Oct. 13 marked the 243rd birthday of the United States Navy.

The Navy has grown and evolved dramatically from that first “swift sailing vessel” of the Constitutional Navy. Today, the Navy’s fleet of 286 ships and submarines is the most capable and powerful naval force in the world.

The identity and traditions of the Navy were forged in numerous battles and military campaigns over the past two centuries. From its modest beginnings with a handful of ships tasked with protecting the maritime trade of our fledgling nation, the Navy first came of age with a string of decisive victories against the British Navy during the War of 1812—at that time, the largest and most powerful navy in the world.