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Navy is Created - History

Navy is Created - History

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Navy Uniform History

In 1791, the U.S. Secretary of War (the precursor to the Department of Defense) issued an order outlining the required clothing for officers in the Navy. It provided a distinctive dress for the officers who would command the ships but did not include specific instructions for enlisted sailors. The usual dress of a seaman was made up of a short jacket, shirt, vest, long trousers, and a black low-crowned hat.

In 1802, the U.S. Secretary of the Navy set the colors of the Navy's uniforms: blue and gold. Over the years since, there have been some additions to the required clothing for Navy personnel, but the blue and gold have remained.


As the seaborne branch of HM Armed Forces, the RN has various roles. As it stands today, the RN has stated its 6 major roles as detailed below in umbrella terms. [14]

  • Preventing Conflict – On a global and regional level
  • Providing Security At Sea – To ensure the stability of international trade at sea
  • International Partnerships – To help cement the relationship with the United Kingdom's allies (such as NATO)
  • Maintaining a Readiness To Fight – To protect the United Kingdom's interests across the globe
  • Protecting the Economy – To safeguard vital trade routes to guarantee the United Kingdom's and its allies' economic prosperity at sea
  • Providing Humanitarian Aid – To deliver a fast and effective response to global catastrophes

The Royal Navy was formally founded in 1546 by Henry VIII [15] though the Kingdom of England and its predecessor states had possessed less organised naval forces for centuries prior to this. [16]

Earlier fleets Edit

During much of the medieval period, fleets or "king's ships" were often established or gathered for specific campaigns or actions, and these would disperse afterwards. These were generally merchant ships enlisted into service. Unlike some European states, England did not maintain a small permanent core of warships in peacetime. England's naval organisation was haphazard and the mobilization of fleets when war broke out was slow. [17] In the 11th century, Aethelred II had an especially large fleet built by a national levy. [18] During the period of Danish rule in the 11th century, the authorities maintained a standing fleet by taxation, and this continued for a time under Edward the Confessor, who frequently commanded fleets in person. [19] After the Norman Conquest, English naval power waned and England suffered naval raids from the Vikings. [20] In 1069, this allowed for the invasion and ravaging of England by Jarl Osborn (brother of King Svein Estridsson) and his sons. [21]

The lack of an organised navy came to a head during the Baron's Revolt, in which Prince Louis of France invaded England in support of northern barons. With King John unable to organise a navy, this meant the French landed at Sandwich unopposed in April 1216. John's flight to Winchester and his death later that year left the Earl of Pembroke as regent, and he was able to marshal ships to fight the French in the Battle of Sandwich in 1217- one of the first major English battles at sea. [22] The outbreak of the Hundred Years War emphasised the need for an English fleet. French plans for an invasion of England failed when Edward III of England destroyed the French fleet in the Battle of Sluys in 1340. [23] England's naval forces could not prevent frequent raids on the south-coast ports by the French and their allies. Such raids halted only with the occupation of northern France by Henry V. [24] A Scottish fleet existed by the reign of William the Lion. [25] In the early 13th century there was a resurgence of Viking naval power in the region. The Vikings clashed with Scotland over control of the isles [26] though Alexander III was ultimately successful in asserting Scottish control. [27] The Scottish fleet was of particular import in repulsing English forces in the early 14th century. [28]

Age of Sail Edit

A standing "Navy Royal", [15] with its own secretariat, dockyards and a permanent core of purpose-built warships, emerged during the reign of Henry VIII. [29] Under Elizabeth I England became involved in a war with Spain, which saw privately owned vessels combining with the Queen's ships in highly profitable raids against Spanish commerce and colonies. [30] The Royal Navy was then used in 1588 to repulse the Spanish Armada. In 1603, the Union of the Crowns created a personal union between England and Scotland. While the two remained distinct sovereign states for a further century, the two navies increasingly fought as a single force. During the early 17th century, England's relative naval power deteriorated until Charles I undertook a major programme of shipbuilding. His methods of financing the fleet however contributed to the outbreak of the English Civil War, and the abolition of the monarchy. [31]

The Commonwealth of England replaced many names and symbols in the new commonwealth navy, associated with royalty and the high church, and expanded it to become the most powerful in the world. [32] [33] The fleet was quickly tested in the First Anglo-Dutch War (1652–1654) and the Anglo-Spanish War (1654-1660), which saw the conquest of Jamaica and successful attacks on Spanish treasure fleets. The 1660 Restoration saw Charles II rename the Royal Navy again, and started use of the prefix HMS. The navy however remained a national institution and not a possession of the crown as it had been before. [34] Following the Glorious Revolution of 1688, England joined the War of the Grand Alliance which marked the end of France's brief pre-eminence at sea and the beginning of an enduring British supremacy. [35]

In 1707, the Kingdom of Great Britain was formed by the Act of Union, which had the effect of merging the Scottish navy into the Royal Navy. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the Royal Navy was the largest maritime force in the world, [36] maintaining superiority in financing, tactics, training, organisation, social cohesion, hygiene, logistical support and warship design. [37] The peace settlement following the War of the Spanish Succession (1702–1714) granted Britain Gibraltar and Menorca, providing the Navy with Mediterranean bases. A new French attempt to invade Britain was thwarted by the defeat of their escort fleet in the extraordinary Battle of Quiberon Bay in 1759, fought in dangerous conditions. [38] In 1762 the resumption of hostilities with Spain led to the British capture of Manila and of Havana, along with a Spanish fleet sheltering there. [39] British naval supremacy could however be challenged still in this period by coalitions of other nations, as seen in the American War of Independence. Rebel colonists were supported by France, Spain and the Netherlands against Britain. In the Battle of the Chesapeake, the British fleet failed to lift the French blockade, resulting in Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown. [40] The French Revolutionary Wars (1793–1801) and Napoleonic Wars (1803–1814 & 1815) saw the Royal Navy reach a peak of efficiency, dominating the navies of all Britain's adversaries, which spent most of the war blockaded in port. Under Admiral Nelson, the navy defeated the combined Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar (1805). [41]

Between 1815 and 1914, the Navy saw little serious action, owing to the absence of any opponent strong enough to challenge its dominance. During this period, naval warfare underwent a comprehensive transformation, brought about by steam propulsion, metal ship construction, and explosive munitions. Despite having to completely replace its war fleet, the Navy managed to maintain its overwhelming advantage over all potential rivals. Due to British leadership in the Industrial Revolution, the country enjoyed unparalleled shipbuilding capacity and financial resources, which ensured that no rival could take advantage of these revolutionary changes to negate the British advantage in ship numbers. [42] In 1889, Parliament passed the Naval Defence Act, which formally adopted the 'two-power standard', which stipulated that the Royal Navy should maintain a number of battleships at least equal to the combined strength of the next two largest navies. [43] The end of the 19th century saw structural changes and older vessels were scrapped or placed into reserve, making funds and manpower available for newer ships. The launch of HMS Dreadnought in 1906 rendered all existing battleships obsolete. [44]

World Wars Edit

During the First World War, the Royal Navy's strength was mostly deployed at home in the Grand Fleet, confronting the German High Seas Fleet across the North Sea. Several inconclusive clashes took place between them, chiefly the Battle of Jutland in 1916. [45] The British fighting advantage proved insurmountable, leading the High Seas Fleet to abandon any attempt to challenge British dominance. [46] In the inter-war period, the Royal Navy was stripped of much of its power. The Washington and London Naval Treaties imposed the scrapping of some capital ships and limitations on new construction. [47] In 1932, the Invergordon Mutiny took place over a proposed 25% pay cut, which was eventually reduced to 10%. [48] International tensions increased in the mid-1930s and the re-armament of the Royal Navy was well under way by 1938. In addition to new construction, several existing old battleships, battlecruisers and heavy cruisers were reconstructed, and anti-aircraft weaponry reinforced, while new technologies, such as ASDIC, Huff-Duff and hydrophones, were developed. [49]

At the start of World War II in 1939, the Royal Navy was the largest in the world, with over 1,400 vessels [50] [51] The Royal Navy provided critical cover during Operation Dynamo, the British evacuations from Dunkirk, and as the ultimate deterrent to a German invasion of Britain during the following four months. At Taranto, Admiral Cunningham commanded a fleet that launched the first all-aircraft naval attack in history. The Royal Navy suffered heavy losses in the first two years of the war. Over 3,000 people were lost when the converted troopship Lancastria was sunk in June 1940, the greatest maritime disaster in Britain's history. [52] The Navy's most critical struggle was the Battle of the Atlantic defending Britain's vital commercial supply lines against U-boat attack. A traditional convoy system was instituted from the start of the war, but German submarine tactics, based on group attacks by "wolf-packs", were much more effective than in the previous war, and the threat remained serious for well over three years. [53]

Since 1945 Edit

After the Second World War, the decline of the British Empire and the economic hardships in Britain forced the reduction in the size and capability of the Royal Navy. The United States Navy instead took on the role of global naval power. Governments since have faced increasing budgetary pressures, partly due to the increasing cost of weapons systems. [54] In 1981, Defence Secretary John Nott had advocated and initiated a series of cutbacks to the Navy. [55] The Falklands War however proved a need for the Royal Navy to regain an expeditionary and littoral capability which, with its resources and structure at the time, would prove difficult. At the beginning of the 1980s, the Royal Navy was a force focused on blue-water anti-submarine warfare. Its purpose was to search for and destroy Soviet submarines in the North Atlantic, and to operate the nuclear deterrent submarine force. The navy received its first nuclear weapons with the introduction of the first of the Resolution-class submarines armed with the Polaris missile. [56]

Post-Cold War Edit

Following the conclusion of the Cold War, the Royal Navy began to experience a gradual decline in its fleet size in accordance with the changed strategic environment it operated in. While new and more capable ships are continually brought into service, such as the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier, Astute-class submarine, and Type 45 destroyer, the total number of ships and submarines operated has continued to steadily reduce. This has caused considerable debate about the size of the Royal Navy, with a 2013 report finding that the current RN was already too small, and that Britain would have to depend on her allies if her territories were attacked. [57] The financial costs attached to nuclear deterrence have become an increasingly significant issue for the navy. [58]

Personnel Edit

HMS Raleigh at Torpoint, Cornwall, is the basic training facility for newly enlisted ratings. Britannia Royal Naval College is the initial officer training establishment for the navy, located at Dartmouth, Devon. Personnel are divided into a warfare branch, which includes Warfare Officers (previously named seamen officers) and Naval Aviators, [59] as well other branches including the Royal Naval Engineers, Royal Navy Medical Branch, and Logistics Officers (previously named Supply Officers). Present-day officers and ratings have several different uniforms some are designed to be worn aboard ship, others ashore or in ceremonial duties. Women began to join the Royal Navy in 1917 with the formation of the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS), which was disbanded after the end of the First World War in 1919. It was revived in 1939, and the WRNS continued until disbandment in 1993, as a result of the decision to fully integrate women into the structures of the Royal Navy. Women now serve in all sections of the Royal Navy including the Royal Marines. [60]

In August 2019, the Ministry of Defence published figures showing that the Royal Navy and Royal Marines had 29,090 full-time trained personnel compared with a target of 30,600. [61]

In December 2019 the First Sea Lord, Admiral Tony Radakin outlined a proposal to reduce the number of Rear-Admirals at Navy Command by five. [62] The fighting arms (excluding Commandant General Royal Marines) would be reduced to Commodore (1-star) rank and the surface flotillas would be combined together. Training would be concentrated under the Fleet Commander. [63]

Surface fleet Edit

Amphibious warfare Edit

Amphibious warfare ships in current service include two landing platform docks (HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark). While their primary role is to conduct amphibious warfare, they have also been deployed for humanitarian aid missions. [64]

Aircraft carriers Edit

The Royal Navy has two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. Each carrier cost £3 billion and displaces 65,000 tonnes (64,000 long tons 72,000 short tons). [65] The first, HMS Queen Elizabeth, commenced flight trials in 2018. Both are intended to operate the STOVL variant of the F-35 Lightning II. Queen Elizabeth began sea trials in June 2017, was commissioned later that year, and entered service in 2020, [66] while the second, HMS Prince of Wales, began sea trials on 22 September 2019, was commissioned in December 2019 and is due to enter service in 2023. [67] [68] [69] [70] The aircraft carriers will form a central part of the UK Carrier Strike Group alongside escorts and support ships. [71]

Escort fleet Edit

The escort fleet comprises guided missile destroyers and frigates and is the traditional workhorse of the Navy. [72] As of September 2020 [update] there are six Type 45 destroyers and 13 Type 23 frigates in active service. Among their primary roles is to provide escort for the larger capital ships—protecting them from air, surface and subsurface threats. Other duties include undertaking the Royal Navy's standing deployments across the globe, which often consists of: counter-narcotics, anti-piracy missions and providing humanitarian aid. [64]

The Type 45 is primarily designed for anti-aircraft and anti-missile warfare and the Royal Navy describe the destroyer's mission as "to shield the Fleet from air attack". [73] They are equipped with the PAAMS (also known as Sea Viper) integrated anti-aircraft warfare system which incorporates the sophisticated SAMPSON and S1850M long range radars and the Aster 15 and 30 missiles. [74]

16 Type 23 frigates were delivered to the Royal Navy, with the final vessel, HMS St Albans, commissioned in June 2002. However, the 2004 Delivering Security in a Changing World review announced that three frigates would be paid off as part of a cost-cutting exercise, and these were subsequently sold to the Chilean Navy. [75] The 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review announced that the remaining 13 Type 23 frigates would eventually be replaced by the Type 26 Frigate. [76] The Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 reduced the procurement of Type 26 to eight with five Type 31e frigates to be procured. [77]

Mine Countermeasure Vessels (MCMV) Edit

There are two classes of MCMVs in the Royal Navy: seven Sandown-class minehunters and six Hunt-class mine countermeasures vessels. The Hunt-class vessels combine the separate roles of the traditional minesweeper and the active minehunter in one hull. If required, the Sandown and Hunt-class vessels can take on the role of offshore patrol vessels. [78]

Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) Edit

Five Batch 2 River-class offshore patrol vessels entered service between 2018 and 2021. These have Merlin-capable flight decks.

In December 2019, the modified ‘Batch 1’ River-class vessel, HMS Clyde, was decommissioned, with the 'Batch 2' HMS Forth taking over duties as the Falkland Islands patrol ship. [79] [80]

Ocean survey ships Edit

HMS Protector is a dedicated Antarctic patrol ship that fulfils the nation's mandate to provide support to the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). [81] HMS Scott is an ocean survey vessel and at 13,500 tonnes is one of the largest ships in the Navy. The other survey vessels of the Royal Navy are the two multi-role ships of the Echo class, which came into service in 2002 and 2003. As of 2018, the newly commissioned HMS Magpie also undertakes survey duties at sea. [82]

Royal Fleet Auxiliary Edit

The Navy's large fleet units are supported by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary which possesses three amphibious transport docks within its operational craft. These are known as the Bay-class landing ships, of which four were introduced in 2006–2007, but one was sold to the Royal Australian Navy in 2011. [83] In November 2006, the First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jonathon Band described the Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels as "a major uplift in the Royal Navy's war fighting capability". [84]

Submarine Service Edit

The Submarine Service is the submarine based element of the Royal Navy. It is sometimes referred to as the "Silent Service", [85] as the submarines are generally required to operate undetected. Founded in 1901, the service made history in 1982 when, during the Falklands War, HMS Conqueror became the first nuclear-powered submarine to sink a surface ship, ARA General Belgrano. Today, all of the Royal Navy's submarines are nuclear-powered. [86]

Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBN) Edit

The Royal Navy operates four Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines displacing nearly 16,000 tonnes and equipped with Trident II missiles (armed with nuclear weapons) and heavyweight Spearfish torpedoes, with the purpose to carry out Operation Relentless, the United Kingdom's Continuous At Sea Deterrent (CASD). The UK government has committed to replace these submarines with four new Dreadnought-class submarines, which will enter service in the "early 2030s" to maintain a nuclear ballistic missile submarine fleet and the ability to launch nuclear weapons. [87] [88]

Fleet Submarines (SSN) Edit

Seven fleet submarines are presently in service, three Trafalgar class and four Astute class. Three more Astute-class fleet submarines will eventually replace the remaining Trafalgar-class boats. [89]

The Trafalgar class displace approximately 5,300 tonnes when submerged and are armed with Tomahawk land-attack missiles and Spearfish torpedoes. The Astute class at 7,400 tonnes [90] are much larger and carry a larger number of Tomahawk missiles and Spearfish torpedoes. HMS Audacious was the latest Astute-class boat to be commissioned. [91]

Fleet Air Arm Edit

The Fleet Air Arm (FAA) is the branch of the Royal Navy responsible for the operation of naval aircraft, it can trace its roots back to 1912 and the formation of the Royal Flying Corps. The Fleet Air Arm currently operates the AW-101 Merlin HC4 (in support of 3 Commando Brigade) as the Commando Helicopter Force the AW-159 Wildcat HM2 the AW101 Merlin HM2 in the anti-submarine role and the F-35B Lightning II in the carrier strike role. [92]

Pilots designated for rotary wing service train under No. 1 Flying Training School (1 FTS) [93] at RAF Shawbury. [94]

Royal Marines Edit

The Royal Marines are an amphibious, specialised light infantry force of commandos, capable of deploying at short notice in support of Her Majesty's Government's military and diplomatic objectives overseas. [95] The Royal Marines are organised into a highly mobile light infantry brigade (3 Commando Brigade) and 7 commando units [96] including 1 Assault Group Royal Marines, 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines and a company strength commitment to the Special Forces Support Group. The Corps operates in all environments and climates, though particular expertise and training is spent on amphibious warfare, Arctic warfare, mountain warfare, expeditionary warfare and commitment to the UK's Rapid Reaction Force. The Royal Marines are also the primary source of personnel for the Special Boat Service (SBS), the Royal Navy's contribution to the United Kingdom Special Forces. [97]

The Corps includes the Royal Marines Band Service, the musical wing of the Royal Navy.

The Royal Marines have seen action in a number of wars, often fighting beside the British Army including in the Seven Years' War, the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, World War I and World War II. In recent times, the Corps has been deployed in expeditionary warfare roles, such as the Falklands War, the Gulf War, the Bosnian War, the Kosovo War, the Sierra Leone Civil War, the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. The Royal Marines have international ties with allied marine forces, particularly the United States Marine Corps [98] and the Netherlands Marine Corps/Korps Mariniers. [99]

The Royal Navy currently uses three major naval port bases in the UK, each housing its own flotilla of ships and boats ready for service, along with two naval air stations and a support facility base in Bahrain:

Bases in the United Kingdom Edit

    (HMS Drake) – This is currently the largest operational naval base in Western Europe. Devonport's flotilla consists of the RN's two amphibious assault vessels (HM Ships Albion and Bulwark), and half the fleet of Type 23 frigates. Devonport also homes some of the RN's Submarines service, including two of the Trafalgar-class submarines. [100]
    (HMS Nelson) – This is home to the future Queen Elizabeth Class supercarriers. Portsmouth is also the home to the Type 45 Daring Class Destroyer and a moderate fleet of Type 23 frigates as well as Fishery Protection Squadrons. [101] (HMS Neptune) – This is situated in Central Scotland along the River Clyde. Faslane is known as the home of the UK's nuclear deterrent, as it maintains the fleet of Vanguard-class ballistic missile (SSBN) submarines, as well as the fleet of Astute-class fleet (SSN) submarines. By 2020, Faslane will become the home to all Royal Navy submarines, and thus the RN Submarine Service. As a result, 43 Commando (Fleet Protection Group) are stationed in Faslane alongside to guard the base as well as The Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport. Moreover, Faslane is also home to Faslane Patrol Boat Squadron (FPBS) who operates a fleet of Archer class patrol vessels. [102][103]
    (HMS Seahawk) – This is home to Mk2 Merlins, primarily tasked with conducting Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Early Airborne Warning (EAW). Culdrose is also currently the largest helicopter base in Europe [105]

Bases abroad Edit

    (Bahrain) – The home port for vessels deployed on Operation Kipion and acts as the hub of the Royal Navy's operations in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea and Indian Ocean. [106] Vessels based there include the 9th Mine Countermeasures Squadron, [107]RFA Cardigan Bay and HMS Montrose. [108] (Oman) – A logistical support facility which is strategically located in the Middle East but outside the Persian Gulf. [109] (Singapore) – A remnant of HMNB Singapore which repairs and resupplies Royal Navy ships in the Asia Pacific. [110] – A former Royal Navy dockyard in Gibraltar which is still used for docking, repairs, training and resupply. [111][112]

The current role of the Royal Navy is to protect British interests at home and abroad, executing the foreign and defence policies of Her Majesty's Government through the exercise of military effect, diplomatic activities and other activities in support of these objectives. The Royal Navy is also a key element of the British contribution to NATO, with a number of assets allocated to NATO tasks at any time. [113] These objectives are delivered via a number of core capabilities: [114]

  • Maintenance of the UK Nuclear Deterrent through a policy of Continuous at Sea Deterrence
  • Provision of two medium-scale maritime task groups with the Fleet Air Arm
  • Delivery of the UK Commando force
  • Contribution of assets to the Joint Helicopter Command
  • Maintenance of standing patrol commitments
  • Provision of mine counter measures capability to United Kingdom and allied commitments
  • Provision of hydrographic and meteorological services deployable worldwide
  • Protection of Britain and EU's Exclusive Economic Zone

Current deployments Edit

The Royal Navy is currently deployed in different areas of the world, including some standing Royal Navy deployments. These include several home tasks as well as overseas deployments. The Navy is deployed in the Mediterranean as part of standing NATO deployments including mine countermeasures and NATO Maritime Group 2. In both the North and South Atlantic, RN vessels are patrolling. There is always a Falkland Islands patrol vessel on deployment, currently HMS Forth. [115]

The Royal Navy operates a Response Force Task Group (a product of the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review), which is poised to respond globally to short-notice tasking across a range of defence activities, such as non-combatant evacuation operations, disaster relief, humanitarian aid or amphibious operations. In 2011, the first deployment of the task group occurred under the name 'COUGAR 11' which saw them transit through the Mediterranean where they took part in multinational amphibious exercises before moving further east through the Suez Canal for further exercises in the Indian Ocean. [116] [117]

In the Persian Gulf, the RN sustains commitments in support of both national and coalition efforts to stabilise the region. The Armilla Patrol, which started in 1980, is the navy's primary commitment to the Gulf region. The Royal Navy also contributes to the combined maritime forces in the Gulf in support of coalition operations. [118] The UK Maritime Component Commander, overseer of all of Her Majesty's warships in the Persian Gulf and surrounding waters, is also deputy commander of the Combined Maritime Forces. [119] The Royal Navy has been responsible for training the fledgeling Iraqi Navy and securing Iraq's oil terminals following the cessation of hostilities in the country. The Iraqi Training and Advisory Mission (Navy) (Umm Qasr), headed by a Royal Navy captain, has been responsible for the former duty whilst Commander Task Force Iraqi Maritime, a Royal Navy commodore, has been responsible for the latter. [120] [121]

The Royal Navy contributes to standing NATO formations and maintains forces as part of the NATO Response Force. The RN also has a long-standing commitment to supporting the Five Powers Defence Arrangements countries and occasionally deploys to the Far East as a result. [122] This deployment typically consists of a frigate and a survey vessel, operating separately. Operation Atalanta, the European Union's anti-piracy operation in the Indian Ocean, is permanently commanded by a senior Royal Navy or Royal Marines officer at Northwood Headquarters and the navy contributes ships to the operation. [123]

From 2015, the Royal Navy also re-formed its UK Carrier Strike Group (UKCSG) after it was disbanded in 2011 due to the retirement of HMS Ark Royal and Harrier GR9s. [124] [125] The Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers form the central part of this formation, supported by various escorts and support ships, with the aim to facilitate carrier-enabled power projection. [126] The UKCSG first assembled at sea in October 2020 as part of a rehearsal for its first operational deployment in 2021. [71]

The titular head of the Royal Navy is the Lord High Admiral, a position which was held by the Duke of Edinburgh from 2011 until his death in 2021 and since then remains vacant. The position had been held by Queen Elizabeth II from 1964 to 2011 [127] the Sovereign is the Commander-in-chief of the British Armed Forces. [128] The professional head of the Naval Service is the First Sea Lord, an admiral and member of the Defence Council of the United Kingdom. The Defence Council delegates management of the Naval Service to the Admiralty Board, chaired by the Secretary of State for Defence, which directs the Navy Board, a sub-committee of the Admiralty Board comprising only naval officers and Ministry of Defence (MOD) civil servants. These are all based in MOD Main Building in London, where the First Sea Lord, also known as the Chief of the Naval Staff, is supported by the Naval Staff Department. [129]

Organisation Edit

The Fleet Commander has responsibility for the provision of ships, submarines and aircraft ready for any operations that the Government requires. Fleet Commander exercises his authority through the Navy Command Headquarters, based at HMS Excellent in Portsmouth. An operational headquarters, the Northwood Headquarters, at Northwood, London, is co-located with the Permanent Joint Headquarters of the United Kingdom's armed forces, and a NATO Regional Command, Allied Maritime Command. [130]

The Royal Navy was the first of the three armed forces to combine the personnel and training command, under the Principal Personnel Officer, with the operational and policy command, combining the Headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief, Fleet and Naval Home Command into a single organisation, Fleet Command, in 2005 and becoming Navy Command in 2008. Within the combined command, the Second Sea Lord continues to act as the Principal Personnel Officer. [131] Previously, Flag Officer Sea Training was part pf the list of top senior appointments in Navy Command, however, as part of the Navy Command Transformation Programme, the post has reduced from Rear-Admiral to Commodore, renamed as Commander Fleet Operational Sea Training. [132]

The Naval Command senior appointments are: [133] [134]

Rank Name Position
Professional Head of the Royal Navy
Admiral Tony Radakin First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff
Fleet Commander
Vice Admiral Jerry Kyd Fleet Commander
Rear Admiral Simon Asquith Commander Operations
Rear Admiral Michael Utley Commander United Kingdom Strike Force
Rear Admiral Martin Connell Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Aviation & Carrier Strike) and Director Force Generation [135]
Lieutenant General Robert Magowan Commander UK Amphibious Forces
Rear Admiral TBA Flag Officer Scotland and Northern Ireland & Rear Admiral Submarines
Second Sea Lord & Deputy Chief of Naval Staff
Vice Admiral Nicholas Hine Second Sea Lord & Deputy Chief of Naval Staff
Rear Admiral Iain Lower Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Policy)
Rear Admiral Andrew Burns Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff (Capability) and Director Develop
Rear Admiral Philip Hally Director People and Training / Naval Secretary
The Venerable Martyn Gough Chaplain of the Fleet

Intelligence support to fleet operations is provided by intelligence sections at the various headquarters and from MOD Defence Intelligence, renamed from the Defence Intelligence Staff in early 2010. [136]

Locations Edit

The Royal Navy currently operates from three bases in the United Kingdom where commissioned ships are based Portsmouth, Clyde and Devonport, Plymouth—Devonport is the largest operational naval base in the UK and Western Europe. [137] Each base hosts a flotilla command under a commodore, or, in the case of Clyde, a captain, responsible for the provision of operational capability using the ships and submarines within the flotilla. 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines is similarly commanded by a brigadier and based in Plymouth. [138]

Historically, the Royal Navy maintained Royal Navy Dockyards around the world. [139] Dockyards of the Royal Navy are harbours where ships are overhauled and refitted. Only four are operating today at Devonport, Faslane, Rosyth and at Portsmouth. [140] A Naval Base Review was undertaken in 2006 and early 2007, the outcome being announced by Secretary of State for Defence, Des Browne, confirming that all would remain however some reductions in manpower were anticipated. [141]

The academy where initial training for future Royal Navy officers takes place is Britannia Royal Naval College, located on a hill overlooking Dartmouth, Devon. Basic training for future ratings takes place at HMS Raleigh at Torpoint, Cornwall, close to HMNB Devonport. [142]

Significant numbers of naval personnel are employed within the Ministry of Defence, Defence Equipment and Support and on exchange with the Army and Royal Air Force. Small numbers are also on exchange within other government departments and with allied fleets, such as the United States Navy. The navy also posts personnel in small units around the world to support ongoing operations and maintain standing commitments. Nineteen personnel are stationed in Gibraltar to support the small Gibraltar Squadron, the RN's only permanent overseas squadron. Some personnel are also based at East Cove Military Port and RAF Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands to support APT(S). Small numbers of personnel are based in Diego Garcia (Naval Party 1002), Miami (NP 1011 – AUTEC), Singapore (NP 1022), Dubai (NP 1023) and elsewhere. [143]

On 6 December 2014, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced it would expand the UK's naval facilities in Bahrain to support larger Royal Navy ships deployed to the Persian Gulf. Once complete, it will be the UK's first permanent military base located East of Suez since it withdrew from the region in 1971. The base will reportedly be large enough to accommodate Type 45 destroyers and Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. [144] [145] [146]

Of the Navy Edit

The navy was referred to as the "Navy Royal" at the time of its founding in 1546, and this title remained in use into the Stuart period. During the interregnum, the commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell replaced many historical names and titles, with the fleet then referred to as the "Commonwealth Navy". The navy was renamed once again after the restoration in 1660 to the present title. [147]

Today, the navy of the United Kingdom is commonly referred to as the "Royal Navy" both in the United Kingdom and other countries. Navies of other Commonwealth countries where the British monarch is also head of state include their national name, e.g. Royal Australian Navy. Some navies of other monarchies, such as the Koninklijke Marine (Royal Netherlands Navy) and Kungliga Flottan (Royal Swedish Navy), are also called "Royal Navy" in their own language. The Danish Navy uses the term "Royal" incorporated in its official name (Royal Danish Navy), but only "Flåden" (Navy) in everyday speech. [148] The French Navy, despite France being a republic since 1870, is often nicknamed "La Royale" (literally: The Royal). [149]

Of ships Edit

Royal Navy ships in commission are prefixed since 1789 with Her Majesty's Ship (His Majesty's Ship), abbreviated to "HMS" for example, HMS Beagle. Submarines are styled HM Submarine, also abbreviated "HMS". Names are allocated to ships and submarines by a naming committee within the MOD and given by class, with the names of ships within a class often being thematic (for example, the Type 23s are named after British dukes) or traditional (for example, the Invincible-class aircraft carriers all carry the names of famous historic ships). Names are frequently re-used, offering a new ship the rich heritage, battle honours and traditions of her predecessors. Often, a particular vessel class will be named after the first ship of that type to be built. As well as a name, each ship and submarine of the Royal Navy and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary is given a pennant number which in part denotes its role. For example, the destroyer HMS Daring (D32) displays the pennant number 'D32'. [150]

The Royal Navy ranks, rates and insignia form part of the uniform of the Royal Navy. The Royal Navy uniform is the pattern on which many of the uniforms of the other national navies of the world are based (e.g. Ranks and insignia of NATO navies officers, Uniforms of the United States Navy, Uniforms of the Royal Canadian Navy, French Naval Uniforms). [151]

Royal Navy officer rank insignia
NATO Code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D)
United Kingdom Epaulette Rank Insignia (View)
Rank Title: Admiral of the Fleet Admiral Vice admiral Rear admiral Commodore Captain Commander Lieutenant commander Lieutenant Sub-Lieutenant Midshipman Officer Cadet
Abbreviation: Adm. of the Fleet [nb 5] Adm VAdm RAdm Cdre Capt Cdr Lt Cdr Lt Sub Lt / SLt Mid OC
Royal Navy other rank insignia
NATO Code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-2
United Kingdom Rank Insignia (View)
Rank Title: Warrant Officer 1 Warrant Officer 2 Chief Petty Officer Petty Officer Leading Rating Able Rating
Abbreviation: WO1 WO2 [nb 6] CPO PO LH AB

1 Rank in abeyance – routine appointments no longer made to this rank, though honorary awards of this rank are occasionally made to senior members of the Royal family and prominent former First Sea Lords.

Traditions Edit

The Royal Navy has several formal customs and traditions including the use of ensigns and ships badges. Royal Navy ships have several ensigns used when under way and when in port. Commissioned ships and submarines wear the White Ensign at the stern whilst alongside during daylight hours and at the main-mast whilst under way. When alongside, the Union Jack is flown from the jackstaff at the bow, and can only be flown under way either to signal a court-martial is in progress or to indicate the presence of an admiral of the fleet on-board (including the Lord High Admiral or the monarch). [152]

The Fleet Review is an irregular tradition of assembling the fleet before the monarch. The first review on record was held in 1400, and the most recent review as of 2009 [update] was held on 28 June 2005 to mark the bi-centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar 167 ships from many different nations attended with the Royal Navy supplying 67. [153]

"Jackspeak" Edit

There are several less formal traditions including service nicknames and Naval slang, known as "Jackspeak". [154] The nicknames include "The Andrew" (of uncertain origin, possibly after a zealous press ganger) [155] [156] and "The Senior Service". [157] [158] British sailors are referred to as "Jack" (or "Jenny"), or more widely as "Matelots". Royal Marines are fondly known as "Bootnecks" or often just as "Royals". A compendium of Naval slang was brought together by Commander A. Covey-Crump and his name has in itself become the subject of Naval slang Covey Crump. [157] A game traditionally played by the Navy is the four-player board game known as "Uckers". This is similar to Ludo and it is regarded as easy to learn, but difficult to play well. [159]

The Royal Navy sponsors or supports three youth organisations:

    – consisting of Royal Naval Volunteer Cadet Corps and Royal Marines Volunteer Cadet Corps, the VCC was the first youth organisation officially supported or sponsored by the Admiralty in 1901. [160] – in schools, specifically the Royal Navy Section and the Royal Marines Section. [161] – supporting teenagers who are interested in naval matters, consisting of the Sea Cadets and the Royal Marines Cadets. [162]

The above organisations are the responsibility of the CUY branch of Commander Core Training and Recruiting (COMCORE) who reports to Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST). [163]

The Royal Navy of the 18th century is depicted in many novels and several films dramatising the voyage and mutiny on the Bounty. [164] The Royal Navy's Napoleonic campaigns of the early 19th century are also a popular subject of historical novels. Some of the best-known are Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series [165] and C. S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower chronicles. [166]

The Navy can also be seen in numerous films. The fictional spy James Bond is a commander in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR). [167] The Royal Navy is featured in The Spy Who Loved Me, when a nuclear ballistic-missile submarine is stolen, [168] and in Tomorrow Never Dies when a media baron sinks a Royal Navy warship in an attempt to trigger a war between the UK and People's Republic of China. [169] Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World was based on Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series. [170] The Pirates of the Caribbean series of films also includes the Navy as the force pursuing the eponymous pirates. [171] Noël Coward directed and starred in his own film In Which We Serve, which tells the story of the crew of the fictional HMS Torrin during the Second World War. It was intended as a propaganda film and was released in 1942. Coward starred as the ship's captain, with supporting roles from John Mills and Richard Attenborough. [172]

C. S. Forester's Hornblower novels have been adapted for television. [173] The Royal Navy was the subject of an acclaimed 1970s BBC television drama series, Warship, [174] and of a five-part documentary, Shipmates, that followed the workings of the Royal Navy day to day. [175]

Television documentaries about the Royal Navy include: Empire of the Seas: How the Navy Forged the Modern World, a four-part documentary depicting Britain's rise as a naval superpower, up until the First World War [176] Sailor, about life on the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal [177] and Submarine, about the submarine captains' training course, 'The Perisher'. [178] There have also been Channel 5 documentaries such as Royal Navy Submarine Mission, following a nuclear-powered fleet submarine. [179]

The popular BBC radio comedy series The Navy Lark featured a fictitious warship ("HMS Troutbridge") and ran from 1959 to 1977. [180]

A Brief History of Frogmen, UDTs and Navy SEALs

Throughout human history, warfare has always been a brutal affair. From the dawn of the agricultural revolution all the way to our present digital age, tribes and nations have fought battles for geopolitical advantage across land, air—and sea.

Across the centuries, these armies have always sought the technical advantage, trying to out-innovate their opponents. And it’s through such a process of research and innovations that naval warfare was forever changed during World War II with the introduction of the frogmen, or Underwater Demolitions Teams (UDTs), as they’re also commonly known.

The Second World War was dominated by both marine and land-based theatres of war, and as such, sea-based tactical units flourished during the war including demolition units, divers, raiders, scouts, swimmers and other aquatic companies. Due to the rising need for these types of soldiers and teams, in mid-August, 1942, the US Navy and Army began joint training at Amphibious Training Base, Little Creek, Virginia. Although the teams were initially trained for coastal assault, their duties quickly evolved to include sabotage, recon and infiltration.

Early exploits of these teams included invasions of Normany, North Africa, and portions of the Italian campaign. However, despite preliminary successes, politics and inter-military affairs caused controversy and all non-Navy members of the frogmen teams were reassigned before the conclusion of WWII. Once the Underwater Demolitions Teams had proven their merit and tactical importance in battle, Admiral Ernest J. King mandated the training of over 1,000 more men to join the aquatic forces’ special teams at Fort Pierce, Florida.

Operationally, the earliest predecessors of today’s Navy SEALs were the Underwater Demolition Teams, who trained and served under the Office of Strategic Services. Outfitted in minimalist fins , masks and swimwear, these early soldiers/hatchetmen would use stealth infiltration to gain access to an enemy’s beach position, then proceed to blow up hardware and equipment and make coastal access/invasion more attainable. These clandestine operations were extremely common in both the Pacific and European theaters of WWII. However, after the conclusion of the war, the UDTs were sharply reduced.

The UDTs, or “frogmen” were revived during the Korean War and took part in raids along the coast of Korea. These UDTs were instrumental in sabotaging railroad tunnels and bridges and also several large-scale military/de-mining operations during the Korean conflict.

A few years later, under the order of President John F. Kennedy, the US military formed SEAL (Sea, Air, Land) teams ONE and TWO to advise and instruct soldiers during the conflict in Vietnam. From their outset, SEAL teams were tasked with secretive aquatic operations in rivers, lakes and oceans.

In more recent conflicts, SEALs have played pivotal roles in Afghanistan and Iraq. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, SEALs were instrumental in over 75 active missions securing infrastructure, clearing waterways, raids and of course, capture/kill operations like the one that infamously took out 9-11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden in 2011.

Whether swimming across enemy lines, sabotaging equipment or taking out high-value threats, throughout their history, American frogmen, UDTs and SEALs alike have come to personify and epitomize valor, strength and elite performance in the 20th and 21st centuries.

This Man Singlehandedly Created the American Navy We Know Today

Commodore George Dewey led a stunning victory at Manila Bay that launched American Navy into greatness.

Battle Commences

John McCutcheon described the opening of the battle: “At ten minutes after five, the American fleet was off Cavite, and the brightness of the day revealed the enemy’s position. Spanish began firing immediately at a range of four miles. At the sound of the first shot, the Olympia, swung to starboard, and headed straight for the Spaniards. The flagship was followed by the Baltimore, Raleigh, Petrel, Concord, and Boston.”

Aboard the advancing American vessels, gunners, stripped of all clothing except their trousers, waited impatiently for the order to commence firing. Dewey had given strict instructions for his ships to hold their fire until an effective range had been reached—he could not afford to waste powder and shells. The McCulloch and coal ships remained back in the bay, their crews lining the decks to watch the spectacle. Commodore Dewey and Lieutenant Calkins stood on the forward bridge of the Olympia, while Captain Gridley’s post was in the conning tower.

With Dewey’s flagship in the lead, the silent fleet steamed steadily forward. Enemy shells kicked up the water around the squadron, but each vessel maneuvered directly behind the Olympia, with absolute precision and in perfect order.

As the American flotilla drew closer to Cavite, shells from the Spanish fort and anchored warships churned the bay into a frothy foam. Suddenly two large geysers of water shot into the air as the Spaniards exploded a couple of mines in front of Dewey’s advancing column. But the American ships stayed on course, closing the distance between themselves and the smoking Spanish cannon. When each range was called, the gunners aboard the Olympia, lowered their sight-bars.

The flagship continued for another mile, with shots splashing on all sides. The tension among the crew was almost unbearable. As soon as the Olympia, was three miles from Cavite, Dewey ordered the cruiser’s port 5-inch battery turned toward the enemy. Seconds later, a shell burst above the flagship. A boatswain’s mate at one of the aft guns shouted “Remember the Maine!” and every man on deck echoed the cry.

“You may fire when ready, Gridley!”

Dewey checked with his gunnery officer. The range was perfect. The commodore then glanced at his watch. It was exactly 5:40. He looked up at the conning tower and called out, “You may fire when ready, Gridley!”

Dewey had barely finished giving the order when the Olympia, sent a broadside of shells crashing into Fort Cavite. The signal for attack brought every squadron gun into action. A hailstorm of steel from rapid-fire weapons pounded the Spanish fleet, while large-caliber shells concentrated on the fortress. The enemy’s return fire increased. Splashing projectiles hurled a deluge of water across the Olympia,’s deck, thoroughly dowsing the gun crews. Clouds of dense smoke enveloped the Spanish and American vessels. The terrific onslaught by Dewey’s fleet continued as it steamed past the enemy fortifications.

When the port batteries of the American ships would no longer bear on the Spaniards, Dewey’s column swung about and cut loose with their starboard guns. One sailor remarked, “It was a tremendous, roaring procession—a scene of awful magnificence!” Two enemy shells ripped the Baltimore. One missile passed clear through the cruiser without exploding. The other tore across the main deck, wrecking a 6-inch gun and wounding eight men.

The Boston was also blasted. A projectile struck her port quarter. A fire broke out, but it was quickly extinguished. Time-fuse shells continually exploded above the American fleet, scattering steel fragments in all directions. Joseph Stickney was on the Olympia,’s bridge during the conflict and described the battle: “One projectile headed straight for the forward bridge, but exploded less than a hundred feet away. Shrapnel sliced the rigging over the heads of Commander Lamberton and myself. Another shell, about as large as a flatiron, gouged a hole in the deck a few feet below the Commodore.”

Tons of Spanish shells fell about the American squadron, whose salvation was the poor marksmanship of the enemy. Most of their shots were too high and roared into the bay beyond. After passing the enemy’s line for the second time, the Olympia,’s column swung around again on a closer tack, giving the port guns a second chance at the Spaniards. The Cavite shoreline was a veritable inferno of flames and the pandemonium was indescribable. Suddenly the Americans spotted the Reina Cristina steaming out to meet the Olympia,. Dewey ordered his ships to concentrate their fire on the reckless enemy vessel. Rapid-fire shells riddled the side of the Spaniard, and gunfire swept her decks. An 8-inch projectile struck the enemy cruiser in the stern, plowing completely through the ship and blowing up its forward magazine.

Dewey’s fleet had just finished its fifth circle of the enemy’s position, when Gridley reported that there were only 15 rounds per gun for the Olympia,’s 5-inch battery. Not wishing to alarm the crew, the commodore ordered his squadron to withdraw for “breakfast.” While the battle-weary fleet steamed north, beyond the range of Spanish guns, clearing smoke near Cavite revealed the wreckage of the fort and fires burning on several enemy vessels.

How Morale on the Olympia Plummeted

Once safely out in the bay, Dewey summoned his ship captains to the Olympia,. Remaining ammunition was checked and powder and shells redistributed where necessary. During this unorthodox pause in the action, Stickney wrote the following: “We had been fighting a determined and courageous enemy for almost three hours, without noticeably diminishing their volume of fire. So far as we could see, there was no indication that the Spaniards were less able to defend themselves than they had been at the beginning of the engagement.

“We knew the Spanish had an ample supply of ammunition, so there was no hope of exhausting their fighting power by a battle lasting twice as long. If we should run short of powder and shell, we might possibly become the hunted instead of the hunter. The gloom on the bridge of the Olympia, was thicker than a London fog in November. We had all been disappointed by results of our gunfire. For some reason, the shells seemed to go too high or too low. The same had been the case with the Spaniards. On our final circle, we were within 2,500 yards of the enemy. At that distance, and in a smooth sea, we should have had a large percentage of hits. However, as near as we could judge, we had not crippled the foe to any great extent.”

While his ravenous sailors ate a hearty meal, Commodore Dewey scouted the enemy position with his binoculars. Heavy smoke obscured Cavite, but he still could make out the tall masts and flags of Spanish ships. Occasionally the sound of exploding ammunition could also be heard in the distance. After a three-hour respite, Dewey again formed his battle line for attack. This time the Baltimore was in the lead.

As the American fleet approached Cavite, the sound of church bells in downtown Manila floated peacefully across the bay. Curious spectators could be seen crowding the rooftops of the city. They appeared to be preparing to watch a pageant or play.

Dewey’s squadron and the big guns of Cavite opened fire at the same time. Only one Spanish vessel slipped her moorings and came out fighting. The captain of the Antonio de Ulloa nailed her flag to the mast and engaged the American cruisers in a one-sided firefight. Within a few minutes, the Spanish vessel went down with all hands.

Spotting the White Flag of Surrender

Recognizing the futility of continuing the conflict, Admiral Montojo issued his last order to his fleet officers: “Scuttle and abandon your ships!” The admiral then escaped to Manila in a small boat.

About 12:30, a white flag of surrender was seen flying over Fort Cavite, and Dewey anchored his squadron near Manila.

Three enemy ships had been sunk by Dewey’s squadron. Eight Spanish vessels had been set afire and scuttled by their crews. A total of 381 Spaniards were killed during the fierce battle. While aboard the American fleet, only eight men were wounded. Amazingly, not one member of Dewey’s squadron was killed in action.

After the conflict, Commodore Dewey declared: “This battle was won in Hong Kong Harbor. My captains and staff officers working with me, planned out the fight with reference to all contingencies, and we were fully prepared for exactly what happened. Although I recognized the alternatives from reports that reached me—that the Spanish might meet me at Subic Bay, or possibly near Corregidor, I made up my mind that the battle would be fought right here that very morning, at the same hour, and with nearly the same position of opposing ships. That is why and how, at break of day, we formed in perfect line, opened fire, and kept our position without mistake or interruption until the enemy ships were destroyed.”

Dewey’s engagement was unsurpassed in the naval history of that time. Never before had an entire fleet been wiped out without the loss of a ship—or a single man—on the part of an attacking force. Commodore Dewey’s victory at Manila Bay is still one of the most romantic and decisive in world history.

Special Operations Outlook 2019 Digital Edition is here!

A small submersible and its pilot make the first successful rendezvous and docking with a submerged submarine on the USS Quillback’s foredeck in 1948. Divers from UDT-2 and UDT-4 employed Lambertsen rebreathers. Photo courtesy of Tom Hawkins

This article was originally published on Dec 28, 2011.

Most of us woke up on the morning of Aug. 6, 2011, to learn the devastating news that our nation had lost 17 courageous U.S. Navy SEALs along with five other Naval Special Warfare (NSW) personnel, Air Force Special Operations support personnel, U.S. Army air crew, and an Afghan security element. This happened when their CH-47 helicopter crashed after being hit with a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan’s eastern Wardak province. As a former SEAL Team operator, and with a son currently serving as a SEAL, this kind of news is simply the worst. Sadly, too, there have been equally devastating missions, including June 28, 2005, when 11 other terrific SEALs lost their lives – also in Afghanistan – during a foiled mission and doomed rescue attempt, where another Chinook crashed with all aboard.

Men don’t get assigned to a SEAL Team they volunteer for this routinely extreme and often arduous duty. From World War II and into the modern-day conflict, very exceptional men have volunteered for some very tough assignments, and many have made the ultimate sacrifice. But who are these men? What is their heritage? And what is it that separates them from all others?

Navy SEALs trace their capability origins back to four formidable legacy units formed during World War II. They were the Amphibious Scouts and Raiders, formed in August 1942 for amphibious reconnaissance and commando operations in Europe and the South Pacific Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDUs), assault demolitioneers formed in June 1943 and trained almost exclusively for beach obstacle-clearance operations at Normandy and Southern France Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs), combat swimmers formed in December 1944 to conduct hydrographic reconnaissance and demolition of obstacles before amphibious landings throughout the Pacific and the maritime operators of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).

There was for many years a prevailing understanding that UDT and SEAL Team origins derived from a school and training program set up at the Amphibious Training Base (ATB) at Fort Pierce, Fla., in June 1943. This story was perpetuated by newspaper articles and books written during the postwar period, and, as a result, it became the common understanding among the SEAL and UDT men for decades thereafter. While the great majority of training was conducted at Fort Pierce, recently discovered documentation now portrays a larger picture.

On May 6, 1943, the “Naval Demolition Project” was directed by the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) “to meet a present and urgent requirement.” The CNO’s directive outlined a two-phase project. The first phase began with a letter to the Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks directing dispatch of eight officers and 30 enlisted men for duty with the Operational Naval Demolition Unit and Naval Combat Demolition Unit No. 1, which was to be formed at the Amphibious Training Base, Solomons, Md. Navy Cmdr. John C. Daniel was selected as officer in charge, and the second phase of the project was very much contingent on the success of the first – so he had a lot riding on his shoulders.

Six officers and 18 enlisted men reported for training at Solomons on May 14, 1943, and all came from the Seabee training camp at Camp Peary, Va. These men were given a four-week course of instruction and sent immediately to participate in Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily, which occurred that July and August. Daniel submitted a report on May 27 that suggested an organization, outlined a detailed training prospectus, and recommended equipment needed to supply an operational unit. He also recommended that the training program (Phase 2) be moved to ATB Fort Pierce, to take advantage of weather for year-round training.

At this juncture, Lt. Cmdr. Draper Kauffman set up the now-famous Naval Combat Demolition Unit training program at Fort Pierce in June 1943. He was assisted by officers brought with him from the Bomb Disposal School in Washington, D.C. (which he established), and he too acquired most of his volunteers from the Seabee training school at Camp Peary. Kauffman is given credit for instituting the infamous “Hell Week,” a period of intense instruction that remains today in the SEAL Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL, or BUD/S, training program. One of the most significant aspects of this was that it set the stage for both officers and enlisted men to complete the same qualification training side-by-side, which today remains one of the core strengths of the SEAL Teams, and something not duplicated anywhere else in the military.

Kauffman has sometimes also been given credit for establishing the UDTs of the Pacific during World War II, but this too is not factual. The UDTs were formed in December 1943, while Kauffman was still at Fort Pierce. He did, however, leave his training position in April 1944 to become commanding officer of UDT-5, a post he held until the following August, when he became deputy to Navy Capt. (later Adm.) Byron Hall Hanlon, who, as commander, Underwater Demolition Teams, Amphibious Force Pacific, was given the task of organizing the growing number of UDTs, their small armada of High Speed Transports (APDs), the now basic training program at Fort Pierce, and the advanced training school established at Maui, Territory of Hawaii.

“Naked Warrior.” A UDT man places a charge on an obstacle during training. UDT and other predecessor units often went into action with nothing more than masks, fins, and a knife. Photo courtesy of Tom Hawkins

Before the naval demolition project was established, however, there were other units formed that developed legacy capabilities to accomplish what we now know as Naval Special Warfare. Two were formed at ATB Little Creek, Norfolk, Va., in August 1942 almost simultaneously. Each was to perform specific missions in Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942, and yet it is doubtful that either knew about the other or their assigned tasks.

The Amphibious Scouts and Raiders (Joint) were formed to reconnoiter prospective landing beaches and also to lead assault forces to the correct beach under cover of darkness. The unit was led by Army 1st Lt. Lloyd Peddicord as commanding officer and Navy Ensign John Bell as executive officer. Navy chief petty officers and sailors came from the boat pool at ATB Solomons, and Army personnel came from the 3rd and 9th Infantry Divisions. These two groups were gathered at ATB Little Creek in late August, where they trained until embarking for Operation Torch in November. The Scout and Raider school was relocated to ATB Fort Pierce in February 1943, and in July it became an all Navy school reorganized to accomplish a training program code-named “Amphibious Roger.” Roger men were being trained for deployment to the Sino-American Cooperative Organization (SACO) in China, where they became known as “Rice Paddy sailors.” Scout and Raider units and capabilities did not survive the postwar period.

During the same period, a specialized naval demolition team was formed with two naval Reserve officers and 17 enlisted men. All were U.S. Navy trained salvage divers. Their crash course at ATB Little Creek during August and September 1942 included demolitions, commando tactics, cable cutting, and rubber-boat training. Their single mission was to demolish a heavily cabled boom blocking the Wadi Sebou River so that USS Dallas(DD 199) could proceed up the river and train her guns on the Port Lyautey airdrome in preparation for attack by embarked Army Rangers. This was a hair-raising story of determination and success however, the group was disbanded once it returned from Africa. Because they were Navy divers and because they were given training in demolitions, they have often been referred to as underwater demolition men, but they were not. Of interest, every man in this group was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions in this mission.

NCDU personnel trained at Fort Pierce between June 1943 and April 1944 were largely sent to England for the Normandy invasion however, eight NCDUs were sent to the Pacific, and six of these remained together for the war’s duration. They were the only NCDUs to do so.

By April 1944, a total of 34 NCDUs had collected in England in preparation for Operation Overlord, the amphibious landings for D-Day in France. For the assault, each six-man NCDU was augmented with three U.S. Navy seamen brought from Scotland to assist in handling demolitions, and the resulting nine-man NCDUs were integrated with Army combat engineers to form 13-man gap assault teams. NCDU men suffered 31 killed and 60 wounded, a casualty rate of 52 percent. D-Day remains the single bloodiest day in the history of Naval Special Warfare, although not one NCDU man was lost to improper handling of explosives. The NCDUs at Omaha Beach were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, one of only three presented for military actions at Normandy. The men at Utah Beach earned the only Navy Unit Commendation awarded for actions on that awful day.

NCDU men were engaged in combat once more during the invasion of Southern France in August 1944, first code-named Anvil and later Dragoon. Several of the NCDUs from Utah Beach were augmented with new units from Fort Pierce to participate in the last amphibious assault of the war in Europe, which had now become a land march toward Germany. All Fort Pierce trained men would now be sent to the Pacific and organized as Underwater Demolition Teams.

A total of thirty 100-man UDTs were formed in the Pacific during World War II, and only four 50-man teams survived during the postwar period. UDT-1 and UDT-3 were homeported in Coronado, Calif., and organized under Amphibious Forces Pacific, and UDT-2 and UDT-4 were sent to ATB Little Creek, and organized under Amphibious Forces Atlantic. These commands, which became UDT-11, UDT-12, UDT-21, and UDT-22 after Korea, were converted to SEAL Teams in 1983 and still serve at these locations.

Probably the most influential World War II unit that would ultimately impact the capabilities of the UDTs, and subsequently the SEAL Teams, was a joint-service component of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Many of its capabilities were later adopted by the postwar UDTs, and many of the same capabilities can still be found in today’s SEAL Teams.

On Jan. 20, 1943, a Maritime Section was established within the Special Operations Branch of OSS, with responsibility for planning covert infiltration operations from the sea. On June 10, 1943, the Special Operations Branch was reorganized as the Maritime Unit (MU), with branch status. Its responsibilities included planning and coordinating the clandestine infiltration of agents, supplying resistance groups, engaging in maritime sabotage, and developing special equipment for operations from the sea. OSS MU pioneered U.S. capabilities in maritime sabotage through use of special-boat infiltration techniques and tactical combat diving using flexible swim fins and facemasks, closed-circuit diving equipment, submersible vehicles, and limpet mines. These capabilities were adopted by the UDTs in 1947, and became hallmarks of SEAL Team capabilities lasting through the modern day.

One individual who stands out as the visionary in bringing the UDTs into the future was Lt. Cmdr. Douglas “Red Dog” Fane, who commanded the Atlantic Fleet UDTs during the postwar period. Fane did everything he could to keep UDT in the spotlight through stunts, demonstrations, experiments, and activities that created numerous newspaper and magazine articles. In 1947, Fane perceptively sought after and enlisted the services of Dr. Christian J. Lambertsen, who, as a U.S. Army medical officer, had been the primary trainer of combat swimmer tactics, techniques, and procedures with OSS MU during World War II. Lambertsen was also inventor of the “Lambertsen Lung,” which was a pure oxygen re-breathing diving apparatus used by OSS during the war and adopted by the UDTs under Fane.

OSS Maritime Unit diver employing the “Lambertsen Lung,” an early pure oxygen rebreathing apparatus. Photo courtesy of Tom Hawkins

It was Fane and Lambertsen who took the UDTs truly underwater to develop a completely new capability surrounding “Submersible Operations.” This included the first series of submarine lock-out and lock-in operations, and operations with a British-built submersible vehicle called “the Sleeping Beauty.” During 1947 too, Fane had UDT men experimenting with helicopters however, during this period helicopters did not have the space and lift capacity with which to develop any kind of capability. Moreover, helicopters were also not used tactically during the Korean War period, and didn’t actually become tactical assets until Vietnam.

Fane went on to command the Pacific UDTs during the latter part of the Korean War and authored a book, classically entitled The Naked Warriors, which definitively chronicled the history of NCDU and UDT from World War II through the Korean War period.

The Korean War was a very pivotal period for the UDTs and a prime example of their versatility and adaptability. When hostilities began on June 25, 1950, a 10-man UDT detachment was in Japan with Amphibious Ready Group One. UDT men were performing routine operations involving administrative beach surveys and also assisting U.S. Marine Corps personnel with the training of U.S. Army regimental combat teams in reconnaissance techniques. UDT men were quickly dispatched to Korea, where, on the night of Aug. 5, members of the detachment infiltrated ashore from USS Diachenko (APD 123) aboard inflatable boats to conduct a demolition raid against a train bridge-tunnel near Yosu. This single mission-event in the war became the catalyst that subsequently altered UDT doctrine by providing UDT men with vastly expanded operational capabilities that they employed throughout the war.

By adding to their traditional roles of amphibious reconnaissance and mine and obstacle clearance, the UDT mission, if only temporarily, expanded greatly to include stealthy infiltration from submarines and surface ships to conduct raids and attacks on enemy shipping, port, and harbor facilities infiltration and intelligence gathering and covering the withdrawal of friendly forces. UDT men worked closely with CIA personnel, U.S. Marines, Royal Marine Commandos, and South Korean naval commandos in a variety of missions from the sea and ashore.

After the Korean armistice began, the decade of the 1950s was a relatively calm and somewhat “sleepy” period operationally for the UDTs. They honed diving and submarine operational skills, began attending U.S. Army airborne schools, developed maritime parachuting techniques, and experimented extensively with a host of swimmer propulsion and delivery vehicles. Operationally, they made routine deployments with the Amphibious Forces to the Pacific, Atlantic-Caribbean, and Mediterranean areas and conducted numerous training exercises and amphibious landings. World events surrounding places like Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam, however, would soon change all of that.

In the late 1950s, there was a growing and recognized need for military forces with special operations capabilities. This included the Army Special Forces or “Green Berets,” Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance Units, and Navy Underwater Demolition Teams. During his final years in office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower began to proactively engage these specialized forces in small conflicts involving U.S. interests. Foremost were the civil conflicts in Laos and Cuba.

Little has been written about UDT and SEAL Team experiences during the Cuban period, primarily because little has actually been documented, but also because the men involved were sworn to what they thought to be perpetual secrecy and they have taken this commitment quite seriously. Although it is not widely acknowledged, UDT men participated in activities preparatory to the failed Bay of Pigs operation initiated in April 1961. Personnel from UDT-21 and SEAL Teams ONE and TWO were also engaged between 1962 and 1965 in actions and activities surrounding Operation Mongoose, which was a CIA mission designed to overthrow Fidel Castro and his regime. UDT and SEAL Team personnel were also engaged during the Cuban Missile Crisis buildup that occurred during the autumn of 1962.

As early as April 1960, the CIA began to recruit anti-Castro Cuban exiles in the Miami area. At least through July 1960, assessment and training were carried out on the barrier islands of Florida and at various other facilities in South Florida, such as Miami and Homestead Air Force Base. UDT personnel trained 12 hand-selected Cuban exiles in advanced swimming and demolition training at the southern part of Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. These exiles were later moved to an abandoned U.S. Army training base situated on Lake Ponchartrain, La., where the operatives did pool work and trained in rudimentary patrolling, small-boat handling, and maritime infiltration tactics and techniques. They were eventually sent to Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, to join the larger invasion force. While the Bay of Pigs invasion was planned under Eisenhower’s administration, the operation was actually executed under the direction of President John F. Kennedy and his national security team.

On the night of April 17, 1961, two landing craft with a CIA “operations officer” and five UDT frogmen entered the Bay of Pigs (Bahía de Cochinos) on the southern coast of Cuba. UDT men also embarked the USS Sea Lion (SS 315) at Mayport, Fla., and evidently were inserted near Havana to conduct harbor and beach reconnaissance. It has never been acknowledged that any U.S. advisors went ashore with their trained operatives.

Operation Mongoose was a somewhat prolonged effort conducted between late 1962 through 1965. It was a highly secret CIA operational plan for the overthrow of the Communist regime in Cuba that aimed to have insurgent operations be performed by Cubans from within Cuba, with outside help from the United States and elsewhere. Personnel from SEAL Team ONE and SEAL Team TWO participated in much of the “unconventional” planning and worked directly with the CIA to establish and operate a series of “safe houses” in and around Miami, Fla. SEAL Team personnel trained Cuban commando teams in small boat operations, beach reconnaissance, and combat swimmer methods. Much of this training was accomplished in austere base situations focused in and around the Florida Keys.

USS Begor (APD 127) stands offshore of Hungnam, Korea, Christmas Eve, 1950, as demolition charges placed by a U.S. Navy Underwater Demolition Team wreck the port. National Archives photo

Few conventional thinkers believed that brush-fire wars like Cuba and terrorism would dominate the world scene. Historically, special operations units in most nations have been created to conduct specific missions that conventional forces were either incapable of performing or saw no merit in performing. As a result, and with rare exception, such special units have seldom been recognized for their contributions, and more often than not were disbanded and allowed to fade into obscurity. Moreover, special mission units, by their very nature, conduct covert, clandestine, and other highly sensitive operations, which necessarily place their activities, both past and present, under a cloak of secrecy and generally at odds with conventional thinkers and planners.

It is very likely that the failed Bay of Pigs operation resulted in detailed discussions and decision opportunities between Kennedy and the National Security Council to encourage the military services to accelerate activities involving the capabilities of their special mission units however, the concept of what would result in the SEAL Teams began as early as 1958, when CNO Adm. Arleigh A. Burke proposed covert military activities to keep the Communist powers off balance.

Burke, who had become the CNO in 1956, championed the cause to devote greater resources to the conduct of limited war. He argued that in an era of nuclear parity, paramount U.S. objectives should be deterrence of general war and the simultaneous maintenance of American global interests. He believed that for the Soviet Union, the fulcrum of struggle would surround the underdeveloped regions of the free world.

In early 1960, Burke directed the Pentagon’s Operational Navy (OPNAV) staff to organize new or existing Navy units for smaller conflicts. He directed the OPNAV staff to study the Navy’s options with respect to unconventional warfare. Among other things the staff suggested “… that the Underwater Demolition Teams and USMC reconnaissance units are organizations capable of expansion into unconventional warfare.” On Sept. 13, an Unconventional Activities Working Group was formally established and reported to the deputy CNO (Plans and Policy). This group was directed to investigate “naval unconventional activity methods, techniques and concepts, which may be employed effectively against Sino-Soviet interests under conditions of cold war.”

The concept for development of an improved “Naval Guerrilla/Counter-guerrilla Warfare” capability within the U.S. Navy and first-time mention of “SEAL” units was delineated in a March 10, 1961, memorandum, wherein Rear Adm. William E. Gentner, Director Strategic Plans Division (OP-06), approved preliminary recommendations of the Unconventional Activities Committee (successor to the Unconventional Activities Working Group). These recommendations were provided to Burke for review, validation, and approval. Included was a recommendation for a wide range of “additional unconventional warfare capabilities within, or as an extension of our amphibious forces.” Operations conducted in “restricted waters” were emphasized – “One unit each is proposed under the Pacific and Atlantic amphibious commanders and will represent a center or focal point through which all elements of this specialized Navy capability (naval guerrilla warfare) would be channeled.” The same memorandum stated that, “An appropriate name for such units could be ‘SEAL’ units, SEAL being a contraction of SEA, AIR, LAND, and thereby, indicating an all-around, universal capability.”

For reasons still unknown, it became widely avowed that President John F. Kennedy personally directed formation of the SEAL Teams, but such is not true. The Navy staff had been working on the problem of unconventional warfare long before Kennedy took office however, the president tacitly recognized the need on May 25, 1961, in a speech before a special joint session of Congress. This speech became famous because of the president’s affirmation of a national goal to land a man on the moon. In the same speech he also stated that, “I am directing the Secretary of Defense to expand rapidly and substantially, in cooperation with our Allies, the orientation of existing forces for the conduct of non-nuclear war, paramilitary operations and sub-limited or unconventional wars. In addition, our special forces and unconventional warfare units will be increased and reoriented.” That statement is as close as Kennedy ever got to personally directing establishment of SEAL Teams.

After considerable study within the Navy staff, it was determined that expanding the UDT mission would likely hinder their traditional and now doctrinal responsibilities to the Amphibious Force. Thus, it was considered that new units should be established possessing the characteristics of the UDTs, but incorporating new capabilities like those developed and practiced during the Korean War. Because the UDTs were doctrinally tied to Amphibious Force doctrine, they had been consistently denied opportunities to utilize U.S. Army and Marine Corps training schools, or given funding or authorizations to purchase the kinds of equipment needed for expanded naval missions originating from the sea, air, or land. It was intended, therefore, that these new SEAL units would not be doctrinally hindered and would be given freedom to establish a broader and more flexible mission.

Finally, and almost routinely, in a letter dated Dec. 11, 1961, the CNO officially authorized establishment of SEAL Teams in the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets with an effective date of Jan. 1, 1962. SEAL Team ONE was officially established under the command of Navy Lt. David Del Giudice, and SEAL Team TWO under the command of Navy Lt. John Callahan. Organization of these new units represented the culmination of almost four years of investigation into a special naval warfare capability within the Navy.

Several officers on the OPNAV staff signed much of the official documentation that led to establishment of the SEAL Teams. They included Admirals Ulysses S. Grant Sharp Jr., Wallace Beakley, Gentner, and CNO Burke and his successor, Adm. George Anderson. Much of the early work in 1961 was accomplished by Navy Capt. Raymond S. Osterhoudt however, the vast amount of work can be attributed to Navy Capt. Henry S. Warren, who originated much of the studies, analysis, and correspondence to the fleet commanders. Little did these men know that they were creating a Naval Special Warfare community that would eventually promote many officers to the rank of admiral – including the second and consecutive four-star admiral that currently leads the 60,000 members of the U.S. Special Operations Command.

In November 1963, the SEALs, UDTs, Beach Jumper Units (BJUs), and Boat Support Units (BSUs) were organized as subordinate commands under new staffs called Naval Operations Support Groups (NOSGs). One staff each in the Atlantic and Pacific were established as collaborative planning staffs for the combined units. These NOSGs were the forerunners of the Naval Special Warfare Groups that remain today. BJUs had a classified mission involving fleet cover and deception however, during this period they were reorganized and tasked for support of smaller conflicts worldwide, especially Vietnam. BJUs were special-mission units originated during World War II, but were eliminated at war’s end. They were established again for Korea, and survived and expanded into the modern day under a series of different names.

President John F. Kennedy inspects personnel of SEAL Team TWO in April 1962. Photo courtesy of Tom Hawkins

The BSUs were a new concept, and the SEALs might not have been as successful as they were in Vietnam without their support. They were made up of fleet personnel specially trained to provide dedicated maritime mobility and boat maintenance. Today’s NSW Special Boat Teams generally trace their origins to BSU-1, which deployed men and boats to Vietnam as Mobile Support Teams (MSTs). These men were tasked with the operation of the Light SEAL Support Craft (LSSC), Medium SEAL Support Craft (MSSC), and Heavy SEAL Support Craft (HSSC).

Although other units supported SEALs during the Vietnam period, only the BSUs and their MSTs were specifically created to support SEALs. The LSSC and MSSC were the first boats designed by the U.S. Navy specifically for SEAL Teams, and specifically for unique riverine infiltration and exfiltration operations. BSUs are often seen as the genesis of today’s Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC) community however, the SWCC heritage also reaches back to World War II with the Scouts and Raiders and their pre-assault missions, and the OSS Maritime Unit, whose mission involved clandestine infiltration and exfiltration of men and supplies in the Balkan Peninsula of Europe and in the Burma area of the Pacific.

SEALs began to establish what would become an exceptional record of accomplishment in Vietnam. The result was that a budding NSW community of specially trained SEAL officers and men continued to strengthen after Vietnam. The Navy established an NSW Naval Officer Billet Code (NOBC) on Jan. 7, 1969, when the Vice CNO Adm. Bernard. A. Clarey approved special warfare as one of the Navy’s four warfare area specialties (surface, subsurface, air, and special warfare) within the unrestricted line 1100 designator system (113X). This was vital to maintaining professionalism, knowledge, and understanding of this special kind of warfare. It is the reason that there are SEAL flag officers today.

At the time of their formation and throughout much of the Vietnam conflict, the existence of the SEAL Teams remained highly classified. It’s difficult to grasp that when the SEAL Teams were formed in January 1962, there was only one team in each fleet, both were commanded by a Navy lieutenant with a complement of 10 officers and 50 men, and that they actually remained that size until a buildup with the rest of the Navy in Vietnam during the mid- to late-’60s. Moreover, both teams struggled to survive drastic downsizing after Vietnam, since there was no doctrinal place for them in the U.S. Navy. While terms like special operations, special warfare, and combat divers are commonplace today, not many years ago they were not used in polite military circles. Moreover, there were only a few in the Navy that fully understood their meaning, and those that did were largely the men in the UDT and SEAL Teams, who reverently referred to themselves as the “Naval Special Warfare community,” which became, and remains, extremely strong and cohesive.

Today there are 10 active-duty SEAL Teams, each made up of more than 200 men and women (SEALs and support and mission-enabling personnel), and each commanded by an 0-6 commander. Two additional SEAL Teams have been organized within the Naval Reserve Component.

SEALs have survived from the earliest days because of the hallmarks of success and operating tenets adopted by them through the actions and activities of their legacy brothers in NCDU, Scouts and Raiders, OSS Maritime, and Underwater Demolition Teams. SEALs are and will remain unique among all special operations forces, because it is they who are called upon when tasks need to be carried out clandestinely where there is a high security risk or if the task is a particularly difficult or delicate one, where operations involve working in small numbers under isolated, unsupported, and/or hostile conditions, and where the approach to the target is on or under the water.

The U.S. Navy’s Sea Change

President Theodore Roosevelt addresses sailors in 1909 on the battleship Connecticut, flagship of America's vaunted—yet already obsolete—Great White Fleet. (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

How the U.S. Navy reinvented itself—and its sailors—during a century of radical change in technology and warfare

Navies, at first sight, appear to be highly traditional, even reactionary, organizations. The 21st-century U.S. Navy retains uniforms, customs, rank structure, and language that would not be wholly unfamiliar to John Paul Jones. Yet today’s sailors have come a long way from those who served with Captain Jones. In 2010, for instance, the U.S. Navy created a new fleet—with no ships. The 10th Fleet is the Fleet Cyber Command, where sailors fight seated at a computer terminal rather than climb a mast to shorten sail. This is only the latest in a series of radical transformations—many of them inspired by British naval developments—that have reshaped the American sailor’s trade over the last hundred years. Indeed, beneath the rituals and regalia, the U.S. Navy has proven an extremely adaptive, fast-changing organization, recruiting, training, and integrating entirely new types of sea going fighters and specialists.

Three great waves of change have led to a reinvention of the American sailor’s job, education, training, and conditions of service. The first came in the first decade of the 20th century, which saw the debut clashes of modern steam and steel battleships in the Russo-Japanese War and the birth in Britain of a new type of super capital ship, the dreadnought. Dreadnoughts were 30 percent faster than conventional battleships, thanks to new turbine engines, and carried a uniform battery of only the largest caliber guns. Theoretically, they could sink any old-style battleship before it could get close enough to do any damage.

These new ships demanded a new type of sailor. The warships of the mighty British fleet during the days of Admiral Horatio Nelson were manned by a “conglomeration of merchant seamen, prisoners, landsmen and genuine sailors,” in the words of one British writer. But on dreadnoughts, almost three-quarters of the sailors required some sort of specialized training as in the case of torpedomen, armorers, and electricians—far more training than that required for sailors serving on existing battleships and cruisers, the non-dreadnoughts. “It is only the popular imagination that pictures a blue jacket as always heaving a rope or tossing an oar,” wrote a British journalist who was serving on a battle cruiser at the time. “A pair of pliers is more use to him than an oar he has much oftener a piece of paper than a rope in his grasp.”

The United States had long followed Britain’s lead in the growth and exercise of naval power, and now Josephus Daniels, President Woodrow Wilson’s secretary of the navy, took the lead in the transformation of American sailors into dreadnought-age warriors. Daniels had been a Progressive newspaper editor with no military background before joining Wilson’s administration. One journalist observed that he “entered the Navy Department with the profound suspicion that whatever an admiral told him was wrong and that every corporation with a capitalization of over $100,000 was inherently evil.”

The most basic problem facing the modernizers of both the British and American navies was simply finding men for their rapidly expanding fleets. The turn of the century was a time of peace, yet the size of both fleets and warships was growing. The “super-dreadnoughts” of 1912 were more than 30 percent larger than the battleships that had fought at the 1905 Battle of Tsushima and more than 20 percent larger than the original dreadnought.

Filling out the rosters of Royal Navy ships was made even more difficult by the fact that almost 10 percent of personnel left the service every year as enlistments expired. Moreover, while a battleship could often be built in three years or less, it took six years to qualify an ordinary seaman as a specialist in torpedoes and gunnery. Shortages of sailors meant the Royal Navy could keep only a portion of its ships in commission the readiness of reserve ships depended on the number and type of enlisted men allocated to them from the active fleet. Manpower considerations influenced many British naval policy decisions, including the distribution of the fleet, the choice of which ships to build, and the number of ships in commission.

For the U.S. Navy even more than for the Royal Navy, exponential growth in the size and number of ships created a critical need for additional men. In 1896, two years before the Spanish-American War, the total authorized strength of the American navy was 10,000 men, only 1,800 more than 10 years before. By the turn of the century it had increased to 20,000 men, and by the time President Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet began its voyage around the world in 1907, the U.S. Navy had almost 37,000 men. Just seven years later, it had over 51,000.

The “new” U.S. Navy of the Wilson era established an ambitious and comprehensive recruiting system to attract only men “from the best walks of life,” in Daniels’s words. It presented the 20th-century bluejacket not as a rakish adventurer with a girl in every port but as a sort of well-traveled, high-tech Boy Scout. “Only men of sound mind and clean life are acceptable,” Daniels wrote. “The Navy is no place of shiftless, purposeless men. No liquor is allowed aboard ships, no gambling, and profanity is a violation of the regulations.” Daniels told Congress: “We have changed the style of our recruiting literature. We burned a bushel of literature which showed young men going into tropical climates and associating with women half dressed [sic]. These posters promised if a man enlisted into the Navy or the Marine Corps he would have opportunities that appealed to the lowest….Instead, every piece of literature that now goes forth says that the young man who now comes into the Navy will have an opportunity to be educated.”

The navy found the high-quality recruits it was seeking. From 1905 to 1914 the U.S. Navy accepted only about one in four men who applied for enlistment. Then, as now, large numbers of the applicants were attracted by the possibility of foreign travel or the opportunity for technical training. Bored with civilian life, many (despite Daniels’s remonstrations) simply sought adventure, and the navy’s relatively stable and secure jobs held much allure during recessions or spells of unemployment.

Hand in hand with the need for more men came a demand for educated sailors. For example, when introduced on battleships in 1904, centralized fire control (the coordination in one spot of the computations and commands used to fire an entire ship’s weapons system) required teams of 20 to 50 to receive, record, and calculate range, course, and speed information and then convert the data for the big guns.

“I believe the time will shortly come when we will permit no man to serve in the Navy who has not had some little experience as a chauffeur or as a machinist or as a mechanic or as an electrician or has not begun to learn some of the trades and vocational occupations needed in the Navy,” Daniels told Congress in 1916.

Few were willing to raise the entry bar so high, but all agreed more formal education and technical training were necessary. By the first decade of the 20th century, all great navies had schools offering courses of up to a year for blacksmiths, engine room technicians, gunners, cooks, paymasters, and many other specialties. In 1906, the U.S. Navy had more than two dozen different specialists or “ratings” and nine specialized schools.

In 1916 Daniels declared that “every ship should be a school,” and issued a general order requiring two hours of instruction daily for sailors in all ships and stations. Many naval officers obliged to conduct the instruction were unenthusiastic, but the press praised Daniels’s commandment. Shipboard education, which quickly evolved into a system of correspondence courses, became a permanent feature of 20th-century navy life.

Getting and training the men was one thing keeping them in the service was another. Throughout the two decades before World War I, severe retention problems plagued the U.S. and British navies. More than a third of sailors in the Royal Navy left the service as soon as their enlistment was up. Desertions ran high. In 1901–1902, some 1,700 seamen and stokers were listed as having “run.” When Rear Admiral Prince Louis of Battenberg, a relative of the royal family and future First Sea Lord, visited the United States and Canada on a goodwill tour in 1905, 68 men from his flagship took the opportunity to jump ship.

Admiral Sir John Fisher, the First Sea Lord from 1904 to 1910 and one of the most controversial and outspoken officers in the Royal Navy, attempted to meet the problem through improved pay and better food. In a burst of generosity shortly before World War I, the British cabinet approved a substantial “separation” allowance for married sailors and an increase in basic pay of about 15 percent for sailors who had served more than six years.

Both Fisher and Winston Churchill, a powerful reformer himself as First Lord of the Admiralty from 1911 to 1915, also chipped away at the Royal Navy’s archaic and arbitrary system of justice. Corporal punishment with the birch was abolished and caning could be administered only on the captain’s orders.

Unlike the Royal Navy, the U.S. Navy did not systematically encourage long-term enlistments. In 1910 more than 74 percent of the total enlisted force had served less than four years—one enlistment period. A substantial number of men quit before their time was up. Between 1900 and 1908, the U.S. Navy lost an average of slightly more than 15 percent of its enlisted force each year to desertion.

Secretary of the Navy Daniels concentrated on improving service conditions to discourage desertion and encourage re enlistments. He reduced the cost of uniforms, improved the quality of ship stores, and reformed discipline so that sailors found guilty of serious infractions could be sent to disciplinary barracks and then returned to duty rather than sentenced to prison.

Daniels also encouraged the installation of laundries aboard ship. By 1914, many navy ships had electric ice cream makers, a development applauded by paymaster George P. Dyer, who believed that the navy’s “clear-eyed, intelligent American youths…know what clean living and good fare are, and they have the usual American notion of the festive nature of ice cream.” To enhance the appeal of the “join the Navy and see the world” slogan, Daniels encouraged fleets and squadrons to make frequent visits to foreign ports. Then he turned his attention to diversifying the officer corps.

Though a Naval Academy education was free and sons of poor families were sometimes appointed, Daniels feared that ambitious young men who lacked political connections would seldom get tapped. In 1914 Daniels won from Congress the power to appoint 15 enlisted men to the Naval Academy each year. By 1918 the number had grown to 100, and in 1919 the navy opened preparatory schools in Norfolk and San Diego to provide special coursework for promising bluejackets preparing to take the Naval Academy entrance exam.

Despite Daniels’s reforms of the path into the commissioned ranks, the reinvention of the sailor in the dreadnought era primarily affected the enlisted force. That was not the case in the next two major transformations—the explosive growth of naval aviation and the introduction of nuclear power.

The American and Japanese navies, which had largely been peripheral to the world naval power equation before World War I, took the lead in developing naval aviation after the war. The British Royal Navy, dependent on the newly formed Royal Air Force for planes and pilots after 1918, never developed a strong force of its own aviators and lagged behind in carrier development. During the 1920s and ’30s, the top leaders in the U.S. Navy, impressed by the performance of airplanes in World War I, came to believe aircraft would play an important role in the expected clash of the American and Japanese battleship fleets in a future Jutland.

Airplanes had also captured the imagination of the public. Since the early 1920s the flamboyant and outspoken U.S. Army aviator Brigadier General Billy Mitchell, an advocate of an independent air force, had taken full advantage of this public fascination to argue for the supremacy of air power in future wars.

Mitchell eventually went too far. He was court-martialed in 1925 for his outspoken criticism of the Navy and War Departments. But advocates of aviation within the navy benefited from his lobbying, even while they denounced his call for an independent air force. Soon after the court-martial, Congress passed legislation creating a new post of Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Aeronautics and mandating that all commanding officers of aircraft carriers and naval air stations be qualified as aviators. By the end of the 1920s, Rear Admiral William Moffett, the dynamic and politically savvy head of a new Bureau of Aeronautics within the navy, had secured Congressional authorization for a 1,000-plane naval air force.

Naval aviation soon proved to be a surprisingly labor-intensive activity. And the navy didn’t have the labor. In 1924 there were only about 300 qualified naval aviators in the service—this even though there were about 560 billets for aviation officers in the navy. Two large carriers under construction, the Lexington and the Saratoga, would require 175 additional pilots.

The Bureau of Navigation, which assigned officers to duty, did not help matters when it required aviators to rotate frequently to line duties to maintain their seagoing skills. The bureau asserted aviation duty was simply a specialty, like duty on submarines or destroyers.

By the beginning of the 1920s, the shortage of naval aviators was so acute that the Bureau of Aeronautics recommended that the Pacific Fleet be authorized to provide training to enlisted men. Though the measure was intended to be temporary, the aviator shortage necessitated its continuation. By 1930, 230 enlisted “naval aviation pilots” were on active duty.

In 1934, Congress authorized another increase in the number of aircraft in the fleet. Over the next five years, total planes would grow 100 percent, to 2,000. The Bureau of Aeronautics reluctantly proposed finding additional ensigns in the Naval Reserve for flight training. President Franklin Roosevelt and his budget director, eager to cut costs in the depths of the Great Depression, proposed instead a new category of flier, the “naval aviation cadet,” to be recruited directly from civilian life. After a year of training at Pensacola Naval Air Station, the reservists would serve three years with the fleet. As the navy expanded still further in the shadow of the 1938 Munich crisis and Japanese expansionism in Asia, Congress passed the Naval Aviation Reserve Act of 1939, providing for a total of 6,000 reserve pilots. After Pearl Harbor the navy received approval to train 30,000 navy and marine aviators a year in 17 newly established centers stretching from Florida to Texas.

Thanks to these new procurement programs, the early years in World War II saw more than two and a half times as many naval aviators as there were officers in all other line specialties. Few of the flight personnel were traditional naval officers. By late 1943 only about 226 of more than 11,000 new aviators were career personnel. For the first time in 20th-century naval history, a major, potentially decisive mode of warfare had been largely entrusted to a body of noncareer, short-service officers.

Most wartime aviators left the service at war’s end, but those who remained, mainly Annapolis men, came to dominate the high command of the U.S. Navy for three decades after World War II, until the third great transformation took hold with the advent of the nuclear-powered submarine.

During the early decades of the Cold War, the Soviet surface fleet did not pose a serious threat. Russia’s large submarine force was a different matter, and it was considered the key to any Soviet attack on Western Europe. As a result, strategists by the late 1950s began to focus on submarine-versus-submarine operations. And as the new era of undersea warfare dawned, the U.S. Navy acquired a revolutionary new type of submersible propelled by a nuclear power plant.

The first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus, was launched in 1954. Early U.S. nuclear submarines could top more than 20 knots when submerged, making them the fastest undersea boats in the world. Able to remain under water almost indefinitely and equipped with a new type of sonar that could detect an enemy at 30 miles, the nuclear sub could use its speed to maneuver for a favorable tactical position to track and destroy its foes. By the early 1960s the U.S. Navy had also acquired a key role in Washington’s long-term strategy of nuclear deterrence with the introduction of the Polaris, a long-range nuclear missile that could be launched from a submerged submarine. (It was not until 1968 that the Soviets acquired a submarine with the same capability.)

The advent of nuclear technology and missiles brought drastic changes. The submarine of the first half of the century had relied on the diesel engine, the wet-cell battery, and the steam torpedo various electronic devices, sonar, target computers, and radar had been added gradually. The new nuclear submarines were based on complex new principles and technologies derived from the outer edge of scientific knowledge.

The high priest and presiding genius of the new era was Admiral Hyman Rickover. A key figure in the development of the nuclear submarine and surface ship, Rickover derived much of his power from his unique status as both a naval officer and a civilian official. He was deputy commander for nuclear propulsion in Naval Ship Systems Command, a navy billet, and also the head of reactor development at the Atomic Energy Commission, where he reported to a civilian chairman. Rickover soon built virtually a navy within the navy. A great favorite of the media with many powerful admirers in the House and Senate, he presided over the nuclear empire for more than a quarter century—until 1972—in part because of his colorful and strict training regimen for those in nuclear service, called “nucs.” [See “The Rickover Treatment,” below.]

At the beginning of the 20th century, navies had wrestled with whether to integrate engineering specialists into the line and give them the prerogatives of command. The nucs settled the issue in favor of the engineers. Now only nuclear-qualified officers—that is, highly trained engineering specialists—could hope to command a nuclear submarine. The rest of the navy did not accept this without complaint, least of all the World War II–era submariners. “This to the submarine community was revolutionary, to have an ‘engineering duty–only’ officer sitting over there saying who could and could not command a submarine,” recalled Admiral Charles Duncan, who was Rickover’s liaison to the U.S. Bureau of Naval Personnel. “I just can’t describe how deeply they felt…to have a man [like Rickover] who’d never been in combat or in command saying who could have command of these submarines.”

As the number of nuclear-attack and ballistic-missile submarines increased and nuclear-powered cruisers and aircraft carriers joined the fleet, the need for nuclear-qualified officers and enlisted men soon outstripped the supply of volunteers.

“[The Polaris submarines] were coming off the ways,” recalled a former chief of the Bureau of Naval Personnel. “The president said it was the nation’s highest priority. So we put orders out on people who had not volunteered. The first time in modern history that a nonvolunteer had been sent to submarines….We got some right from destroyer school….People in class were called and told ‘you’re going into nuclear power.’ ”

While the navy could order men to serve in nuclear-powered ships, it could not order them to stay. As early as 1971, an article in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings referred to the personnel situation in the nuclear navy as a “crisis.” During the 1960s and 1970s almost two-thirds of nuclear-qualified officers left the service at their earliest opportunity.

Those who remained, however, came to flex considerable muscle in the leadership of the navy. Seven of the officers who had commanded the first 10 nuclear submarines became admirals, and by 1972, almost a quarter of the navy’s three-star vice admirals were nuclear qualified. By 1975 both the chief of naval operations, Admiral James L. Holloway, and the superintendent of the Naval Academy were nucs. In addition, when the deputy chief of Naval Operations for Submarines and the deputy chief of Naval Operations for Surface Warfare were established in 1971, submariners and surface-warfare officers achieved equal bureaucratic status with aviators—at least in principle.

The naval reformers and innovators, from Fisher and Daniels to Moffett and Rickover, who helped to transform the sailor’s profession superficially had little in common. One was a civilian and three were career naval officers. With the possible exception of Daniels, none was primarily focused on reinventing the sailor rather, each sought to meet the technological, operational, and strategic challenges posed by new modes of naval warfare.

In the same manner, the naval leaders of the cyber age probably do not see themselves as transformers. Yet judging from experience, the social and cultural implications of reinventing the sailor as seagoing cyber warrior are likely to be far reaching. Entry into the naval service—once defined by region, tradition, seagoing experience, class, and gender—has gradually widened to include many who had previously been marginalized or excluded. For example, just as the introduction of complex mechanical, optical, and communication devices caused navies—desperate to bolster their ranks—to recruit from formerly disdained urban populations and “tradesmen,” so the introduction of the airplane helped break down gender boundaries in the U.S. Navy. There were no women pilots until 1974, but as early 1943 the Bureau of Aeronautics was training 23,000 women sailors (Waves) as navigation trainers, gunnery instructors, ordnance repairers, metalsmiths, parachute riggers, and air traffic controllers. In February 2010 the U.S. Navy announced women would be eligible to serve aboard nuclear submarines—a development that may be the latest step in the modern navy’s seemingly endless process of reinvention.


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Nonprofit Cooperative
Incorporated: 1933 as Navy Department Employees' Credit Union of the District of Columbia
Employees: 3,000
Total Assets: $10 billion (1999)
NAIC: 52213 Credit Unions

Company Perspectives:

For more than 60 years, Navy Federal has been tailoring a customized assortment of services to the lifestyle of the men and women of the US Navy and Marine Corps and members of their families.
Driving that service is a commitment to our vision, which states:
Navy Federal Credit Union will perform with such excellence that all present and potential members will choose Navy Federal Credit Union as the preferred source for their primary lifetime financial services.
Over the years we have become the world's largest credit union, offering an extensive array of exceptional products geared to meet the specific needs of our membership. We currently have more than 1.6 million members and over $10.0 billion in assets.

Key Dates:

1933: Unionized Navy Department employees incorporate their own small thrift.
1936: Navy Department Credit Union (NDCU) pays its first dividend of three percent.
1947: NDCU rechartered as a federal credit union and extends membership to all Washington area naval personnel.
1951: Professionalization of thrift begins with appointment of the first office manager.
1954: Beginning with officers, membership offered to all US Navy employees worldwide.
1962: Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) becomes the world's largest credit union.
1969: Membership tops 100,000.
1977: NFCU relocates to massive new headquarters building in Vienna, Virginia.
1999: Assets top $11 billion.

Navy Federal Credit Union has been the world's largest credit union since the early 1960s. With assets of more than $11 billion, it is a financial powerhouse that serves nearly two million members and symbolizes the growth of the thrift industry in the United States. Once a source of emergency savings for those unable to find credit elsewhere, Navy Federal has come to offer car loans and home mortgages, placing it in direct competition with commercial banks resentful of credit unions' privileges as nonprofit institutions.

The early 1930s were not prime years for banking. Yet, from the midst of the Great Depression grew what would become the largest credit union in the world. An informal emergency pool put together by employees of the Navy Department in Washington, D.C., led to the incorporation on January 17, 1933 of the Navy Department Employees' Credit Union of the District of Columbia (NDCU). Its 'working title' was equally cumbersome: Navy Department Branch of F.E.U. No. 2, Credit Union of the District of Columbia. Membership in the Federal Employees' Union (FEU) was the 'common bond' requirement for the credit union, which by law was limited to serving a specific group of persons with a united interest. Ten thousand shares were offered at $10 each. The membership fee was 25 cents. Loans were limited to $25 each, at a maximum interest rate of one percent a month. William L. Harrison, president of the Navy Department Branch of the FEU, presided at the first NDCU meetings. The only office space the credit union could obtain at the Navy Department building was a desk next to the lobby, after hours.

The credit union concept itself was just then maturing. Washington, D.C., had only passed legislation allowing them in June 1932, against the protests of traditional bankers. NDCU started operations in February and had to shut down for the 'banking holiday' Roosevelt declared the next month to stop panicking investors from closing their accounts en masse. In spite of the obstacles, membership crept upwards and so did the demand for loans. At the end of 1933, it had 49 members and 18 borrowers. Assets were $450. The next year, the thrift had 250 members and about $2,700 in assets. It paid its first dividend in 1936--three percent, which rose to six percent by 1940, when assets reached $80,000. By the next year, it had attracted nearly a thousand members.

Although NDCU had finally gained some credibility and the accompanying perquisites--its own office, money to hire personnel, and promotional support--World War II changed the playing field substantially. Congress introduced legislation (Regulation W) to curb access to consumer credit. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act--which prevented creditors from executing judgments during wartime--and conscription combined to give the credit union a serious collections problem. Federal examiners criticized the institution for excessively lenient lending policies which led to massive writeoffs in 1943. Dividends were subsequently suspended, and membership began to wane.

The thrift was rechartered under more flexible federal rules in June 1947. Paul Boyer, formerly treasurer, became president. Now the Navy Department Employees Federal Credit Union (NDEFCU), its potential membership expanded to include military and civilian Navy personnel in the Washington area. Robust growth in assets and membership followed the reorganization. This growth, however, soon led to another delinquency crisis.

The board named William A. Hussong, Jr., as the credit union's first office manager in October 1951. This marked the beginning of the professionalization of the thrift. Hussong, who had helped start the Railway Employees Federal Credit Union, at first found himself in a tug-of-war with the board, who were reluctant to share power. They ultimately relented when faced with rising delinquencies and possibility of federal censure for lax bookkeeping. Fifteen percent of the bank's loans were delinquent in 1952.

Although NDEFCU introduced improvements such as a keysort card system and mail-in payment coupons, membership fell with the Korean War and the bank's inability to maintain decent dividends. Against this backdrop, in 1954 the credit union decided to extend membership beyond Washington, to all Navy employees worldwide. Payroll deductions would make this plan workable. Officers, deemed more stable and creditworthy, were the first to become eligible. The thrift changed its name to the Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU), and the next year, moved its expanded operations into the Navy's 'N' Building.

NFCU increased its range of services as membership, savings, and loans swelled in the last half of the decade. The membership pool now included naval aviation cadets and noncommissioned officers, and most members lived outside the Washington area. NFCU ended the decade with $10 million in assets and 23,000 members. The credit union was reorganized, and salaries and benefits brought in line with those of military employees. Most of the membership was made up of military employees by this time, and one by one high-ranking military officers began to be picked for the board of directors. After Hussong's replacement Tom Landers stepped down to enter a consulting career, in 1963 the board chose Richard Cobb, a retired Navy captain, as the next manager. Formerly head of the Navy's Procurement Policy Division, he would remain at NFCU for nearly 20 years.

As expansion and new accounting requirements multiplied NFCU's administrative workload, Hussong pushed for an investment in a new computer system. In 1960, the board fired the autocratic but influential Hussong, ostensibly over the controversy surrounding the new computer. After months of frustrating tests, the board finally settled on an IBM 1401 (with 4K of memory) in 1962. NFCU had become the world's largest credit union by this time, propelled largely by new car loans, which in a few years had come to represent a majority of its business. NFCU's headquarters were moved to Building 143 in the Navy Yard Annex in 1964, the same year enlisted personnel were offered membership privileges.

A series of mergers with other credit unions at Navy bases began in 1967 with the Washington Navy Yard Federal Credit Union. Some smaller credit unions, championed by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and a few politicians, protested against NFCU's growing dominance. At the same time, the thrift industry was under attack from commercial banks, resentful of their tax-exempt status. At the end of the 1960s, NFCU boasted more than 100,000 members and assets of $120 million.

New Rules in the 1970s and 1980s

The 1970s saw wildly cyclical supplies of capital and competition for savings accounts. A staff of hundreds at NFCU serviced about 20 locations each at home and abroad, including on board the USS Little Rock. The variety of services proliferated as well. Cobb was named to a position on the board, treasurer, in the early 1970s. Cementing the role of Navy officers on the board, Vice Admiral Vincent A. Lascara served as chairman for most of the 1970s.

NFCU moved to an impressive, spacious new headquarters in Vienna, Virginia, in 1977. A new mainframe computer system was installed to handle the records of 450,000 members. Soon after the move, new legislation allowed credit unions to begin offering mortgage loans. However, as the differences between commercial banks and thrifts became harder to distinguish, the latter found themselves subject to more banking regulations, while banks were freed to pay more competitive rates on savings. NFCU also had to contend with newly liberal bankruptcy laws of the time. To help influence the regulatory climate, NFCU rejoined CUNA, the leading thrift industry trade group, in the late 1970s.

Cobb stepped down as manager in August 1980, to be replaced by Rear Admiral Joe G. Schoggen, who had joined NFCU after serving in the Navy's Resale Systems unit. NFCU ended the year with assets of $866 million. Credit unions received their long desired deregulation in 1982. Some consolidation in the industry followed as NFCU's membership continued to grow, reaching 692,000 in 1985. NFCU's assets approached $2 billion, up from $1.6 billion in 1984. Tom Hughes became president and CEO of NFCU in 1988, as savings and loans institutions began venturing onto the turf of credit unions by offering consumer loans.

NFCU ended 1990 with $4.6 billion in assets, and passed $8 billion in the mid-1990s. It operated 56 domestic branches and 26 overseas. The thrift dropped out of CUNA again after the trade group sued the federal government over a regulation (ending shared management between corporate credit unions and trade groups). The Navy practice of loaning cash to its branches in Spain and Italy prompted an outcry over lending public money to a private institution. NFCU also operated about 200 automated teller machines (ATMs)--all of them without a surcharge. It supported the Department of Defense's efforts to ban surcharges at all ATMs on military installations.

Hughes retired in 1996, leaving command to Brian McDonnell, a 26-year NFCU veteran. NFCU spent $60 million to expand its headquarters as membership continued to grow. It approached two million in the late 1990s as assets topped $11 billion. Mortgage and equity loans doubled to $3 billion between 1997 and 1998.

At the end of the century, NFCU's extensive Y2K compliance measures caught the attention of CNN. It had begun preparing in 1991 to accommodate substandard communications infrastructure in the countries where it did business. Its solutions incorporated redundant lines of communication, including cellular telephones, to keep in touch with its many far-flung branches.

Principal Competitors: Citigroup Wachovia Corporation Bank of America.

Arndorfer, James B., 'Navy Federal Threatens to Quit CUNA Unless It Drops Challenge of New Rule,' American Banker, March 20, 1995.
Cope, Debra, Robert M. Garsson, and Linda Corman, 'Choppy Water for Credit Union Admiral,' American Banker, October 15, 1990, p. 10.
Donovan, Sharon, 'Management Profile: Rear Admiral Joe G. Schoggen,' Credit Union Management, September 1985, pp. 6ff.
Gentile, Paul, 'Navy Federal Credit Union Featured on CNN Y2K Report,' Credit Union Times, http://www.cutimes.com/y2k/1999/yr08119-4.html.
Gilpatrick, Kristin, 'Worldwide Ready,' Credit Union Management, August 1999, p. 14.
Glassman, Harvey, 'Navy Federal Again Tops Credit Unions Leads Nation in Assets, Deposits, Share Accounts,' American Banker, May 26, 1982, p. 1.
Martin, Kenneth R., Home Port: A History of the Navy Federal Credit Union, Bryn Mawr, Pa.: Dorrance & Co., 1983.
Mazzolini, Joan M., 'As Credit Unions Grow, Competition Heats Up with Banks, S & Ls,' American Banker, January 21, 1988, pp. 16ff.
McAllister, Bill, 'Navy Told to End Cash Advances to Four Overseas Credit Unions,' Washington Post, February 5, 1996, p. F8.
McDonnell, Brian, 'Defense CUs Are Helping Members Use Credit Wisely,' Credit Union Magazine, July 1998, pp. 14-16.
Molvig, Dianne, 'Envisioning Leadership,' Credit Union Management, April 1996, p. 14.
'Navy Federal Keeps Delinquencies Low,' National Mortgage News, August 23, 1999, p. 28.
Nelson, Jane Fant, 'Credit Unions in Transition,' United States Banker, May 1984, p. 55&plus.
O'Brien, Jeanne, 'Navy Federal Credit Union Keeps Ship-Shape with Enterprise View,' Bank Systems & Technology, January 1999, p. 52.
Patterson, Maureen, 'Operating Efficiently,' Buildings, May 1999, pp. 70-74.
Schwartz, Susana, 'Navy Federal Moves to Client/Server System,' Bank Systems & Technology, May 1999, p. 57.
Slater, Robert Bruce, 'Banks' Credit Union Crusade,' Bankers Monthly, December 1992, p. 13.
Young, Renee, 'Anchors Aweigh,' Building Design & Construction, June 1998, pp. 96-100.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories , Vol. 33. St. James Press, 2000.

How the Navy boosted agility.

So how did the Navy increase organizational pivot speed and agility in the space of a few years? Geurts used what he calls the 4 D’s.

Massively decentralize. “Over time bureaucracies can overvalue bringing everything up to the top. So we want to decentralize to the lowest capable level,” says Geurts. “I’ll underline the word capable because you don’t want chaos. But you push down to the lowest capable level and that allows you to discern the present level of expertise, so you can operate in parallel.” Next, you take the level of expertise even lower in the organization over time, so that agile decisions can occur in real-time.

Differentiate the work. “Big bureaucracies like to pick one way to do everything. And that’s not effective on a large scale,” says Geurts. “You’ve got to differentiate what you want to experiment with and how you experiment. Then we figure out where we don’t experiment because we can’t afford to fail.”

By differentiating the work and clarifying where there is room to do things differently, Geurts wants to “inspire and empower folks to lead, and give them lots of tools to pick from,” while still holding them “accountable on their ability to pick the right tool for the job.”

Maximize the power of the digit. What Geurts calls the ‘power of the digit’ means optimizing the use of digital technologies. “We need to get people out of the work so they can get back to thinking.”

Develop talent. Geurts lists this fourth because he believes it is the most important of his four D’s. He gives his people “sets and reps in how to be adaptable.” Here are a few examples:

  1. Because in the military people don’t like to fail, Geurts requires “all of my senior leaders have to have an activity that has at least a 50% chance of failing. And I’m going to judge you on your ability to figure out which things belong in the category where we can take some risk.” His stated purpose is not failure, but to drive learning.
  2. Geurts deliberately shook up the leadership team. “I moved all of our senior leaders in an organization simultaneously with a couple of days' notice. We had talked about how we wanted a fluid workforce, but all the senior leaders had been in the same job for six years.”
  3. Geurts believes in a culture of psychological safety and focuses on using non-confrontational communication. “People need to know that reaching out for help is a sign of strength. That’s always been a challenge in the military which prides itself on strength, but it’s amazing how teams can perform when they feel that sense of psychological safety,” Guerts explains. He believes his team needs to know that theirs are there for them. One way he communicates this comes via tries to daily LinkedIn posts about music. Guerts makes himself knowable by reflecting on a song he enjoys with an inspirational leadership message or a story of a time he failed. Friday’s message was “Be a first-rate version of yourself and not a second-rate version of someone else,” based on the song ‘Got To Get Over It’ by The Bamboos.
  4. Geurts emphasizes that innovation cannot happen without other people. Innovation requires that “people know they are respected for who they are, and are working together instead of competing against each other.” As he learned during his years in the special forces, he encourages his team to invest in relationships before they need them.

Navy Core Values

Throughout its history, the Navy has successfully met all its challenges. America's naval service began during the American Revolution, when on Oct. 13, 1775, the Continental Congress authorized a few small ships. Creating the Continental Navy. Esek Hopkins was appointed commander in chief and 22 officers were commissioned, including John Paul Jones.

From those early days of naval service, certain bedrock principles or core values have carried on to today. They consist of three basic principles.

HONOR : I will bear true faith and allegiance . Accordingly, we will: Conduct ourselves in the highest ethical manner in all relationships with peers, superiors and subordinates Be honest and truthful in our dealings with each other, and with those outside the Navy Be willing to make honest recommendations and accept those of junior personnel Encourage new ideas and deliver the bad news, even when it is unpopular Abide by an uncompromising code of integrity, taking responsibility for our actions and keeping our word Fulfill or exceed our legal and ethical responsibilities in our public and personal lives twenty-four hours a day. Illegal or improper behavior or even the appearance of such behavior will not be tolerated. We are accountable for our professional and personal behavior. We will be mindful of the privilege to serve our fellow Americans.

COMMITMENT : I will obey the orders . Accordingly, we will: Demand respect up and down the chain of command Care for the safety, professional, personal and spiritual well-being of our people Show respect toward all people without regard to race, religion, or gender Treat each individual with human dignity Be committed to positive change and constant improvement Exhibit the highest degree of moral character, technical excellence, quality and competence in what we have been trained to do. The day-to-day duty of every Navy man and woman is to work together as a team to improve the quality of our work, our people and ourselves.

COURAGE : I will support and defend.. Accordingly, we will have: courage to meet the demands of our profession and the mission when it is hazardous, demanding, or otherwise difficult Make decisions in the best interest of the navy and the nation, without regard to personal consequences Meet these challenges while adhering to a higher standard of personal conduct and decency Be loyal to our nation, ensuring the resources entrusted to us are used in an honest, careful, and efficient way. Courage is the value that gives us the moral and mental strength to do what is right, even in the face of personal or professional adversity.

Watch the video: The United States Navy: 1775 - 1914 - A History of Heroes (May 2022).