The U.S. Navy began as the Continental Navy, created to defend the fledgling U.S. states against the British by sea. Congress established the Continental Navy on October 13, 1775, by passing legislation to build two ships. The vessels were needed to scout for British munitions ships that were supplying British troops in America. From this humble beginning, the Continental Navy grew to twenty active warships at its greatest strength and operated fifty ships over the course of the War for Independence.
Although the Continental Navy disbanded after the American Revolution, the 1789 U.S. Constitution provided for a standing navy. In 1794, Congress ordered construction of six frigates – one of which, USS Constitution, is the oldest warship afloat and continues to be operated by the Navy today. These six warships marked the beginning of the new U.S. Navy.
In 1972, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo Zumwalt authorized recognition of October 13 as the Navy’s birthday. Since then, this date has become an annual celebration of our Navy’s proud history and great future.