One enormous personality people may not necessarily associate with the history of the U.S. Navy is the 26th President of the United States, and all-American tough guy, Theodore Roosevelt.
It is not widely-known, but up until about four decades ago, the U.S. Navy actually used Roosevelt’s birthday (October 27th) as “Navy Day” – a date the Navy celebrated annually much like it does with its birthday today. It actually wasn’t until 1972 when then Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt authorized Oct. 13th as the Navy’s birthday.
Throughout his life, Roosevelt acted as one of the Navy’s greatest promoters. His first book, The Naval War of 1812, demonstrated the importance of the Navy to the defense of the United States. As Assistant Secretary of the Navy, he was instrumental in the U.S. Navy’s victories in the Spanish-American War; and as President, he oversaw the build-up of the battle fleet and ordered the world cruise of the Great White Fleet.
To Roosevelt, the aggressive diplomat, a large and efficient navy constituted a primary tool for the conduct of foreign policy, so he launched a program to raise the Navy up to a high standard of efficiency and strength. He enlarged the fleet, modernized its ships, increased both its officer corps and enlisted complement, and improved efficiency through better training.