The 4th of July is a great day for celebration, and also for reflection — a reflection of how far we’ve come as a nation, and also as a Navy.
The U.S. Navy of today is a far cry from where it was in 1776. When the Declaration of Independence was signed, the not-quite-a-year-old Continental Navy had a mere 27 ships, a tenth of Britain’s fleet — and certainly not of the same quality.
But with more than 12,000 miles of coastline to defend, as long as there was a United States, there would need to be a mighty Navy to defend it. And if the fledgling nation could survive the onslaught from King George III, it was destined to become one of the world’s most powerful.
Today, the U.S. Navy has 290 deployable battle force ships, including some of the largest and most advanced vessels the world has ever seen. It has more than 400,000 active duty and ready reserve sailors, not to mention more than 270,000 civilian employees.
A total of 391 sailors and Marines were killed in action during the Revolutionary War. Nearly 200 more were wounded. It’s hard for us to imagine today what it must have been like for those few thousand individuals to have taken the fight to the mighty Royal Navy aboard smaller, less-equipped, and vastly outnumbered vessels. But they did it anyway, because they yearned to be free from the yoke of British rule.
And so as we enjoy fireworks, food, and time with loved ones, let us remember those Americans who gave their lives so that we could have this day at all.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on July 3, 2019.