Energy and National Security
As Theodore Roosevelt stood watching, four squadrons of U.S. Navy battleships and their escorts came to the end of the most historic voyage in American history since Christopher Columbus’s voyage in 1492. Accompanied by U.S. military officers, the Rough Rider president saluted America’s “Great White Fleet” as it steamed into the port of Hampton Roads, Virginia, on February 22, 1909. The oceangoing vessels had just finished a fourteen-month, 43,000-mile (69,200-kilometer) journey circumnavigating the globe, the first battle fleet in history to do so. A primary purpose of this ambitious naval undertaking was to prove to the world that the United States would be the military power of the twentieth century. The voyage had been an overall peaceful one. Thousands of people in foreign ports had greeted the fleet’s 14,000 sailors and officers with good wishes and grand pageantry. In his speech welcoming the fleet back to its American port, Roosevelt extolled the accomplishment of the sailors and marines by proclaiming, “Those who perform the feat again can but follow in your footsteps.”1 The triumphant voyage marked the start of America’s rise as the most powerful military force in history. It could, however, never have been achieved without an assured supply of coal and oil. By the end of the twentieth century, after the Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of its own bureaucratic and military inefficiencies, the United States stood out as the world’s most formidably armed superpower.