The Navy is expected to play an increasing role in coming decades, given the US’ Pacific pivot and emerging reluctance to deploy ground troops.
The Navy gives the US the ability to project power around the globe even without frequent ground deployments, and is already an indispensable aspect of American policy and national security.
To celebrate the 240th birthday of the US Navy, we’ve pulled out some of the coolest photos from the archives.
Gus Lubin contributed to this report.
In the decades after the Civil War, America began a new era of foreign intervention with the Navy leading the way. This 1899 photo shows sailors eating on the USS Olympia, which was the US' flagship during the Spanish-American War of the previous year.
President Theodore Roosevelt ordered a fleet of US ships to circumnavigate the globe from 1907-1909.
As the first World War raged in Europe, America rushed to build more and better ships, as seen in this 1917 photo ...
... and grew the ranks of sailors, as seen in this 1917 picture of graduation exercises at the Naval Academy.
The last of the US Navy's rigid airships, the USS Macon performed scouting missions from 1933 to 1935.
Since 1935, American ports have hosted a 'Fleet Week' a celebration of the sea services including sailors, Marines, and coast guardsmen. Here, sailors arrive in Manhattan in 1941.
Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbour on Dec. 7, 1941, spurred America's entry into World War II. This photo shows a memorial service for sailors killed in the attack.
Sailors at Pearl Harbour worked to salvage their ships and restore the base. This picture shows the recovery of a Japanese midget submarine abandoned during the Pearl Harbour attack.
Meanwhile, on the mainland, recruits signed up for the Navy and other armed services by the millions.
Women also served the Navy through the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) program.
The US Navy led the war against the Japanese in the Pacific. This 1942 photo shows the torpedoed Japanese destroyer Yamakaze photographed through the periscope of USS Nautilus.
One of the most famous collisions in Navy history occurred at 2:30 a.m. on August 2, 1943, when 25-year-old John F. Kennedy's patrol torpedo boat was hit by a Japanese destroyer. Two of Kennedy's men were killed in the crash.
On Aug. 14, 1945, Japan surrendered to the Allies, effectively ending World War II. The highly anticipated 'Victory over Japan Day,' gave way to some uninhibited celebrations -- like this classic sailor's kiss in Times Square.
Only five years after WWII, America was fighting another war, this time in Korea. This 1950 photo shows the USS Missouri bombarding Korea's communist-held Northern coastline in order to cut enemy communications.
The Navy has planes too, about 3,700. This 1950 photo shows Boeing B-29 Superfortresses dropping 500 pound bombs on a chemical plant during the Korean War.
The US Navy's Douglas Skyraider was known for being able to take hits and keep flying. Here's a Skyraider deploying bombs in 1952 over Korea.
Beginning in 1964 and lasting for most of the next decade, the Vietnam War was the next major US conflict. This Navy jet fighter shoots Zuni rockets while flying over South Vietnam.
A crewman sits behind a machine gun while on patrol of the Go Cong River. Fighting in dense jungle against well-supplied Viet Cong left American troops frustrated with combat conditions. It was after this war that 'Post Traumatic Stress Disorder' was officially identified.
The Navy played a major role during the Cuban Missile Crisis, enforcing a blockade to prevent Soviet weapons deliveries to Cuba. This 1962 photo shows a Navy seaplane and destroyer ship shadowing a Soviet submarine.
Operation Desert Storm, the US-led mission to liberate Kuwait from Iraq, deployed 14 destroyers and 2 battleships. In 1991, the battleship USS Missouri fires at Iraqi targets stationed along the Kuwaiti coast.
Here is one Navy pilot's stats marked on the side of his attack aircraft while deployed in support of Operation Desert Storm. They show combat missions flown, missiles launched, and bombs dropped.
In response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the US entered into a 'War On Terror' to eliminate al-Qaeda. The Navy's amphibious assault ship, deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, is shown dropping off a 5-ton truck.
A Navy sailor working in an expeditionary command tests his night-vision goggles before setting off on another night patrol through Iraq's waterways in 2007.
A Navy Seahawk helicopter returns to the USNS Mercy hospital ship after completing a humanitarian mission in the Pacific in 2008.
This F/A-18C Hornet is the nation's first strike-fighter jet and has a top speed of 1,190 miles per hour -- and comes in at a cost of $39 million per plane. A typical Navy air wing has about 14 of these on hand.
The US Navy provides air, land, and sea support to the military. These divers search the sea floor during a salvage recovery exercise in 2010.
Navy SEALs leap from the ramp of an Air Force transport aircraft during parachute training over a Marine Corps base in Hawaii. Exercises like this show collaboration between military branches.
The US Navy submarine force consists of four vessel classes, all of which are nuclear-powered. In this 2004 photo, the crew of the USS Portsmouth enjoy the waters of the Pacific Ocean while deployed.
The USS Enterprise, or 'Big E,' is the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and has more steel construction than the Empire State Building. Though decommissioned in 2012, the Enterprise was once the Navy's largest vessel -- with a 1960 price tag of $451 million.
The US Naval Academy Class of 2015 celebrates their graduation and commissioning ceremony. Many new officers will head to one of the 11 carrier strike groups the US has posted around the globe.
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