This paper will explain what the Great White Fleet was, who came up with the idea and what the goals of the fleet were. I will discuss the ports visited and the results of the fleet's world cruise.
The Great White Fleet was the largest group of ships ever assembled by America: "More than amassed by Nelson at The battle of Trafalgar." (Carter 2) The fleet consisted of sixteen battle ships, six torpedo boats, four auxiliaries, plus the warship Ankton, a converted yacht used for ceremonies. Since the fleet depended on coal as its fuel source, forty-one coal ship's contracted by Congress followed the fleet.
President Theodore Roosevelt decided to send this powerful fleet around the world in 1905. The idea came to him after Russia lost its war with Japan. In a matter of hours Japan sank the entire Russian Fleet and Roosevelt wanted the world to know that America had the ability to stop Japan if it was needed. He told only his closest advisors of this plan while at the same time he was telling Congress and everyone else the Fleet would sail from Hampton Roads, Va to the west coast. Secretly he would tell people, "I shall get them going and let Congress worry about how to bring them back." (Hart 25)
The official purpose for the cruise was, "To impress the American people, impress foreign people, make a deep and favorable impression abroad, advertise the United States to the world, and make a gigantic gesture before the eyes of the world." (Hart 26)
President Roosevelt had several private reasons for deploying this mighty fleet. Japan's crushing defeat of the Russian Fleet in 1905 convinced him that America had to control the oceans it were to be a world power. The first time this point surfaced at a national level was after Thayer Mahan wrote about the issue in his book, "The Influence of Sea Power upon History."
Roosevelt was also concerned about the growing anti-Japanese riots in San Francisco. He believed by sending battle ships into the Pacific he could placate these sentiments in the west. Another reason he deployed the fleet was for the prestige. He believed when Americans saw the Great White Fleet they would feel good about themselves, about The nation, and about the navy. This idea worked well. During the build up of the fleet at Hampton Roads, recruiting was at an all time high, and it continued to remain high during the voyages of the fleet.
On December 16, 1907 the Great White Fleet left Hampton Roads and headed for its first port-of-call. Prior to its departure, the commander-in -chef, Vice Admiral Evans, formed a new department in the Navy, the shore patrol. He and Roosevelt were determined to present only the best Sailors to the world. His idea was so effective it continues today.
The fleet's first port call was to Trinidad, British West Indies. It was anything but a success. Britain was so concerned about its relationship with Japan it ordered the governor of Trinidad to ignore the arrival of the Americans. After the fleet left Trinidad, it headed for Rio de Janeiro.
When the fleet arrived in Rio, it received the reception it expected. The streets ere lined with American and Brazilian flags. Twenty-thousand guides and maps ere distributed to the Sailors, and the Sailors took over the city.
The next port visit was to Buenos Aries, Argentina where Admiral Evans received a fifteen-gun salute. After a successful visit to Buenos Aries, the fleet headed to Punta Arenas, Chile for what originally was scheduled as a re-coaling visit.
The fleet arrived at the entrance to the Straights of Magellan on 31 January, 1908. Rear Admiral Thomas, who was in charge, ordered the fleet to anchor that night. He worried about the 350 mile transit and didn't want to do it at night.
After re-coaling in Punta Arenas the fleet set off for Valparaiso, Chile. The fleet paid honors to the city by steaming into the port, each ship rendered honors with saluting guns, then proceeded out of port without stopping. The city of Valparaiso loved the presentation.
From Valparaiso the next visit was to Callao, Peru. The government of Peru arranged for the Sailors to attend two events. The first