The US needed coaling stations. Appalachian quality anthracite was not available in most of the world and a battle fleet could not depend on contract coal haulers. Most of the fleet's coal was purchased from the British, who had denied the Russian Baltic fleet
access to either coal or ports in its journey towards Vladivostok and this contributed to their defeat by the Japanese in the Battle of Tsushima, May 1905.
Colliers were needed, some fifty ships had been needed to provide coal to the Great White Fleet. The US would have to create a fleet train.
The Panama Canal was needed. The US had made agreements to build it in 1902, encouraged Panama to breakaway from Columbian 1903 when that nation raised the agreed price ; bought the defunct French concession in 1904 ; and eradicated yellow fever and cut malaria by 85% by 1913. The Canal was opened for traffic the same day WWI started, Aug 8, 1914.
Proceed with the USS South Carolina (BB-26) design of all big guns. This design mounted all eight 12" guns on the centerline
so as to center weight and to allow maximum degree of fire and a broadside of all guns.
This design was more modern than the famous Dreadnaught (1906), but construction was held up until the GWF returned and could be evaluated.
Great White Fleet 1908-1909
President Theodore Roosevelt felt it was necessary to
prove the US could move its battle fleet from the
Atlantic to the Pacific. In an age before the Panama
Canal, the trip would necessitate going around the southern tip of South America to the West Coast and
to newly acquired Hawaii, and returning the same distance. Someone decided that this great distance could be advantageously converted to going across the Pacific and around the world to return to the Atlantic Coast. The 14-month journey covered 43,000
miles and made 20 stops on six continents.
Alabama and Maine sailed separately because of high coal consumption.
Illinois BB-7 retired 1957 as floating crane Prairie State
New Jersey BB-16
Rhode Island BB-17
The color scheme of American ships was white hull with gold superstructure.
Depart Dec 1907.
Trinidad, West Indies
Rio de Janeiro
Depart 7July 1908
Norfolk, Feb 22, 1909
The American Civil War saw the Monitor win over the ironclad Merrimac/Virginia. The USN navy adopted the Monitor type of turret ship developed for coastal defense and shore bombardment for the rest of that century. The low freeboard had poor seagoing qualities, in fact, Monitor sank of Cape Hatteras later that year. All aspects of military shrank in the years after the Civil War. By 1883 money was authorized to build 3 cruisers of steel. In 1890 the book "The Influence of Sea Power upon History" by Mahan had influence on a growing nation and Congress voted funds to build the first battleships. By the Spanish American war, 1898, the US had battleships with 12" or 13" guns which annihilated Spanish cruisers and destroyers at Santiago, July 3, 1898.
Texas was a 2nd class battleship similar to the Maine which had exploded in Havana Harbor, plus Indiana (BB-1), Massachusetts (BB-2), Texas (BB-3), Iowa (BB-4) commissioned 1895-97, Their success returned the conventional ocean-going battleship to acceptability and were a step towards limiting monitors as seagoing coastal defense ships. With the election of Theodore Roosevelt to the Presidency, battleship construction expanded with a new one every few months until the USN was second only to the Royal Navy. The battleship was Teddy's "big stick".
Things Learned by Going Round the World
The next three ships following in the sequence welcomed the Great White Fleet from its around the world cruise at the giant naval review in Hampton Roads 22 February 1909.
BB-23 Mississippi was active in Caribbean till 1912. In 1914 became aeronautic station ship establishing Pensacola naval air station, then as seaplane base at Vera Cruz, and turned over to Royal Hellenic Navy. Sunk by Luffwaffa in April 1941
The next seven ships were dreadnoughts and had service through Vera Cruz and WWI. The first five, BB-26 to BB-30, were scrapped per treaty in 1921-1931. The last two were converted to gunnery trainers. Utah lies on the floor of Pearl Harbor. Wyoming decommissioned 1947.
The next seven ships were pre-WWI battleships and fought in WW2 : BB 33-39.
The next eight were authorized for WWI and fought in WW2 : BB 40-46, 48.
The next seven were building when scrapped per treaty in the 1920s & 30s : BB 47, BB 49-54.
The next ten were fast ships built for WW2 : BB 55-64
The next seven were canceled : two were building, five never started : . BB 65-71.
BB-24 Idaho. Performed various services until turned over to Royal Hellenic Navy in 1914 . Sunk by Luffwaffa in April 1941
BB-25 New Hampshire. Various duties including Vera Cruz and as convoy escort in WWI. Scrapped 1923 as part of the Washington Treaty for the Limitation of Naval Armaments.
Link to Battleships
"World Encyclopedia of Battleships" by Peter Hore
People: The following WW2 leaders were among those on tour.
Halsey , Spruance , Stark , (names will be added as noticed.)
Return to: WW2 Menu
Link to: USN ship histories
About this page: Great White Fleet - Summary of the impressive round the world tour by 16 battleships.
Last updated on Sept 11, 2005
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