When the words “Roosevelt” and “U.S. Navy” are used together, a natural assumption is that the reference is to Theodore. “TR” was a naval historian who, as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, pushed for battleship construction and, as President, greatly expanded the Navy and dispatched the Great White Fleet on its around-the-globe cruise.
Less well appreciated are the naval accomplishments of Theodore’s fifth cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was the most vigorous advocate of naval readiness ever to occupy the White House. A skilled sailor himself, FDR also had served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, from 1913 to 1920.
After having read Alfred Thayer Mahan’s 1890 classic, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, at the age of 15, Franklin Roosevelt carried on a lifetime love affair with the Navy and, like his later wartime partner British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, followed maritime affairs closely. The Navy was FDR’s favorite service, and he was heard to refer to it as “my Navy.” He did his utmost to build its strength and efficiency in both peace and war.
Kenneth S. Davis, FDR: The War President, 1940–43 (New York: Random House, 2000).
Stephen Howarth, To Shining Sea: A History of the United States Navy, 1775–1991 (New York: Random House, 1991).
Eric Larrabee, Commander-in-Chief: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, His Lieutenants, and Their War (New York: HarperCollins, 1987).
E. B. Potter, ed., Sea Power: A Naval History, 2nd ed. (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1981).
Elliott Roosevelt, ed., F.D.R.: His Personal Letters, vol. 2, 1905–1928 (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1948).
Jean Edward Smith, FDR (New York: Random House, 2007).
Jack Sweetman, American Naval History (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1984).
Stanley Weintraub, Young Mr. Roosevelt: FDR’s Introduction to War, Politics, and Life (Boston: Da Capo Press, 2013).