with Russia during the Russo-Japanese War.
When United States agents discovered that the German merchant ship Ypiranga was carrying illegal arms to Mexico, President Wilson ordered the Navy to stop the ship from docking at the port of Veracruz. On April 21, , a naval brigade of marines and sailors occupied Veracruz. A total of 55 Medals of Honor were awarded for acts of heroism at Veracruz, the largest number ever granted for a single action. Despite U. Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels , a pacifistic journalist, had built up the educational resources of the Navy and made its Naval War College an essential experience for would-be admirals.
However, he alienated the officer corps with his moralistic reforms no wine in the officers' mess, no hazing at Annapolis, more chaplains and YMCAs. Ignoring the nation's strategic needs, and disdaining the advice of its experts, Daniels suspended meetings of the Joint Army and Navy Board for two years because it was giving unwelcome advice. He chopped in half the General Board's recommendations for new ships, reduced the authority of officers in the Navy yards where ships were built and repaired, and ignored the administrative chaos in his department.
Bradley Fiske , one of the most innovative admirals in American naval history, was Daniels' top aide in ; he recommended a reorganization that would prepare for war, but Daniels refused. Instead, he replaced Fiske in and brought in for the new post of Chief of Naval Operations an unknown captain, William S. Chosen for his compliance, Benson proved a wily bureaucrat who was more interested in preparing for an eventual showdown with Britain than an immediate one with Germany.
In Daniels set up the Naval Consulting Board headed by Thomas Edison to obtain the advice and expertise of leading scientists, engineers, and industrialists. It popularized technology, naval expansion, and military preparedness, and was well covered in the media. Only a third of the ships were fully ready.
Light antisubmarine ships were few in number, as if no one had noticed the U-boat factor that had been the focus of foreign policy for two years.
China Expands Naval Power to Waters U.S. Dominates - The New York Times
The Navy's only warfighting plan, the "Black Plan" assumed the Royal Navy did not exist and that German battleships were moving freely about the Atlantic and the Caribbean and threatening the Panama Canal. Retired officers were recalled to active duty at shore station billets freeing younger officers for sea duty. The Navy was given control of the Coast Guard and of the Naval Militia of officers and 7, men who were assigned to coast patrol service and the Naval Reserve Flying Corps.
The Navy took possession of all United States wireless radio stations and dismantled those in less useful locations to salvage equipment for military use. Several regiments of Marines were also dispatched to France. Navy was Loretta Perfectus Walsh on March 17, The Navy's vast wartime expansion was overseen by civilian officials, especially Assistant Secretary Franklin D.
Shelley Polanco, Adia Clarke and Kuangye Wang
In peacetime, the Navy confined all munitions that lacked civilian uses, including warships, naval guns , and shells to Navy yards. The Navy yards expanded enormously, and subcontracted the shells and explosives to chemical companies like DuPont and Hercules. Items available on the civilian market, such as food and uniforms were always purchased from civilian contractors.
Armor plate and airplanes were purchased on the market. At the end of World War I, the United States Navy had almost , officers and enlisted men and women and in terms of personnel was the largest in the world.
Chief of Naval Operations Benson was not among them. He tried to abolish aviation in because he could not "conceive of any use the fleet will ever have for aviation. After a short period of demobilization, the major naval nations of the globe began programmes for increasing the size and number of their capital ships. Wilson's plan for a world-leading set of capital ships led to a Japanese counter-programme, and a plan by the British to build sufficient ships to maintain a navy superior to either.
American isolationist feeling and the economic concerns of the others led to the Washington Naval Conference of The outcome of the conference included the Washington Naval Treaty also known as the Five-Power treaty , and limitations on the use of submarines. The Treaty prescribed a ratio of for capital ships between treaty nations. The treaty recognized the U. Navy as being equal to the Royal Navy with , tons of capital ships and , tons of aircraft carriers, and the Japanese as the third power.
Many older ships were scrapped by the five nations to meet the treaty limitations, and new building of capital ships limited. One consequence was to encourage the development of light cruisers and aircraft carriers.