5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About The Navy

On October 13, 1775, the Continental Congress authorized the construction of the first American naval force—the precursor to the United States Navy. Here are 5 facts you probably did not know about America’s maritime branch of the military...

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George Washington Was The Father of The Navy Despite having virtually no experience at sea, George Washington was a huge early proponent of the Navy, believing among other things that it would disrupt British supply lines.  He used his authority as commander in chief of the Army to convert a small flotilla of fishing schooners into warships. The first of these, named Hannah after the wife of its owner, departed the Massachusetts coast in September 1775—over a month before the Continental Congress, upon being apprised of Washington’s activities, officially established the Navy. The Hannah has since entered into lore as the Navy’s founding vessel.  Washington’s small flotilla managed to capture 55 British ships by the time it dissolved in 1777.

After the Revolutionary War, The Navy Was Disbanded The Americans were down to two warships when France joined the battle against Britain’s Royal Navy. In September 1781, French ships took control of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, which led to the British surrender at the Battle of Yorktown on October 19 and the end of the war. With money tight and no clear reason to maintain them, the Continental Navy’s remaining ships were then sold or given away following the war.

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The Navy Was Brought Back Largely To Fight Pirates Since the Royal Navy was no longer present, Barbary pirates from North Africa began attacking American merchant ships. In 1785 and 1793, American sailors were seized by the pirates and imprisoned, which forced the United States to pay for their release. In 1794, the Navy was revived with the construction of six warships, which included the USS Constitution, better known as Old Ironsides.

The Navy Produced 6 Future Presidents During World War II There were no presidents with Navy service under their belt until after World War II when John F. Kennedy, who piloted a torpedo boat, was elected. Lyndon B. Johnson was briefly stationed in New Zealand and Australia despite being a sitting member of Congress; Richard Nixon supervised air cargo operations; Gerald Ford served as an aircraft carrier’s assistant navigator and was nearly swept overboard in a typhoon; Jimmy Carter attended the Naval Academy (and became a submariner after the war); and George H.W. Bush flew 58 combat missions, including one in which he was shot down over the Pacific. In fact, from 1961 to 1993, the only non-Navy man to become president was Ronald Reagan.

Many Famous People Served In The Navy Before being one of the most famous leading men on the Silver Screen, Humphrey Bogart joined the US Navy to serve during World War I. While on assignment as a military police officer, Humphrey was struck in the mouth which left him with his trademark scar and lisp. Other famous men that served in the Navy include Neil Armstrong, Johnny Carson, Tony Curtis, Paul Newman, Henry Fonda, and Roger Staubach just to name a few. Stanley Kirk Burell, better known as MC Hammer served in the Navy for three years as an Aviation Storekeeper before his musical career took off.