President Theodore Roosevelt sent the Great White Fleet around the world, departing Hampton Roads, Va. December 16, 1907. The fleet consisted of sixteen new battleships of the Atlantic Fleet, all painted white except for gilded scrollwork on their bows, thus becoming known as the "Great White Fleet."
The fourteen-month long voyage was a grand pageant of American sea power. The squadrons were manned by 14,000 Sailors, and they covered some 43,000 miles, making twenty port calls on six continents.
In February 1909, Roosevelt was in Hampton Roads, Va., to witness the triumphant return of the fleet and indicating that he saw the fleet's long voyage as a fitting finish for his administration. To the officers and men of the fleet Roosevelt said, "Other nations may do what you have done, but they'll have to follow you."
Three junior officers within the battleship fleet went on to prominence:
- Ensign Harold R. Stark went on to become Adm. Stark, Chief of Naval Operations just prior to World War II, and Commander, U.S. Forces European coordinating the Normandy invasion for U.S. Forces.
- Midshipman William F. Halsey sailed onboard the USS Kansas for the world cruise. He rose to become Vice Adm. Halsey, Third Fleet at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor and later in 1945 to Fleet Adm. Halsey.
- Midshipman Raymond A. Spruance went on to become Rear Adm. Spruance, commanding a cruiser division. He led two aircraft carriers during the Battle of Midway, changing the course of the war with Japan. After the Midway battle, he was given command of the Fifth Fleet and while onboard USS Indianapolis (CA-35), directed the campaigns that captured the Gilberts, Marshalls, Marianas, Iwo Jima and Okinawa and defeated the Japanese fleet in the June 1944 Battle of Philippine Sea.