Acentury ago, on 16 December 1907, 16 battleships and a flotilla of torpedo boats and auxiliaries of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet steamed out of Hampton Roads, Virginia, on an unprecedented world cruise. Although the newspaper editorials at the time decried the voyage of the so-called "Great White Fleet" as "bombastic" and a shameful example of mere gunboat diplomacy, President Theodore Roosevelt's gambit of showing the flag of the United States without firing a shot proved a resounding success.
Roosevelt, himself a former Assistant Secretary of the Navy and a tireless promoter of sea power, later exclaimed the virtue of peaceful power projection:
In my own judgment, the most important service that I rendered to peace was the voyage of the battle fleet . . . At that time, as I happen to know, neither the English nor the German authorities believed it was possible to take a fleet of great battleships 'round the world. They did not believe that their own fleets could perform the feat, still less did they believe that the American fleet could.1