Navy Reserve History

Navy Reserve History


The Navy Reserve: Citizens Serving at Sea Since 1775. The proud tradition of the Navy Reserve was born in the American Revolution on June 12, 1775, when citizens in Maine commandeered a schooner to capture a British warship. Throughout the Revolution, the tiny Continental Navy would come to rely on citizen Sailors like these to fill its ranks. Reservists also played key roles in the War of 1812. While British ships marauded the Chesapeake Bay, America’s Citizen Sailors improvised a ragtag fleet of barges and boats, the “Chesapeake Bay Flotilla,” and held their own with limited resources and training. President Lincoln called upon citizens again for the Civil War. Reservists formed the backbone of the Navy’s blockade of the Confederacy, an important tactical contribution to the Union victory. Despite the combat success of Reservists, there was still no official Navy Reserve policy. Instead, state militias took the initiative, starting with Massachusetts in 1888. The Spanish-American War was the last war fought without an official federal Navy Reserve. But citizens still made their mark, contributing over 3,800 Enlisted and 260 Officers. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, along with assistant Franklin D. Roosevelt, then lobbied Congress to make a federal Navy Reserve, which was created on March 3, 1915. The Reserve was later organized into six classes, including Naval Aviation. When the U.S. entered World War I, Reservists flew biplanes off ships to hunt U-boats, similar to tasks they still perform today. World War II cemented the reputation of the Navy Reserve. During the war, the Navy grew from less than 385,000 Sailors to over 3.4 million – the vast majority of which were Reservists, including five future U.S. presidents. The strength of the modern U.S. Navy lies in the Reserve. Over 21,000 Reservists served in the first Gulf War alone. And it’s still going strong. The Navy Reserve. A Global Force For Good.

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