As a boy of about ten years old, I went on a tour of a submarine. I have never since understood how anyone could be persuaded to enlist in the Navy. The combination of claustrophobic quarters (true on a Navy ship too) and being inside a highly visible target that can’t move very fast seems to me to require a special kind of courage. But America has never had a shortage of sailors. It’s fortunate for the world as well as our nation that this has been true. In spite of the poor translation, this quote from Alexandru Danilov clarifies the extreme importance of naval power:
“To be considered a superpower, a state must be able to project its naval power across the seas and oceans. U.S. has exploited its excellent geostrategic position between the Atlantic and Pacific, gradually building the rule over the seas . The control of trade routes and supply bases are the main condition for a state to be considered a naval power. When you have command of the sea, you can severely limit the strategic options of your opponents. The Royal Navy is the perfect model for a state that managed to build a colonial empire by using the professionalism of its naval forces, which have protected the supply routes for British merchant ships … As a former British colony, U.S has shown that it learned well the lesson regarding command of the seas.”
Unless otherwise identified, quotes below are drawn from History and Headlines:
From America’s first struggles to be born, our Navy has played a very important role in winning wars. In the beginning of America’s War for Independence, the British took control of Lake Erie, enabling them to also control Detroit. Enter the Continental Navy, the beginning of our present US Navy: Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry whipped the British Navy soundly in a battle near South Bass Island, thus gaining control of Lake Erie for the US and enabling the retaking of Detroit. Perry’s dispatch, “We have met the enemy and they are ours” was, even when I was young, still a familiar phrase.
Another familiar quote (when I was a child) was spoken by the reckless, fearless, highly capable naval commander John Paul Jones at the Battle of Flamborough Head in 1779: “I have not yet begun to fight!” Here is a very brief synopsis of his life and the battle in which that famous line was spoken.
It seems that American naval commanders have had a flamboyant streak from the beginning. One of the important naval victories of the War Between the States was the capture of Mobile Bay in Alabama, which blockade runners were using to supply Confederate troops. On being warned of the many “torpedoes” (actually mines in our present terminology) planted in the Bay, Farragut replied, “Damn the torpedoes! Full steam ahead!” (He only lost one of his fleet of eighteen ships!)
Naval warfare can be at least as confusing and difficult as land warfare, as these quotes attest: “The battle [of Guadalcanal] now became what an American captain called ‘a barroom brawl after the lights went out.’ ”
Imagine yourself fighting fires in the dark, inhaling smoke, while bombs explode around you, your ears are filled with the screams of the wounded and dying, hoping or praying that you’ll live through the next few minutes, let alone the next hour. Imagine yourself firing your gun, a cannon or an anti-aircraft gun, at targets you can see only because of the muzzle flashes of their guns as they try to blow your ship apart. The worst barroom brawls aren’t in the same league, even with the lights out.
The famous Battle of the Coral Sea has been described by U.S. Navy historian Samuel Eliot Morison in this discouraging way: “…so many mistakes were made by both sides in this new mode of fighting that it might be called the Battle of Errors; but more were made by the enemy, and he failed to profit by them.”
If not for American economic power that churned out massive quantities of desperately needed food and supplies which were shipped to England under the protection of American naval power, Britain would have been starved to death before World War 2 ended.
As technology increased worldwide, the sheer size of, on occasion, even one naval battle is difficult to comprehend:
“Battle of Okinawa: ‘During the battle the Japanese flew about 1900 kamikaze missions against our ships, sinking 28 (by all means) and losing 7800 aircraft total in the titanic battle. The Japanese also sent their largest battleship, Yamato, on a one way mission to disrupt the landing, but the world’s largest battleship in history was pounded under the waves by massive US Naval aviation attacks.’ ”
“Philippine Sea: Considered by some to be the largest naval battle in history, this battle pitted 15 US Navy aircraft carriers against 9 Japanese carriers. Other ships involved include 7 US battleships, 21 US cruisers, 5 Japanese battleships and 19 Japanese cruisers. Scores of destroyers and hundreds of other types of vessels were also involved, with almost a thousand US carrier aircraft and about 750 total Japanese planes (carrier and land based). The US Navy inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese, sinking 3 carriers and 2 tankers, as well as destroying as many as 645 aircraft. US losses were only 1 damaged battleship and the loss of 123 aircraft. This battle, also known as The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot, ended the ability of Japan to conduct carrier operations in any meaningful way.”
We are just barely beginning to see in these quotes something of the massive size and consequent cost in men and material that global naval domination requires. And that is what the United States has been reaching for and maintaining since at least Word war 1.
There is a great deal more to be said about our current Navy, its shocking power and its equally shocking costs, and its nuclear firepower. That will have to be a future article.
“First place on the list [of the world’s most powerful navies] is no surprise: the United States Navy. The U.S. Navy has the most ships by far of any navy worldwide. It also has the greatest diversity of missions and the largest area of responsibility … No other navy has the global reach of the U.S. Navy, which regularly operates in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, as well as the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf and the Horn of Africa. The U.S. Navy also forward deploys ships to Japan, Europe and the Persian Gulf .. The U.S. Navy has 288 battle force ships, of which typically a third are underway at any given time … What makes the U.S. Navy stand out the most is its 10 aircraft carriers—more than the rest of the world put together. Not only are there more of them, they’re also much bigger: a single Nimitz-class aircraft carrier can carry twice as many planes (72) as the next largest foreign carrier. Unlike the air wings of other countries, which typically concentrate on fighters, a typical U.S. carrier air wing is a balanced package capable of air superiority, strike, reconnaissance, anti-submarine warfare and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief missions.”
And there are many more impressive statistics at that link about our incredible Navy. I encourage all to read the full description at that link. It’s clear and concise, written for us, not for “warfare scientists”.
Until next week, bon voyage!
Have a blessed and Safe RED Friday!