A Century of Citizen Sailors

The Navy Reserve Celebrates 100 Years of Service


The Navy Reserve has a rich heritage that is woven into the history of our nation. From the early days of the Revolutionary War, and even before the Continental Navy was created by the Continental Congress, citizen sailors from Machias, Me., commandeered a schooner and fought against the British navy. Later, during the War of 1812, reservists used a fleet of barges to protect the Chesapeake Bay against British invasion.  State naval militias that were comprised of volunteers also aided in protecting America’s shores during the Spanish-American War. 

With World War I looming on the horizon, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels and his Assistant Secretary, a young Franklin D. Roosevelt, launched a campaign to Congress to appropriate the funding for a federal naval reserve force. On March 3, 1915, legislation was passed that officially funded the Navy Reserve.

After WWI, Navy Reservists continued to train to be ready by establishing the Naval Aviation Cadet program and Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps. When World War II erupted, essentially all of the members of the Navy Reserve were on active duty by midyear in 1941. Navy Reservists were the first to fire shots on behalf of the United States when they sunk a Japanese mini-submarine outside the entrance of Pearl Harbor.

The Korean War saw ships pulled from mothballs and manned by reserve crews and entire air wings of reserve squadrons mobilized to fight. Vietnam saw similar engagement and mobilizations of multiple units to support the efforts. Reservists supported Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and transformed from being a force multiplier in time of war into a dedicated component of the regular force.  In some cases, the Reserve Force started maintaining their own unique missions not accomplished by the active duty fleet. 

Currently, nearly a quarter of the Navy Reserve force is providing support to fleet and combatant commanders, be it by mobilization to support overseas contingency operations, or through involvement in naval exercises. These brave men and women who serve leave behind civilian careers and families to enhance the operational readiness of the Navy and do so using skills acquired through both civilian and military experience.

To honor the 100 years of selfless service, here are a few interesting facts about the Navy Reserve:

  • Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush all were Navy Reservists who served during WWII.
  • Admiral Grace Hopper was a Navy Reservist who is credited with coining the term computer “bug” when a moth was discovered in the relays of a Mark II Computer at Harvard University. She even wrote into the log book that the system was “debugged”.
  • Actor Jack Lemmon, famous for his role in “Mr. Roberts,”  served in the Navy Reserve from 1945-46.
  • NBA All-Star David Robinson, nicknamed “The Admiral” by his fans, graduated from the Naval Academy and served as a Civil Engineering Officer in the Navy Reserve.


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