For the first four decades of the 20th century an undersized U.S. Navy force had two primary tasks. One was difficult at best. The other was impossible.
The U.S. Navy has been sailing the seas of East Asia since the 1830s, when the frigate Potomac was dispatched to the Indonesian island of Sumatra to rescue a pirated American merchant ship. The theme of that mission to Asia, which occurred even before the United States had a Pacific coast, was to maintain maritime security and defend the economic interests of American citizens.