Dec 16

Sailing of the Great White Fleet

Thursday, December 16, 2010 12:01 AM


December 16th is the anniversary of the departure of the Great White Fleet from Hampton Roads on its voyage around the world. On that date in 1907 the Atlantic Fleet departed on the first leg of its voyage to San Francisco, California. As the Panama Canal was not operative yet, the sixteen battleships, all painted white, steamed around Cape Horn to get to America’s Pacific coast. Once the fleet arrived in San Francisco, Secretary of the Navy Victor H. Metcalf announced that it would return home by way of Australia, the Philippines, Japan, the Suez Canal, and the Mediterranean.

This world voyage had two purposes. The first was to test the mechanical systems of these new warships and their ability to arrive in the Pacific in fit condition to engage an enemy, thus bolstering the security of America’s west coast. The second was to demonstrate America’s naval prowess to the world and to generate enthusiasm for the Navy among Americans—and Congressional funders. The cruise was a clear demonstration that the U.S. Navy was powerful enough to project its presence anywhere in the world. In a sense, today’s Navy was born on that Monday morning.

  • Jim Valle

    Almost exactly one year earlier, On October 6, 1906, HMS Dreadnaught began her sea trials. At a single stroke she rendered every battleship in the Great White Fleet obsolescent. Once they arrived home from their cruise the Navy began a massive program to replace all of them with turbine powered battleships carrying all big guns and featuring up-to-date fire control equipment. Also discarded was the white paint with buff topsides. It was all very expensive but in the end it yielded a much more battleworthy Navy