History Stories

Despite having virtually no experience at sea, George Washington believed a navy would be one of the keys to disrupting British supply lines. “It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious,” he wrote. Rather than wait for the Continental Congress to act, he used his authority as commander in chief of the Army to convert a small flotilla of fishing schooners into warships. The first of these, named Hannah after the wife of its owner, departed the Massachusetts coast in September 1775. The Hannah has since entered into lore as the Navy’s founding vessel, capturing 55 British ships by the time it dissolved in 1777. Over a month later, prompted by a letter from Washington, the Continental Congress voted to arm two sailing vessels with carriage and swivel guns in the hope of intercepting British supplies—an event now celebrated as the birth of the Navy. Explore the story in Battle History of the Navy: Born Into War.

Deadly steel sharks stalk their prey below the surface, seeking to rule the sea from beneath it. Since they became practical as a weapon in the 20th century, submarines have completely revolutionized warfare at sea—but their roots can be found in the 1500s. The world’s first “underwater boats” were little more than glorified diving bells powered by pedals and hand cranks, but by the 19th century inventors created crude metal craft that used engines and electricity to glide beneath the waves. A few even saw use in combat. Today, submarines are the deadliest weapon in the world. Trace the origins, major design developments and the quantum leap to nuclear power in Spy Ships and Submarines and The Submarines.

Whenever a United States Marine or sailor is wounded, their chances of getting to a doctor in time are slim, but their chances of staying alive are superb thanks to the Navy Hospital Corpsmen. Those that make up this team of enlisted medical specialists are not doctors, in fact, some of them are not even old enough to drink. Frequently, the lone specialist is the only medical professional serving their unit despite only receiving weeks of training. They are always at the center of battle, lightly armed and carrying no more medical supplies than can be dragged in a shoulder bag. Explore the story of these unsung heroes in Navy Corpsmen: The Blood Angels.

Check out these additional episodes from this week’s featured collection, Battles of the Deep:

  • Although they first took to the sea over one hundred years ago, Destroyers played a key role in the Allied victory of World War II and have participated in every major naval conflict of the 20th century.
  • After WWII, the Empire and the Royal Navy declined as a world force. But the 1982 Falklands War revived the Navy, and today, its nuclear subs and jump-jet carriers attest to its centuries-old history and tradition. Get the story in The Royal Navy: The Sun Never Sets.
  • The modern aircraft carrier possesses a more powerful tactical air force than most nations. Experience a privileged tour of the sea’s mightiest craft in Aircraft Carriers.

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