Naval War College Review


Frank Uhlig


In the two and a quarter centuries since the birth of the United States, its navy has experienced, or watched closely, a fair range of the possibilities of war at and from the sea. It has been a small navy fighting a large one (the Continental navy versus Britain's in the American Revolution), has seen two large ones fight each other (the French against the British in that same war), has been a small navy fighting against first legalized and then state piracy (the Quasi-War and the Barbary War), for a second time has been a small navy fighting a big one (the War of 1812), has, as a small navy, fought against a foe without a navy (the Mexican War), then as a small navy suddenly grown large fought against an enemy with but fragments of a navy (the American Civil War), became one of two medium-sized navies fighting against one another (the Spanish-American War), has been one of several large navies allied against several others (the two world wars), twice again was a large navy opposing a foe without one (the Korean and Vietnam wars), watched one very small navy fight against two others, during which it acted as a large auxiliary to one of the principal combatants (the Levantine war of1973), from a distance observed a medium-sized navy against a medium-sized air force (the South Atlantic war), watched with interest two countries with minuscule navies fighting against each other ashore and against each other's economic partners or nonbelligerent allies afloat (the Iran-Iraq War), and twice took part as a large navy against a minuscule one (the U.S. quasi-war against Iran and then the full United Nations war against Iraq).1