Skip to main content
Select Source:

Navy Combat Branches

Navy Combat Branches Surface ForcesSubmarine ForcesNaval Air Forces
Navy Combat Branches: Surface Forces Until the twentieth century, surface warfare was naturally the focus of the U.S. Navy. The navy's force structure was built around major surface warships: the frigates of the 1794 program, the ships of the line after the War of 1812, the monitors of the Civil War era, and, beginning in the 1880s, the cruisers and the battleships. Missions for these naval vessels included commerce raiding, trade protection, coast defense, and sea control. In the 1890s, a smaller type, the destroyer, emerged to shield larger vessels from enemy torpedo boats; it soon undertook myriad other tasks.

Following the turn of the century, radical technological advances embodied in the aircraft and submarine began to challenge the primacy of the surface combatant. Although the navy incorporated both innovations into its fleet structure by the end of World War I, the battleship remained the “backbone of the fleet.” For able officers, the swiftest path to advancement remained duty aboard large surface warships. Top midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy took seriously the aphorism, “Get behind the big guns and stay there.”

World War II overturned this long‐standing system. The successes of submarine forces, while serious enough, paled in comparison with the rising challenge of the aircraft, whether sea‐ or land‐based. The navy's building programs, initially centered around the battleship and cruiser, were redirected in mid‐course to emphasize aircraft carriers. Although surface warships still proved quite useful, both in sea control and in a variety of subsidiary roles, the carrier by 1944 was unquestionably the single most important type of combatant. Many ambitious junior officers of the surface line put in for flight training.

The drawdown following V‐J Day reflected these changing priorities, with most of the battleships and cruisers going to the breakers or into “mothball” storage; destroyers remained operational in substantial numbers, principally for their utility in the antisubmarine mission. For the next decades, the carrier ruled supreme within the navy, although the Korean War showed again the indispensability of surface warships for shore bombardment and blockade work. Surface warriors also found a champion in Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) from 1955 to 1961. Burke, a former destroyer officer, advanced an ambitious program to update the surface navy by a large building program of new ships equipped variously with antiaircraft missiles for the defense of carriers, with helicopters for anti‐submarine work, and with nuclear powerplants for propulsion.

Despite these gains, the 1960s dealt harshly with the surface navy. Early troubles with this costly new technology rendered the new combatants of questionable worth; at the same time, Vietnam deployments wore out older warships and deprived the fleet of funding for replacements. More ominous, the lethality of Soviet antiship missile, as demonstrated by proxy in the 1967 six‐day Arab‐Israeli conflict, threatened—as had torpedoes and the aircraft in earlier decades—the very survival of surface warships.

In 1970, another surface warfare officer, Elmo Zumwalt, Jr., became CNO. Zumwalt began or accelerated a number of initiatives: innovative warships propelled by gas turbine engines; the Harpoon and Tomahawk missiles to give cruisers and destroyers extended reach against sea and shore targets; and advanced air defense capabilities (such as the Standard air defense missile, the Phalanx point‐defense gun, and the computerized Aegis weapons control system).

Mirroring the renaissance of surface warfare in the 1970s was the creation of a distinctive branch insignia and an organizational restructuring within the Navy Department to give surface forces an institutional voice equal to those of the aviation and submarine branches. Additionally, the navy's mine, amphibious, and service elements were fused with the cruiser/destroyer/frigate forces; the establishment of the Surface Warfare Officer School at Newport, Rhode Island, enhanced professionalism.

The surface navy continued to prosper during the Reagan and Bush years. Returned to active duty were the four Iowa‐class battleships armed with cruise missiles. New cruisers and destroyers of the Yorktown‐ and Arleigh Burke‐classes went to sea equipped with the Aegis system. During the Persian Gulf War, surface warships demonstrated their versatility by conducting long‐range missile strikes, shore bombardment, and blockade duties. In 1999, the surface navy launched missiles from the Adriatic Sea as part of NATO measures against Yugoslavia during the Kosovo Crisis.

At the close of the century, surface warfare, lost for much of the century in the shadows of the air and subsurface specialties, had been rejuvenated. With the navy's new emphasis on littoral warfare, surface warships promise to remain an essential and viable component for the foreseeable future. Thus, the oldest branch of the navy has learned to cope with a host of threats; its motto, “Up, Out, and Down,” succinctly describes the capabilities that surface forces continue to offer the nation.

Bibliography

Vincent Davis , The Admirals Lobby, 1967.
Norman Friedman , The Postwar Naval Revolution, 1986.
Frederick H. Hartmann , Naval Renaissance: The U.S. Navy in the 1980s, 1990.
George W. Bear , One Hundred Years of Sea Power: The U.S. Navy, 1890–1990, 1993.
Malcolm Muir, Jr. , Black Shoes and Blue Water: Surface Warfare in the United States Navy, 1945–1975, 1996.

Malcolm Muir, Jr.

Navy Combat Branches: Submarine Forces The modern U.S. Navy's first submarine, named in honor of its designer, the Irish‐American inventor John P. Holland, was commissioned on 12 October 1900. The 54‐foot Holland and the succeeding thirty‐one submarines completed through early 1915 were capable of carrying only a handful of torpedoes, had limited endurance on the surface (and even less when running submerged on their batteries), and were considered fit only for harbor defense duties. They played little part in the doctrine or strategy of a U.S. Navy focused on the great power theories of Alfred T. Mahan. Most of the tiny, dangerous submarines, under the command of junior officers, were exiled to the Philippines and Panama.

Of the twenty‐three U.S. Navy submarines sent to European waters during World War I, none had the opportunity to attack an enemy vessel. The war ended with a large number of still primitive submarines under construction, and their sheer numbers meant that few new submarines would be built in the 1920s—an era of treaty‐mandated force reductions and in a climate where submarine attacks, especially against merchant ships, were unpalatable. Nonetheless, the U.S. Navy studied German submarine designs and attempted to adapt the superior German diesel engines to a series of unsuccessful large experimental “boats” that were intended to act in concert with the battle fleet.

Unreliable diesel engines remained a problem until the late 1930s, when railroad diesel engine designs were adapted to submarine propulsion, providing the reliability and endurance that later allowed submarines operating from Hawaii, Australia, and the Aleutians to stay for extended periods in Japanese home waters. Problems with torpedo exploders, however, took longer to be recognized and corrected, and it was not until well into 1943 that submariners could expect their weapons to detonate reliably.

The trial‐and‐error experiences of the first four decades of submarine operations nonetheless paid off handsomely in the war against Japan: for a loss of 52 submarines (and 3,506 personnel), U.S. Navy submarines sank a confirmed 1,314 Japanese ships totaling some 5.3 million tons; among these were 1 battleship, 8 aircraft carriers, and 11 cruisers. In the Atlantic, however, only 113 war patrols were made, and no enemy ships were sunk or damaged.

The Cold War era initially saw innovative attempts to adapt German concepts such as the snorkel (which permitted submerged operations on the diesels while charging the batteries); improved hull forms; and better batteries, sensors, and homing torpedoes to the large numbers of “fleet boat” submarines left over from wartime construction. The growing Soviet submarine force became the prime prospective target of its U.S. counterpart, and operations against surface targets gradually became secondary.

Diesel‐electric submarines, however, were still limited in submerged endurance, and when running on their diesels were subject to detection by increasingly sophisticated anti‐submarine sensors. The solution, forcefully advocated by Hyman Rickover, was the development of nuclear power for submarines, giving endurance limited only by the submarine's food supplies (oxygen could be regenerated by the electrical power available from the nuclear reactors) and sustained speeds rivaling those of the fastest surface ships. Rickover's creation, the USS Nautilus (SSBN 571) was commissioned on 30 September 1954, and some 195 additional nuclear‐powered submarines have since been ordered. The last diesel combatant submarine was retired in 1990.

Experiments with adaptations of the German V‐1 cruise missile led to the deployment of a limited number of Regulus‐I strategic missiles on navy submarines in the late 1950s, but it was the synthesis of the nuclear‐powered submarine and the submerged‐launched Polaris ballistic missile that gave the submarine force an entirely new strategic mission as one leg of the nation's nuclear deterrence triad; USS George Washington (SSBN 598) completed the first Polaris missile patrol on 21 January 1961. Later, the longer‐ranged Poseidon replaced Polaris, and USS Ohio (SSBN 726) completed the first multiwarhead Trident missile patrol on 10 December 1982.

The submarine force at the turn of the century faces fiscal constraints and a crisis of vision. The vastly increased costs of building, operating, and maintaining nuclear‐powered submarines, balanced against the drastic reduction in the Russian submarine fleet, have inspired the U.S. submarine “community” to investigate new missions and capabilities for its smaller fleet of the future.
[See also Cold War: External Course; Submarines.]

Bibliography

Clay Blair, Jr. , Silent Victory, 1974.
Francis Duncan , Rickover and the Nuclear Navy, 1989.
Steve and Yogi Kaufman , Sharks of Steel, 1993.
Norman Friedman , U.S. Submarines Since 1945, 1994.
Theodore Rockwell , The Rickover Effect, 1994.
Norman Friedman , U.S. Submarines Through 1945, 1995.

Arthur D. Baker III

Navy Combat Branches: Naval Air Forces Naval aviation has been an integral component of the U.S. Navy's administrative and operational structure because the fleet's aircraft have been long‐range extensions of the traditional naval gun and scouting ship. Eventually, the navy's air forces dominated policy, strategy, and force structures as they extended their direct influence throughout the service—personnel, training, ordnance, logistics, shipbuilding and maintenance, medicine, navigation, submarine warfare, and the Marine Corps. This ascendancy generated stresses within the U.S. Navy—and controversy with the army's air forces and later the U.S. Air Force—over strategic roles and missions and the competition for funding.

Initially, in 1910–16, a director of aviation activities, a captain, supervised the few dozen navy planes and pilots until America's entry into World War I. The need to patrol the coastal waters of Europe and North America against Germany's U‐boats and to bomb their bases led to a strengthened directorship in 1917. The director wielded immense authority over naval aviation's wartime expansion to 2,107 aircraft; 15 dirigibles; 205 kite and free balloons; 6,998 officers, mostly pilots; 32,882 enlisted men, some pilots; 31 air stations in Europe and 24 in the United States. The navy's aviation proved so essential to victory that postwar personnel strength was set at 500 officers and 5,000 enlisted men. Patrol seaplanes and dirigibles were employed in reconnaissance roles; land‐based planes assigned to battleships to scout and spot gunfire; and an experimental aircraft carrier commissioned. Major recognition came with the creation of the Bureau of Aeronautics, headed by a rear admiral, in 1921.

Under the inspired leadership of the first chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, Adm. William A. Moffett (1921–33), the navy's air forces were integrated into fleet operations in anticipation of war with Japan. The two major aviation components became the carriers and land‐based and amphibian patrol‐bombers. Depression‐era budgetary constraints did not deter Moffett and his successors from forging a qualitatively advanced naval air force centered on seven aircraft carriers and five patrol wings during the interwar period. A civilian assistant secretary of the navy for aeronautics facilitated progress in 1926–32, and again after 1941.

The immense expansion of fleet aviation for World War II was brilliantly managed by Adm. John H. Towers (chief of bureau, 1939–42). It attained an eventual strength of over 36 attack carriers, 84 escort carriers, dozens of seaplane tenders, numerous training bases and air stations; 40,912 aircraft, 139 blimps, and 27 helicopters; 60,095 pilots (navy and Marine), 33,044 nonflying officers, and 337,718 nonflying enlisted sailors. Such growth led in 1943 to the new post of deputy chief of naval operations (Air), held by a vice admiral. The primary role of naval aviation in the destruction of Japan's Imperial Fleet and Germany's U‐boats established it at the center of the postwar navy.

During and after the Cold War, aviators occupied the post of chief of naval operations (CNO) and were commanders or deputy commanders of the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. The deputy CNO (Air Warfare, after 1971) remained the highest aviation billet. At the technical and logistical level, the Bureau of Aeronautics merged with the Bureau of Ordnance to become the Bureau of Weapons in 1959; its chief was a naval aviator. Simultaneously, the office of assistant secretary (Air) was discontinued. In the Navy Department reorganization of 1966, the Naval Air Systems Command superseded the Bureau of Weapons. With the aircraft carrier as the focus of its strategy, the Cold War navy countered the Soviet navy and projected its power over land and sea during limited wars and confrontations in Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East. Attack carrier strength varied between twelve and fifteen, augmented by land‐based patrol planes and antisubmarine and helicopter carriers. The 1980 overall naval‐Marine aviation personnel strength was typical for the post–Vietnam period: 160,675, of whom 12,774 were pilots. The navy's air forces have remained a major component of the nation's global peacekeeping forces since the end of the Cold War.
[See also Air Warfare; Tactics: Air Warfare Tactics.]

Bibliography

Archibald D. Turnbull and and Clifford L. Lord , History of United States Naval Aviation, 1949.
Robert Sherrod , U.S. Marine Corps Aviation in World War II, 1952.
George van Deurs , Wings of the Fleet: A Narrative of Naval Aviation's Early Development, 1910–1916, 1966.
Gordon Swanborough and and Peter M. Bowers , United States Naval Aircraft Since 1911, 1968; 3rd ed. 1990.
Clark G. Reynolds , Admiral John H. Towers: The Struggle for Naval Air Supremacy, 1991.
E. T. Wooldridge, ed., Into the Jet Age: Conflict and Change in Naval Aviation, 1945–1975, 1995.

Clark G. Reynolds

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Navy Combat Branches." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Navy Combat Branches." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/navy-combat-branches

"Navy Combat Branches." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/navy-combat-branches

Townesend, William

Townesend, William (1676–1739). English master-mason and architect who worked in Oxford. He probably designed, and certainly built, the Fellows' Building and Cloister (1706–12) and the Gentleman Commoners' Building (1737), Corpus Christi College, and was the contractor (1706–14) for Peckwater Quadrangle, Christ Church, erected to Aldrich's designs, the first palace-fronted English Palladian composition of C18. He built (under Dr Clarke's supervision) the front quadrangle, hall, and chapel (1710–21), as well as the entrance-screen with cupola (1733–6), modifying Hawks-moor's designs in the process, at Queen's College. Other buildings erected by him to designs by others include the north-east block of the Garden Quadrangle, New College (1707), Hawksmoor's Clarendon Building (1712–15), the Bristol Buildings, Balliol College (1716–20), Hawksmoor's North Quadrangle, Hall, Buttery, and Codrington Library, All Souls College (1716–35), and (again under Dr Clarke's direction) the Radcliffe Quadrangle, University College (1717–19). He designed and built the Robinson Buildings, Oriel College (1719–20), and arrived at the final design for New Buildings, Magdalen College (built 1733–4). He carried out many works at Blenheim Palace, Oxon., including the Woodstock Gate (1722–3), and the Column of Victory (1727–30), and built Christ Church Library, Oxford, to Dr Clarke's designs (1717–38). In short, he had a hand in the building of almost every important work of architecture erected in Oxford between 1720 and 1740. He was also a sculptor and made several funerary monuments, including that to his father, John Townesend (1648–1728), Mayor of Oxford (1682–3 and 1720–1) also a master-mason, in St Giles's churchyard, Oxford (c.1728).

Bibliography

Colvin (1995);
Jane Turner (1996)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Townesend, William." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Townesend, William." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/townesend-william

"Townesend, William." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/townesend-william

Giles, William Branch

William Branch Giles (jīlz), 1762–1830, American statesman, b. Amelia co., Va. After practicing as a lawyer in Petersburg, Va., he entered the U.S. House of Representatives as an Anti-Federalist in 1790. There he opposed the establishment of the Bank of the United States and in 1793 brought charges of corruption against Alexander Hamilton; they were rejected. Resigning in 1798, he was a member of the Virginia legislature (1798–1800), but in 1801 was again elected to Congress. From 1804 to 1815 he was a U.S. Senator. He took a leading part in the impeachment of Justice Samuel Chase, was active in factional contests within the Jeffersonian party, and vigorously directed his hostility against Albert Gallatin and James Monroe. Giles was again a Virginia legislator for several terms, was governor of Virginia (1827–30), and took part in the state constitutional convention (1829–30). His career was marred by the intense personal animosities he held. Political Miscellanies (1829) contains a number of his speeches and letters.

See biography by D. R. Anderson (1914, repr. 1965).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Giles, William Branch." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Giles, William Branch." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/giles-william-branch

"Giles, William Branch." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/giles-william-branch