The U.S. Navy: A Concise History

The U.S. Navy: A Concise History

The U.S. Navy: A Concise History

The U.S. Navy: A Concise History

Synopsis

This fast-paced narrative traces the emergence of the United States Navy as a global power from its birth during the American Revolution through to its current superpower status. The story highlights iconic moments of great drama pivotal to the nation's fortunes: John Paul Jones' attacks on the British in the Revolution, the Barbary Wars, and the arduous conquest of Iwo Jima. The book illuminates the changes - technological, institutional, and functional - of the U.S. Navy from its days as a small frigate navy through the age of steam and steel to the modern era of electronics and missiles. Historian Craig L. Symonds captures the evolving culture of the Navy and debates between policymakers about what role the institution should play in world affairs. Internal and external challenges dramatically altered the size and character of the Navy, with long periods of quiet inertia alternating with rapid expansion emerging out of crises. The history of the navy reflects the history of the nation as a whole, and its many changes derive in large part from the changing role of the United States itself.

Excerpt

In the second decade of the twenty-first century, the United States possesses the greatest navy on earth—it is not only more powerful than the navy of any other nation, it is arguably more powerful than all of them combined. It was not always so. in the early days of the Republic it was by no means certain that the country would have a navy at all. and even after the decision was made to create one, the national navy evolved in fits and starts along an uneven path. Its historical development from a handful of small sailing craft in the late eighteenth century to the juggernaut of today might best be understood as tracing a kind of sine wave—oscillating dramatically between periods of quiet torpor and moments of frenetic expansion. in peacetime, a dedicated cadre of professionals operated and maintained a small permanent force that carried out the quotidian activities of a constabulary navy. Then, when roused by an emergency, the nation engaged in a frantic buildup to meet the crisis, after which the navy relapsed into its prewar character.

From the beginning, there were those who found this policy to be no policy at all. Champions of a large standing navy modeled on those of the great European powers, especially Britain, insisted that a formidable and visible American navy was an essential component of nationhood. To these navalists, a respectable navy was an important, even an essential, means of validating Americas nascent nationhood.

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