The Great White Fleet

Former President Theodore Roosevelt addresses the crew of USS Connecticut (BB-18) after the return of the Great White Fleet in February, 1909. Photo in the collections of the US Navy History & Heritage Command.

Location: Hampton Roads, Virginia

With the growth of American seapower from the 1880s through the early 1900s, the United States began expanding into global politics. The new Navy was able to muster a large seagoing fleet of modern battleships, and in 1907 President Theodore Roosevelt organized a demonstration of America's capabilities. He sent the Atlantic Fleet on a cruise around the world, showing the flag to foreign nations and demonstrating the ability of the USN to reach any location around the globe. Nicknamed the Great White Fleet due to the hulls being painted bright white, it departed from Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 16 December, 1907, steamed around South America, across the Pacific and Indian Oceans, through the Suez Canal and Mediterranean Sea, and back to Hampton Roads, arriving 22 February, 1909. Visits to Australian ports helped found the Royal Australian Navy, and the sailors assisted with relief efforts in Sicily after the 1908 Messina Earthquake. besides the international show of power, the cruise also gave American shipwrights valuable data about how the ships handled at sea, leading to new design requirements beginning with the Wyoming class of 1910.