The U.S. Navy celebrates its birthday on October 13, the day in 1775 that the Continental Congress authorized the outfitting of two armed vessels to cruise in search of British munitions ships. On that day, Congress also established a Naval Committee to oversee the new navy. John Adams was a member of the committee, and although the Massachusetts representative knew little of naval
affairs, he got busy making himself expert. As historian David McCullough writes, the committee “met in a rented room at Tun Tavern [in Philadelphia], and it was Adams who drafted the first set of rules and regulations for the new navy, a point of pride with him for as long as he lived.”
Throughout the Revolution, Adams urged support for the tiny American fleet, telling Congress that “a navy is our natural and only defense.” Over the course of the war, the Continental Navy included about fifty ships of various sizes. After the Revolution, Congress disbanded the navy, then restarted it in 1794 when it ordered the construction of six frigates.
The U.S. Navy flag, adopted in 1959, is a dark blue flag that carries the image of a three-masted square-rigged ship underway before a fair breeze. A bald eagle and an anchor are shown in front of the ship. Navy ships do not fly the Navy flag from their masts. The banner is reserved for display purposes and is carried by honor guards during ceremonies.