Great White Fleet Commemorated in Norfolk
By Andrew Scutro - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Dec 16, 2007 9:59:14 EST
NORFOLK, Va. — One hundred years ago on Dec. 16, an armada of 16 American battleships pushed away from Hampton Roads on a 14-month circumnavigation of the globe to show the world what the U.S. Navy could do.
The Great White Fleet, as it was known because of its bright paintjob, was dispatched by President Theodore Roosevelt, a larger than life American leader who had been in his career, among other things, Navy secretary.
To mark the anniversary, current Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter hosted some 500 guests aboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt — “America’s Big Stick” — pierside in its Norfolk homeport.
In a speech held in a hangar bay decorated with images and quotes of Roosevelt, Winter told the audience that “a maritime nation with maritime interests” needs a potent naval force always able to span the globe.
“The Navy today is providing a presence and a capability around the world that is unmatched by any other resource our nation has,” Winter said in remarks to reporters after his address. He said naval power remains crucial because 70 percent of the world is covered in water, 80 percent of its population lives near a coast and 90 percent of the world’s commerce moves by sea. “All of those show the critical aspects of what our Navy has to be now and in the future.”
Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, added that it’s important to focus on all the elements that make up a navy, not only ships and aircraft but also recruiting and retention.
“Our Navy today is the guarantor of that free flow of commerce that moves in and of our country. And it’s kind of like air,” he said. “You take it for granted until you don’t have it.”
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