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The WWI Navy: Second to None

Evening Program

Honoring the World War One Centennial

Tuesday, May 16, 2017 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1H0232

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The Return of the Mayflower, 4th May, 1917, by Bernard Emmanuel Finnigan Gribble (U.S. Naval Academy)

For the U.S. Navy, World War I was the first significant test of an armed force branch billed as “second to none.” In 1898, it dealt a decisive blow to the Spanish fleet during the Spanish-American war, then nine years later it dazzled when the "Great White Fleet,” 16 battleships and accompanying vessels, circled the globe as a show of power. But could it rise to the challenge in the clash of powerful forces that had engulfed Europe? 

James C. Rentfrow, permanent military professor in the history department at the U.S. Naval Academy, examines the growing role of the Navy in peace and war during early decades of the 20th century. He discusses the launch of the first American dreadnaught battleship, USS South Carolina; the creation of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations; and the announced intention in 1916 to build a "Navy second to none" as stepping-stones toward shaping the Navy that entered action in 1917. 

He examines the importance of the 1916 Battle of Jutland, between the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet; the crucial American work of convoy escort and the deployment of a battleship squadron to join the Grand Fleet; and the role of Adm. William S. Sims as the London-based liaison to the Royal Navy.


S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)