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War of Independence: History of the United States Navy


Short Documentary: This animated U.S. Navy film tells the story of the first naval forces of the United States, during the American Revolution. Source: Naval History and Heritage Command, Photographic Section, UMO-41.

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Detail from Washington and his Generals at Yorktown (c. 1781) by Charles Willson PealeLafayette (far left) is at Washington’s right, the Comte de Rochambeau to his immediate left.

The military history of the United States spans a period of over two centuries. During those years, the United States evolved from a new nation fighting the British Empire for independence without a professional military (1775–1783), through a monumental American Civil War (1861–65) to the world’s sole remaining superpower of the late 20th century and early 21st century.


Main articles: Military of the United States and Military budget in the United States

U.S. military personnel and expenditures, 1790–2006. Personnel is shown in orange (left axis); expenditures are in teal (right axis). The two axes are scaled to visually align for World War II, thus showing the difference between the cost per soldier before and after President Dwight D. Eisenhower‘s “New Look” policy of the mid 1950’s.

The Continental Congress in 1775 created the Continental Army and named General George Washington its commander. This newly formed army, along with state militia forces, and the French army and navy, defeated the British in 1781. The new Constitution in 1789 made the president the commander in chief, with authority for the Congress to levy taxes, and make the rules.

As of 2012, the U.S. military consists of an ArmyNavyAir Force and Marine Corps under the command of the United States Department of Defense. There also is the United States Coast Guard, which is controlled by the Department of Homeland Security.

The President of the United States is the commander in chief, and exercises the authority through the Secretary of Defense and theChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which supervises combat operations. In addition, each state has a national guard commanded by the state’s governor and coordinated by the National Guard Bureau. The President of the United States has the authority during national emergencies to assume control of individual state National Guard units.

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