Following last night’s presidential debate, the web has been buzzing over Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s claim that the U.S. Navy is smaller today than it was in 1917, (not to mention President Obama’s pithy comeback).
And it didn’t take long for the folks at the British newspaper, The Guardian to put the governor’s claim to the test. According to the newspaper’s research, the U.S. Navy had 342 warships in 1917, as opposed to its current strength of 285. However today 11 of those vessels are aircraft carriers – arguably the most powerful surface vessels of all time. Interestingly enough, America’s navy would more double in size before the end of the First World War in 1918, reaching 772 ships — the lion’s share of those being destroyers. Still, America’s race to build ships for World War One would pale in comparison to the massive fleet building program that would take place during the subsequent global conflict. The Guardian shows that from 1941 to 1945, the U.S. Navy would grow in size from 790 ships to a staggering 6700 vessels — and 99 of those ships would be aircraft carriers.
For his part, Obama concurred with the governor’s assertion on the size of the navy, pointing out that the military also had more horses and bayonets in 1917 as well. And he was correct, reported Slate.com this very morning. According to the piece, the Marines, who still train with bayonets, ordered 120,000 of OKC-3S 8-inch blades beginning in 2003. The According to the story, the U.S. Army has scaled back its bayonet training, however it still keeps its smaller 6.7 inch M9s in its inventory. During the First World War, every infantryman in the 4 million strong U.S. military would have carried a bayonet into action and used them.
As for the horses, in 1917, the U.S. Army maintained more than 20 cavalry regiments, exceeding 20,000 men. Currently the, United States has only one cavalry regiment that keeps horses for ceremonial functions. The 1st Cavalry is stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.