How Much Do You Know About the History of the US Navy?


Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: YouTube

About This Quiz

The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth, and while its supremacy in the air underscores much of that power, it is also essential that America's ships guard the waterways of the world. In part, this is about asserting control, as America keeps fleets in a quick striking distance of all the most important countries whether friendly or not. 

If China wants to make a move on Taiwan, it has to get through a carrier group that could probably beat it without any assistance - and if you live in Taipei, you're probably very happy about that.

In part, however, it is a very benevolent affair. The American navy keeps down piracy on the high seas and ensures the security of essential routes like the Suez and Panama canals. Without this safety, world trade would be in serious danger and quality of life all over the planet would be in jeopardy. 

The navy also charges in to help whenever there is a natural disaster, as it is obviously very good at getting a huge amount of resources to the right place at the right time!

The history of this incredible fighting force is rich and storied. Let's see how well you know it!

What was the name of the Navy before America won its independence?

The Continental Navy was named for the Continental Congress, the legislative body of the would-be nation.


At the time of the Revolutionary War, who was the world's premier naval power?

Some in the Continental Congress questioned the wisdom of even founding a navy in the face of England's supreme naval power. To put it in perspective, it'd be like if today's Puerto Rico, seeking independence, put together its own fleet to challenge the US Navy, the largest in the world.


What year was the Continental Navy established?

Today's Navy recognizes October 13, 1775 as its "birthday." That was when the resolution for its creation was passed.


Shortly after nationhood, which of these was a common threat to American merchant ships?

North Africa was a hotbed of piracy; the "Barbary" pirates were named for Morocco's Berber people. Adept sailors, they attacked US civilian ships to plunder their cargo.


A series of skirmishes with the French at sea, from 1798 to 1800, was called what?

After France's government was overthrown in the Revolution, the US defaulted on its loans, claiming they were now void. An undeclared war followed, fought in the Atlantic.


Which country's navy later gave John Paul Jones a command?

Jones was something of a gun for hire, and ended up in the employ of Catherine the Great. The Russians called him "Pavel de Zhones."


In 1845, the US Naval Academy was founded. Where was it situated?

The Naval Academy is still located there, at the mouth of the river Severn. People refer to the academy casually as "Annapolis" in the same way the US Military Academy is called "West Point."


Who was John Barry?

Barry was Irish-born, but foreign birth wasn't uncommon for colonists in the 18th century. After receiving his commission, Barry commanded four different United States ships.


True or false: Did the Confederacy have a navy?

As many of the Confederate States had coastlines and large river mouths, the Confederacy felt the necessity for a fleet. However, it was outmatched by the Union's navy, which was, in essence, the US Navy.


What was the name of the fishing schooner George Washington commissioned as the first navy ship?

The USS Hannah was comissioned in September 1775, about a year before the actual creation of the Navy. You can see a model of the schooner in the US Navy Museum in Washington, D.C.


Which of these was the first war to substantially use submarines?

There was a small submersible in use during the Revolutionary War, but it was a contraption almost out of a Jules Verne novel, hand-powered and only accommodating one sailor. It was in the Civil War that a Confederate submarine, the Hunley, actually sank a Union ship.


The US Navy is commonly called a "blue-water navy." What does this mean?

A "brown-water navy" operates in inland waterways like larger rivers. This isn't usually important to the Navy, though it was in the Civil War.


The battle of the Coral Sea was fought in which war?

The US Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy joined in many battles during the Second World War, fighting for primacy in the Pacific. The Coral Sea is a southern Pacific sea off the west coasts of Australia and Papua New Guinea.


What is the name of the Navy's famous special-operations force?

SEAL is short for "Sea, Air and Land," because these elite military personnel must work in all these environments. They fascinate novelists and screenwriters, having inspired a number of novels and movies.


Which of these future presidents was the second-highest Navy official during WWI?

Franklin Roosevelt was Assistant Secretary of the Navy during World War I. The Navy was not terribly active during this land-and-air war in Europe, but Roosevelt nonetheless saw the need for a strong naval force and pushed for its expansion during the war years.


World War II saw the first American use of what kind of ship?

Though WWI is famous for its aerial battles, WWII was the first war in which the US launched fighter planes from ships. The Navy would later adopt the use of helicopter carriers as well.


On which ship did the Japanese sign a formal agreement of surrender in WWII?

The Japanese signed an "instrument of surrender" on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. General Douglas MacArthur accepted the surrender.


In 1951, the Navy commissioned its first nuclear submarine. What was its name?

The name of the Nautilus was a homage to author Jules Verne. It was the name of the submersible craft in "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea."


How many battleships were sunk at Pearl Harbor in the December 7 surprise attack?

Overall, eight battleships were damaged, four of which sank. That number doesn't get across the true loss in the attack -- 2,403 Americans were killed in the dawn raid.


In 1907, Theodore Roosevelt authorized a mission by the "Great White Fleet." What was its purpose?

The small naval fleet had hulls painted white, hence the name. The ships circumnavigated the globe and put in at many foreign ports, theoretically making goodwill visits, but mostly showing the world that the United States was now a major naval power.


What year was the official Naval Reserve established and funded?

The United States had a strong merchant marine tradition going back to the Revolutionary War. But in World War I, legislation was passed to create the official Naval Reserve Force. Its members were almost all called up to service during WWII.


Which of these naval battles was also known as the Battle of Friday the 13th?

Friday, November 13, 1942 was the date of the First Battle of Guadalcanal, a key strategic island in the Pacific. The Allies won the series of battles, dealing a serious blow to the Imperial Japanese Navy.


The loosely organized civilian auxiliary to the Navy is called the ________.

The US Merchant Marine has its roots in the small private ships, like fishing schooners, that attacked British ships and defended American shores in the Revolutionary War. Merchant Marine ships continued to carry cargo and passengers today in support of naval operations.


The wreck of which ship remains underwater at Pearl Harbor?

The USS Arizona was not considered salvageable, and her remains are now a war memorial. It is also the grave of 1102 of the 1177 sailors and Marines killed there; most of the bodies were not recovered.


True or false: Is the Coast Guard a sub-branch of the US Navy?

The US Coast Guard actually predates the Navy by seven years. It was created at the suggestion of Alexander Hamilton (you've probably heard of him lately).


What is the highest office within the Navy?

The Secretary of the Navy is a civilian position (though previous military service is common). Of the Navy ranks listed above, Fleet Admiral is the highest.


What is the motto of the US Navy?

"Semper Fortis" means "Always Brave" or "Always Strong" in Latin. The other two "sempers" above are the mottoes of the Marines ("Always Faithful") and the Coast Guard ("Always Ready"), respectively.


Which of these WWII battles is thought to have been the deadliest in US Naval history?

A key objective of the Battle of Leyte Gulf was to separate the Japanese from sources of oil in the South Pacific. It succeeded, but at the cost of more than 15,000 lives (both Allied and Japanese).


The landing at Incheon was a decisive moment in which war?

Naval forces were not key to the war in Korea. An exception was the amphibious landing at Incheon, which involved more than 200 ships, led by the USS Rochester.


Which of these US presidents was a naval aviator shot down in wartime?

George H.W. Bush was stationed on the USS San Jacinto in World War II. On one mission, his Grumann Avenger took flak and caught fire; Bush floated in a raft in the Pacific for several hours before being rescued.


In which war did Admiral William J. Halsey serve?

Halsey distinguished himself in the Pacific Theater of WWII and rose to the rare height of fleet admiral. Fun fact: Seth MacFarlane created named a commanding officer "Admiral Halsey" on his show "The Orville."


Which presidential candidate served as a swift-boat officer during the Vietnam War?

Kerry was a Naval Reservist who served in the war. He won the Bronze Star, the Silver Star and three Purple Hearts for his service.


Who is called the Father of the US Navy?

All of these men were instrumental in the creation of the Continental Navy. John Adams, an early supporter, is the most famous of these. He went on to become the second president.


Which of these was the USS Ward known for?

The USS Ward was a destroyer off the coast of Hawaii that sighted and sank a two-man Japanese submarine. The submarine's wreckage was found in 2002 on the ocean floor, in American waters.


Which of these was John Paul Jones reported to have said?

John Paul Jones was honored for heroism in the Battle of Flamborough Head, in British waters. The famous quote came in response to a British demand that he surrender.


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