The Great White Fleet, consisting of 14,000 sailors on 16 battleships and accompanying vessels, was sent around the world for fourteen months by President Roosevelt. The fleet's journey started on December 16, 1907, and concluded on February 22, 1909.
Called the Great White Fleet because the ships were painted white instead of modern gray, the fleet covered 43,000 miles and made twenty port calls on six different continents. The fleet first deployed from Hampton Roads, Virginia, and sailed to Trinidad, British West Indies, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Mexico, and made port back in the United States at San Francisco. The fleet’s journey stopped briefly when they made port call at San Francisco on May 6, 1908, because some ships left the fleet for other duties while others joined the fleet for the next leg of its journey. The command also changed from Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans to Rear Admiral Charles S. Sperry.
The Great White Fleet sailed again on July 7, 1908, and traveled to Hawaii, New Zealand, three ports in Australia, the Philippines, Japan, Ceylon, and Egypt. They stopped in Egypt on January 3, 1909. Learning that an earthquake had struck Sicily, the Great White Fleet sailed to help with the wreckage and recovery work. After their assistance, they traveled on to Naples, Italy, and from there to Gibraltar and on to Hampton Roads, Virginia, where the fleet’s journey concluded.
The Great White Fleet was an important show of America’s naval power to the rest of the world. It was also an important event in the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. Within two weeks of the fleet docking in Hampton Roads in February of 1909, Roosevelt left the presidency. The Great White Fleet’s successful return and completion of its mission added luster to Roosevelt’s presidential career.