United States Navy

United States Navy

Today’s United States Navy is part of the Defense Department. As the largest government agency in the United States, the Defense Department has a budget bigger than that of most nations. It has in its employ more than 4 million persons, many of whom are civilians.


Until 1947 the Navy was a separate branch of the government. The National Security Act of 1947 created the Department of Defense, headed by a civilian Cabinet officer, the secretary of defense.

Under the Defense Department the Department of the Navy has three major responsibilities: its administration in Washington, D.C.; its forces at sea; and its land installations. The department is headed by a civilian

secretary of the Navy. This has not been a Cabinet position since the reorganization act of 1947. The secretary is assisted by one undersecretary of the Navy and three assistant secretaries, each of whom has specific responsibilities. One is in charge of financial management; another, of manpower, reserves, and logistics; and the third, of research, engineering, and systems.

Forces at sea

To support its forces at sea the Navy has more than 1,350 shore and field installations. These include naval district headquarters, air facilities and stations, reserve training units, ammunition depots, communications stations, fleet intelligence centers, fuel depots, hospitals, laboratories, medical centers, recruiting stations, shipyards, schools, and supply centers. Many of these are located along coasts where they can most directly serve the forces at sea.

For purposes of administration the United States and its overseas territories have been divided into seven naval districts. Each district is headed by a commandant, who supervises and coordinates the naval activities within the district.

In the 1980s the Navy’s forces were distributed among four fleets around the world. The Sixth Fleet operates primarily in the Mediterranean Sea. The ships of the Second Fleet range the Atlantic Ocean and into the Indian Ocean.

Historical Battles

The battles described here were in most respects far more decisive than others in their influence on subsequent events.


(260 bc), fought off the northeastern coast of Sicily, was the first of three sea battles in which the Romans defeated the naval power of Carthage


(Oct. 7, 1571) was the last great battle between galleys. More significantly, however, it ended the naval power of the Ottoman Empire in the Mediterranean.


(Oct. 21, 1805) was the battle in which a British fleet under Adm. Horatio Nelson defeated a French fleet under Adm.


(May 31–June 1, 1916) was the only major encounter between the British and German fleets during World War I.


(June 3–6, 1942) was fought almost entirely by aircraft near the Midway Islands about 1,300 miles northwest of Honolulu. The American forces destroyed Japan’s first-line carrier strength and most of its best pilots.

Leyte Gulf

(Oct. 23–26, 1944), fought in the Philippines, was the decisive air and sea battle of the Pacific during World War II. It was also the greatest naval battle ever fought. A total of 244 ships were involved.