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The United States Navy (USN) is a branch of the United States armed forces responsible for conducting naval operations. Its stated mission is "to maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas." The U.S. Navy currently has nearly 500,000 personnel on active duty or in the Navy Reserve and operates 278 ships in active service and more than 4,000 aircraft.

The U.S. Navy traces its origins to the Continental Navy, which was established during the American Revolutionary War and was
USS Constitution 1997
disbanded in 1790. The United States Constitution, though, provided the legal basis for a seaborne military force by giving Congress the power "to provide and maintain a navy." Depredations against American shipping by Barbary Coast corsairs spurred Congress to employ this power in 1794 by passing the Naval Act of 1794 ordering the construction and manning of six frigates. The U.S. Navy came into international prominence in the 20th century, especially during World War II. Operating in both the European and Pacific theaters, it was a part of the conflict from the onset of American military involvement from the attack on Pearl Harbor to Japan's official surrender aboard the USS Missouri. The U.S. Navy had a role in the subsequent Cold War, in which it evolved into a nuclear deterrent and crisis response force while preparing for a possible global war with the Soviet Union.

The 21st-century U.S. Navy maintains a sizeable presence in the world, deploying in such areas as East Asia, Southern Europe, and the Middle East. Its ability to project force onto the littoral regions of the world, engage in forward areas during peacetime, and rapidly respond to regional crises makes it an active player in American foreign and defence policy.

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Battle between Monitor and Merrimac (Hampton Roads)
The Battle of Hampton Roads, often called the Battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack, was a naval battle of the American Civil War, famous for being the first fight between two powered iron-covered warships, or "ironclads", the USS Monitor, an entirely new design, and the CSS Virginia (which had been rebuilt from the burned-out hull of the USS Merrimack, hence the multiple names). The principal confrontations took place on March 8 and March 9, 1862 off Sewell's Point, a narrow place near the mouth of Hampton Roads, Virginia.

The naval battle lasted two days. The first day saw the debut of the Virginia and was fought without the Monitor. Havoc was wreaked upon the wooden Union ships and the day ended with the Confederate side at a decided advantage. However, on the second day the Monitor arrived and initiated the famous action known as the duel of the ironclads. Although the battle was inconclusive, it is significant in naval history. Prior to then, nearly all warships were made primarily of wood. After the battle, design of ships and naval warfare changed dramatically, as nations around the world raced to convert their fleets to iron, as ironclads had shown themselves to be clearly superior.

The wreck of Monitor was located off Cape Hatteras, by a team of scientists in 1973. In 1987, the site was declared a National Historic Landmark, the first shipwreck to receive this distinction.

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