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The History of the United States Navy

Experience the astonishing story of the US Navy from the Age of Sail to the era of nuclear-powered submarines.
The History of the United States Navy is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 26.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Father of the US Navy Good show so far but I am 4 episodes in and not even a mention of Commandant John Barry? Widely considered to be the father of the US Navy. Other than that it’s very clear and well put together.
Date published: 2024-05-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Essential Viewing Essential viewing - my sincere thanks to all involved!
Date published: 2024-05-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb! Craig Symonds is not only one of the country's most prominent naval historians, but he is also a master storyteller who brings the US Navy and its history alive in this course. The course's visuals are compelling, but what carries the course to the top rank is Symonds' ability to explain complex concepts, naval strategy, and naval battles in an easily understandable way. This course is a true delight. Highly recommended!!
Date published: 2024-05-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating. Prof. Symonds is a master storyteller. He combines research and drama, making you feel that you finally understand the War of 1812, the importance of steam power, etc. His series on the war in the Pacific is equally good.
Date published: 2024-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You'll love this lecture series I have always been interested in the US Navy. I've been reading books about it all my life, and when I saw that the great courses had lecture series on the topic, I couldn't resist. The course met my expectations in every way. It covers 250 years in sufficient depth with helpful visuals and a great delivery by Professor Symonds.
Date published: 2024-03-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Straightforward and competent This is a simple course to review. Dr. Symonds is clearly expert in his field and also an interesting speaker, and every lecture delivers both the facts and insights I've come to expect from the Great Courses. Whatever your level of knowledge of the subject, you should be satisfied.
Date published: 2024-02-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating sea stories. Prof. Symonds rates an A+ for diction, course organization and human interest. The role of ever-evolving technology in naval warfare is explained in considerable detail. Several lectures are especially interesting. In Lecture #6 (Navy Expeditions from Antarctica to Japan) we learn that in July 1840, LT Charles Wilkes USN (1798–1877) directed a reprisal on Fiji's Malolo Island following the murders of two U.S. sailors who were bartering with the natives for food. Nearly 80 Fijians were killed in the incident. And in 1842, the captain of the American brig USS Somers, CAPT Alexander Slidell Mackenzie USN (1803-1848), prevented a mutiny by hanging three plotters without the nicety of a formal court martial. One of the executed sailors was Midshipman Philip Spencer (1823-1842), the son of Secretary of War John Canfield Spencer (1788–1855). In Lecture 22 (Projecting Naval Power in the Middle East), Prof. Symonds describes a rarely mentioned incident. On 08 June 1967, Israeli air and sea forces attacked the USS Liberty (AGTR-5) in international waters off the coast of the Sinai Peninsula during the Third Arab-Israeli War. 34 American servicemen were killed and 174 wounded. The ship was severely damaged, but not sunk. The attack was deliberate and premeditated, but Congress never called for an investigation. Altogether, a super course. HWF & ISF, Mesa AZ.
Date published: 2024-02-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well told history with great insights Would love to see more from this presenter. He is very good.
Date published: 2024-02-12
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Overview

The United States Navy has played a vital role both in resolving conflicts and in peacekeeping for 250 years. In this course, you’ll learn the saga of its history, from the exploits of the young US Navy and its emergence as a global naval power to its vital role in World War II, the Cold War, and beyond. These engrossing lectures offer you an unforgettable view into a core element of American life.

About

Craig L. Symonds

Luck plays a role in all battles, but in the end, it is the men who win and lose them.

INSTITUTION

U.S. Naval Academy

Craig L. Symonds is a Professor Emeritus of History at the US Naval Academy and a former Ernest J. King Distinguished Professor of Maritime History at the US Naval War College. He earned a PhD in History from the University of Florida and is the author or editor of more than two dozen books. His book Decision at Sea: Five Naval Battles That Shaped American History won the Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt Prize in Naval History. He also wrote Lincoln and His Admirals: Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. Navy, and the Civil War, which won several awards.

By This Professor

The History of the United States Navy
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World War II: The Pacific Theater
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The History of the United States Navy

Trailer

The British Origins of the US Navy

01: The British Origins of the US Navy

Begin with an overview of the British Royal Navy at the time of US independence. Learn about the British ships-of-the-line—the premier warships of the age—including their military technology and procedures during engagements. Visualize the lives of naval personnel, both officers and sailors, and the severe hardships of life at sea. Note how the early American naval system was modeled on the British system.

30 min
American Revolution on River, Lake, and Sea

02: American Revolution on River, Lake, and Sea

Take account of the three arms of sea power on the American side during the American Revolution. Follow the first American naval shipbuilding at Lake Champlain, the birth of the Continental Navy in 1775, and the exploits of John Paul Jones. Then, observe the role in the conflict of privateering against British merchant ships, and the French Navy’s critical assistance in undermining the British war effort.

31 min
Alexander Hamilton and the Early Navalists

03: Alexander Hamilton and the Early Navalists

Trace the disputes between factions for and against establishing a standing US naval force. Then, learn about the threats against American merchant ships by both Barbary Coast corsairs and the French, leading to the “Quasi War” with France in the Caribbean and the creation of the Department of the Navy. Witness the ensuing American naval action in Tripoli, and the events of the first Barbary War.

32 min
British Blockade and the War of 1812

04: British Blockade and the War of 1812

Investigate the economic and political conflicts that led the United States to declare war on Britain in 1812. In the wake of the British blockade of the US coast, track the frigate duels in the Atlantic and Pacific that gave the United States its victories over the British. Then, study the most strategically significant naval battles of the war, on Lake Erie and Lake Champlain, and their impact on the war’s outcome.

32 min
Pirates of the Barbary Coast and Caribbean

05: Pirates of the Barbary Coast and Caribbean

One of the US Navy’s first tasks was combatting piracy on the high seas. Following the War of 1812, witness the Navy’s actions in North Africa to subdue pirate attacks on US merchant ships. Then, follow US naval campaigns against privateering and piracy in the Caribbean and South Asia. Finally, learn about the Navy’s involvement in ending the African slave trade.

31 min
Navy Expeditions from Antarctica to Japan

06: Navy Expeditions from Antarctica to Japan

The US Navy became a global force through its actions in the first half of the 19th century. Track the Navy’s four-year scientific expedition to find and chart new islands, circumnavigating the Earth. Take account of significant naval episodes in the Mexican-American War. In the new era of steam warships, trace the US mission to open trade with Japan, and the founding of the US Naval Academy.

32 min
Civil War Ironclads, Torpedoes, and Submarines

07: Civil War Ironclads, Torpedoes, and Submarines

The era of the Civil War brought new technology to naval warfare. Picture the battle of the USS Merrimack and the USS Monitor, the conflict’s first ironclad warships. Investigate propeller-driven steam warships, and new naval firepower, larger guns with far greater range and accuracy. Witness the Union’s naval blockade of the South, and Confederate innovations of underwater mines and the submarine.

33 min
Union Gunboats on Confederate Rivers

08: Union Gunboats on Confederate Rivers

Learn how control of the western rivers played a critical role in the Civil War. Begin with the Union’s building of ironclad gunboats, and their assaults on Confederate river forts and role in the battle at Shiloh. Note how the Navy and Army worked together in important engagements. Then, follow the Union naval conquest of Confederate defenses below New Orleans, and the capture of Vicksburg.

32 min
Union Victories from Charleston to Cape Fear

09: Union Victories from Charleston to Cape Fear

As the Civil War drew on, Confederate vessels slipping through the North’s naval blockade were a sore point for the Union war effort. Trace the Navy’s dramatic campaign to capture the forts used by blockade-runners. Study the lengthy effort to take Charleston, South Carolina, the longest military siege in American history, followed by intense engagements at forts in Mobile and Wilmington.

31 min
Mahan’s Navy and the Spanish-American War

10: Mahan’s Navy and the Spanish-American War

Bear witness to the renaissance of the US Navy in the 1890s, as a substantial, modernized fleet and a standing force capable of responding to crises. See how the Cuban rebellion against Spain in 1895 triggered events leading to the Spanish declaration of war on the United States. Relive two major US naval victories in the war, at Manila and Santiago, Cuba, leaving the US Navy a global naval power.

34 min
Teddy Roosevelt and the Battleship Age

11: Teddy Roosevelt and the Battleship Age

Take the measure of the battleship as the dominant naval warship between about 1890 and 1940. Study their design, firepower, and dramatically increasing proportions. Under Teddy Roosevelt, observe the use of the Navy as a tool of diplomacy, and the ensuing multi-country naval arms race. During World War I, track the Navy’s critical role in protecting Allied convoys from German U-boats.

33 min
The Naval Threats of Nazi Germany and Japan

12: The Naval Threats of Nazi Germany and Japan

Delve into key events affecting the US Navy between the world wars, including sweeping naval arms reduction agreements, the emergence of the aircraft carrier, and the US Marines’ development of amphibious assault operations. Learn how US relations with Japan deteriorated, and how the United States dramatically expanded its navy just as Germany was allowed to rebuild theirs under Hitler.

32 min
Big Aircraft Carrier Battles of the Pacific

13: Big Aircraft Carrier Battles of the Pacific

Follow the deployment of US aircraft carriers in the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and see how these carriers became the dominant naval weapon of the war. Observe how carriers worked in “Task Forces” with other ships and the aircraft they hosted. Witness the key events of the Battle of the Coral Sea, the first fought entirely with carrier-based aircraft, the pivotal Battle of Midway, and more.

32 min
U-Boats, Convoys, and Radar in the Atlantic

14: U-Boats, Convoys, and Radar in the Atlantic

For three years, German U-boats (submarines) fought to destroy Britain’s maritime supply line. Chart the severe losses of ships to U-boats, and the Allied convoys throughout the Atlantic region that worked to counteract them. Grasp the roles of codebreaking operations, radar, and American industrial productivity in winning what was arguably the most consequential naval engagement of the war.

32 min
Amphibious Warfare from Sicily to Saipan

15: Amphibious Warfare from Sicily to Saipan

Visualize the procedures and logistics of amphibious naval operations, which became a major aspect of war in World War II. Begin with the US invasion of the Pacific island of Guadalcanal, a six-month ordeal on land and sea. Then, study key amphibious assaults on the island of Betio, the Marshall Islands, and the D-Day invasion of Normandy—the largest amphibious operation in world history.

32 min
Kamikazes, Atomic Bombs, and America’s Triumph

16: Kamikazes, Atomic Bombs, and America’s Triumph

The US Navy ended the war as the greatest maritime power in world history. In the Pacific Theater, trace the monumental battle of Saipan, a major turning point. Then, study the dramatic American recapture of the Philippines, and the months-long US invasion of Okinawa, leading to the final defeat of Japan’s Navy, the deployment of the atomic bomb, and the unconditional surrender of Japan.

31 min
The Birth of NATO and New Cold War Threats

17: The Birth of NATO and New Cold War Threats

Following World War II, take stock of integral changes in US naval operations. Grasp how the Cold War and the creation of NATO brought new, global defense responsibilities for the Navy. With the advent of nuclear weaponry, examine the Navy’s key role in deterrence through its nuclear-armed submarines. Finally, learn about the historic ending of racial segregation in the military.

32 min
MacArthur’s Bold Landing at Incheon, Korea

18: MacArthur’s Bold Landing at Incheon, Korea

The US Navy was called into action in 1950 in the first aggressive move of the Cold War. Survey the events that led to war in Korea, and the US and United Nations’ response to the invasion of South Korea by the North’s armies. Observe how General MacArthur’s risky landing at Incheon reversed the war’s dynamic, and how strategic support from the Navy and Marines aided in repelling the invaders.

32 min
Hyman Rickover and the Nuclear Navy

19: Hyman Rickover and the Nuclear Navy

From the early 1950s to the mid-1960s, the US Navy often acted as a global peacekeeper. Follow the events of crises in the Mediterranean, Lebanon, and Taiwan, and the Navy’s role in resolving conflicts without violence. Then, meet the extraordinary Hyman Rickover, who oversaw the development of the Navy’s nuclear-powered forces, and relive the legendary Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

32 min
The Gulf of Tonkin and War in Vietnam

20: The Gulf of Tonkin and War in Vietnam

Though the Vietnam War was largely a land war, the Navy played a distinct strategic role in the conflict. Learn how US naval action with the North Vietnamese in the Gulf of Tonkin brought the United States formally into the war. Trace the Navy’s key roles in the war, from tactical air support for ground troops to impeding enemy supply vessels along the coast and critical operations in the Mekong Delta.

31 min
How the Navy Reformed after Vietnam

21: How the Navy Reformed after Vietnam

The era of the Civil Rights movement exposed racial inequities within the Navy, leading to violent confrontations aboard ships. Examine naval reforms under Admiral Elmo Zumwalt that sought to address both racial and gender discrimination. Then, observe the expansion of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan, and its intervention in political conflicts on the island of Grenada, and later in Libya.

31 min
Projecting Naval Power in the Middle East

22: Projecting Naval Power in the Middle East

In the late 20th century, the US Navy operated in a new and dangerous world, fraught with ambiguous political relationships, as well as highly sophisticated weaponry. Examine conditions within the Middle East that led to attacks on American ships during the Iran/Iraq War and the Six-Days War. See how tensions with Iran resulted in the largest surface naval battle since World War II.

31 min
America’s 21st-Century Missions at Sea

23: America’s 21st-Century Missions at Sea

At the turn of the 21st century, new conflicts required the US Navy to reassess its role in the post-Soviet world. Track the Navy’s important work in the air campaign of the Gulf War of 1990, and its logistical roles during the 2003 war against Iraq. Learn also about the Navy’s peacetime operations, in areas such as the suppression of piracy and drug trafficking, and humanitarian aid.

29 min
China’s Threats to US Naval Supremacy

24: China’s Threats to US Naval Supremacy

Review the complex history of China over the last century, and the parameters of China’s territorial claims to Taiwan and other neighboring islands, which underlie a current rivalry at sea between the Chinese and US navies. Compare the US and Chinese naval forces, factored against China’s present naval buildup, and assess the potential for future conflicts in the China seas and beyond.

36 min