On December 16, 1907, thousands of cheering spectators jammed the shoreline of Hampton Roads, Virginia. They had come out to watch 16 snow-white battleships set sail on a historic around-the-world voyage.
The cruise of this Great White Fleet was President Theodore Roosevelt’s idea. He believed that the United States should “speak softly and carry a big stick.” He wanted all nations to know that the United States had become a mightly power. Because Japan was acting aggressively in the Pacific, Roosevelt was especially anxious to convince the Japanese that any attack on the Philippine Islands or other American territories would be a serious mistake.
The Great White Fleet’s mission was a huge success. The ships and their crews were welcomed enthusiastically everywhere, even in Japan. The impressive display of strength discouraged Japan from acting against American interests in the pacific and the United States was recognized throughout the world as a major naval power.
The Great White Fleet sailed more than 46,000 miles on its 14-month cruise.