Great White Fleet


Great White Fleet
   A popular name for the newly established Atlantic Fleet of the United States Navy, which was sent on a round-the-world-cruise between December 16, 1907, and February 22, 1909, to demonstrate the ascendancy of American sea power. The ships set out from Hampton Roads, Virginia under the command of Civil War veteran Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans to arrive back there after completing a 43,000-mile voyage. The fleet first circumnavigated South America, reaching San Francisco, California. At that point Rear Admiral Charles S. Sperry assumed command and his fleet traversed the Pacific with calls in Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, China, the Philippines, and Japan, then steaming west into the Mediterranean by way of Ceylon and the Suez Canal. His units participated in relief efforts after the Sicily earthquake while other ships reached Constantinople, capital of the Ottoman Empire before returning home via the Strait of Gibraltar.
   The 16 battleships, all painted white for the occasion, comprised the single largest concentration of capital ships in the world. This underscored the United States’ recently acquired great power status, signaled its entry to the global naval building race, and also dealt a warning to potential challengers of the Monroe Doctrine, such as Germany or Japan. At the same time the fleet was not merely formed for display, but reflected organizational reform in the U.S. Navy: doctrinal reform proposed by Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, and the assertive policies of President Theodore Roosevelt called for the concentration of formerly scattered capital ships in a single battle fleet able to deliver decisive victory in the theater it was deployed.
   See also <>; <>; <>; <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Baer, George W. One Hundred Years of Sea Power: The U.S. Navy, 1890–1990. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993;
    Hart, Robert A. The Great White Fleet: Its Voyage Around the World, 1907–1909. Boston: Little, Brown, 1965;
    The Great White Fleet. Naval Historical Center. See www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq42–1.htm
   GÁBOR BERCZELI

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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